Saturday, September 30, 2023

'Absolutely no evidence of financial fraud' at Peter McVerry Trust, says founder

Fr Peter McVerry SJ - Peter McVerry Trust

The founder of the Peter McVerry Trust has said there is "absolutely no evidence of financial fraud or misappropriation of funds" after an inspector was appointed to look into the serious financial issues within the charity. 

In July this year, the homeless charity had informed the Department of Housing it was facing serious cashflow problems

Accountancy firm PwC was then appointed to carry out a financial and governance review of the trust, following concerns. 

This week, the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA) launched a "statutory investigation" into the charity and an inspector has been appointed, who will then present the regulatory body with a report on their investigation and findings. 

Fr McVerry had claimed the issue happened because his charity had tried to help too many people.

On Thursday, he said the pandemic saw much of the trust's fundraising events cancelled and its income drop "substantially".

"So now we are having to pay back taxes along with our monthly tax liability for PAYE and PRSI for over 500 employees. That is a challenge. That is an example of the situation we are in," Fr McVerry told South East Radio.  

"There is absolutely no evidence of financial fraud or misappropriation of funds. Let me be very clear with that and there is absolutely no effect on our services to homeless people. 

We continue to provide all the services we have always provided to homeless people.

"Our finances are solid, our assets are exceeding our liabilities, so we are struggling at the moment, with our funders, to resolve the cash flow problem."

Fr McVerry said he was "very confident" the issue would be resolved in the next few months. 

In response to the AHBRA investigation, he believes it means the "cash flow problem should have been noticed and acted upon much quicker". 

"So there are questions for us to answer, why we weren't aware of it more quickly? We may have to put more financial expertise onto our board, but it's simply a question of they want to make sure that our finances are solid," Fr McVerry said

"We are absolutely confident that our finances are solid and that they will — the fact that they have already stated in the PwC interim report that was made that our financials are solid."

Fr McVerry also reiterated that the work of the trust was not in any jeopardy and the work it is carrying out for homeless people continues "uninterrupted".

"There are no reductions in services or no cutbacks in services," he added. 

"Everything we do it continues and we hope our donors aren't put off by these. We depend very heavily on our donors and we hope they will continue to support us and not be put off by any such that there's something amiss in the organisation."