OUTGOING CEO of the Waterford Area Partnership (WAP) has said it was “clear” to him from “early on” in his tenure as CEO that the partnership faced serious legacy issues.
Responding to the Waterford News and Star’s request for comment regarding the recent and damning audit on WAP, undertaken by Crowe Horwath for Pobal, Richard Grant said he wished “solely on [his] own behalf to set out some facts” about the situation.
Mr Grant joined WAP as CEO in March 2019 and notified the board on January 5, 2021, of his intention to resign when he has completed two years in the role.
Prior to becoming CEO, Mr Grant was previously a director and, for a time, chairman of WAP. Through this non-executive involvement, Mr Grant said he was “familiar with the vital work that the Partnership supports and enables in Waterford” and that his motivation in taking on the executive leadership role almost two years ago was “to make a positive difference to individuals, families, and communities in my native city and county.”
“From early on in my tenure as CEO, it was clear to me that the Partnership faced several serious legacy issues and addressing these has been a high priority but also massively time-consuming and distracting from our core work of service delivery,” he said.
“At times, it seemed as though legacy issues emerged on a weekly basis and this naturally impacted on staff morale,” he added.
Having determined that WAP does not have a viable future, the Crowe report recommends that Pobal and the Dept of Rural & Community Development identify an alternative provider with a view to preserving some or all of the vital programmes currently supported by WAP.
“It will be for others to determine how this will be managed or even if this is the approach pursued but I am very clear on the importance of maintaining the services that the Partnership supports,” Mr Grant told the Waterford News and Star.
“In the midst of a global pandemic with massive social and economic impacts, no risk can be taken to the continuation of what are 10 essential community programmes serving some of the most disadvantaged and socially-isolated people in Waterford. It is obviously also critical to maintain the 44 direct jobs created by the Partnership,” he said.
Mr Grant said “significant progress” has been made in addressing some of the issues raised by the Local Government Audit Service in their audit of the Partnership’s Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme in 2018, though it has not been possible to make “meaningful progress on topics that the auditors identified as of ‘high’ priority,” he explained.
Having received more detailed media queries regarding the situation, Mr Grant said it would “not be appropriate” for him to comment beyond this statement given the reported Garda investigation.