HSE says charities' cash reserves offer chance to cut grants
on 16/01/2013 00:00:00
The 29-page report, drawn up last year but only made public in the latest raft of released internal audits on Monday, said that, nationally, 3,130 voluntary groups receive €1.743bn from the HSE every year.
Those examined in the audit mainly adhere to existing policies.
However, after examining organisations such as the Cope Foundation, Enable Ireland, the Irish Wheel- chair Association, and the Rehab Group, the document said there is potentially room to reduce grant payments.
"The majority of agencies surveyed showed significant cash/bank balances.
"This may present an opportunity for the HSE to adjust the payment schedule for grant instalments with benefits for its annual cash- flow," the document's "review of accounts" section noted.
The situation is likely to prove surprising to many of the organisations, which include disability, mental health, religious-related, and voluntary groups.
In particular, organisations such as the Cope Foundation have stressed in recent months that they are already struggling to provide the service its members need because of dwindling funds.
This includes issues surrounding weekend respite care, medical charges and the possibility of longer waiting lists for the service, which helps children and adults living with intellectual disabilities.
Among the issues related to the potential grant reduction plan raised by the auditors is that the income these agencies receive "from sources other than the HSE" is "often not sufficiently analysed" when it comes to handing out taxpayers' money.
In addition, the document's authors said reported income can be "materially affected" by the way in which employee contributions and pension levies are treated.
In an attempt to address the situation, the internal audit section has requested the HSE finance unit to ensure all voluntary and charity groups hand over a "minimum set of information to the public" to guarantee transparency.
This includes guarantees that each organisation publishes its full policies and audited financial statements so that the public can be clear on who is receiving what funds from the group.
A small number of voluntary groups in Ireland have been dogged by controversy over how much their senior officials receive in recent years, although it is unclear if this point is the reason behind the transparency call.