Q&A: Head of GOAL on how to manage a charity in crisis

Celine Fitzgerald, GOAL’s general manager. Photo by: GOAL

This time last year, Ireland’s largest charity was just coming to terms with allegations of bid rigging and collusion in its humanitarian programs. GOAL’s biggest donor, the United States Agency for International Development, said it had uncovered misconduct in Turkey, from where GOAL and most other humanitarian agencies operate their Syria programs. GOAL’s other main donors — including Irish Aid and the United Kingdom Department for International Development — followed suit, halting procurement and plunging GOAL, its programs and beneficiaries into uncertainty.

As a result, the charity laid off 25 employees, mostly in London and Dublin; closed its 10-person office in Washington, D.C.; and fired two staff members in Turkey, culling the alleged source of its supply chain irregularities. Chief Executive Officer Barry Andrews stepped down, citing the organization’s “need for change” in the wake of the crisis. GOAL commissioned a consultancy, BDO, to conduct an assessment of its operations, and from there began to build a blueprint for reform.

A little over a year later, GOAL is now “on a path to recovery,” claims General Manager Celine Fitzgerald. USAID rescinded its threat of suspension in April 2017, and Irish Aid and DFID have also reinstated funding. Despite a slated merger with Ireland’s second largest charity, Oxfam Ireland, it pulled back from negotiations last week after financial assessments revealed it could remain independent.

“The challenge was to convince donors that the reform was, first of all, significant and, second of all, sustainable.”

— Celine Fitzgerald, general manager at GOAL

Fitzgerald told Devex that the charity’s programs in war-torn South Sudan have endured the most devastating cuts as a result of the investigation; the potential damage to recipients is a “source of great regret,” she said. But elsewhere, the charity is back up and running, and has even expanded its operations in some places.

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About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.