FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: December 28, 2023
Brussels, Belgium – The European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) announced today to file for bankruptcy. The dramatic decision, unexpectedly and regrettably, became necessary and inevitable, because of a comprehensive financial review of the Association, requested by the Board of Directors and approved by the Annual General Meeting (AGM): “We did not spare any effort to restore ECPC, working tirelessly in very adverse circumstances, hoping until the end to be able to restore and to assure the continuity of the ECPC, with the support of our funders of many years, in restructuring the Association, as promised to our members at the AGM in May 2022 and reconfirmed at the AGM 2023. We are deeply saddened, but our commitment to advocating for cancer patients remains unchanged and steadfast”.
Summary of Events
Financial Reports of 2020 and 2021: In the end of May 2022, at the Annual General Assembly (AGM), conducted by the Board under Kathi Apostolidis’ Presidency (March 16 – May 27, 2022), the newly elected ECPC Board was appointed and together with all other AGM participants, the new Board approved both the 2020 financial accounts (non-voted at the November 2021 AGM), as well as the 2021 financial accounts.
This “double” voting for accounts 2020 and 2021 was of critical importance, because the General Assembly 2021 had previously rejected the 2020 accounts, proposed by the Board and management of December 2020 – mid March 2022.
The 2020 accounts showed a positive balance but were also burdened by a significant provision for potential liabilities related to EU-funded projects. This provision followed the external auditors’ recommendation, for the audit of the financial years 2020 and 2021.
Statutory Audit – Accounting Irregularities and Delays: “In order to ensure the transparency of its operations for all its members, staff, stakeholders, and partners, the ECPC Board and the AGM of 2022 decided to conduct a Statutory Audit. This audit is different from a limited audit, which most non-profits go through, as it is an extremely thorough audit of all financial aspects of the organization.
The decision was made to ensure transparency and to allow an external auditor, bound by the government’s code, to conduct the audit of the 2022 accounts and inform the ECPC Board regarding their status to support its efforts towards a quick recovery ensuring at the same time, the sustainability of the organization”
This excerpt from “ECPC Board Statement: Closing of Accounts 2022” (Attachment No. 1) demonstrates how ECPC initiated in 2022 the three year (2022-2025) rigorous Statutory Audit, approved by the Annual General Assembly, to enhance transparency and legal compliance. This decision of the previous Board (March 15-May 27, 2022), endorsed too by the newly elected Board in May 2022 and approved by the General Assembly, marks a significant step towards rectifying the Association’s financial management. It was also a courageous step for redressing the reputation and credibility of the ECPC towards its members, partners, supporters, and EU institutions.
However, the Statutory Auditors, appointed by the Annual General Meeting 2022 to conduct the audit of the accounts of the Association for three years, starting with those of 2022, faced challenges in expressing an opinion on the annual accounts 2022, due to uncertainties surrounding the continuity of the Association. The statutory audit process revealed significant delays and inaccuracies in the Association’s accounting. These issues, along with a lack of proper handover from previous management and insufficient revenue projections, severely impacted ECPC’s financial health for 2022 and 2023. The 2022 Statutory Audit revealed a considerable loss that the Association could not reverse in 2023.
Reduced Funding and Financial Loss: In 2022, there was an increase in staff costs due to the management of the ongoing and new EU-funded projects. However, other expenses (including Management, Running Costs, Board and Scientific Committee, Advocacy, and Awareness) remained relatively stable. Despite this, 2022 witnessed a significant financial shortfall of 875,664.36 EUR.
This loss has to be primarily attributed to the results of the Board and Management of December 2020 – mid March 2022, which had conducted the Association in a not democratic way, with a general lack of transparency, which raised concerns among members, partners and supporters. Other reasons were the resignationsof ECPC employees, who are vital for project collaboration with external partners. Their departure, together with adverse unevidenced publicity and rumors, impacted on ECPC’s fundraising efforts, leading to a marked decrease in support from the Association’s trusted supporters of many years.
This downturn in support of the Association’s Action Plan critically undermined ECPC’s financial stability and did not allow the implementation of its proposed actions. Importantly, it should be noted that the supporters of patient organizations typically support agreed upon specific projects, requiring skilled expertise, well ahead in time, rather than providing direct donations.
ECPC Fundraising from 2022 to 2023:
Revenues from “Grants from pharmaceutical companies”:
1,081,544 euros in 2020
759,067 euros in 2021
no revenues in 2022
no revenues in 2023.
Revenues from “Grants from non-pharmaceutical companies”:
344,222 euros in 2020
100,525 euros in 2021
no revenues in 2022
no revenues in 2023
Commitment to Transparency: Since assuming governance in end May 2022, the Board has navigated a series of unprecedented challenges. These included a lack of thorough transition process, substantial information deficits, the absence of skilled staff in June 2022 to manage the Secretariat. Further difficulties arose in recruiting qualified personnel during the latter half of 2022, owing to the competitive job market in Brussels. Additionally, the effectiveness of ECPC was hampered by unfair sources that propagated unreliable news and damaging rumors.
Despite these hurdles, as confirmed by the Statutory Audit and discussions with the EU Commission, the Board has remained steadfast in their commitment to their mission and to transparency. In these challenging circumstances, ECPC is dedicated to clarifying the events that transpired and to identifying where responsibilities lie.
EU Commission Audit Findings: In the 4th Quarter of 2023, following a routine audit of EU-funded projects, the Commission conducted an audit of ECPC’s participation in three EU projects. The audit identified inadequacies in the management and validation of project timesheets and accounts for the period 2019-2022. As a result, the European Commission suspended all pending and future payments to ECPC for 14 projects, making it impossible to continue operations.
Deep regret: ECPC recognizes and deeply regrets the impact that this now unavoidable decision will have on our highly committed +470-member cancer patient associations, including five national cancer patient federations, across Europe and beyond, being our inspiration and support of many years, on our partners and collaborators in the EU funded projects and on the European cancer patient community.
ECPC Board Statement: “We would like to assure our members, partners, and friends that we have worked diligently and wholeheartedly during every single day of all this one and half year to change the situation that we inherited in June 2022.
We did not spare any effort to restore ECPC, working tirelessly in very adverse circumstances, hoping until the end to be able to assure the continuity of the ECPC and to have the support of our supporters of many years in restructuring the Association, as promised to our members and partners at the AGM in May 2022 and reconfirmed at the AGM in June 2023.
We are deeply saddened, but our commitment to advocating for cancer patients remains unchanged and steadfast and we will continue to maintain and nurture relationships with our members, partners,and friends on both a personal and professional level, across national and European platforms”.
ECPC’s remarkable impact has been featured in two prestigious publications in “Molecular Oncology”:
No.2: “Cancer Survivorship: An Integral Part of Europe’s Research Agenda” by Pernilla Lagergren, Anna Schandl, Neil K. Aaronson, Hans-Olov Adami, Francesco de Lorenzo, Louis Denis, Sara Faithfull, Lifang Liu, Françoise Meunier, and Cornelia Ulrich (2018).
No. 3: “The European Cancer Patient Coalition and Its Central Role in Connecting Stakeholders to Advance Patient-Centric Solutions in the Mission on Cancer” by Francesco de Lorenzo and Kathi Apostolidis (2019)
With over +470 members, ECPC is the largest European non-profit cancer patient umbrella’ association. Covering all 27 European Union Member States, and many other European and non-European countries, ECPC has represented those affected by all types of cancers, from the rarest to the most common.
Founded in 2003, the ECPC has been for twenty years at the forefront of patient advocacy, policy influence, and awareness campaigns to improve cancer care and support for patients and their families.
Francesco De Lorenzo – President