Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Irish Red Cross
Question 548: To ask the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that the evidence given to the Committee of Public Accounts by officials from the Irish Red Cross on 19 January 2012 last was accurate in all respects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8221/12]
Question 549: To ask the Minister for Defence his views on the evidence given recently by the Irish Red Cross to the Committee of Public Accounts; his further views on the recent letter from a former senior manager at the IRC to the PAC which disputes some of the evidence given by the IRC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8222/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 548 and 549 together.
I welcome the fact that the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) recently examined the Chapter on Financial Control in the Irish Red Cross Society that was contained in the Comptroller and Auditor General's recent Report. I also welcome the fact that the Irish Red Cross Society readily agreed to appear before the Committee and I believe that their attendance represented a further important step in restoring the full confidence of the public in the Irish Red Cross Society. It is clear that before it agreed to dispose of the Chapter in question, the PAC dealt in some considerable depth with a wide range of issues relating to weak financial controls in the past and allegations of poor corporate governance. I believe that the PAC's work in this regard has helped to clear the air in relation to a number of serious allegations that have been made in public concerning, inter alia , the appropriateness of how the Society deals with unrestricted donations, its treatment of its property portfolio in its accounts, and also its ability to produce consolidated audited accounts for the whole of the Society. I am satisfied that the officials from the Irish Red Cross Society answered all of the questions put to them and whilst I am aware that some of the information presented to the PAC has subsequently been disputed by some, the question of resolving any discrepancies or misunderstandings that may have arisen is a matter for the Committee.
Question 550: To ask the Minister for Defence his views on the fact that under the new Red Cross Constitution, there is no provision for retrospection of service, meaning the vice chairman and honorary treasurer can each serve for a further six years, bringing their service to 27 years and 15 years respectively; his further views on whether this arrangement meets good corporate governance guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8223/12]
Question 551: To ask the Minister for Defence when the new Irish Red Cross statutory order will be brought to Cabinet for consideration; if it is his intention to include a clause on retrospection of service for members of the IRC executive committee in the new order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8224/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 550 and 551 together.
I am on record as saying that I do not believe that it is conducive to good corporate governance for any individual to serve indefinitely on the Central Council or the Executive Committee of the Irish Red Cross Society, or in the same appointment. I have previously written to the Chairman of the Society and expressed my views on the need for mandatory breaks in service. I welcome the fact that the issue of turnover and rotation at leadership levels was raised by him at a subsequent Central Council meeting and that agreement was reached by the members to introduce a mandatory three-year break for Executive Committee members in circumstances where a member may have previously served for two consecutive three year terms.
In relation to the issue of retrospection, I am aware of the fact that it is the firm view of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that this is a matter for the membership of the Irish Red Cross Society who are free to choose whether to support long serving colleagues who present themselves for re-election to the Executive Committee. I am also aware that there is an ongoing debate about this issue amongst the membership of the Irish Red Cross Society. As retrospection is a matter for the democratic processes of the Society, I believe that its members should be given the opportunity to determine this issue for themselves. I am satisfied that in seeking to get the right balance, the members will consider the views of their external stakeholders in making such decisions. In these circumstances, I do not believe that it is appropriate for the State to impose on the Society, which is an independent body corporate, changes to its election procedures that have not been sought by its members or by the International Federation.
The position in relation to the proposed legislation is that officials from my Department are currently liaising with the Office of the Attorney General on the final text of an amendment to the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939. I expect to be in a position to bring this legislation to Government for approval in the coming weeks.