Saturday 20 December 2014

Flannery told to make 'swift' PAC appearance

Rehab paid its own director for lobbying Government, reports say

JOHN DRENNAN, MAEVE SHEEHAN and MARK O'REGAN

Published 09/03/2014 | 02:30

19/02/2014 Rehab director Frank Flannery at Leinster House, dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Rehab director Frank Flannery at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

PUBLIC Accounts Committee chairperson John McGuinness has said that Fine Gael strategist and Rehab director Frank Flannery needs to "swiftly appear'' before the committee to "calm growing public disquiet about the charity sector in general and Rehab in particular''.

Mr McGuinness was commenting yesterday after reports that Mr Flannery had received fees in 2011 and 2012 for lobbying government departments on behalf of Rehab.

Minister for European Affairs Pascal Donohoe said yesterday that Mr Flannery should explain his case. "There has to be absolute transparency for anybody who is dealing with the State,'' he added.

He said Mr Flannery and relevant Rehab representatives should now appear before the PAC.

"I believe it's particularly important to establish if public money was involved in any of this,'' he stressed.

The Irish Times reported that Mr Flannery, a Rehab director, was paid thousands by the charity to lobby the Government.

He was paid for lobbying the Departments of Justice, Education and Social Protection, according to invoices submitted to the charity. The invoices were submitted in late 2011 and 2012, and were from Mr Flannery's firm, Laragh Consulting Ltd.

The company invoiced Rehab for €66,000 in 2012 and €11,000 in 2011. Two invoices were for €5,500, excluding VAT, while another was for €11,000.

Mr Flannery was unavailable for comment yesterday.

It is understood that even though Rehab Ireland was billed by Mr Flannery, the money was paid through a UK company associated with Rehab, TBG learning.

The invoices submitted by Mr Flannery, a former Rehab CEO, listed activities under the heading "provision of professional services of Mr Frank Flannery".

Yesterday the PAC chairman said: "Following on from the CRC real damage is being done to the charity sector by the failure to swiftly resolve this. We need the full picture on all payments to come out now''.

He also said that the "current megaphone dialogue by media is not serving the interests of accountability''.

The PAC has unanimously agreed to issue an invitation both to Mr Flannery and the remuneration committee of Rehab: "We want and need a full picture of all payments, not just salaries but consultancies'," Mr McGuinness said.

He added: "We are requesting them to appear as of now, that is always our initial position, that, however, may change''.

He said: "This is not a witch hunt. What we are engaged in is a search for information that will calm the growing public disquiet about the charity sector in general and Rehab in particular''.

He added "our methodology is inquisitorial rather than adversarial, what we want is for Mr Flannery and the Rehab Remuneration Committee to put the facts of all payments on the record, what payments, how many, how much and why and let citizens judge from there''.

He said: "This is about more than one individual's salary, the taxpayer needs to secure a full picture of all payments and in particular consultancies and how those were interlinked''.

The PAC Chairman added "this goes far beyond the salary of Angela Kerins, we wish to inquire into issues of general governance and consultancies, this goes far beyond salaries''.

Mr McGuinness also said that "we are seeking fuller disclosure on how the interaction between the charity and business ends of Rehab operated or if there was any interaction at all''.

It is, he added, "very difficult to see how you can maintain the Chinese walls between being a charity on Monday and a business on Tuesday''.

In an indication of widening political concern, a senior Fine Gael minister also warned "this issue has to be resolved next week, the party will not tolerate this being dragged out like Irish Water or the GSOC controversy''.

The minister added "sympathy is short for Mr Flannery in the party, he has a lot of enemies and few friends; if this is not resolved this will reflect on Enda''.

The Labour PAC member Ged Nash also warned that "public confidence in Rehab requires this be resolved next week, end of''.

The Labour TD said "all contractual payments must be presented next week to the PAC, they have been given abundant time, it is in the interests of the organisation and the clients, who appear to have been forgotten in the brouhaha''.

Sunday Independent

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