A charity which provides help to young people with mental health issues spent over €72,000 on “team development and wellbeing” including trips to adventure centres and Christmas parties in the space of just over two and half years.
An audit by the HSE found Jigsaw spent €72,383 on staff activities including indoor and outdoor adventure centres, workshops and staff celebrations including parties and presents between January 2016 and August 2018.
The expenditure included visits to Go Quest centres, yoga classes, escape rooms, cruises on Dublin Bay and the River Shannon, fruit hampers and mindfulness workshops.
“Such expenditure may be considered inappropriate by funders and the public and could cause reputational damage and risk future streams,” the auditors noted.
The audit also found over €48,500 was spent over the same period on gifts, retirements, food, flowers and other expenditure.
A total of €2,922 was spent on coaching sessions for one staff member without approval from Jigsaw’ board.
One staff member was provided with €3,936 for “VHI employee assistance”, while €816 was spent on a “relaxation and lunch” package for staff.
Over €19,000 was spent on food, while one function at the Mansion House in Dublin in March 2018 cost €2,833.
While Jigsaw had an educational support policy to provide maximum annual funding of €800 to employees, the audit uncovered that the charity’s former chief executive had approved payment of over €14,000 for the cost of a six-day course and associated travel fees for one employee in February 2016.
The audit also found that Jigsaw had a policy that gifts should be recorded as “office supplies” when documenting expenditure, while tips and alcohol were paid for using the charity’s credit cards. Agencies in receipt of HSE funding are strictly forbidden from using public money to purchase alcohol, flowers or gifts.
The audit said €3,347 had been spent on gift vouchers and gifts with another €1,016 spent on flowers.
“Essential services could be diminished if public funds are used to purchase gifts,” it observed.
A sample of expenditure on six meals in 2016 which were paid for using Jigsaw’s credit cards found €1,211 out of a total of €3,701 was spent on alcohol.
The audit also found the €100,250 annual salary of a director was €1,250 in excess of the pay scale approved by the HSE. The auditors concluded the overall effectiveness of controls operated by Jigsaw were “limited”.
However, they acknowledged that “significant improvements in controls and practices” had been implemented since 2018.
Jigsaw, which is the trading name of the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, provides support services to young people aged 12-25 in their communities through 13 centres. It received in excess of €9.3m in funding from the HSE in both 2017 and 2018.
The charity accepted the findings and recommendations of the HSE audit.