Friday 30 September 2016

Watchdog to crack down on charity chiefs' high salaries

Published 07/07/2016 | 02:30

The former chief executive of Console, Paul Kelly Photo: Robbie Reynolds
The former chief executive of Console, Paul Kelly Photo: Robbie Reynolds

Overpaid charity chiefs, who are using money which should be going to a good cause to boost their salaries are facing a crackdown.

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Charities Regulator John Farrelly, who recently took over as head of the watchdog, said the size of some charity executive salaries is unacceptable.

He told the Irish Independent he will use his powers to force charities to ensure public donations and funds are used for the purpose intended.

"The salary should be commensurate with the role, the scope of the organisation and its income. That is how it works in most sectors and that is how it should operate in the charity sector," he added.

Not all charity chiefs have declared their salaries, but a significant number are paid over €120,000.

Mr Farrelly said he is drawing up regulations to compel charities to prove to him that salaries are in keeping with the range and finances of their organisation.

He wants them to provide evidence that money which should go to the charity's core work is not being wrongly channelled into high salaries.

The regulator's ultimate power is to de-register a charity if he feels rules are being breached.

Mr Farrelly said he also will be telling charities they need to be transparent so that people know where their money is going to and "who it is going to".

He was speaking as the public was left reeling by the extent of financial abuse at Console, the suicide bereavement charity.

Console's interim chief executive David Hall, who was installed this week to try to rescue the charity, warned that it will have to close its doors shortly if it is not given additional funding by the HSE.

He said it costs €100,000 a month to run Console and HSE funding amounts to just €70,000. Some €70,000 is owed to the Revenue Commissioners and there are also unknown legacy debts.

He has found no secret stash of funds which would help bail out the charity.

Former chief executive Paul Kelly, who is in a psychiatric hospital, spent lavish amounts of donations and HSE funding on his salary, cars and travel.

Console, which continues to provide a key service to the bereaved, enjoyed an income of over €5m in recent years.

But much of the cash was squandered using credit cards.

Around €53,000 which was deposited by the HSE is all that was left in the bank account. Another £100,000 is in the Console account in the UK.

Meanwhile, Mr Farrelly said he will get new powers of investigation from September.

Asked if the Console scandal was the tip of the iceberg he said he has no evidence of that.

However, he urged anyone with information and concerns about a charity to bring it to the attention of his office.

He said there are around 3,000 small local charities around the country which also need to register with his office, and they may be unaware of the obligation.

Irish Independent

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