The Shame of Ireland
Money owed to survivors of institutional abuse may not have been used for its “intended” purpose because of poor financial control at a state agency for the third year in a row.
Caranua was set up in 2014 to administer a €110 million compensation fund from religious congregations for people who were abused in institutions as children to help with health, housing or educational needs.
New financial reports for 2016 show that in the vast majority of cases, the state agency did not get the required proof of spending before paying out grants for housing costs. Caranua said that it reported a number of people to the gardaí for suspected fraud after they were able to access grants intended for survivors of institutional abuse. A criminal investigation is under way in at least one case. The comptroller and auditor-general, the state spending watchdog, said that Caranua had “created a risk that in some cases grant expenditure might not have been used for the purposes intended”.
The watchdog had already identified issues with financial control in 2014 and 2015. Caranua, which has been accused of covering large administrative costs with money intended for victims, has said that it is running out of funds and will accept its final applications on August 1.
The agency’s board said that it had taken a “number of steps” to address the weaknesses which were identified by the audits. In a financial report for 2016 given to the government last week, Caranua said that more control weaknesses were identified in 2016. An audit found there were no receipts or invoices for 40 per cent of payments where evidence of the cost was required.
Caranua offers to cover certain housing costs for abuse survivors providing they can prove that they either own the house they are in or are tenants. There was no evidence of any proof being provided before payments were made.
Caranua is also required to see evidence of quotes for work, such as renovations or home improvements, before it makes payments. The audit said that quotes had not been provided in 86 per cent of cases. Caranua said that it started a process last year with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland under which it would set up a panel of preferred suppliers for housing needs. It said that the process would allow the state agency directly to contact a supplier to get proof of receipts to ensure the grants paid matched the actual cost of the work done.
In 2015 Caranua approved a new policy which allowed it to internally investigate allegations of fraud and, if necessary, refer cases to the gardaí.
Previous examinations criticised Caranua’s financial controls after large sums were paid to a few survivors. Two per cent of applicants had been awarded one fifth of the total fund by early last year, according to evidence from Caranua executives to the Oireachtas public accounts committee in April last year.
I have attached a copy of payments made to two percent of survivors that being one fifth of the total fund, where the rest of us cannot get anything from the fund. Caranua, will be taking their last applications on the 1st of August 2018, and as usual the Government have putting nothing in place to help very vulnerable survivors.
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