An independent probe into the administration of Donegal GAA has recommended a complete overhaul of the organisation, particularly around the area of finance.
Croke Park has also advised the County Board to appoint an interim ‘Head of Operations’ with a view to making the appointment permanent.
The recommendation was among numerous findings of a probe into Donegal GAA affairs which were outlined to club delegates on Tuesday night.
It followed the shock resignation of former Head of Academy, Karl Lacey, in February and the departure of Senior Manager Paddy Carr in March.
Lacey’s club, Four Masters, had called for the resignation of at least two senior members of the County Board in April. However, that call, which was supported by Milford GAA Club, was subsequently put on hold pending the outcome of the Croke Park-led probe.
The review group cited a ‘number of areas for change’ including: Respect, accountability, confidentiality, transparent communication, fundraising and clear roles and responsibilities.
The newly established Donegal GAA Audit and Risk Committee will play a key role in overseeing the implementation of the finance and governance recommendations of this review.
“Our finding represents a significant weakness in the current control environment, financial management or governance and required immediate action by management,” the report’s authors stated.
They said audited accounts for Donegal GAA were issued on the day of Convention in 2022 which give ‘insufficient time’ for member review prior to approval.
It also noted the Management Committee do not receive sufficient financial reports or Management Accounts to enable them to make informed decisions for the operations of Donegal GAA.
The audited accounts for Donegal GAA, they said, are required to be audited in accordance with current Accounting Standards and should be prepared with greater transparency to ensure better understanding for those who are approving them.
“To maintain independence, it would be advisable for the County auditor to review their ability to remain as a member of the County Committee,” they added.
In line with guidelines from GAA HQ, the Audit and Risk Committee should review its auditor appointment every 5-7 years: “It is recommended that Donegal GAA review their auditor appointment.”
Another recommendation was that financial reports should “clearly communicate how all funding is spent in Donegal GAA, particularly club levies.”
There was also a conflict of interest in that some members of the County Committee “are employed or consultants of County Committee.”
No Management Accounts are prepared during the financial year, as a result, a current financial position for Donegal GAA is not available.
The 2020 house draw, it found, was hugely successful and achieved a surplus of €806k. However, there have been no significant fundraising initiatives since December 2020, which has affected the county’s ability to fund its commitments.
The report also found there was a ‘breach of confidentiality’ from county board meetings, citing a quote from a December 22 meeting that appeared in a national newspaper. A transcript of a County Committee meeting was also sent to a media outlet.
The report found that the Donegal Talent Academy represented “a very good structure, was well-organised, had a sound player focused philosophy with good planning principles in place.”
Despite an otherwise unblemished report on the academy, it did find that several of the coaches involved did not have either the required Garda Vetting, Child Safeguarding or Coaching Qualifications. Also, hurling is not part of the current academy “which needs to be reviewed.”
The new Donegal GAA Academy set-up was approved by the County Management Committee on 25th January 2021. The decision was made based on a presentation of the Academy vision and plan.
Prior to making this decision, the report said, County Management Committee members should have requested that the following areas be agreed with relevant parties:
- A Contract outlining roles and responsibilities, reporting structure and agreed fees and invoicing process.
- Budget and Spend approval process.
- Accountability to County Committee.
- Governance requirements (GAA safeguarding, coaching requirements, social media guidelines).
“The vision and plan approved by the County Management Committee was never communicated/shared beyond this group which was in the end a missed opportunity. A copy was not made available for this review.
“The reporting/working relationship between the Academy Manager, Coaching Officer and the County Games Manager was never established at the outset.”
The interim Head of Operations will work with Donegal GAA to implement the many recommendations of the probe and to appoint a new, full-time, Head of Operations.
A new audit and risk committee will also be set up to implement the recommendations in relation to finance and governance.
Both the Ulster Council and Croke Park will assist Donegal in compiling a business plan to assist the county in applying for, and drawing down, much needed funding.
Following the fiasco surrounding the search for a replacement for senior manager, Declan Bonner, it has been recommended that independent persons be included in any future recruitment panels. It also stated that panel members should not get any roles in management teams.
To date, there has been no official response from Donegal GAA in relation to the report and its findings.
It should be noted that, overwhelmingly, Donegal GAA is run by volunteers.Tags: