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Sunday 21 January 2018

Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery to be given two-week deadline to appear before PAC

Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery will be given a two-week deadline to appear before the Public Accounts Committee
Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery will be given a two-week deadline to appear before the Public Accounts Committee

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

The Dail’s spending watchdog is moving closer to seeking to compel two former Rehab chief executives to appear before it.

At a private session tonight, the Public Accounts Committee resolved to give both Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery a two week deadline to indicate they will appear before it, otherwise the PAC will seek to compel their appearance.

Mr Flannery refused to appear at the committee last week, while Ms Kerins said she was ill.

Lawyers acting for Ms Kerins also threatened legal action against Rehab if they divulged any details about her exit package from the charity and commercial group.

The PAC has already prepared a compellability request for the Dail’s Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP), which has the ultimate power to order a witness to be compelled.

The CPP was given these powers under the Oireachtas Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures Act last year.

However, it has yet to deal with such a request due to a delay in formalising guidelines and protocols around the bringing of witnesses.

Sources said these difficulties have now been ironed out.

If compellability was granted by the CPP, it would have the same weight as a court order.

PAC chairman John McGuinness said: “We are not going to be put off this issue and will use the compellability powers if they continue to refuse to come before us."

A legal argument as to why compellability should be granted has already been prepared by the committee. This would have to be considered by the CPP in making its decision.

A spokesman for the CPP, whose chairman is Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, said it did not comment on its work.

The PAC has also given a two week deadline to agencies which give public funds to Rehab to provide it with information in their possession in relation to governance issues at the charity and commercial group.

The request for information has been submitted to the Department of Justice, Department of Education, Department of Social Protection, Solas and the HSE.

Members of the committee have expressed unhappiness with the extent of the information received from Rehab at the hearing last week.

This was particularly the case in relation to €2.5m in consultancy fees paid to John Hussey, the brother-in-law of former Fine Gael Minister Gemma Hussey, between 1994 and 2005.

Details of the fees emerged on Sunday, and were not disclosed to the committee last week. However, payments totalling €409,000 to Mr Flannery, a former Fine Gael advisor, for consultancy work between 2007 and last year, were disclosed.

In a letter to the committee yesterday, Rehab chairman Brian Kerr said there was no intention to withhold the information relating to Mr Hussey from the committee.

He said the fees had been disclosed annually in the company accounts and that Mr Hussey had “worked virtually full time” for Rehab.

Mr Kerr also provided further detail about Mr Flannery’s activities, confirming they involved lobby of government departments.

He said Mr Flannery represented the group internationally, in particular in its membership of Workability International and the European Platform for Rehabilitation.

He also acted as an advisor on “key developments” affecting Rehab’s business and was asked to engage “with key politicians on issues of concern to the Rehab Group companies”.

This included meetings with Government officials regarding the soon to be defunct Charitable Lotteries Fund, and lobbying of the Department of Education and the Department of Social Protection on behalf of Rehab subsidiaries the National Learning Network and TBG Learning.

Mr Kerr also said Rehab was trawling emails to see if they could shed further light on failed coffin venture Rehab entered into with a company on which Angela Kerins’s husband Sean and brother Joseph McCarthy, as well as Mr Flannery, were board members.

The letter also contained a number of clarifications about last week’s evidence, including an admission that the wrong person had been identified as the receipt of an €81,000 payment from a UK subsidiary.

Mr Kerr also said he would be writing to Ms Kerins and Mr Flannery to ask them to cooperate with the committee.

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