Tuesday 20 February 2018

Console auditors 'unaware of any improprieties' before exposure

Firm of accountants is working with investigators but has so far not been contacted by HSE, writes Simon Rowe

Paul Kelly, former chief of Console. Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Paul Kelly, former chief of Console. Photo: Robbie Reynolds

Simon Rowe

The accountancy firm that conducted annual audits of disgraced charity Console prior to its closure says it is "fully engaged with ongoing inquiries and will continue to be fully engaged with those inquiries".

Dublin-based accountants Bermingham & Company issued audit reports on Console that were filed with the Companies Registration Office in 2014 and 2015.

When asked why audits of Console had not uncovered serious financial discrepancies or fraud, the firm's owner, Padraic Bermingham, said: "Given the nature of the allegations being made and the ongoing inquiries, it would be inappropriate for me to comment, save to confirm that we were completely unaware of any alleged impropriety at Console before the broadcast by RTE.

"I am satisfied that we have fully complied with our responsibilities in connection with audit reports for 2013 and 2014."

However, Bermingham & Co was never contacted by the HSE at any stage in relation to its investigation of Console, it is believed. The HSE was a major funder of Console.

A provisional liquidator has been appointed to the charity, which is now being investigated by seven state agencies, including the Garda Fraud Bureau and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Despite Console's accounts showing a spend of €115,000 in 2013 and 2014 on 'governance costs', including accountancy and book-keeping costs of €45,000 in 2014 and €6,000 in annual audit fees, David Hall, the interim boss of the liquidated charity, said that it appeared to be "hopelessly insolvent".

The Dail's Public Accounts Committee is investigating a number of failures in corporate governance, including how former chief executive Paul Kelly was able to supply multiple sets of different accounts to various state agencies.

Also, Console had charity status, giving it tax-free status, so directors should not be paid. But Kelly and his wife received more than €200,000.

The couple were seen last week visiting the offices of their solicitor - the first time they had been seen in public since the storm broke over Console.

The High Court also heard claims last week of forgery involving company documents lodged with the Companies Registration Office.

There is no suggestion of any involvement in or knowledge of any of these allegations by Bermingham and Co accountants.

Ireland's governing body for accountants, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants, of which Bermingham & Co is a member, told the Sunday Independent: "We are aware that a number of agencies are examining the issues raised in Console, not least the Garda Siochana.

"It is standard practice across all professional bodies for any garda investigation to take precedence.

"We are closely monitoring the situation - and any findings from a garda investigation will subsequently be used to inform any investigation that is initiated by the Institute."

Sunday Indo Business

Promoted Links

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business