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Charities Regulator to animal charity - 'sort out your books or else'

Last night’s Claire Byrne Live investigation alleged charity Animal Heaven Animal Rescue had deficiencies in its bookkeeping, fundraising and financial transparency.

shutterstock_437869975 Source: Shutterstock/schankz

Updated 09.53

THE CEO OF Ireland’s charities regulator says Kerry-based animal charity Animal Heaven Animal Rescue (AHAR) must sort out its financial governance or face prosecution.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, John Farrelly said that AHAR “is not holding proper books of account” and must “rectify this contravention”.

“They must appoint someone who is capable of keeping proper books of account,” he said. “If they do not do this we have the powers to issue proceedings against them or bring them to court to prosecute them which could lead to up to a €5,000 fine or imprisonment for 12 months or both.”

Farrelly added that AHAR has 40 days to get its books in order.

We’ll be monitoring that and doing so closely, and we’ll continue to give this charity close scrutiny.

Defence

This morning, AHAR defended its standards of governance after an RTÉ investigation suggested issues with its bookkeeping, fundraising, and financial transparency.

AHAR operates a rescue centre for animals in Castleisland, mostly taking in dogs and horses. The charity was the subject of the investigation shown on last night’s Claire Byrne Live show, which highlighted a number of governance issues.

In a statement, the charity this morning said it “fully supports” proper governance and procedures in charities, and had “already identified failings with committee paperwork in the past”.

We admit having difficulties with former treasurers and committee members who failed to implement the proper procedures, but this has been addressed since 2016.
We are presently working on the recommendations made by the CRA and are confident we can satisfy them all.

ahar Source: Facebook

The charity added it will be releasing a further statement addressing the specific allegations made against it and “addressing the facts RTÉ deliberately omitted and other inaccuracies contained in the programme”.

Sanctions

AHAR had previously claimed to be a “completely volunteer-run” organisation, but later admitted paying a salary to its founder Suzanne Gibbons.

While there was no indication any money had been misappropriated, analysis of its bank accounts in the RTÉ investigation showed large cash withdrawals and donations of around €1 million over two years. The charity declined to appear on the programme, with its executive saying it was “satisfied” with the accounts, adding the cash withdrawals were because of a lack of chequebook or credit card.

90424854_90424854 John Farrelly Source: Rollingnews.ie

Before last night’s RTÉ programme aired, the CRA said it had told AHAR that it must:

  • Assign the responsibility of keeping proper books of account to a person(s) with the appropriate skills and experience
  • Introduce periodic financial reporting setting out the income and expenditure (including the nature of that income and expenditure)and the assets and liabilities of the charity)
  • Ensure all financial reports are scrutinised by the charity trustees under a standing agenda item – ‘financial status of the charity’ during regular management committee meetings.

Analysis of AHAR’s bank accounts had shown large cash withdrawals and donations of around €1 million over two years. The charity declined to appear on last night’s programme, with its executive saying it was “satisfied” with the accounts, saying the cash withdrawals were because of a lack of chequebook or credit card.

If the organisation fails to rectify their non-compliance, then proceedings for the offence may be brought against trustees and organisation.

Despite this, Farrelly this morning asserted that the “majority of charities are doing really well” when it comes to self-governance.

“We’re up 280% on the charities that have submitted details for public register,” he said.

Most are getting on board now. Be assured however, we will apply the (Charities) Act, we will be using part four in terms of prosecutions and investigations going forward.

Additional reporting Cianan Brennan

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