Sunday 21 December 2014

Flannery wants questions in advance

Former quango kingpin and political lobbyist is still unsure about appearing before PAC

RONALD QUINLAN Special Correspondent

Published 06/04/2014 | 02:30

Frank Flannery. Photo: Collins
Frank Flannery. Photo: Collins

FORMER Rehab CEO Frank Flannery will not appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday unless he receives details of the questions its members intend to put to him in advance.

Sources close to Mr Flannery told the Sunday Independent that while the former FG strategist was "minded" to assist the PAC with its Rehab inquiries, he would only do so if it set out the terms of its proposed engagement with him beforehand.

"Frank wrote to the PAC on March 11 last looking for clarification on these matters. Two days later, they responded with the same letter they had sent to Rehab last February. That letter refers to general issues relating to Rehab for which Frank has had no responsibility since he stepped down as Rehab CEO in 2006," a source said.

The same source claimed that the matters referred to in the PAC's March 13 letter bore little resemblance to the issues being raised in relation to Mr Flannery in the media.

"The agenda set down in the PAC's letter refers to the payments made by the HSE, Solas, the Department of Justice and other government departments to Rehab. There is no mention of the matters the media and certain members of the PAC appear to be focussed on. There is no mention of Frank's pension arrangements, for instance," the source added.

When asked what Mr Flannery made of this, they said: "As it stands, the PAC in their letter to Frank are asking him to assist them with matters for which he has no authority, knowledge or expertise. He wrote to them first to make it clear he would co-operate, but he insisted that his co-operation, were it to be given, would have to be clear and concise. He is not going to be a party to the latest episode – what has become a witch-hunt."

However, PAC chairman John McGuinness last night said there was "no ambiguity" about what the committee wanted to discuss with Mr Flannery and Rehab.

Mr McGuinness told the Sunday Independent: "We have written to Rehab and to Frank Flannery and made it absolutely clear what we want to discuss with them. Frank Flannery has plenty of knowledge and he knows how the Oireachtas works. He has been treated no more fairly or unfairly than any other witness who has been asked to appear before a committee."

ANALYSIS PAGE 28

However, friends of the former Rehab chief pointed out how the Oireachtas's own legal adviser had already written to the PAC last January to warn that it was in danger of straying beyond its remit in the manner in which it was carrying out its investigations.

Melissa English, the parliamentary legal adviser in Leinster House, was reported at the time as having told the PAC that they had "crossed the line" so much it was now a "dot in the distance".

While Taoiseach Enda Kenny has already said that Mr Flannery should appear before the Public Accounts Committee along with his successor as Rehab CEO, Angela Kerins, it is understood a letter sent to the committee by property developer John Kelly has significantly complicated matters.

In his letter to the PAC, Mr Kelly is understood to have made a series of claims relating to his efforts to purchase Rehab's headquarters in Sandymount, Dublin, in 2006.

A source close to Mr Flannery said he had been "disturbed" by the manner in which the PAC had dealt with the matter.

"The allegations were dealt with in private, yet the chairman of the PAC then felt it appropriate to comment on the matter publicly afterwards by making a statement to say it had been forwarded to the gardai," he said.

Mr Kelly has since been interviewed by gardai about the allegations he has made.

Sunday Independent

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