'I told the HSE in 2008 about deception by Console'
Businessman who was falsely listed as chairman of the suicide charity told of his concerns eight years ago
A Dublin businessman who was falsely named as chairman of the suicide bereavement charity Console without his knowledge or permission has revealed how he told the HSE of the problem eight years ago.
Andrew Garvey, who runs a newsagent shop in Glasnevin in Dublin, only discovered he had been listed as chairman of the board of directors in documents submitted by former chief executive Paul Kelly after he was contacted by the National Office for Suicide in the HSE in 2008.
"I was asked to a meeting about the finances in Console. It was the first I heard that I was named as chairman and I said I knew nothing about the finances," he told the Irish Independent.
"I was never chairman and never asked to be."
But Mr Kelly admitted that he acted as a chairman of the board of management in a voluntary capacity - but not as chairman of the board, which has a legal responsibility.
"My involvement was as a volunteer in the truest sense. I helped out on an ad hoc basis and was delighted to," he said.
"I would have looked after artists backstage at a concert for instance. I never received any payment."
Mr Garvey had previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry and played a key role in getting Console collection boxes distributed to pharmacies for free.
"Life had been good to me and I wanted to give something back. I became involved around 2005 or 2006 and left in 2008 for personal reasons," he said.
"I had been attracted to Console because of the calibre of some of the people involved including Fr Aidan Troy."
Mr Garvey said he had no reason to suspect any funds were not being spent appropriately and when he was informed he was supposed to be the chairman he was "gobsmacked".
His comments come in the wake of a raft of revelations about the use of charity funds by Mr Kelly and members of his family.
They spent €500,000 on credit cards and received another €500,000 in salaries and cars.
The High Court has now granted injunctions preventing Mr Kelly from accessing the charity's bank accounts and credit cards.
Businessman David Hall has been appointed interim chief executive and the Charity Regulator John Farrelly has appointed five new trustees.
The HSE grant-aided Console with €252,114 in 2012 and increased it to €598,557 in 2013. The funding jumped to €855,227 in 2014.
In response a spokeswoman for the HSE told the Irish Independent that concerns were raised relating to corporate governance - including the appointment of a new chairperson and reporting relationships between management and the board - in 2009.
"Certain control actions were put in place at the time including a limit placed on the organisation's funding," she said.
"An increase in funding occurred in 2013 when there was an urgent requirement for Console [to] take over an important suicide helpline."
The representative said it was "important to emphasise that the increase in funding was specifically for the helpline and was provided subject to agreement to allow for a robust review process".
It was through this review process - featuring 2013 returns received in late 2014 - that the National Office for Suicide Prevention had concerns raised.
This led to the office requesting the HSE's internal audit division to conduct an audit in 2015.
She said the internal audit was now complete. HSE management is currently considering the content of the report and is in the process of acting on its findings.
Meanwhile, the charity regulator said yesterday that he only became fully aware of the problems in Console after seeing the RTÉ Investigates programme.
His office has previously received a one-liner email and phone call expressing concerns about Console. He has sent the HSE audit of Console's to the office of Corporate Enforcement.
He told RTÉ he wanted to be given powers of investigation and is to recruit forensic specialists.
Console is currently the subject of investigation by various bodies including:
* Gardaí – examining alleged financial fraud.
* HSE – probing use of grant funding.
* Charity Regulator – the alleged failure of Console to uphold standards.
* Office of Corporate Enforcement – adherence to the Companies Act.
* Revenue Commissioners – examining if it adhered to tax-free status.
* UK Charity Regulator – probing activities in London office.