AN Irish charity has folded under a cloud after paying back almost €100,000 in government aid which was destined for people in Kenya.
The ICROSS organisation (International Community for the Relief of Starvation) repaid the €97,000 after it failed to account for it in its accounts.
An audit carried out by Irish Aid is understood to have found that the money could not be traced and that explanations as to where it was spent were unsatisfactory.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that ICROSS Ireland is winding down, while its Kenyan arm, ICROSS Kenya, is still operating and is a separate legal entity.
It is understood the two wings of the organisation are now at loggerheads, with ICROSS Ireland having returned the money to Irish Aid, while ICROSS in Kenya has criticised the running of the Irish operation and rejected any allegations of impropriety.
The charity has a long list of celebrity supporters, including Elton John and former taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald, and has both received and fundraised for significant sums of money in recent years to help with a number of Kenyan projects, including one helping AIDS victims.
However, it has emerged that Irish Aid began expressing concerns about aspects of the charity’s business back in 2007 following an inspection trip to Kenya.
It is claimed that follow-up audits by ICROSS Ireland into its Kenyan counterpart uncovered more problems involving financial mismanagement.
Among the money unaccounted for was €20,000 earmarked for a project caring for orphans and €11,000 due to be spent on a project titled Strengthening of Reproductive Health Services. Work on a care centre in Kenya ran €11,000 over budget.
It is understood that an audit commissioned by ICROSS Ireland and carried out by Ernst and Young, found evidence of a lack of internal control, but it is believed that recommendations on how the situation could be improved were not implemented.
A spokesman for ICROSS Ireland was quoted as saying that the organisation was being wound up over “concerns about financial impropriety” and allegations of a personal nature against the Kenyan-based founder of the organisation, Mike Meegan.
Solicitors for Mr Meegan said the personal allegations made against him were false.
The charity’s funds in Ireland, amounting to an estimated €200,000, will be passed on to other charities.
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