Tuesday 16 January 2018

Spending watchdog will haul in ex-CRC board 'if necessary'

David Martin of the CRC Chairman and current interim chief executive of the CRC, Jim Nugent Former CRC chief executive Paul Kiely following a Public Accounts Committee meeting
David Martin of the CRC Chairman and current interim chief executive of the CRC, Jim Nugent Former CRC chief executive Paul Kiely following a Public Accounts Committee meeting

Luke Byrne and Cormac McQuinn

THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will legally compel the former board of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) to attend its meetings, should they attempt to pull out.

Chairman of the committee John McGuinness said he accepted the resignation of the board -- but he made it clear that they still must fulfil their responsibilities to the public.

"We have unfinished work to do and they are part of that work," Mr McGuinness told the Irish Independent.

Mr McGuinness said that he did not think the en-masse resignation would affect the work of the committee and he believed the former board members would attend if called.

However, he was clear that should any attempt be made to use resignation as an excuse not to appear before the PAC, this would not be tolerated.

"There is always the option of compellability. If it requires that, we will," the committee chairman told the Irish Independent.

He pointed out that former CRC chief Brain Conlan already understood this.

The entire board quit following two weeks of damaging revelations about the charity's finances, including details of lavish top-ups to the salaries of senior executives. The 10 remaining directors on the clinic's board resigned en masse in what was described as an "inevitable" move by Independent TD Shane Ross that he said "should have come a lot earlier".

Last night, the HSE announced that it has taken control of the clinic on an interim basis, until new governance arrangements can be made.

And it revealed that the HSE finally asked the board to step down on Thursday following a torrid week for the charity, in which the directors faced mounting pressure to go from politicians and the CRC's own staff.

The clinic has been dogged by controversy since it emerged that former chief executive Paul Kiely had his €106,000 salary topped up by a further €136,000 using funds provided by an associated charity Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

All CRC directors who were also board members of that organisation, as well as subsidiaries CRC Medical Devices Ltd and The Care Trust, have stepped down from those roles.

The round of resignations began last weekend when chief executive Brian Conlan told the board that he was stepping down in the wake of the salary top-ups row.

PRESSURE

When his predecessor, Mr Kiely, appeared at the Dail's PAC on Wednesday, he revealed that he too had resigned as one of the charity's directors.

During the fraught PAC meeting -- which lasted more than five hours -- he admitted that funds derived from donations were also used to pay him a €200,000 lump-sum upon his retirement last summer.

The committee also uncovered that the clinic had paid millions of euro to the Mater Hospital in pension payments of €660,000 a year.

Last night, PAC member Mr Ross told the Irish Independent: "Once they appeared before the committee and put up such an unconvincing performance, the pressure became absolutely unbearable for them.

"I hope this is the beginning of the restoration of public confidence in the CRC and that people will feel more comfortable donating over the coming weeks," he added.

The directors finally announced that they were stepping down with "immediate effect" in a statement last night.

Among those to resign were Hamilton Goulding, the son of the late co-founder of the CRC Lady Valerie Goulding, and Jim Nugent, the chairman who had been installed as interim CEO when Mr Conlon stepped down.

The other board members were Vincent Brady, a former Fianna Fail minister; solicitor David Martin; Ailbhe Rice-Jones; Martin Walsh; Hassia Jameson; Francis Sheppard; Pat Ryan; and Professor Mary Day.

Irish Independent

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