Friday 24 October 2014

Alan Shatter calls for transparency in charity pay row

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

Published 05/02/2014 | 02:30

ANGELA KERINS CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL DISABILITY AUTHORITY.
Angela Kerins, CEO of Rehab

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has launched a broadside against charities who fail to disclose the pay of executives.

The pointed remarks, made in the Seanad, come on the back of a well-publicised spat with Rehab whose chief executive Angela Kerins has refused to divulge her salary.

Two weeks ago Mr Shatter was critical of the charity after an audit revealed its scratch card lottery generated a surplus of just €10,000 on the back of sales of €4m in 2010.

He used the audit findings to defend his decision to close off a multi-million euro fund for charity lotteries, which compensated them for loss of business following the setting up of the National Lottery.

In comments to senators last night, Mr Shatter turned his sights on executive pay.

He said the need for transparency "also extends to the issue of remuneration and allowances".

The minister said it was important that charities "address concerns that have arisen in this regard".

"It is not in the public interest that these matters be concealed, or that they be opaque. Rather, information made available should meet a reasonable standard of transparency and give an adequate picture of the sources and uses of funding at any given charity," he said.

His comments came ahead of a meeting of the Rehab Group board later this month where they will consider whether or not to reveal Ms Kerins' salary. Her last known pay figure was €234,000 in 2011, but she has repeatedly refused to divulge details of her package since then.

Mr Shatter said: "Charity trustees and directors have been placed in a position of trust and it is important to the overall health of the charity sector that their behaviour is in keeping with this."

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He added: "I am aware that many charities are reporting drops in their donations following the disclosures about the use of charity funds at the Central Remedial Clinic and issues that have arisen with regard to Rehab.

"Trust and confidence need to be rebuilt. Critical to this is greater transparency about how charities conduct their business and what they do with the funds so generously given to them.

"While some charities demonstrate high standards of governance and transparency, the picture is far from uniform across the sector. Increased transparency can help to strengthen the charities sector."

The remarks came following the emergence of a letter from Ms Kerins to the Department of Justice in which he said the department had no right to dictate how the charity spent lottery scheme funding.

An audit by the department expressed concern that some of this funding was spent on administration. This included sums spent on advocacy, communications, professional fees and "hospitality associated with advocacy and lobbying".

Ms Kerins' position in the letter from 2012 was that it was "not appropriate" for the department to seek to influence how the money was put to use. She argued that the money was not a state grant, but was a commercial arrangement between the Government, the National Lottery and the owners of private lotteries.

In the Seanad last night, Mr Shatter said the use of state funds was "a matter of legitimate concern for the Government."

His comments came as he briefed senators on the implementation of the 2009 Charities Act, under which he will establish an independent Charities Regulatory Authority.

Appointments to the board of the authority will be made by Easter, he said.

Irish Independent

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