Tuesday 24 October 2017

Console charity funds spent on travel, clothes, cars and tickets

Console’s founder Paul Kelly
Console’s founder Paul Kelly

Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent

LAVISH spending of charity funds on foreign travel, cars, designer clothes, restaurants and €2,083 worth of Rugby World Cup tickets has emerged in an investigation of the suicide bereavement charity Console.

The founder and former CEO Paul Kelly, his wife Patricia and their son Tim benefited by almost €500,000 in salaries and cars between 2012 and 2014.

And another €500,000 was spent using Console credit cards on items including groceries, Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss clothes, and foreign trips.

Mr Kelly’s son Tim, who was director of services at Console in the UK, was on a tax-free salary of £600 a week.

Between them, the three used 11 credit cards, the RTÉ Investigates team revealed tonight.

It comes as the charity regulator John Farrelly is expected to take legal moves to secure the organisation, which continues to provide suicide bereavement counselling, while it is under investigation by gardaí and the HSE. The litany of spending claimed credit cards were used for large unvouched cash withdrawals, trips to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other destinations. It also included dental work.

An internal HSE audit found that, from 2012 to 2014, Console generated an income of €5m. But during that time its helplines were reduced from six to two.

From 2012 to 2014, Paul Kelly received consultancy payments of €218,586, plus a 2009 Mercedes CLS costing €30,600. Patricia Kelly received salary payments of €67,149, plus a 2010 Audi Q5 costing €57,000. She had four credit cards.

There were no contracts or board approvals for the payments for Mr Kelly or his wife. Inconsistent and vague explanations were provided to the internal audit about Patricia Kelly’s car.

Between 2012 and 2014, €736,000 was spent of Console’s credit cards. The largest expenditure item on these credit cards was cash withdrawals of €87,027.

Of these, Paul Kelly withdrew €66,296. There was no documentation to identify how these cash sums were used.

Some €71,460 was spent on credit cards, primarily by Paul Kelly, on foreign travel to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Tenerife, Nice, Paris and London.

The trips to Australia and the Far East occurred around Christmas and the New Year in 2012 and into 2013. Paul Kelly controlled all the operations, even opening the post.

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