Saturday 18 November 2017

Parents for Justice are criticised for fund misuse

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

A HIGH-PROFILE support group set up in the wake of the organ retention scandal was criticised for misspending public funds, the Irish Independent has learned.

Parents for Justice failed to follow agreements over how some of its funding was to be used, an investigation commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) discovered.

The HSE had been providing funding of approximately €330,000 a year.

The group was set up by concerned parents in 1999 after it emerged some hospitals had retained the organs of deceased adults and children without the consent of relatives.

But it folded in acrimony nearly three years ago after some of its former members made complaints to the HSE.

An unpublished review, set up by the HSE following the complaints, found the group failed to fully comply with an agreement with the HSE on how it would spend counselling funds.

It received €120,000-a-year from the HSE to spend on counselling. However, it failed to use the entire budget directly on counselling and much of it went on overheads.

Janet Hughes, the outside consultant who examined the running of the organisation, found that the total spent directly on counselling for the years 2006 and 2007 amounted to €145,416.

In her report, seen by the Irish Independent, Ms Hughes criticised the group's use of funding.

"It is not reasonable for any organisation, and in particular one which is operating as a limited company, to determine unilaterally the allocation of costs to services which they are funded to provide by a state body," she warned.

Ann Doherty, a former leading voluntary member of Parents for Justice, told the Irish Independent last night that while not all the €120,000 went directly on counselling, the outstanding sum was spent on counselling-related overheads.

"We did not use it for the running of any other part of the organisation," she said.

In her report, Ms Hughes said that while the money was not fully spent in the correct way, no fraud had taken place.

She said: "No individual disappeared with sums of money or made themselves rich in a fraudulent manner at the expense of the taxpayer."

There were also major disagreements about the way in which details on organ retention obtained through Freedom of Information inquiries by the organisation were made known to members.

Reliant

Ms Hughes concluded that the organisation should no longer rely on public money for its activities but its outstanding bills should be settled by the HSE.

Ms Doherty revealed she is among a number of former activists who try to keep the issue alive. But the organisation has no office or funding and is reliant on a handful of former members.

"We have no problem about the report being published. We feel it vindicates us in all our activities," she added.

"A lot of the truth has never come out. There are over 50 boxes of material given to the organ retention inquiry which will not be released to us.

"We recently asked with the Minister for Health James Reilly to discuss the issue but he turned us down."

Irish Independent

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