McDonald tells of bid to 'nobble' watchdog's inquiry into Rehab
Published 13/06/2014 | 02:30
A HIGH-profile member of the Dail's spending watchdog has claimed elements in the Government were seeking to "nobble" its investigation of the charity Rehab.
The extraordinary claim was made by Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald after the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) encountered further delays in its bid to compel two former Rehab chief executives, including ex-Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery, to give evidence.
Ms McDonald and PAC colleague Shane Ross both criticised a more powerful Dail committee, which has so far refused to give the PAC powers to compel unwilling witnesses to give evidence.
The PAC is seeking to question Mr Flannery and his successor Angela Kerins about activities at Rehab, which receives more than €80m in public funding annually.
It also wants to interview former SIPTU official Matt Merrigan about a multi-million-euro "slush fund" used for foreign trips. All three have refused to appear before the committee.
On Wednesday, the Dail Committee on Procedure and Privilege (CPP) delayed making a decision on whether they could be legally compelled to give evidence.
It asked the PAC for further information to support its argument that the witnesses should be compelled to give evidence.
A spokesman for the CPP, which sets rules for other committees, said it would not be responding to criticism of its approach to the issue.
CPP members contacted for comment by the Irish Independent did not return calls.
At yesterday's PAC meeting, Ms McDonald said: "I think there is an attempt to nobble our work. I don't think it is the first attempt by Government, whoever the personality or at whatever level, to do that."
Mr Ross described the request from the CPP for more information as "a bit of camouflage" and "a refusal by any other name".
Ms Kerins retired unexpectedly as Rehab chief executive in April following months of controversy over her €240,000 salary, sums earned by other senior executives at the group, and the poor performance of Rehab's scratchcard game.