Saturday 7 December 2019

PAC to make formal request to compel Kerins to appear

Angela Kerins, chief executive of Rehab Group
Angela Kerins, chief executive of Rehab Group

Group Political Correspondent

THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is to formally submit its request later today to compel former Rehab bosses Frank Flannery and Angela Kerins to appear before it.

Mr Flannery and Ms Kerins recently refused to accede to the committee's request to come before it to account for their role in the management of Rehab, which recieved more than €95 million last year from the taxpayer.

Both parties have recently resigned from their roles with the charity in recent weeks.

The PAC needs permission from the Dail's oversight Committee on Privilege and Procedure and members were last night circulated with the confidential draft application, seen by The committee is expected formally approve the application at its meeting this morning.

 In that application, the committee is to argue that because of "significant information gaps" remain and as a result they need to compel key witnesses in order to effectively report to Dáil Éireann.

 During the course of evidence previously heard at the committee, it emerged that executive pay and consultancy fees were being discharged from public monies. The funding to meet these executive salaries and consultancies was derived from management charges which are levied as part of the service level agreements with the HSE, SOLAS and from charitable donations.

 "A thorough and effective examination by the PAC proved impossible due the absence of key witnesses and the inability of certain witnesses to voluntary disclose information that is or was directly related to this use of public funds," the application states.

 "The PAC cannot effectively report to Dáil Éireann on its examination without being in a position to direct the attendance of relevant witnesses together with and the production of relevant evidence, as set out in section 83 of the 2013 Act," it adds.

 In examining the Rehab expenditure, the PAC, despite a number of requests and extensive correspondence, has not been in a position to call to account those Chief Executive Officers who managed the Rehab Group in recent years. The information gaps arise from the need to get comprehensive answers to the issues that have been highlighted at PAC meetings to-date and as outlined above.

 The application states that it is proposed that directions be issued to all persons who, in the Committee’s opinion, have or had corporate responsibility for the proper management of this expenditure and therefore have a legitimate interest in proceedings and evidence which, in the Committee’s view, is material and relevant to the on-going examination.

 The committee application states that when dealing with all persons, both members and non-members, be fair and proper and will adhere to the principles of natural justice. The committee's initial examination focused on concerns relating to the draw-down of funds made available to certain charities through a compensation fund called the Charitable Lotteries Compensation Fund which allocated approximately €6 million annually since 1997 to the Rehab Group and on remuneration policy at the Rehab Group.

 The PAC commenced its examination of this issue following receipt of an audit report from the HSE in 2013 that outlined the extent to which these voluntary bodies, all of whom receive large amounts of funding from the State, were supplementing remuneration from other sources including from charitable donations.

 The public revelations about how charitable donations were used to top-up salaries has seen a large drop-off in public donations to charities as the public has lost a degree of confidence in the sector.

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