The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., Welcomes the Committee of Public Account’s Report on the Irish Red Cross Society
17th May 2012
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence welcomes the examination of certain matters concerning the Irish Red Cross Society that has been carried out over recent months by the Committee of Public Accounts. The Minister welcomes the fact that the Committee’s deliberations have helped to clear the air in relation to a number of serious allegations that were made concerning the administration of the Society in the past. The Minister has also noted the contents of the Committee's Report on the Irish Red Cross which was published today.
In his response to the Report, the Minister has stressed that: “Cognisance needs to be taken of the fact that the independence of national societies, from Government, is one of the seven fundamental principles of the international Red Cross movement. Furthermore, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, quite rightly, places great importance on such independence and on ensuring that Governments do not interfere in their running and this is something which I know is monitored closely by the International Federation.”
The Minister pointed out that since his appointment last year, he has taken a keen interest in governance issues at the Irish Red Cross Society. Whilst conscious of the importance attaching to the Society’s independence, the Minister wrote to the Chairman of the Society in May 2011 setting out his views on these matters and he subsequently held a very positive meeting with both the Chairman and Secretary General of the Society.
In relation to the Department’s annual grant in aid to the Society, the Minister points out that the Society publishes annually its independently audited annual accounts and in this context: “Nothing has ever come to light to indicate that the grant has not been properly accounted for, or used for purposes other than which it was provided and, furthermore, my Department is represented on the General Assembly of the Society.” Nevertheless, the Minister has pointed out that in light of claims of maladministration, he wrote to the Chairman of the Society last May, shortly after his appointment, seeking assurances in this regard and sought detailed information in relation to the utilisation of the grant. Comprehensive and satisfactory answers were provided by the Chairman. Furthermore, the Minister has noted that the recently published 2010 Annual Report and Appropriation Account of the Comptroller and Auditor General, which contained a Chapter on Financial Control at the Irish Red Cross Society, contained no critical comment or finding in relation to financial management of State funding at the Society.
The Minister believes that any organisation in receipt of funding from the State must operate to the highest possible standards of corporate governance. The Minister welcomes the fact that: “The Irish Red Cross has made excellent progress in relation to revising its corporate governance arrangements and I am pleased to see that it has already introduced a raft of changes, including significant revision to its Rules and Constitution which were agreed by the Society’s governing body last March. I support the changes made and I believe that there is quite clearly a very strong process of reform under way at the Irish Red Cross Society. I am heartened by the substantial efforts that have been made by both my Department and by the Society itself over the past 12 months to bring about real and meaningful reform, particularly in the areas of financial control and corporate governance. I am particularly pleased to note that the Society’s new Rules and Constitution include provisions that will see outsiders with relevant skills and expertise being appointed to the Society’s General Assembly and to its Board of Directors and I welcome the fact that there are changes pending at Board level whereby a new Board will be appointed at the meeting of the Society’s General Assembly scheduled for Saturday week next.”
The Minister also wishes to point out that the changes already made by the Society itself have subsequently been copper-fastened by the Government’s approval, on 17 April last, of amendments to the relevant legislation that established the Irish Red Cross Society [the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939]. In this regard the Minister added that: “Aside from the changes already made to the 1939 Order, a comprehensive review of all Red Cross legislation, and in particular the primary legislation, has been commenced by my Department, in accordance with the commitment given in the Programme for Government, and I anticipate that this will, at its conclusion, lead to a new Red Cross Act that will represent a further important step taken by this Government in restoring the full confidence of the public in the Irish Red Cross Society.”
Finally, the Minister has stressed that the substantial efforts that have been made by both his Department and the Irish Red Cross to reform the Society have enjoyed the full support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and he believes the maintenance of such support from Geneva is essential to the continuing change process.
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