Saturday 24 March 2018

RED FLAGS: Loud hints and alerts about Console

Former Console chief Paul Kelly
Former Console chief Paul Kelly
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some were just loud hints that all may not be right with Paul Kelly and Console.

But others were more obvious alerts that some form of investigation was needed.

  • In 2006 and 2007, the Department of Health had to write to Mr Kelly three times asking how a €100,000 lottery grant was spent.
  • In 2008, a Console volunteer was named as chairman of the charity's board. His name was used in an application for funding by Paul Kelly. The volunteer, who had left Console, was asked by the HSE to talk about its finances. He clearly told him he was not chairman and was unaware his name was being used. It is difficult to see how a company could misplace the name of the chairman of its board.
  • In 2013, parliamentary assistant Tommy Morris told former health minister James Reilly that Mr Kelly had posed as a doctor in his youth. This was passed off as a prank by Mr Kelly.
  • On two occasions in recent years Mr Kelly did not sign the HSE service level agreement - agreeing to provide certain services in return for funding - until the second half of the year.
  • Console was expanding rapidly despite the misgivings of Department of Health officials.
  • It cut its helplines despite getting massive funds from the HSE to operate the service.
  • When the HSE began its audit of Console last summer the auditor encountered a resistance to disclosing information. They were even sent to a counselling centre which was supposed to hold records only to find there was no documentation available.
  • The audit continued for several months, ending early this year. It was already becoming clear that charity funding was being misused. But the HSE continued to fund Console to the tune of around €70,000 a month in 2016.

On the surface at least, it was business as normal - and the cheques rolled in from the HSE to the Console accounts.

n In June the 'RTÉ Investigates' programme laid bare the amount of lavish personal spending of funds by Mr Kelly and members of his family on salaries, cars and credit cards.

The HSE says that it had to move at a certain pace in order to allow Mr Kelly a right to respond. It always intended to pull the plug on Mr Kelly and his spending, but due process had to be followed and it was necessary to allow him the chance to answer the allegations made in the audit.

The fear was that he would injunct the report, which would hold up any efforts to put a break on his activities.

n The HSE is now awaiting the outcome of a series of High Court hearings. The most important of these is due to involve an application to have Console wound up.

The final pieces of the jigsaw are in place, but the question is whether earlier signs were forewarnings or at least a nudge to look further into what was clearly a strange world.

Irish Independent

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