Finances At State-Funded Charity Were ‘Out Of Control’

A British Tribunal has heard evidence of financial mismanagement at the long established London Irish Centre.

Finances at the government-funded welfare facility for Irish emigrants were “out of control” despite a £300,000 (€433,000) surplus in the bank, an Employment Tribunal has found.

It awarded almost £50,000 (€72,000) to the first lay director of the centre, Margaret Murnane, who took a case against the trustees and against Mr John Twomey, the co-ordinator of Community Services.

The tribunal accepts that when Ms Murnane took up the job in September 2004, the centre was not operating within statutory requirements, and that cooking, cleaning and administration staff were being paid cash-in-hand.

There was also an issue as to whether staff were being paid below minimum wage. One person, who apparently had no work permit, was paid £150 (€220) for three days’ work.

It found that volunteers were paid cash-in-hand from petty cash in excess of Inland Revenue guidelines; receipts were not given for donations, the centre was operating with incorrect bank mandates and the charity accounts contained “carry forward” balances going back 10 years, relating to outstanding letters and creditors.

“There were serious health and safety issues, which included the day centre food provision for the elderly. Lunches were prepared in an old kitchen and the equipment was dysfunctional or dirty. The roof was leaking, the fat trap in the cellar was blocked, there was a smell coming from the drains, and there were security issues,” says the report obtained by the Irish Independent.

The revelations are an embarrassment to the Government, which this year is funding the LIC to the tune of nearly £500,000 (€720,000).

It will also prove damaging for the LIC, which receives funding from the London Borough of Camden. Last year the centre, and particularly Mr Twomey, highlighted the overcharging by solicitors of abuse victims who won compensation awards from the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

Mr Twomey, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, is criticised in the findings for writing a strong letter to Ms Murnane. “We find such language completely unacceptable and over the top,” note the members of the tribunal. It describes his behaviour to Ms Murnane as “insubordinate and vexatious”. However, it says that Mr Twomey was committed to the welfare services provided by the centre.

The report also finds that Ms Murnane had a poor relationship with many of the centre’s staff. “Of course, her relationship with Mr Twomey may have had something to do with this.”.

It concludes that he personally discriminated against her on grounds of her sex and says he did not find it easy to work under a woman. They found that she was unfairly dismissed in May of last year but had contributed to her dismissal to the extent of 25pc.