CRC board facing calls to resign after 'top-up' revelations
Parents and children distraught as charitable donations used to 'top up' several salaries
THE board of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) has come under mounting pressure to resign over the use of charitable donations to top up the salary of former chief executive Paul Kiely.
The scandal surrounding the use of donated funds to pay executives private salaries has outraged parents of children with disabilities who use the service, with one parent condemning it.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte yesterday gave qualified support to his cabinet colleague Ruairi Quinn's call for the board's resignation. He said his first reaction was to agree with the Education Minister but he also wanted openness and transparency.
"I think those who are responsible for the stewardship of the CRC have to come up very quickly with effective answers. Otherwise their suitability to run an organisation like the CRC, which does a lot of good work, is in question," he said.
Mr Rabbitte said he "instinctively" felt the Education Minister was "right" but said he would like to see a report on the matter.
The chairman of the Oireachtas health committee, Jerry Buttimer, said the board's position was "untenable". "I think the board should do the honourable thing and step down. For the Central Remedial Clinic to regain credibility, it needs a new board," he said. "We now have a situation where many people are frustrated the money they raised is going to top-ups."
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, said if the board was not able to "provide answers swiftly to the appropriate authorities, the board will have to consider their position.
"They cannot live in a bubble," added the Minister.
The clinic admitted last week that its former chief executive's State salary of €106,000 was topped up with €136,000 in funds donated by the public, in breach of public sector pay rules. It also used public donations to top up the salaries of several other executives. Brian Conlan, the current CRC chief executive, is a new appointee and is not receiving top-ups.
Paul Kiely, a close friend of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, retired last summer.
The Sunday Independent has learnt that the HSE has been investigating whether Mr Kiely's public sector pension was inflated by basing it on his topped up salary of €240,000. Ursula Regan, a former chairperson of the Special Needs Active Parents group, said: "I think it is the worst thing I have ever heard of."
Ms Regan's 13-year-old son son Ryan, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, has used the CRC services in the past.
"People who are already on the salaries they are on are getting topped up out of the pockets of disabled children," she said. "In my opinion it is criminal and they should pay the money back."
The admission by the CRC on Thursday that is used charitable funds to top up executive salaries sent shock waves throughout the disability sector.
At first, the clinic denied point blank that it used funds from the public to supplement the salaries. On Thursday, in a dramatic about-turn, the CRC issued a statement confirming that it had used charitable funds to top up executive pay.
The top ups came from a share of a lottery administered by the Care Trust, which also funds the Mater Hospital.
The disclosure was followed by further damning claims made by Independent TD Shane Ross in the Dail that the clinic also borrowed money from charitable funds to prop up its private pension scheme.
He claimed the Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic had funds of €14m in 2011 and gave an interest-free loan of €3m to the clinic to boost its private pension scheme.
He said the loan was better termed a "gift" and described it as "devastating".
A HSE audit – published a fortnight ago – found that 191 managers working for voluntary hospitals and health sector agencies were received extra payments and allowances of €3.2m.
The CRC was among those found to have paid top-ups to staff that were allegedly in breach of public sector pay rules.
The Department of Health provides €19m in funding to the CRC through the HSE. But yesterday, the two junior health ministers stepped back from calling for heads to roll.
Kathleen Lynch, the minister responsible for disability, said the board should answer to an appropriate Dail forum first, such as the PAC.
"I'm reluctant to say they should immediately resign. There is a prior need for openness transparency and accountability," she said.
"We need to hear how much, to who and where from. I'll hold my views until I hear the explanation of the board and I expect to hear it."
Alex White, a second junior health minister, said "transparency and a public accounting of these actions is required to preserve public confidence in the organisation itself".
Jan O'Sullivan, the Minister for Housing, said: "Heads on plates are fine but the public also has a right to know that scarce resources are applied appropriately; public money should not be used for private gain."
Mr Kiely who was closely associated with Bertie Ahern, the former Taoiseach, was secretary of the Friends and Supporters group as well as chief executive of the Central Remedial Clinic.
The 12 CRC directors have stayed out of public view since the statement was issued on their behalf last week.
A hospital spokesperson declined to make any further comment. Paul Kiely, who lives in Castleknock did not appear to be at home yesterday. One director, Pat Ryan, who lives in Castleknock, was at home yesterday afternoon when the Sunday Independent called but he did not come to the door. Other board members could not be contacted or voice messages left for them were not returned.
Maeve Sheehan, John Drennan, Michael Brennan, Niamh Horan
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