Statement on RTÉ Prime Time investigation into the affairs of the charity Console

The Wheel has expressed its disappointment about the glaring governance failures and serious breaches of trust uncovered by the Prime Time investigation into the affairs Console. 
 
Ivan Cooper Director of Advocacy at The Wheel said: “The alleged actions of the individuals involved if proved, are wholly unacceptable, and we welcome the resignation of the trustees of Console and call on the new board when appointed to answer all the allegations in full. All of that said, it is imperative that generalisations are not made about governance in the charity sector based on this particular case.
 
“The first priority should be to make sure that the people who rely on the services of Console - people whose families have been affected by suicide - are taken care off. We therefore welcome the announcement by Minister Simon Harris that the charity’s services will continue despite the controversy,” said Mr Cooper.
 
Mr Cooper added: “The trustees of charities are the custodians of public assets and should apply these funds only for the charitable purpose for which they received them. Funds allocated to or raised by a charity remain public funds, and should be treated with maximum transparency and integrity.
 
“Over 50,000 people act as trustees or voluntary directors of charities in Ireland, and together these individuals control over €7Bn of expenditure on nonprofit services delivered by over 11,000 organisations. It is the responsibility of trustees to ensure that any and all statements, claims and funding applications they make to support their work are true and accurate. The Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations, a voluntary code created by a consortium of 11 organisations including The Wheel, provides clear guidance on the the standards expected of trustees,” said Mr Cooper. 
 
Mr Cooper added that The Wheel has lobbied for the introduction of a Charities Regulator for over a decade. “The Charities Regulatory Authority began its work in 2014, and we are calling for the commencement of the investigative powers of the Regulator to be expedited. We are also calling on the Regulator to formally recognise the Governance Code as the appropriate standard for the good governance of charities in Ireland, and work with the sector to give teeth to The Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising so that charities that fundraise without complying with the standards face sanctions. We are also calling on the Regulator to set the financial reporting standard for Ireland's charities as soon as possible, and to set the SORP as that standard (the Statement of Recommended Practice for Financial Reporting by Charities). Along with the Annual Reports that all charities must make to the Charity regulator, the three additional elements of the Governance Code, The Fundraising Standards and the SORP make up what is called the 'Triple Lock' that when fully adopted will underpin confidence in the sector,” said Mr Cooper.  
 
Members of the public who are considering supporting a charity, can visit a website called www.GoodCharity.ie where they will find a set of questions that they can put to that charity to find out about their impact and governance arrangements. 
 
Mr Cooper added: “Charities employ over 100,000 staff and are involved in delivering services across every sector of society including childcare, elder care, services for people with disabilities and environmental causes - there is hardly a single person in Ireland who won’t have a relative or a friend who is not benefiting personally from the work of one of Ireland’s myriad charities. 
 
“The Wheel is calling on the public to continue to support the work of the charities that they have always supported, and to demand from those charities that they publish their accounts on their website (which Console did not do). They should also encourage the charities that they are engaged with to adopt the Governance Code and the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising,” said Mr Cooper.