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Probe into top-ups for €150,000 charity chiefs

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'SECRET' top-up payments to disability charity chiefs on salaries up to €150,000 are being investigated by Department of Health officials.

The officials are conducting a high-level probe into how the charities are spending €1.5bn in state funding.

They now believe some senior executives are getting extra payments on top of their salaries.

But a number of the charities are refusing to divulge details of any bonus or top-up payments, which in some typical cases are suspected to range in value between €22,000 and €43,000.

Despite the huge amounts of state funding they receive, Health Minister James Reilly does not have the power to compel them to give details of salary and top-up payments if these are paid for by fundraising or donations.

Suspicions about the extra payments were outlined in an internal Department of Health memo obtained by the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information rules.

Although the charities were not named, the memo criticised the lack of transparency over how much chief executives were being paid.

It pointed out that while the organisations say the salaries are in line with comparative public service pay scales, "we know that they are most likely topped up from other funds".

Concern about the lack of cooperation on executive packages emerged as part of an overall value-for-money review.

This probe has been running for three years -- ever since a highly critical report by the Comptroller & Auditor General. That report highlighted a glaring lack of control and regulation of the sector, which gets around 10pc of the Government's health budget every year.

The long-awaited review is due to go to Cabinet in the next two months. It is expected to highlight the refusal of a number of charities to provide comprehensive financial data on the packages for chief executives, most of whom are on basic salaries of between €130,000 to €150,000.

Last night seven out of 10 leading charities contacted by the Irish Independent refused to divulge what their chief executives earned.

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Five of the 10 also refused to say whether they were getting top-up payments.

Concerns over the lack of transparency prompted Dr Reilly to write to the chairmen of a number of disability groups seeking information on their chief executives' remuneration.

One leading charity, Rehab, made it clear that it did not welcome Dr Reilly's request for information on its chief executive Angela Kerins' package.

Rehab chairman Brian Kerr told the minister that Ms Kerins' remuneration was "not a matter in which you have a role" as her salary was funded from money raised from other commercial sources rather than out of the €36m the charity received from the State last year.

He did, however, tell Dr Reilly that Ms Kerins received a salary of €234,000.

But he denied she was getting bonus payments on top of that.

Around 25 of the country's estimated 100 disability organisations share the majority of the €1.5bn in state funding the sector receives each year, with several of the leading providers getting more than €60m a year.

Families

Concern over executive salaries comes at a time when the HSE is imposing cuts on services such as respite care and day care which are vital to many families caring for a child or adult with a disability.

Some disability organisations are causing more distress by increasing charges for transport and respite care while adults living in residential centres are having to hand over up to 80pc of their social welfare payments for their keep.

The Department of Health memo, written last August, said: "We are finding agencies generally are not particularly transparent about owning up to the source of funding for their chief executive salaries or are stating that they are in line with the consolidated scales (approximately €150,000 per annum), where we know that they are most likely topped up from other funds."

The annual reports of several of these organisations fail to give a breakdown of executive remuneration even though it is widely accepted that bonuses and top-up payments worth between 15pc to 28pc of salary have been paid and may still be in place, despite cuts.

Other incentives include a generous pension scheme, a company car and health insurance.

Asked to comment on the upcoming review, Deirdre Carroll, head of Inclusion Ireland, which represents people with a disability, said it was essential the providers of the services give evidence of efficiencies and not just anecdotal phrases such as "we have been cut to the bone".


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