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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Shane Phelan: Charities are fighting for their lives and can ill-afford these damaging revelations

Published 18/02/2014 | 02:30

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SO now we finally know. After months of pulling and dragging, Rehab Group has revealed its chief executive Angela Kerins has a basic salary of €240,000.

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That's a €6,000 rise on what she was paid in 2011.

The pay package is €55,650 more than our Taoiseach earns and €68,290 more than a newly appointed High Court judge's pay packet.

Ms Kerins's package could have been worth even more had she not waived the unspecified, but no doubt generous, bonus payments she was entitled to.

Even still, the figures will be hard for many to swallow, not least elsewhere within the charity sector, which has been decimated by falling public donations and state funding in recent years.

Public confidence in charities and how they spend our money appears to be at an all-time low. The collapse in funding has only been exacerbated in recent months by the scandal surrounding the Central Remedial Clinic.

Fundraising Ireland, the association for professional fundraisers, was quick out of the traps to distance itself from Rehab last night, saying Ms Kerins's salary was out of touch with the realities of remuneration in the overwhelming majority of not-for-profit organisations in Ireland.

The group's comments are unsurprising.

Many charities are fighting for their lives and can ill-afford perceptions that executives are extremely well-paid.

Things haven't been helped by the song and dance that preceded last night's announcement.

Rehab has made much of the fact that it is a strange beast, a mix of commercial and charitable companies.

Its argument has always been that it paid Ms Kerins from commercial earnings rather than from state funding, so there was no compulsion on it to reveal her salary.

It says it is a registered charity for the purposes of its traditional fundraising activities, but that these account for just 1pc of the turnover of the group, and that it doesn't have a reliance on donations from the public.

But these arguments are flawed, as the level of state funding it receives each year is quite large, running into tens of millions of euro.

In fact, Rehab has been in a very strong position for years in its ability to win state contracts.

It provides essential services that the HSE has been unable to directly deliver because of the recruitment moratorium and the huge challenge that would be involved in developing new services.

Rehab subsidiaries that provide care and training for people with disabilities received over €80m in funding from a variety of state sources, including the HSE and Solas, last year.

This is a huge amount of funding for any one body to receive for providing services for the State.

But despite this huge dependence on state support for a large portion of its income, it has consistently fallen short on financial transparency.

Rehab's argument in concealing Ms Kerins's salary until now has been that she is not specifically part of the management team in the subsidiaries, Rehab Care and the National Learning Network, which receive the funding.

But when such amounts of public money are involved, there simply must be transparency when it comes to what the top people in the organisation are earning.

It will now be interesting to see if Ms Kerins appears before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee in the coming weeks when Rehab is called in to discuss how it uses public funding.

Technically, she does not have to attend if you take the Rehab argument that she is not on the management team of the state-funded subsidiaries.

But the public is fed up with technicalities. It just wants answers on how public money is spent from the people who are really calling the shots.

Irish Independent

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