Sunday 21 December 2014

Mary Lou McDonald: We haven't got to bottom of this sorry CRC saga -- but we will

Mary Lou McDonald

Published 17/01/2014 | 12:06

Mary Lou McDonald.
Mary Lou McDonald.

The CRC and charities across the country are suffering because of this ongoing scandal.

The truth must emerge to lift the cloud that has been cast over good organisations and the many good people who work for them

We haven't got to the bottom of what was going on in the senior management ranks of the CRC -- not yet.

Mr Brian Conlan, a board member of the CRC for eight years and a former CEO raised more questions than he answered at yesterday's Dail Public Accounts Committee.

The committee learned that €700,000 from the Friends and Supporters of the CRC funds, gathered through charitable donations, were "loaned" to top up the pension pot of Mr Paul Kiely, also a former CEO of the organisation.

Mr Conlan told the committee that he knew nothing about this.

Mr Kiely had resigned from his post at the CRC in June 2013, four months after informing the board of his intention to step down. His pension package was discussed and agreed by the board in February 2013, a board on which Mr Conlan sat but he did not attend that meeting.

He was, however, in attendance at the meeting where the board approved his appointment as the new CEO. He was also one of a number of board members that met with a recruitment specialist regarding the filling of the post in advance of Mr Kiely stepping down.

Mr Conlan served as CEO for just six months before resigning in December of last year at the height of the public outcry against salary top-ups. He was one of the recipients of a top-up payment, although he did refund the money.

Following the resignation of the CRC board last month, an interim administrator was appointed by the HSE. When he appeared before the committee last month Mr Kiely claimed that he had received a single €200,000 tax-free lump sum on leaving his job. Yesterday, we learned that the HSE administrator had uncovered that Mr Kiely had, in fact, received an additional payment of €273,336 subject to tax and that a further €268,689 was paid into his pension fund.

To the average person the notion of any senior manager working in the disability sector receiving a lump sum payment of €200,000 paid from monies gathered from charitable donations is hard to swallow. To then discover that Mr Kiely had in fact received a pension package to the tune of €742,000 really beggars belief. That could pay for a lot of therapy and support for children with disabilities.

Not only did the board of CRC sign off on this package, they also agreed to keep it "confidential".

Mr Conlan pleaded ignorance on all of the above, claimed no irregularity in respect of the manner of his appointment as CEO and could not assist the committee in establishing the facts on spending on travel and entertainment expenses. In the middle of this sorry saga are the families who rely on the CRC to deliver the health and support services they desperately rely on. Those that access the service live with a range of physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida.

The CRC delivers these services on behalf of the State and are, for the most part, funded by taxpayers to do their work. The generous donations from those who support the organisation through fundraising events supplement the state monies. I don't believe that anyone who ever donated to the CRC did so to puff up salaries or pensions for top executives.

The CRC and charities across the country are suffering because of this ongoing scandal. The truth must emerge to lift the cloud that has been cast over good organisations and the many good people who work for them.

So far, this has been a tale of two CEOs: one who misled a Dail committee last December and another who, in my opinion, yesterday attempted to stonewall and frustrate our efforts to get to the bottom of this scandal.

But the story isn't over.

Both CRC chiefs and their board members now need to return to the Public Accounts Committee and give the full unvarnished facts.

We haven't gotten to the bottom of what was going in the senior management ranks of the Central Remedial Clinic -- but we will.

Mary Lou McDonald is the Sinn Fein deputy leader and member of the Public Accounts Committee

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