Monday 23 September 2019

Care firm says Tusla pay delays forced it to go into liquidation

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A company contracted by Tusla to provide specialist care for troubled young people says it went bust due to difficulties getting paid by the child and family agency.

Intensive Community Programmes Ltd (ICP) has claimed it began experiencing problems getting invoices paid by Tusla in late 2017 and alleged the agency "bungled" the roll-out of a new payment system last February.

The company said the difficulties left it struggling to pay staff and meet Revenue obligations and earlier this year it was owed €424,000 by Tusla.

The claims were made in an affidavit filed in court by company director Bernard Morrin and opened in court in support of an application for the appointment of a provisional liquidator last month. The High Court will today consider whether to confirm the full appointment of John Healy of Kirby Healy Chartered Accountants as liquidator.

As well as detailing the alleged problems with Tusla, Mr Morrin's affidavit also said directors recently discovered €215,000 of company funds had been diverted to a former manager and had not been accounted for.

He said the "irregularity calls for immediate investigation by an independent officer of the court" and justified Mr Healy's appointment.

The company, based in Naas, Co Kildare operated for seven years and had 35 full-time employees. It had been caring for eight young people. The Irish Independent understands alternative care has been found for them.

Few services of this type are available and many young people have to be sent to the UK for care as a result.

According to Mr Morrin the company provided services for both the HSE and Tusla.

While the HSE usually paid invoices within 30 days, he said problems began arising with invoices sent to Tusla.

"From October 2017 payments from Tusla were consistently delayed, causing cash flow difficulties. Between March and December 2018 only 32pc of invoices were discharged within the 30-day limit," he said.

Mr Morrin said ICP had complained about this since early 2018 and warned Tusla in July the company was at "a critical level financially" due to the non-payment of invoices.

In the same period the company continued to receive requests for services from Tusla, he said.

Mr Morrin outlined various interactions the company had with agency officials in a bid to get the issue resolved.

But by the end of March 2019 around €424,000 was outstanding and ICP told Tusla it urgently needed assistance to meet payroll and P30 obligations. By the middle of August some €121,000 was still owed.

Mr Morrin said its board resolved last month to petition for the appointment of a provisional liquidator as it did not have enough in its bank account to cover wages and would have difficulty paying rent and Revenue liabilities.

Asked about Mr Morrin's allegations, Tusla said it did not comment on ongoing legal matters but that it was not uncommon for it to query invoices before they are paid.

Irish Independent

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