Audit critical over lack of controls on payments to abuse survivors

An audit of Caranua criticises the lack of internal controls over how payments were made to abuse survivors in 2015.

Caranua was established by the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 to oversee the use of the cash contributions of up to €110m, pledged by the religious congregations, to support the needs of survivors of institutional child abuse.

The audit of the agency’s 2015 financial statements carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) found that in a large number of cases, the required documentation was not supplied to the agency in return for grant payments.

Under the system operated by Caranua, a small proportion of cheques are issued directly to applicants to reimburse them for expenditure for things like medical expenses and counselling.

The cheques are made out to the supplier based on quotations and issued to the applicant who forwards them to the supplier after the receipt of a service. Caranua then requires the applicant to supply it with an invoice or a receipt for the payment.

In cases where invoices and receipts were required to be presented to the board of Caranua, the audit found “no evidence that such documentation had been presented in 85% of these cases in 2015”.

The audit also found no evidence that required quotes were presented to the board “in about one third of cases examined” in 2015.

For certain types of housing grant expenditure, proof or property tenancy or ownership must be presented by the applicant. The audit examined a sample of payments where such proof was required and found that “in over two thirds of the sample examined there was no evidence that this had been provided to the board”.

A statement from Caranua said the agency is committed to making improvements to its processes for the benefit of those seeking to access the fund.

“At the time of the audit Caranua was a relatively new organisation, establishing itself, its systems and processes, while trying to address the high volume of applications received. In January 2014, its first month of operation, 1,200 applications were received by Caranua. 3,000 applications were received by the end of our first quarter in existence. This was very a challenging time as Caranua had a skeleton team of five staff members, with three temporary staff to deal with applications.

“Once additional staff resources were approved and secured, we were able to process applications more quickly and accelerate our organisational developments,” the statement read.

It has received just short of 6,000 applications so far.

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