Pieta House’s financial controls are ‘unsatisfactory’, says HSE audit of mental health charity


An HSE audit of the mental health charity Pieta House found governance, financial and internal controls to be “unsatisfactory”.

he findings published today following an access to information request relate to the position at the time of the field audit work carried out in 2018.

Weaknesses identified by auditors included:

  • Inadequate segregation of duties, receipt, recording and reconciliation controls were identified with respect to donations, fundraising and other income – € 26.1m between 2014 and 2017.
  • Board minutes were not signed and board members were not required to sign annual declarations of interest.
  • The employment contract and job description of the founder and former CEO as Ambassador was not in her personnel file and was not available for internal audit. The Ambassador reported directly to the Board of Directors and the management of Pieta House was not fully informed of the Ambassador’s activities.
  • There was no evidence of a formal project plan for Pieta House Inc. in New York, and reports received by the Pieta House Ireland board of directors on its progress were not available for internal audit. .
  • Pieta House’s statutory external audit was carried out by its external accountants who had been in place since its inception in 2006.
  • There was no documented compensation policy, and the board minutes did not record any discussion or approval of salary increases granted to the then CEO and other senior executives in 2017.
  • There was no formal licensing system for Darkness into Light marches or other fundraising events. The flagship fundraiser, Darkness Into Light, which takes place annually at over 100 locations across Ireland, raised € 2.4 million in 2015, € 3.5 million in 2016 and 4, 5 million euros in 2017.
  • There were 15 bank accounts for a total balance of € 4.6 million as of December 31, 2017.
  • There was no signature on CEO statements or any other credit card statement proving the expenses were authorized and approved.
  • Center officials have self-certified and approved their own overtime.
  • There was no evidence of approval of therapists’ bills and a number of discrepancies were identified between the appointment sheets and the bills submitted for payment. Pieta House has not been compensated on employee car insurance policies.
  • Expense reports were not always fully completed or signed by applicants and were not approved by the CEO as required by Pieta House’s expense policy
  • A counselor was appointed before Pieta House obtained permission from Garda. The personnel files contained loose sheets and contained limited information.

In response to the audit, current CEO Elaine Austin said she has taken note of the HSE audit report in the organization covering the historical period 2015-2017.

“Pieta has responded to all of the recommendations highlighted in the HSE report,” she said.

“The HSE report is an assessment of Pieta that was carried out during a period of significant growth for the organization.

“In 2015, we provided free advice to 5,500 people. Two years later, that number had increased by 30% to well over 7,000 people, clearly straining the organization’s resources.

“Since my appointment in March 2019, I have focused on corporate governance, ensuring that Pieta is a well-managed and well-governed organization. “

The past 17 months, arguably, have been the most difficult time for Pieta, but, through all the different levels of Covid-19 restrictions, the organization has continued to provide 24/7 support to people. people in need.

“Pieta offers free professional and individual clinical advice and 24/7 crisis assistance to people struggling with suicidal ideation and self-harm, as well as those who have been bereaved by suicide in its 20 centers and online.

He supported over 7,000 clients last year and provided 52,000 hours of one-on-one counseling therapy.

Her helpline has received more than 70,000 calls and texts and has supported more than 600 families and households immediately following a suicide loss.

“These calls, texts and contacts are not just statistics, they are real connections between Pieta and vulnerable people and clients in our communities,” said Austin.

Pieta said it is a registered and regulated charity, meeting all standards demonstrating its absolute commitment to good governance and the continued level of oversight and control exercised by the board of directors. ‘administration.

Ms Austin added that Pieta had, especially in recent years, significantly strengthened its infrastructure to support sustainable expansion and robust delivery of critical services, which – given the demands of 2020 and the operational challenges presented by Covid – were invaluable and fundamental. by keeping the charity’s crisis support services open, accessible, and available to all clients nationwide.

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