Goal fraud blamed on financial systems

Government officials have blamed weaknesses in financial systems at Goal for a fraud resulting in the loss of almost €90,000 of taxpayers’ money in Malawi.

In a statement last night, government agency Irish Aid laid blame for the missing funds with the international aid agency, saying weakness in its financial systems were “judged to have contributed to the fraud”.

Irish Aid oversees the Department of Foreign Affairs’ overseas aid budget.

Irish Aid said Goal reported the fraud to them in 2009, in line with contractual obligations, and reimbursed the money from other resources, resulting in no loss of funds to Irish Aid.

“In fact it was Goal that suffered this loss,” Goal’s new chair, Pat O’Mahony, told the Irish Examiner, “but we are endeavouring to recoup this amount through legal channels in Malawi.”

Mr O’Mahony said the police were called the moment the fraud was discovered and four men were arrested and are awaiting trial.

He also claimed Irish Aid funds were “part of the funding for other aspects of the programme in question” suggesting they were not part of the fraud. This contradicts Irish Aid’s version of events. Mr O’Mahony also said they had informed Irish Aid “in the interests of good governance and transparency”. He made no reference to contractual obligations.

He said Goal had since made improvements to its financial systems and informed Irish Aid after the fact. Again, this contradicts Irish Aid’s claim it helped Goal address the weakness that led to the fraud.

Mr O’Mahony defended Goal’s performance from criticisms in a recent Irish Aid audit. Irish Aid said the scope of its audit was limited because Goal did not release all the information requested within the audit’s timeframe, a claim Goal has denied. Based on information available to its auditors, Irish Aid said the board did not have specific terms of reference; met without a set agenda and appeared to lack technical expertise in the area of development.

It also questioned the board’s ability to critically review management proposals from a development perspective because of a lack of expertise. “This raises questions regarding the longer-term sustainability of the organisation as a whole,” Irish Aid said.

However, Mr O’Mahony said the board of Goal had been strengthened with the addition of “experienced individuals”.

Goal has raised over €720m for humanitarian aid in over 50 countries.

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