Sunday 11 December 2016

Console's CEO quits after RTÉ probe into charity

David Kearns

Published 24/06/2016 | 02:30

Paul Kelly: resigned
Paul Kelly: resigned

The chief executive of the suicide charity Console Paul Kelly has resigned amidst concerns about financial irregularities.

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The board of Console accepted Mr Kelly's decision to step down last night in advance of an RTÉ 'Prime Time Investigates' special, which alleged that the Console founder received director payments totalling €215,000 between 2010 and 2012 in apparent breach of company law and Revenue regulations.

It is understood that Mr Kelly's wife Patricia and sister Joan McKenna have also resigned from the charity.

In a statement, the board of Console said it very much regretted the causes of the "controversy that affect the organisation at present."

It added: "Console is determined to do whatever it takes to address all of these issues and to undergo a process of total governance change and renewal to ensure that the important work of the charity in caring for people affected by suicide is continued and strengthened."

'Irregularities'

The charity has appointed two external reviewers to conduct an investigation into the allegations aired by 'Prime Time' and said it had already agreed to accept whatever these reviewers recommended.

The two reviewers are a forensic accountant, Tom Murray, and David Hall, CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation.

"We will be going in first thing at 9.30am and we have 60 days to get to the bottom of what's been going on," said Mr Hall.

"Neither myself nor Tom know anyone on the board so we are completely independent and we've been guaranteed full and unrestricted access to Console's premises, staff, files and records and any external advisors and/or accountants for the purpose of this review."

Stressing that the Health Service Executive (HSE) had no concerns about the professional standards provided by staff at the charity, Mr Hall urged people to continue to use the services offered by Console.

"This review is about financial irregularities, that's all. We want to ensure that the services provided by Console and the staff who work there are safeguarded."

Mr Hall confirmed Mr Kelly's resignation and that of his wife and sister were conditions of the review being commissioned by the charity's board.

"We want to be clear, Console goes on, its service continued, and it will recover from this.

"This is damaging to the entire charity sector, and there are a number of questions that need answering… [and] over the next 60 days, possibly sooner, we will get these answers."

Last night's 'Prime Time' programme, entitled Broken Trust, detailed an investigation into financial practices at the Console.

The programme showed that when applying for state grants and tax exemptions, the charity altered accounts to omit references to directors' pay and other benefits.

It also reported that the charity's directors, from 2010 to early 2014, were made up of Mr Kelly (founder), his wife, and two immediate family relatives.

Suicide

Under Revenue Commission rules, there should be "a minimum of three Officers, Trustees or Directors, who are not related and (are) independent of each other."

Console submitted accounts to bodies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Health Service Executive (HSE), the charity's main funder, where Patricia Kelly used her maiden name Patricia Dowling, making it less apparent the directors were related.

The HSE, which provided more than €2.5m to the organisation over recent years, is expected to review funding arrangements within the next few days on foot of the highly critical internal audit.

Irish Independent

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