Andrews defends Goal as Irish Aid withholds nearly €3m

Goal chief executive Barry Andrews has defended the aid agency after it emerged that the Department of Foreign Affairs is withholding almost €3m in funding from the charity.

The Department of Foreign Affairs made the decision because Goal is under investigation by another funder, USAID (US agency for international development).

Last April, Goal and other charities were ordered to halt procurement using some US funds because USAID had started an investigation into alleged bribery and bid-rigging.

“The allegations, broadly speaking, relate to collusion between suppliers in relation to prices that are set.

“They relate to alleg-ations concerning kickbacks received by staff,” said Mr Andrews. “There are a range of issues arising here, some of which affect Goal but all of these I would hope we would get to the bottom of in the next couple of weeks.”

Mr Andrews admitted that the Department of Foreign Affairs was first made aware of the USAID investigation via a newspaper article.

“The complaints from the Department of Foreign Affairs was that a story appeared in the media and we didn’t give them notification about that in advance, for which we acknowledge we should have done that and we apologise for it,”he said.

“The imperative to inform Irish Aid at that time was perhaps less acute on the basis that Irish Aid funding was not affected by either the investigation or the suspension.

“It was exclusively US government funded projects that were affected. So it was an oversight.”

He told RTÉ News that Goal had been carrying out its own investigation into the allegations in Turkey.

“We haven’t completed our own investigations but initial findings would have brought us to term-inate [the employment of] individuals locally in Turkey. I don’t want to predict the outcome of that,” said Mr Andrews.

The Goal chief executive then explained that the aid agency is still in receipt of USAID funding for their projects in other countries and it still receives funding from other funders for their work in Syria.

“We operate in 19 countries. This matter has arisen only in respect of USAID funding in Turkey,” said Mr Andrews.

“We have many other funders in Syria, those programmes continue.

“We have programmes throughout the world that continue that are unaffected and indeed we have received further funding from USAID in other countries since April so this is a localised issue but it is one we are taking extremely seriously as we have a zero tolerance to fraud and always have done.”

Mr Andrews explained that Goal has a strict whistle-blowing system in place.

He added that the agency works in challenging areas of the world and often on borders.

“Goal has a system of anti-fraud reporting, we have a whistleblowing mechanism that ensures that every single issue that we have goes through our audit and risk committee and is dealt with fully,” said Mr Andrews.

“Goal has the strongest possible systems but we don’t work in highly regulated systems,” he said.

Goal began working in Syria in 2013.

The USAID investigation sees about €6.2m being withheld from Goal.


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