Tuesday 20 February 2018

PAC is accused of pension witch hunt as ex-Rehab chief defies call to appear

Former Rehab Group chief executive Frank Flannery
Former Rehab Group chief executive Frank Flannery

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

FINE Gael strategist Frank Flannery does not intend to appear in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to give details about pension and retirement benefits relating to his role as former CEO of the Rehab Group.

Mr Flannery is refusing to bow to demands to answer questions about his pension – despite calls from Taoiseach Enda Kenny for him to do so.

PAC members insist that Mr Flannery should appear in front of the committee so that he can explain his commercial relationship with Rehab.

Some TDs were left furious after it emerged that Mr Flannery was in the Dail restaurant last Thursday, at the same time that the PAC was hearing evidence from current CEO Angela Kerins and other Rehab officials.

However, sources close to Mr Flannery last night accused the PAC of mounting a "witch hunt" against him and insisted that it would not be necessary for him to attend.

Mr Flannery has been told by Rehab that it is compiling the information regarding salaries and other payments that PAC members have sought.

"That information is being put together and Rehab is treating this matter seriously. The information that PAC want will be given to them when it is ready.

"The way this is being portrayed is grossly unfair and is turning into a witch hunt," said a source close to Mr Flannery.

Rehab receives some €80m from public funds every year, but the organisation has insisted that it is a both commercial and charitable structure.

Ms Kerins, who is on a salary on €240,000, questioned the relevance of the queries into Mr Flannery's pension arrangements during her appearance last week.

She said she did not know the details being sought. However, it is understood that such information will be provided to the PAC in the coming days.

The focus on Mr Flannery's benefits intensified over the weekend and forced the Taoiseach to call for him to appear in front of the Oireachtas committee.

"The Government are very clear on this. All agencies under Section 38 and 39 who deal with public funds in any fashion should be absolutely forthcoming about their business as far as the public is concerned," he said.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has defended having lunch with Mr Flannery while the PAC meeting was taking place.

"The fact that I was in the restaurant, who happened to be there was Frank Flannery and his wife, and the head of tourism from Wales and I was asked to join that particular table," he said.

Mr Hogan added he believed his party colleague would appear in front of PAC "if it is in the public interest to do so".

Irish Independent

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