Irish News

Tuesday 22 July 2014

CRC fundraising arm hit with €200,000 debts

Huge losses - and expenses - racked up by failed wheelchair business

MAEVE SHEEHAN

Published 19/01/2014|02:30

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CREDIT CULTURE: A copy of CRC Medical Devices’ Visa bill for August 2008

THE fundraising arm of the Central Remedial Clinic is facing a €200,000 hit from the loss-making wheelchair business it set up during the boom.

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The Public Accounts Committee heard last week that CRC Medical Devices was set up during the boom, to make money for the disability organisation. But it ended up with accumulated losses of more than €450,000.

The PAC heard how the ill-fated venture was the brainchild of the seating manager at the CRC, Simon Hall. He presented the business plan to the board of the CRC, secured their backing and in 2007 went into operation with a €550,000 loan from CRC. Mr Hall remained an executive on the pay roll of the CRC but the PAC heard how he had a role in the running of CRC Medical Devices.

He had the use of a Visa card in the name of the company. A copy of a bill for August 2008 showed that he spent €393.33 that month on company expenses, much of which was on on foreign travel to secure suppliers for the wheelchair distribution company.

Under questioning last week, Brian Conlan -- former CRC CEO -- told the committee that the credit card was used to pay for "certain amounts of travel" and "certain amounts of entertainment". He said that in 2012 CRC Medical Devices spent €14,000 on travel and €3,900 on entertainment.

At the PAC, Independent TD Shane Ross listed what he called the "exotic" locations that Mr Hall had visited as a CRC employee. According to Mr Ross, he travelled to Nashville and Texas in 2006, and the following year went to Orlando, all on CRC business.

He was back in Orlando the following year, according to Ross, with five colleagues from the CRC. In 2010, he was in Vancouver, the following year he went to Buenos Aires and in 2012 he went to Vancouver and New Delhi.

"Presumably all of these trips involved conferences," said Deputy Ross, who asked whether the trips qualified as "justifiable expenditure".

Another venture the CRC embarked on was the European Seating Symposium, a conference aimed at the seating and mobility sector which also involved staff attending study days and conferences. But, Conlan told the committee that the symposium made a profit of €80,000 for the CRC.

In contrast, CRC Medical Devices was haemorraging so much money that the CRC board decided to sell it late last year. A company bought the stock and goodwill, but declined to take on the debt, which said Conlan, could leave the Friends of the CRC absorbing losses of between €100,000 and €200,000.

Irish Independent

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