Saturday 22 October 2016

Console's Paul Kelly resigns as CEO amid concerns of financial irregularities at suicide charity

Published 23/06/2016 | 22:56

Paul Kelly of Console
Paul Kelly of Console

Chief executive of suicide charity Console Paul Kelly has resigned amidst concerns of financial irregularities.

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The board of Console accepted Mr Kelly’s decision to step down on Thursday night in advance of a RTE Prime Time Investigates special which alleged the Console founder received director payments totalling €215,000 between 2010 and 2012 in apparent breach of company law and Revenue regulations.

It is understood that Mr Kelly’s wife Patricia and sister Joan McKenna have also resigned from the charity.

The charity’s board this evening has appointed two external reviewers to conduct an investigation into the allegations, and has already agreed to accept whatever this review recommends.

The two reviewers are a forensic accountant Tom Murray, and David Hall, CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation.

 “We will be going in first thing at 9:30 am and we’ve 60 days to get to the bottom of what’s been going on,” said Mr Hall.

“Neither myself or Tom have know anyone on the board so we are completely independent… and we’ve been guaranteed  full and unrestricted access to Console’s premises, staff, files and records and any external advisors and/or accountants for the purpose of this review.”

Stressing that the Health Service Executive (HSE) had no concerns about the professional standards provided by staff at the charity, Mr Hall urged that people to continued to use the services offered by Console.

“This review is about financial irregularities, that’s all. We want to ensure that the services provided by Console and the staff who work there are safeguarded.”

Mr Hall confirmed that Mr Kelly’s resignation, and that of his wife and sister, were conditions of the review being commissioned by the charity’s board.

“We want to be clear, Console goes on, its service continued, and it will recover from this.

“This is damaging to the entire charity sector, and there are a number of questions that need answering… [and] over the next 60 days, possibly sooner, we will get these answers.”

Tonight’s Prime Time programme, entitled Broken Trust, detailed an investigation into financial practices at the Console.

The programme showed that when applying for state grants and tax exemptions, the charity altered accounts to omit references to directors’ pay and other benefits.

It also reported that the charity’s directors, from 2010 to early 2014, were made up of Mr Kelly (founder), his wife, and two immediate family relatives.

Under Revenue Commission rules, there should be “a minimum of three Officers, Trustees or Directors, who are not related and (are) independent of each other.”

Console submitted accounts to bodies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Health Service Executive (HSE), the charity’s main funder, where Patricia Kelly used her maiden name Patricia Dowling, making it less apparent the directors were related.

The HSE, which provided more than €2.5m to the organisation over recent years, is expected to review funding arrangements within the next few days on foot of the highly critical internal audit.

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