Tuesday 17 October 2017

The €742,000 cover-up: secret deal for ex-CRC chief

* Board sanctioned secret pension deal for ex-CRC chief
* Gardai may be called in to investigate Kiely payments
* Dail committee forensically gets to truth of top-ups

Paul Kiely and his holiday home in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, which overlooks the sea
Paul Kiely and his holiday home in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, which overlooks the sea
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 at PAC last month
The house owned by Paul Kiely in Ring, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. Photo: Mary Browne.

Eilish O'Regan, Daniel McConnell and Tom Brady

THE HSE has raised the prospect of calling in the gardai to probe the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in the wake of shocking revelations over its use of €742,000 in charity funds to bolster the pension fund of its former chief executive.

Fresh disclosures have left the disability organisation -- which was already at the centre of controversy over its use of charity donations for salary top-ups -- facing a new storm.

The prospect of garda involvement emerged at the Dail Public Accounts Committee after it was disclosed the CRC board sanctioned a secret, gold-plated deal worth €742,000 for its former chief executive Paul Kiely.

This included €200,000 tax free, plus a €273,336 taxable payout and €268,669 for his pension fund.

The massive scale of the confidential deal only emerged yesterday after being uncovered by the HSE, less than one month after Mr Kiely outlined a lesser package when quizzed by TDs.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the latest revelations as "appalling, and indicative of a time in Irish politics long gone. I think the reaction from all of the members of the Public Accounts Committee speaks for itself".

PAC chairman John McGuinness said there "may be a role" for gardai and corporate enforcement officers to examine the issues. "Maybe they should be notified of the proceedings," he added.

HSE human resources executive Barry O'Brien told the committee that it would attempt to recover some of the money paid to Mr Kiely if it was found not to be "reasonable and proper".

He said: "When we have all the full facts and information before us, we will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure there is appropriate probity and governance.

"It may be necessary, depending on the information, to seek the assistance of gardai."

If a complaint is sent to the garda authorities, Commissioner Martin Callinan will appoint a senior officer to examine the file and then report back on whether it warrants a criminal investigation. A formal investigation is likely to involve scrutiny of company law compliance

with detectives tasked with forensically examining the file and carrying out follow-up inquiries.

A file will then be prepared by officers for the DPP, who will determine if criminal charges should be brought.

Committee members described the latest revelations as "dynamite" and will now call back Mr Kiely and members of the CRC board to be quizzed.

Mr Kiely, a friend of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who has been described as a member of the 'Drumcondra Mafia', was not contactable last night.

He owns a property in Dublin and a house overlooking the sea in Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

TRANSFERRED

Mr Kiely had previously confirmed he was granted a €200,000 lump sum and a pension of nearly €100,000 in a lucrative package when he took early retirement last June.

The charity arm had transferred €3m to prop up the pension funds of 70 CRC staff, including Mr Kiely.

But leading HSE official John Cregan, who was installed as interim administrator last month, uncovered more payments which showed he not only got a €200,000 lump sum but an additional €273,336 taxable payout.

Mr Kiely also got another €268,669 to bolster the fund because he was retiring early and would not be drawing down his pension until 2016.

All of the money was taken from the Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic, the fundraising arm of the service for adults and children with physical disabilities.

The payment amounted to half the money raised by the Friends and Supporters of the CRC last year, and was labelled a "donation".

In correspondence to the HSE, Mr Cregan said: "It was agreed by the board that the terms of Mr Kiely's settlement would be confidential and that a legally binding confidentiality agreement would be put in place."

Earlier Brian Conlan, who took over from Mr Kiely as chief executive in July before resigning in December, said he had no knowledge of Mr Kiely's fund, despite being on the board for eight years.

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.

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

Mr Conlan insisted: "I'm telling you the truth."

Mr Conlan, who previously ran the Mater Hospital, said he applied for the CRC post as an internal candidate following Mr Kiely's retirement.

It emerged from documents supplied to the Dail watchdog that he was appointed to a sub-committee, as part of his role as a board member at the CRC, to oversee the recruitment process.

He left the recruitment committee before applying for the job.

Mr Conlan was given an annual salary of €125,000 which included a top-up of around €40,000.

He returned around €3,300 of the difference after he asked the HSE to set an official salary rate. He said he never received the full €40,000 because he wasn't in the job long enough.

When the top-ups controversy arose he was on honeymoon, and upon his return in December, he said he was left stressed by the tone and volume of the media coverage.

He said he believed all money given to the CRC by the HSE and the public was "pooled" into one fund.

"Of course, all monies received by CRC is public monies of one form or another and there is no support for salary payments in excess of HSE pay scales -- but I think the idea that there was a transfer of monies from public donations directly into the salaries of a number of executives is inaccurate in itself."

But later under questioning from committee members he said the payment of top-ups was wrong, and when he was chief executive he had a plan in place to phase them out.

Irish Independent

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