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Tuesday 15 October 2019

PAC turns focus on Rehab amid pay controversy

Not-for-profit group to face committee as chief executive Angela Kerins refuses to reveal salary

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

THE Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is set to turn its attentions to Rehab amid continuing controversy over the salary of chief executive Angela Kerins.

Ms Kerins and the heads of a number of other Section 39 organisations, which receive State funding, face a grilling over their salary and pension packages.

PAC chairman John McGuinness told the Sunday Independent that Rehab will be coming before the committee.

"The next tranche of work will consist of calling in Rehab and the Section 39 charities to the PAC, they are next. Rehab is the biggest but there are over 330 organisations receiving more than €250,000 each annually of taxpayer funding," he said.

"The HSE has written to all Section 39 organisations, we will be looking at the CEOs, their salaries and their pension arrangements," he said.

"We will be looking at the arrangements and salaries of those who have retired from such Section 39 organisations."

Ms Kerins has been the subject of media reports about her salary as head of the not-for-profit group.

Ms Kerins recently declined to disclose her salary in an RTE interview, despite being asked a number of times how much she earns.

Ms Kerins said the Rehab Group is not the same as other charities as over 60 per cent of its activities are in the commercial sector with 40 per cent in the not-for-profit area.

Figures from 2012 show Ms Kerins on a salary of €234,000.

When she was asked on RTE about her salary, she said she had declared her salary on a number of occasions already.

Mr McGuinness added: "I will ask all section 39 heads, of which she is one, about their pensions, conditions and previous terms and conditions, they will be forensically examined, following the precedent set by the CRC."

A senior PAC source confirmed the Rehab chief executive will be questioned: "Like everyone else she will be coming in, we will be sending for her, she will be asked the same questions as everyone else."

Mr McGuinness also suggested future witnesses before the PAC would be "wise to learn that openness, transparency and early disclosure is the preferred route to take in their own interests". Mr McGuinness also warned "the scale of issues that need to be addressed when it comes to top-ups in Section 38 and Section 39 charitable organisations is starting to resemble a tribunal of inquiry".

In an indication of the scale of work faced by the PAC, the chairman warned that after the charitable bodies funded under Section 38 are finished, the committee has to move on to the Section 39 bodies.

"There is, for example, Rehab, but you also have 330 other bodies that are in receipt of more than €250,000 each a year in funding," he said.

Fine Gael TD and fellow PAC member John Deasy, whose original question about the CRC's Paul Kiely's €200,000 pension top-up opened the can of worms, said: "I asked the PAC to bring in John Cregan [HSE-appointed special administrator] for very specific reasons. This is the tip of a very deep iceberg. There are revelations coming that will blow the roof off the place," he said.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter also responded to internal coalition and political pressure and pledged to appoint a charities regulator by the end of the month.

One senior government source noted the ongoing failure to appoint the regulator: "I have no idea why the delay continues, Noel Ahern was the minister who got the legislation through, I have no idea why we have not even managed to appoint an interim regulator since that point."

In a letter to Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins last December, Mr Shatter cited "resource implications" as being a major factor behind the failure to appoint a regulator to date.

Mr Collins welcomed the "belated appointment" of the regulator. "Seeing as there are 900 charities it is big business, and the minister has been very slow to end the light-touch regulation they have enjoyed," he said.

"Any regulator must have real teeth to ensure organisations never build up the sort of treasure chests we have seen in the CRC."

Mr McGuinness said the proposal to appoint a charities regulator was "a case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted".

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton warned the CRC debacle has been "deeply damaging to social cohesion''.

"Confidence building measures have to be put in place to remedy the damage done to charities by the CRC board.

"People are not looking on with envy but disappointment that so much effort and fund-raising, so much giving turned into a slush-fund," she said.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the controversy was beyond belief. "Whatever about issues of good governance, there is something especially egregious about taking money away from an organisation that looks after disabled kiddies," he said.


JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

Irish Independent

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