Monday 27 January 2020

€84,028 Console fee to disgraced chief Paul Kelly queried

Paul Kelly, former chief of Console. Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Paul Kelly, former chief of Console. Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Disgraced Console charity chief Paul Kelly said he was "self employed" after the HSE queried audit accounts stating he was paid €84,028 in 2014.

Mr Kelly told the HSE in January this year that he was self-employed for most of 2014 and only became an employee of the former suicide bereavement counselling charity in December 2014.

He described his €84,028 remuneration as a consultancy payment, according to documents seen by the Irish Independent.

The revelation shows yet more of the complex financial web surrounding the charity - which was closed down last summer after it was engulfed in scandal following disclosures about Mr Kelly's lavish spending of funds.

An internal HSE audit which began in 2015 revealed spending of funds on foreign travel, cars and designer clothes.

Mr Kelly, his wife Patricia and their son Tim benefited by almost €500,000 in salaries and cars between 2012 and 2014 when the charity had an income of €5m from public fundraising and HSE grants.

The charity is now in liquidation with debts of at least €300,000, while Mr Kelly is drawing social welfare.

The internal correspondence showed how the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention eventually tried to tackle Mr Kelly in January this year on the 2014 accounts.

It included a €227,883 sum for PAYE/PRSI liability which the HSE said was "extremely high".

The audit later revealed the Revenue Commissioners were owed at least €63,000.

Other items queried included €104,663 for 'repairs', a 251pc hike in phone charges and accountancy and bookkeeping fees that more than doubled from €21,908 to €45,793 in the space of a year.

In March this year, the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention wrote to the auditors who investigated the charity saying its findings led to serious concerns - in particular issues relating to governance, statutory compliance and financial controls.

The damning findings contrasted with a glowing 'independent review' of Console which Mr Kelly had commissioned as part of an application to the HSE for funding grants a year earlier.

The report by Ruby Consulting said the 'seriousness of Console's approach' was evidenced by 'strong emphasis on corporate governance and financial management of the organisation'.

The independent report said that Console had an audit committee, a corporate governance committee, finance committee and fundraising committee.

However, when HSE auditors investigators probed the charity they found it had no audit, fundraising or staff committee.

It also had no financial controller and Mr Kelly ran the operation, the auditors said.

The report, commissioned by Mr Kelly, highly praised him and said the organisation as it is today is a reflection of the person and a reflection of his leadership.

It said the 'respect and warmth [in] which he is held internally and externally is to be admired and the sincerity and integrity he brings to any discussion around Console is impressive and an asset'.

It described Console as in 'good shape' currently and 'is poised for further development and growth'.

It expressed concern about the amount of different services involved in suicide prevention through to postvention, and said this is an area that Console could take a leadership position in.

Meanwhile, in June 2015, internal HSE correspondence showed that the Finance Department expressed concern about the two differing sets of audited accounts that were received from Console for the year ending December 2013.

There were material differences between the two sets of accounts with a 'new note' added to the later one stating 'consultancy fees of €90,066 were paid to Paul Kelly'.

Neither set of accounts was dated.

It said that these changes are concerning and 'would warrant review' because Console was receiving €41,733 a month - amounting to €499,000 annually.

Mr Kelly was chased by the National Office for Suicide Prevent for several months in 2015 to provide account details and a tax clearance certificate.

He eventually responded and said Console's computer system was to blame as the emails went to the spam account.

He was asked to attend a meeting with health officials in September 2015, in order to address the matter as soon as possible.

Irish Independent

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