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Saturday 20 September 2014

Gardai may be called to probe former CRC boss's €740k pay-off

* Fury grows as it emerges that former CRC boss Paul Kiely was paid €742,000 when he retired from the CRC
* HSE has confirmed they are seeking legal advice relating to Mr Kiely's retirement package * Members of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee have vowed to recall him before the committee to explain the pay-off
* Mr Kiely appeared before the PAC before Christmas and said he received €200,000
* An audit by the HSE revealed the deal included €200,000 tax free, €273,336 which was taxable and €268,689 paid to Mercer's consultants for Paul Kiely's pension fund * His successor Brian Conlan - who stepped down as chief in December - said he was unaware of the details of the pay-off
* PAC chairman John McGuinness suggested a fraud squad investigation may be required * The PAC also heard of exotic travel arrangements for some senior management in the CRC including Simon Hall who from 2006 went to Nashville, Orlando,Vancouver, Buenos Aires and New Delhi on eight different trips.

Published 17/01/2014 | 06:28

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Legal threat on CRC salary cuts...Paul Kiely (left) the former chief executive of the Dublin based Central Remedial Clinic and acting chief executive Jim Nugent (right) leaving Leinster House after giving evidence to The Public Accounts Committee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 11, 2013. Scandal-struck Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) chiefs said they face being sued if they enforce salary cuts on bosses getting top-ups from public donations. See PA story POLITICS TopUps Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire...A
Legal threat on CRC salary cuts...Paul Kiely (left) the former chief executive of the Dublin based Central Remedial Clinic and acting chief executive Jim Nugent (right) leaving Leinster House after giving evidence to The Public Accounts Committee. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Brian Conlon,the former chief of the Central Remedial Clinic  arriving  for  the Dail Public Accounts meeting  at Leinster House yesterday.Pic Tom Burtke 16/1/14
Brian Conlon, the former chief of the Central Remedial Clinic arriving for the Dail Public Accounts meeting at Leinster House yesterday. Pic Tom Burke 16/1/14

Gardai may be called in to probe the circumstances surrounding the €742,000 pay-off to former Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) chief Paul Kiely.

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Details of payment emerged as the HSE vowed to get back funds from the pay-off which were found to have come from charitable funds.

The HSE have confirmed they are seeking legal advice regarding Mr Kiely's retirement package pay-off.

During yesterday's hearings before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it emerged the former head of the scandal-hit Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) walked away with a gold-plated pay-off worth €742,000 edespite previously only admitting a pension pot of €200,000.

The PAC was told some of the money came from charitable donations to the clinic and that health chiefs may attempt to claw back some of the secret fund.

An audit by the Health Service Executive revealed the deal included €200,000 tax free, €273,336 which was taxable and €268,689 paid to Mercer's consultants for Paul Kiely's pension fund.

The third payment was intended to make sure the former clinic chief had a pension pot as though he had remained in the senior post up until November 2016.

John McGuinness, PAC chairman, suggested a fraud squad investigation might be needed over the affair with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and gardai being called in.

The committee heard details of the package as Brian Conlan, who took over from Mr Kiely as head of the CRC but lasted only four months in the job, denied all knowledge of the arrangement.

He said the lucrative and secret pension deal was wrong.

"What I'm saying to you is that I was not aware that these payments were being made to Mr Kiely," he said.

"I was not aware of the payment. This is completely new to me. And I am as surprised as anybody at what has transpired here today."

Mr Conlan was told repeatedly that he lacked credibility - including by committee chairman John McGuinness, who cautioned him to reveal the full facts of his knowledge of the pension deal and the recruitment of Mr Kiely's replacement.

He said he was on honeymoon in the US for three weeks when the controversy emerged late last year and returned in December.

Mr Conlan claimed he did not attend a committee hearing on the scandal when first invited as he was under intense stress, was forced to move out of his house for several days to avoid the media and would have been an ineffective witness.

He resigned as chief executive last month as the committee sought to question him over the remuneration issue. He claimed he did not have access to files and records from his time at the CRC.

Mr Conlan said there was no information on Mr Kiely's pension deal in any files he saw in the four months he was chief executive.

Committee member Independent TD Shane Ross said he was "gobsmacked" and said he did not believe the former health chief's evidence.

"There was obviously an intention that this should never see the light of day," he said.

Mr Kiely retired in June last year on a pension of around €90,000 a year from a private scheme - which was also propped up by a €3 million loan from donations paid to the CRC and held by the Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

The committee was told today that his €750,000 retirement package was in addition to money being paid out of the €3m fund.

Barry O'Brien, HSE national director for human resources, told the committee that it would attempt to recover some monies paid to Mr Kiely if they are found not to be "reasonable and proper".

Mr Kiely only detailed a pension pot on top of his salary of 200,000 euro when he was before the committee in December.

Demands were made for him to be recalled to answer questions on the secret deal.

The staggering pension fund was revealed after the HSE appointed an internal administrator to the CRC on December 18 following weeks of scandal regarding top-ups and financial mismanagement.

Auditor John Cregan has told the HSE that the pension fund was finalised around the time that two transfers - €450,000 and €250,000 - were made out of the accounts of the Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

These are described as donations.

Mr Conlan said: "I did not know that the money was being used to fund Paul Kiely's pension.

"When I joined the CRC first I had other priorities. My understanding was that Paul Kiely's pension had been sorted (as he explained to the committee that it was €200,000).

"I'm telling you the truth. I was not aware of this payment going through. I was the new CEO and I was finding my feet."

Mr Conlan retired as chief executive of the Mater Hospital aged 58 after eight years in the job and subsequently applied to take over the CRC as an internal candidate following Mr Kiely's retirement.

He explained his decision to leave the Mater, saying that he had become tired in the role.

The committee was told that before he applied for Mr Kiely's job he was appointed to a sub-committee, as part of his role as a board member at the CRC, to oversee the recruitment process.

Mr Conlan claimed that when he decided to run for the CRC chief executive's position he left the sub-committee.

During his evidence he also said only 1pc of the overall budget of the CRC is under scrutiny and that it was not his understanding that donations were being siphoned off to pay top-ups for executives.

Mr Conlan said the practice was wrong and should cease.

But he added: "Sometimes decisions have to be made that are practical and pragmatic."

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein deputy leader, said: "I had the very strong feeling that you were attempting to palm us off but I now have the feeling you came in here to tell us downright lies.

"Don't tell me that you have only learnt about this gold-plated pensions package. I don't accept that."

Kieran O'Donnell, Fine Gael TD, said the HSE's report on Mr Kiely's pension was "pure dynamite" and asked for him to be recalled to answer for it.

The committee has also been told that the €750,000 retirement package could not have been paid without money coming from the Friends and Supporters of the CRC - the group which brought in charitable and public donations to help the running of the clinic.

Late in the hearing the committee also heard of exotic travel arrangements for some senior management in the CRC including Simon Hall who from 2006 went to Nashville, Orlando,Vancouver, Buenos Aires and New Delhi on eight different trips.

Questions were also raised about a Visa credit account linked to the CRC Medical Devices company.

Ed Carty

*For the full report and fall-out following yesterday's hearings, read today's Irish Independent

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