Mater hospital issues strong statement refuting claims of phantom pension fund made by former CRC chief
The Mater Hospital has insisted that millions of euro paid to it by the scandal-struck Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) is for the disability unit's pensions and not a phantom fund.
After bizarre revelations about the arrangement - described as "bonkers" at a parliamentary hearing - the Dublin hospital said it was in charge of retirement payments for 181 CRC workers.
The disability clinic's former chief executive, Paul Kiely, said he tried to break the payments a number of times but was warned to stay away.
Mr Kiely, who is at the centre of controversy over his own salary and a €200,000 pay-off lifted from charitable donations, said he handed over a cheque every year for €666,000 to the Mater in a supposed mystery deal.
Bosses at the Mater reacted angrily to the claims and demanded Mr Kiely retract the allegation.
They said the money goes into day-to-day accounts and in turn the pensions of CRC staff are paid from the hospital's current accounts.
The Mater accepted €660,000 was paid into the Voluntary Hospital Superannuation Scheme (VHSS) last year and said the hospital will be liable for CRC pensions "in perpetuity".
The arrangement was put in place in the 1970s for what the Mater said were "legal and technical reasons".
The statement read: “The Mater Hospital absolutely refutes the suggestion made by Mr Paul Kiely during his appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee earlier today, where he referred to payments being made by the CRC to the Mater Hospital as having no meaningful basis,” it said.
“The payment relates directly to the Voluntary Hospital Superannuation Scheme administered by The Mater Hospital on behalf of 181 staff members of the CRC."
"The CRC’s Employer Contribution to the scheme on behalf of its staff members was [around] €660,000 in 2012. The liability for the pension payments to those CRC staff in the scheme will rest with the Mater Hospital in perpetuity,” the statement read.
At the time the arrangement was made, the CRC was not classed as a hospital and could not be funded through the Department of Health and the Mater was used as conduit for funding.
According to the Mater, the funding arrangement was stopped more than a decade ago but the disability clinic's staff remained members of its Voluntary Hospital Superannuation scheme.
"This scheme is in line with public sector pension policy, whereby all pensions are funded from current revenues, as is the case with all public hospitals," the Mater Hospital said.
Earlier, Mr Kiely claimed that he tried to have the annual payments stopped on a number of occasions but was unsuccessful.
"It was kicked out of the water," he said.
Before an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC), he testified the "money going around the houses" scheme forced the CRC to pay between 10% and 13% of staff salaries to the Mater every year for the VHSS.
He said the Mater came up with the idea to pay gross salaries of CRC staff and the clinic would return it plus a 10%-12.5% premium for the Mater.
"It was ridiculous but I tried to break it on numerous occasions, and no-one wanted to know," Mr Kiely told visibly shocked TDs.