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Planned Parenthood suspends services amidst financial challenges

The GPPA main building on Deponthieu Street, which currently houses two of its clinics may be up for sale

The Grenada Planned Parenthood Association (GPPA) has suspended its operations as of this Monday for a period of “three months” in the first instance, amidst financial challenges, as it seeks to access funding and reorganise its operations.

The decision was taken by the newly appointed Board of Directors, headed by Chairman Tyrone Buckmire, who is associated with the Legal Aid & Counselling Clinic in the city.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY on Monday, Buckmire said that the misappropriation of approximately $40, 000.00 over a period of time by a former employee who was dismissed in 2017 has led to a “breakdown in certain administrative functions at the association.”

He also stated that the situation led to the “failure of the management and the past Board of Directors to respond in a timely manner to a number of request for reports and audited financial statements from our donors,” which ultimately led to “the discontinuation of funding from (the) International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which has been the main external donor to GPPA over the last 30 years.”

“For example, in 2019 we just completed our 2017 audit and our 2016 audit was provided in 2018 in contravention of the funding agreement because we are required to provide our audited financial statements for the past financial year by May 31 of the current year.

What was discovered then was that a staff member was pilfering from the association and in order to cover his tracks…he was tearing out receipts and not making up proper deposit slips

“So, we should in fact have submitted our 2018 audited financial statement by May 31, 2019 (and) as we sit here, we have not even begun our 2018 audit and the reason why the audit has been delayed going back three years now is the fact that in 2017, when the audit began of the 2016 financial statement, the auditors picked up on a number of discrepancies in the local finances in terms of monies that were received to the amount of monies that was deposited and so, this is when a red flag was raised by the auditors.

“What was discovered then was that a staff member was pilfering from the association and in order to cover his tracks…he was tearing out receipts and not making up proper deposit slips.

The IPPF usually provides US$54, 000.00 in the form of a cash grant to the local association which is usually disbursed in three trenches annually, along with another US$4, 000.00 or US$5,000.00 worth of commodities, which Buckmire said “together would have represented our core support from IPPF.”

Tyrone Buckmire – is the new Chairman of the GPPA Board of Directors

However, Buckmire, who was appointed Chairman of the GPPA Board in July following the resignation of the former chairman Kennedy Roberts in May said that “the rest of the operational budget would then come from the sales of these commodities and service” received from the donors at GPPA clinics.

He said: “So, as a result of IPPF choosing to withhold that (funding) it means that immediately we are out of US$54, 000.00 cash for this year and in addition to the hold on the 2019 grant, they (IPPF) also withheld a percentage of the 2018 grant amounting to US$21, 000.00.

“So, in essence the cash flow problem began at the end of 2018 because we did not receive the rest of the 2018 funds and we have received none of the 2019 funds,” he added.

Buckmire described the decision taken by the IPPF to stop payments to GPPA as “punitive” in that “they are saying that you have failed to do the many things that are required of you as a member of the association and your inability to do so means that we are going to punish GPPA by not providing funding.”

IPPF is a global non-governmental organisation with the broad aims of promoting sexual and reproductive health, and advocating the right of individuals to make their own choices in family planning.

According to Buckmire, the global entity is currently going through a reform process right now and “that reform process is based on the fact that over the last couple of years it was discovered that there was massive misappropriation of funds at the global level…and part of the reality is that because of the reform that IPPF is doing globally, funding is going to be restricted anyway.”

He said the GPPA was one of several associations that were informed of this decision via letter from the New York Office in October.

“In fact, in October, the IPPF indicated through the western hemisphere regional office in New York that some associations would not be receiving any funding in 2020 and GPPA is one of them,” he added.

Despite restricted cash flow due to the budgetary cut in 2018, Buckmire disclosed that the GPPA continued its operations in good faith “with the expectation that once the outstanding statements were provided the funds would flow” allowing them to meet their financial commitments.

However, he said that unfortunately this was not the case and GPPA has now raked up debt in the region of $150, 000.00.

“So, the Board took a decision to call it a temporary suspension of operation because we do understand that where things are right now, literally every day that the association is opened we are incurring further debt.

“So, it would be irresponsible to just continue with business as usual knowing that we already have a large amount of money owed to the utility companies, creditors and we are not in a position to pay.

The current challenges being faced by the association predate the initiation of the Buckmire-led board, which inherited the sad state of affairs at the GPPA when it was elected during a meeting on July 18.

According to Buckmire, since assuming chairmanship, the GPPA Board has met on several occasions and took a number of measures to try to arrest the situation.

In the last year, GPPA serviced over 3000 clients and the Board “appeals for the understanding and patience of the general public, especially all the many individuals and entities that are owed by the association while we put structures in place to reorganise the operation and to raise the much needed funds to make good on our commitments to all of these creditors. In addition, he said “we apologiose to the many clients across Grenada who will be affected by the suspension of our operations. We will do all in our power to resume services as soon as is practical”.

Buckmire announced that the local association is currently receiving technical support from the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CPFA) of which GPPA is a longstanding member to develop and implement a recovery strategy and action plan.

In addition, he said that “certain approaches have also been made to the government of Grenada and other regional organisations to come to our assistance to help to restructure where we need to and also to continue to fund the programmes of the organization.”

According to Buckmire, the “Board ennvisages that hopefully by the end of the 3-month period they will be able to reopen completely.”

“Right now we are trying to dispose of some of the assets of the association. There are some real assets that the association owns that we are trying to sell, which would mean that we will be able to bring in some money to pay off the debt.

“We can get small grant funding to reopen and start running programmes again but the burden of the debt is very heavy and we want to satisfy those debts – we have a landlord (at the Grenville office), who has been very patient with us for the last year and we owe him one year’s rent.

“The utility companies have been as understanding as can be but now our utilities are being disconnected so we want to come back on line and in order to do that we have to pay our debt and we have certain other payments that are outstanding.

“After 56 years of operation, we are very confident that Grenada needs the GPPA (and) we don’t want to just go out of business and therefore it means that we will have to make some hard choices and one of those hard choices may be to dispose of the assets including the main building, which will give us money to cover the debt because we are sure that we would be able to sell the building for a significant amount of money than what is owed which would augur well in terms of getting the GPPA up and running again.

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