Bogus clothes collections among 466 concerns reported to Charities Regulator in 2020 

The Charities Regulator launched three investigations last year and received 466 concerns from members of the public, many about bogus used clothing collections.

The regulator’s annual report, published today, shows the targets of the investigations included Bóthar, a well-known charity providing livestock to farmers in developing countries.

In May 2020, an investigation was launched into ChildFund Ireland, a charity supporting families in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

An investigation began into use of the charitable assets of Cabhru Housing Association Services, a Dublin housing charity, in April last year. 

The report also shows 177 concerns raised about clothing collections by entities who were not registered charities.

“Concerns relating to clothing collections continue to make up a significant portion of the concerns that we receive,” said Charities Regulator chief executive Helen Martin.

“In 2020, once again with the support of our colleagues in An Garda Síochána, we ran a campaign urging the public to be vigilant and to always check the Register of Charities before donating through clothing collections.” 

Investigations

The Irish Examiner reported on Wednesday the charity Bóthar wants to join the estate of its late founder Peter Ireton as a co-defendant to High Court proceedings it has taken against its former CEO David Moloney.

20/4/21 File pic of former Bothar Chief executive Peter Ireton taken in 2007 Pic: Marc O’Sullivan

The charity is claiming that Mr Moloney misappropriated funds for his own use. Mr Moloney resigned his position as ceo in February.

The High Court previously heard Mr Moloney had admitted to his clients that both he personally, and Bóthar founder, the late Peter Ireton, had personally benefited from monies donated to the charity.

The Regulator published a damning report into ChildFund Ireland last month.

It was found not to have “adequate” control over its spending on travel, expenses, income, credit card expenditure, petty cash, payment of bonuses and overheads.

The report states a former chief executive, the finance director and her daughter went on a trip to Zambia costing over €6,300.

The report states: “Former CEO 1 stated at interview that he appointed the daughter of the Finance and Sponsorship Director as a Junior Ambassador to bring books on the trip to children in Zambia, although no formal recruitment or appointment procedure was followed for this role.” When this ceo resigned a farewell lunch was held costing €2,774 including a €600 gift, but this was not approved by the board, the Regulator found.

Concerns were raised with the Regulator following the breakdown of the relationship between this charity and the Government development body Irish Aid.

The investigation into Cabhru Housing Association Services (CHAS) relates to the inappropriate renting out of apartments in Dublin.

CHAS leased a building on Berkely Street intended to be for the use of elderly residents. They applied for planning permission to demolish and rebuild the space with more apartments in 2018.

But RTÉ reported it emerged that after moving the elderly residents out, the apartments were instead rented to students at a significantly higher rent.

Former ceo Miceal McGovern resigned in February.

The CHAS website states: “CHAS welcomes the decision of the Charities Regulator to appoint Inspectors to investigate a concern brought to its attention in relation to the use of certain charitable assets.”

Charities deregistered

Last year, 134 charities were deregistered, having lost their charitable tax status. The regulator closed 510 concerns, some raised before 2020.

Almost half or 224 of new concerns received related to governance issues, including financial controls and transparency.

Charities Regulator CEO Helen Martin: 'Concerns relating to clothing collections continue to make up a significant portion of the concerns that we receive.'

Charities Regulator CEO Helen Martin: ‘Concerns relating to clothing collections continue to make up a significant portion of the concerns that we receive.’

Ms Martin also praised charities for providing services to the public and returning financial reports to the regulator despite the pandemic challenges.

“It quickly became apparent that charities were being called upon more than ever to provide vital services at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult for many charities to provide the services they are so valued for,” she said.

The annual report states there were 11,426 registered charities at the end of 2020. Munster has the second-highest number at 3,101, topped only by Dublin which had 3,156. 

Financial reports filed last year but mostly relating to the financial year 2019 show just over half of the charities had an income of more than €100,000, 30% had an income of between €10,000 and €100,000, and 15% had an income of less than €10,000.

“Of the 2,623 charities reporting an annual income of over €250,000 in 2020, 1,063 had income in excess of €1m,” states the report. 

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