Internal audits carried out by the Health Service Executive have criticised two disability charities – both part of the Centre for Independent Living group of charities – which were found to have made several overpayments for business travel. 

The audits also said that the charities, Centre for Independent Living Carmichael House (CIL CMH) and Blanchardstown Centre for Independent Living (BCIL), had poor internal controls for the period reviewed in the audits, from 2015 to 2016, in relation to travel and subsistence claims.

According to the HSE, in March 2017 it received anonymous complaints from a member of the public who made various "wide ranging" allegations concerning both charities, which "encompassed issues such as ineffective governance, insufficient value for money and irregularities in the areas of non-pay expenditure and travel claims."

Between 2015 and 2016, the charities, which are separate legal entities, received combined funding totalling almost €325,000 from the HSE. They both help people with disabilities achieve independent living.

One of the audits said that CIL CMH, which is based in North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7, was unable to explain why its travel and subsistence expenses increased by 40% in 2016 from the previous year, from €10,965 to €15,445.

The auditors noted that an employee had been paid €4,575 in 2015 and 2016 in expenses without indicating on their claim forms if they were absent from their base. This meant that it was unclear to the audit team if "there had been an entitlement to subsistence or if the amount claimed was at the appropriate rate."

This audit also found that a board member obtained expenses for "a number of trips" 351km greater than the distances measured by AA Roadwatch route planner. 

The board member told the HSE that this was a mistake and "wasn’t done with the intention of defrauding anyone."

Separately, an employee at this charity obtained expenses for a trip 136km greater than the distance measured by the route planner.

The chief executive of CIL CMH, Damien Walshe, told RTÉ Investigates that the board member has made a repayment on foot of the audit finding. In relation to the employee who had over-claimed a trip by 136km, money for this trip had not been repaid, as this was not one of the audit recommendations, Mr Walshe said.

The audit carried out in relation to the Blanchardstown Centre for Independent Living (BCIL) also found poor governance practices at this charity and said there was a potential for conflicts of interest because of certain positional overlaps between BCIL and CIL CMH.

The Blanchardstown charity also had issues surrounding travel overpayments and the auditors noted that one former supervisor at the charity had claimed for 37.5km more than they were entitled to.

In relation to both charities, the HSE audits found that there were a "number of internal control weaknesses in relation to the management of travel and subsistence" and made a series of recommendations as a result, including, for example, ensuring a practice where "times absent from base" is recorded.

Mr Walshe told RTÉ Investigates that "almost all of the actions" contained in the audit relating to Carmichael House had since been implemented.

The BCIL manager, Lucy O’Connor, said the charity had fully implemented the recommendations contained in the HSE Internal Audit.