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Monday 20 November 2017

Disability charity cuts services as €14m sits in the bank

Tony O'Brien, Director General of the HSE at Leinster House .Pic Tom Burke
Tony O'Brien, Director General of the HSE at Leinster House .Pic Tom Burke

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE fundraising arm of a leading disability organisation, which is cutting back on services to vulnerable clients, has €14m in the bank, the Public Accounts Committee heard.

The shock revelation about the Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf, Dublin, came as controversy raged over an audit report showing its former chief executive Pat Kiely was paid a privately funded €116,949 and a pension top up of 25pc. This was in addition to his HSE-funded salary of €106,000.

Tony O'Brien, head of the HSE, which gives the organisation €19m a year, admitted he was unaware of the fundraising arm's huge nest egg.

He was confronted with the figures by Independent TD Shane Ross.

The Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic received €2m in lottery grants in 2011 and €1.9m in 2010.

Earlier, Dublin Labour TD Robert Dowds, who previously worked as a teacher for the organisation, said he was distressed to hear of the payments at a time when children with a disability who need swimming therapy are not getting it because of cuts.

'PROFIT-MAKING'

"It cuts me very deeply," he told the committee. He was not aware of any profit-making venture that the clinic had.

Mr Ross told Mr O'Brien that it is not "defensible" that cuts in services were being implemented when people with a disability were suffering from reductions in service.

Mr O'Brien said that it "would certainly seem strange" that the fundraising arm got nearly €2m in lottery grants in a year it made a surplus of a similar sum.

He agreed it would be unacceptable to have members of the public donating to a charity with money they believed was going towards services.

He was unclear if the funds raised by this section of the clinic went directly into day-to-day services or was aimed at providing extras such as outings.

Asked if the HSE should investigate it, he agreed there are questions to be asked, but said it is "not an entity with which we have a legal relationship".

HSE auditor Geraldine Smith told the committee that the information it received this week from the organisation indicated there are five managers of the original nine identified as receiving top up in 2011 who are still getting top ups. She said the current chief executive is not getting a top-up.

Irish Independent

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