Peter McVerry Trust claimed title over property it did not own, draft regulator’s report finds – The Irish Times

The Peter McVerry Trust claimed title over large property assets it did not own and double-counted “multiple” properties in an official filing, according to a draft Charities Regulator report that sets out a litany of governance failings in the €165 million homelessness charity.

The trust, founded by Jesuit priest Fr Peter McVerry, is one of the main providers of homelessness services in the State, with €43.4 million State income in 2022 and €15 million from donations. But it has been rocked by a financial crisis that led to a €15 million bailout from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien last November. The money was paid in phases until March.

Now investigators working for the regulator have raised serious questions over the way the charity organised its affairs and deployed funds. Draft conclusions, yet to be finalised, were circulated in recent days after an investigation by Thomas Mulholland, an official with the regulator, and Deirdre Carwood, a partner with accountants Deloitte.

“The inspectors identified numerous instances of inappropriate transfers and co-mingling of funds between restricted and unrestricted funds, as well as the unauthorised use of restricted funds for operational purposes,” they said.

“This demonstrates a lack of financial oversight and consideration of donor intentions by the board as to how restricted funds ought to have been utilised.”

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The McVerry Trust said it “will be submitting extensive feedback to the inspectors”, adding that the priority was to “strengthen and enhance” governance and regain trust and confidence.

The regulator did not comment on the substance of the draft report, saying inspectors have not concluded their work.

The confidential document of June 28th cited “material inaccuracies” in a for

mal listing of McVerry Trust freehold premises – with an aggregate €165 million valuation – for the regulator last August.

These items included two Dublin properties not currently recorded as owned by the trust in the Land Registry but listed on its fixed asset register: a €3.7 million property in Saggart and a €1.3 million property in Balbriggan.

Examples of assets recorded twice included €2.2 million for the same property in Glenageary, Co Dublin, and €1.7 million for the same Wexford town property.

The draft report examined a €945,000 purchase of nine properties six years ago from the trust’s former auditor, saying the transactions were confirmed in an interview by the former auditor and that “this represents a conflict of interest for the auditor”.

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The former auditor, Donal Ryan, did not return a phone call. Pat Doyle, former McVerry Trust chief executive, did not respond to messages.

The report said the trust’s board indicated it only became aware in 2023 that property was acquired from the former auditor. Still, the October 2018 deed of indenture for the purchase was signed by the former auditor and the trust’s secretary. Fr McVerry was company secretary of the trust at the time and remains so.

The draft also described how the trust used a religious order’s donation to pay creditors, including the Revenue, instead of buying three specified properties for €4.3 million as agreed.

The properties were: long-term units for homeless people costing €1.5 million; a convent to house unaccompanied Ukrainian minors costing €1.6 million; and three family units costing €1.2 million.

However, the trust “did not purchase any of the three properties” specified in an agreement with the religious order.

The report also questioned a €9.6 million tax warehousing deal with the Revenue, which the charity entered without board oversight. The tax debt was €8.3 million, on which €1.3 million interest may be payable.

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“The inspectors were provided with conflicting information as to the extent and timing of board awareness of [Peter McVerry Trust] availing of the scheme, and the amount warehoused.”

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