THE HSE is investigating a previously undisclosed massive pension top-up to former Central Remedial Clinic CEO Paul Kiely, which was paid out from public donations, the Irish Independent can reveal.
At a Public Accounts Committee meeting before Christmas, it was stated that Mr Kiely -- a long-term friend and political associate of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern -- received a pension lump sum of €200,000 and will receive an annual pension of €98,000.
However, the HSE's director general Tony O'Brien last night said in correspondence to the PAC that new "significant issues" around the pension pay-off to Mr Kiely have been identified.
It has emerged that public donations to the fundraising arm of the embattled Central Remedial Clinic have been used to award Mr Kiely a significantly inflated pension above and beyond what was previously disclosed.
"It appears an amount was paid to a pension fund to ensure that Mr Kiely's pension/lump sum benefits would not be less than if he continued to remain on as CEO until November 2016.
"Furthermore, it appears the payments to Mr Kiely could not have been made by the CRC without funds received from the Friends and Supporters of CRC," the correspondence said.
Mr O'Brien said the arrangements highlighted by the administrator raised "a number of serious matters relating to the CRC's Memorandum of Association, the cost of the package to the CRC/Friends and Supporters of the CRC and the payment calculations not being fully adjusted for public sector pay cuts".
In his correspondence, seen by the Irish Independent, Mr O'Brien said he was highlighting the issue with the committee as the arrangements seemed to be "considerably at variance" from an understanding arrived at following the committee's previous hearings.
The HSE boss said: "At this stage, it is necessary for the CRC to satisfy itself that the payments made/benefits conferred are reasonable and proper and that any amounts paid were correctly calculated and authorised. In the event of there being a loss to the CRC, steps to make good that loss will be required to be taken".
At its marathon session last month, the PAC heard that Mr Kiely received "a pension lump sum pay off worth €200,000 and will get an annual pension of around €98,000 a year, which is indexed linked to up to 5pc". Mr Kiely said he was paid the maximum level permitted by the Revenue Commissioners.
The PAC will today hear from Brian Conlan, Mr Kiely's successor as CEO, who resigned at the height of the top-ups scandal before Christmas.
The CRC board, which approved Mr Kiely's package, also resigned en masse on foot of the revelations.
For his part, Mr Conlan will tell the PAC today his refusal to attend the committee before Christmas was because as he had "just returned from his honeymoon in the United States where I was for three weeks and where I first learnt of the questions being raised".
And he will insist he was not responsible for his terms of appointment or the €125,000 salary he was offered -- in breach of HSE guidelines.
He will also insist that he has since paid back any "excess salary" above the approved level of €98,000.
Mr Conlan will also say that he offered his resignation because of the "scale and nature of the coverage" and that he felt the "CRC was being damaged".