15 Dec, 2023 @ 14:00
2 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: British-run charity on Spain’s Costa del Sol comes under fire: President is accused by ex-volunteers of lack of transparency and splashing donations on €1,300 staff dinner

VOLUNTEERS at a well-known expat charity are raising concerns over how it is run.

Current and former staff claim the president of Estepona Age Concern is running it like a ‘private business’.

They insist president Marie-Andree Gleeson, 58, is failing to act transparently and is offering scant care to the local community.

The Olive Press can reveal that three members of the executive committee resigned earlier this year.

The trio allegedly walked out over ‘bullying’, ‘being ignored’ and Gleeson ‘agreeing to things that never happened.’

They were also uncomfortable that she had appointed herself treasurer – on top of being president.

But the final straw was an extravagant €1,375 anniversary lunch at La Madera beach restaurant in Estepona, paid for out of donations.

Former shop manager Maggie Heatherington, who worked there for seven years, insists ‘it is time Marie resigned’.

“I just got sick of the amount of money either sitting in the bank or being wasted,” she told the Olive Press this week.

“We had so much money and this huge lunch for 25 people was just a way to burn through some of it.

“It’s incredible how much is being spent on frivolous things, such as a 12-seater minibus hired to take just five staff to one of our fundraisers in Sotogrande.

“We ended up spending more money than the whole event raised.”

The concerns were backed by the respected former president of animal charity ADANA.

Mary Page had agreed to help the charity in 2020 in a bid to improve its marketing and image. 

Yet when she tried to find out how many elderly the organisation was helping, her queries were dismissed out of hand.

“In fact, instead of sharing this information, Gleeson told me to back off,” she explained. 

“I don’t think she ever actually genuinely wanted the publicity.”

Page added that she could ‘only laugh’ when she saw the organisation’s accounts which were just ‘an A4 piece of paper with no system of accounting whatsoever.’

Gleeson hit back strongly at her critics, telling the Olive Press that she looked after ‘at least’ 100 elderly or vulnerable people in the community.

She went on to insist that the accounts were audited by an internal accountant and sent off to the tax authorities quarterly. 

And she added that, because she held multiple roles and worked ten-hour-plus days, she did not have the time to produce monthly accounts.

She insisted she had not wanted to hold both positions and that she had ‘done everything’ to fill the role of treasurer.

However, despite Gleeson’s protests, another long-time volunteer was even more damning about the ‘mismanagement’ and deteriorating quality of care under her watch.

She said that even she was not aware of how many clients the organisation looked after due to the lack of transparency.

The situation has become so bad that former volunteers say they have taken to helping independently on their own.

“Nothing is transparent and nothing seems to be accounted for,” the volunteer added. “I cannot see where any money is being spent. Apparently a few meals on wheels, but I have no evidence of it.”

She continued: “Only one person has access to the money now Marie has made herself treasurer as well. Now there is no accountability at all.” 

The remaining executive committee member, Alex Aldous, came to Gleeson’s defence, insisting that she saw the accounts and everything was in order.

“Marie is the victim of a smear campaign,” she told the Olive Press.

“She’s an excellent and dedicated welfare officer who works so hard for everyone who comes to her for help.”

The Olive Press wishes to clarify that Age Concern Estepona has nothing to do with Age Concern on other parts of the coast.

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