The watchdog for charities in England and Wales is to open an inquiry into the UK branch of scandal-hit suicide prevention group Console.
The Charity Commission said that it is to investigate Console in the UK following “allegations of falsifying of accounts to obtain funding, significant private benefit, conflicts of interest, and financial mismanagement” at the Irish arm of the organisation.
The commission said it has already frozen the accounts of the UK-based charity.
“Due to the links between the Irish charity, the UK charity, and the High Court action that has taken place in Ireland, the commission considers that the impact of the actions taking place in Ireland affect public trust and confidence in the UK charity,” said the Charity Commission yesterday.
“The recent events and actions also indicate that the assets of the UK charity may be at serious and significant risk of harm and that this requires further examination and action by the commission.”
The inquiry is to focus on the relationship between the UK and Irish charities and the financial management of the UK charity, and will assess whether there has been any misconduct or mismanagement by the trustees of the UK Console.
In a statement, the commission stressed that “opening an inquiry is not in itself a finding of wrongdoing”.
The development comes as Irish Console’s interim chief executive, David Hall, and HSE officials are expected to meet again with a number of organisations, including the Samaritans and Aware, over the weekend in a bid to find a way forward for the transfer of Console’s services to the other charities.
On Thursday, it emerged that Console is to be wound up because the financial scandal surrounding its disgraced former chief executive, Paul Kelly, means the service is damaged beyond repair and is set to run out of money within days.
Although no definitive confirmation has emerged, it is widely expected that the Samaritans and Aware will take on Console’s 24/7 national helpline and bereavement counselling services.
However, such a development can only take place if the HSE — with the permission of the Department of Health — provides additional finances to the groups taking on services to ensure they are adequately resourced to meet the increased demands.
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