Wednesday 21 February 2018

Former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins alleges PAC did not have powers to conduct hearings as it did

Angela Kerins, CEO of Rehab
Angela Kerins, CEO of Rehab

THE Court of Appeal has said the first issue to be decided in former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins' case alleging a "witchhunt" against her relates to the extent of the powers of the Dail Public Accounts Accounts Committee (PAC) to question her.

In those circumstances, it is premature at this stage to make orders concerning exactly what documents must be disclosed for the case, the three judge appeal court held.

On that basis, the court allowed the PAC's appeal against High Court orders directing it to discover certain documents, at this stage, for the proceedings.

Those documents include minutes of meetings of the Committee, whether public or private, relating to its decision to examine payments to Rehab and to question Ms Kerins.

None of the documents at issue are relevant to the jursidctional point and discovery issues can be dealt with after the High Court rules whether the PAC had jurisdiction and powers to conduct the disputed hearings concerning Ms Kerins and Rehab in the manner it did, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said in the appeal court's judgment.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan agreed.

Ms Kerins alleges the PAC did not have powers to conduct the hearings as it had and had acted unlawfully.

She alleges there was no jursdiction to inquire into payments made by the Rehab group and, in particular, to examine her about her salary and about payments made to her.

She also claims, if the PAC did have jurisdiction to inquire into payments by the Rehab group, then the manner in which it conducted its examination of her on February 27, 2014, exceeded such jurisdiction.

PAC disputes those claims.

Ms Kerins had cross-appealed against the High Court's refusal to order discovery of other categories of documents prior to the hearing on jurisdcitional issues but the Court of Appeal said the High Court was correct in refusing to order discovery of those particular documents until after the jurisdictional issues were decided.

in her judicial review proceedings, Ms Kerins is claiming orders and damages on foot of claims the PAC conducted itself unlawfully, showed bias towards her, acted outside its remit, and was guilty of misfeasance (improper misuse of power) in public office.

She claims its action caused her distress and injury to her health.

The PAC denies her claims and maintains it was entitled to question Ms Kerins in circumstances where 81 per cent of the charity’s income in Ireland was provided by the State.

The Committee has argued it has a “vital role” in overseeing public expenditure and cannot be sued for damages over matters said under privilege.

It also indicated it does not intend to issue any report involving any findings concerningan individual.

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