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'A cashflow problem': Peter McVerry says he hopes donors aren't 'put off' by regulator inspection

FATHER PETER MCVERRY has said that the appointment of inspectors by a housing regulator following financial concerns raised at the Peter McVerry Trust is due to a “cashflow problem”. 

The Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA) said it appointed the inspectors to conduct a statutory investigation of the housing and homelessness charity.

A spokesperson told The Journal that it “identified concerns in relation to the organisation” having first been notified of a number of “financial and governance” issues by the charity in July.

Last month, the trust said it had notified the Department of Housing of “potential financial issues” at the charity.

Speaking on South East Radio this morning, McVerry said there is no evidence of fraud at the charity and that its services will not be impacted by the investigation. 

“It’s a cashflow problem. One of the difficulties is our tax liabilities. During Covid, we along with hundreds of thousands of other organisations were allowed to warehouse our tax liabilities,” the homelessness campaigner said.

“During that time, our fundraising events were cancelled, our income dropped substantially, so now we’re having to pay back the back taxes, along with our monthly tax liability for PAYE and PRSI for over 500 employees, so that’s challenging.

There is absolutely no evidence of financial fraud or misappropriation of funds, let me be very clear with that.

McVerry said the charity has questions to answer as to why is was not aware of the problem more quickly, and that it may have to put more financial expertise onto its board.

“It’s simply a question of they want to make sure that our finances are solid,” he said, adding that the charity’s finances are “solid” and that its assets “far exceed our liabilities”. 

“We’re struggling at the moment with our funders to resolve the cashflow problem and I’m very confident that over the next few months, we will be able to do that.”

He also said that there will be no effect on the charity’s services to homeless people. 

“Everything we do for homeless people continues uninterrupted. There are no reductions in services, there are no cutbacks in services.”

He added that the charity hopes its donors are not “put off” by the investigation.

“We depend very heavily on our donors and we hope they will continue to support us and not be put off by any suggestions that there’s something amiss in the organisation.”

Homelessness

McVerry was also speaking about the homeless crisis. He said he is concerned that the number of homeless people in the country could exceed 16,000 before the next general election.

“The number of homeless people are going up by about 200-250 every month, mostly coming from the private rented sector because the ban on evictions has been lifted,” he said.

“If that continues, we’ll have an extra 3,000 homeless people in 12 months time which is when the next general election is predicted. We already have 13,000, and that will bring the total of homeless up to 16,000.

That may not worry the government, because it will go up incrementally by 200-250 every month, and therefore it becomes normalised. We get used to it. 

He said there was “absolutely outcry” when the number of homeless people recorded in the country reached 5,000 “many years ago now”, but said that the current figures “don’t raise an eyebrow” when they are published. 

McVerry is calling for the eviction ban to be reintroduced and extended over a long period of time, but said that may pose difficulties for some landlords. 

On that basis, he said that exemptions from the ban could be introduced in some cases.

“I think it would be a relief to landlords if they knew that where they could present evidence that they are in substantial difficulties because of the ban on evictions, that they would be entitled to get an exemption from the ban.”