Tuesday 20 February 2018

PR man hired by ex-CRC bosses as report looms

Former directors of charity are expected to be criticised in HSE probe on salaries, pensions

Former CRC chairman Hamilton Goulding
Former CRC chairman Hamilton Goulding


FORMER directors of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) have retained a PR consultant as the health authority prepares to release a damning audit of the disability organisation this week.

The directors resigned en masse after revelations that charitable funds were being used to top up executive salaries and fund a €740,000 pension package for its former chief executive, Paul Kiely.

The Health Service Executive, which took over the running of the disability charity, will present a report to the Public Accounts Committee this week, following an investigation into salary and pension arrangements at the beleaguered charity.

The massive payments at the CRC plunged the charity sector into crisis and triggered a sharp drop in public donations.

It is understood that Hamilton Goulding, the CRC's former chairman, has had several informal meetings about the HSE's inquiry in recent weeks, which former board members have been invited to attend. A public relations consultant, John Gallagher, is acting for Mr Goulding and five other directors. The former directors have not received a copy of the report.

The 160-page report examines the financial governance at the charity but it is understood that it is not allowed to make allegations or findings. The audit did not examine the CRC's two other controversial fundraising arms, Friends and Supporters of the CRC and the Care Trust, as these were outside of its remit.

It was written by John Cregan, who was appointed the interim administrator of the CRC after the board of directors stood down.

He submitted it to Tony O'Brien, the HSE head, in draft form a month ago. Mr O'Brien is expected to present the final report to the Public Accounts Committee on Monday or Tuesday.

When the controversy over salary top-ups first broke late last year, Paul Kiely had told the CRC that he left on a lump sum of €200,000 after he retired in 2011, and that he would get an annual pension of around €98,000.

However, John Cregan disclosed in January that Mr Kiely's package included a €200,000 tax free lump sum, a €273,000 taxable payment and an additional €268,000 – putting his total package at more than €742,0000.

In an interview at the time, Hamilton Goulding said in an interview at the time that he was unaware of the size of Paul Kiely's salary until he was a year into his post. He also claimed the €740,000 pension package he got actually saved the CRC money in the long run.

A new board has since been appointed to the CRC.

A spokesperson for Mr Goulding and some of the former CRC said this weekend: "They are anxious for the report to be published because it is way overdue. And in the interest of clearing up issues and lifting the veil over everybody, they want it to be published."

In a separate development, John McGuinness, chairman of the PAC, refused to withdraw his call for two top health officials to resign.

Mr McGuinness denied that he was "publicity seeking" when he called for the HSE chief, Tony O'Brien, and Ambrose McLoughlin, the Department of Health's secretary general, to resign because of the massive health overspend.

He said HSE budgets were "out of control".

Sunday Independent

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