Ex-CRC chief got lump sum from charity

The former Chief Executive of the Central Remedial Clinic, Paul Kiely, has said the HSE was aware of top-up payments it was making to its senior staff back in 2009 and has claimed that the Clinic had been 'upfront' with the HSE about this matter.

The Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told of a substantial six-figure annual pension and lump sum paid to Mr Kiely, with the lump sum coming from he CRC's fundraising arm. Mr Kiely, who retired from the CRC earlier this year, resigned from the CRC board last month, the Committee was told.

CRC Chairman Jim Nugent, appearing before the PAC today, would not be drawn on calls for him to consider resigning over the top-up pay scandal. The PAC heard how some of the unauthorised top-up pay and pensions of senior CRC staff came from fundraising activities intended for investment in CRC services.

Mr Kiely told the Dail Public Accounts Committee today that Health Minister James Reilly had said the matter of unauthorised top-up payments first came to light in May 2012 following a HIQA report which revealed substantial top-up payments at Tallaght Hospital.

He added that the CRC, back in 2009, had responded to a letter from the HSE with information about top-ups it was paying.

Mr Kiely queried whether was CRC the only one to respond in 2009 'correctly, honestly and upfront' on salaries that were paid and how they were paid within the organisation.

Paul Kiely confirmed his pension would be around half of his full salary of €223,000 while he was CEO. This means he will get a yearly pension of around €100,000. Mr Kiely's total remuneration when he was CEO was around €240,000, including allowances and top-ups.

In addition, it was revealed that Mr Kiely received a €200,000 tax-free lump sum on his retirement from the Clinic, which was funded from funds collected by a CRC charity.

The former CEO said he had qualms about everything to do with the top-up controversy and said he would consider paying back monies he received, as had been done by his successor, Mr Conlan.

Independent TD Shane Ross told the Committee that funding from lotteries and private fundraising was going towards paying the pensions and pay of Mr Kiely and other senior staff at the CRC.

Deputy Ross queried whether there was a conflict of interest from Mr Kiely having been secretary and a director of both the CRC and its fundraising arm, the Friends and Supporters.

He claimed the Friends and Supporters had been 'stuffed' through paying the CRC €3 million towards the pension fund to 'fill the pockets' of Mr Kiely and other senior staff in the CRC.

Mr Nugent said a decision had been taken to utilise the funds from the Friends and Supporters to protect the CRC pension fund, which covered 70 employees.

He rejected claims that in protecting the pension fund, the CRC was trying to protect the pension of one or two people at the top of the the organisation, as there were 70 employees involved.

Deputy Ross said it was highly unlikely that the €3 million loan given by the Friends to the CRC pension fund was going to be repaid.

Representatives of the CRC told told the Committee it was contractually bound to pay salaries that were in excess of official HSE levels.

Mr Nugent said currently, certain staff at the CRC, including clinical staff, would be on higher levels of pay than the recently-departed CEO.

However, he confirmed that when Brian Conlan, who this week resigned as CRC CEO, was hired in July, he was knowingly paid above the set HSE limit by the Clinic. This top-up, like that of his predecessor Mr Kiely, was paid for from the Friends and Supporters' funding.

Chairman of the PAC John McGuinness accused Mr Conlan, who this week resigned as CRC Chief Executive, of playing games with the PAC. Mr Conlan is not appearing before the PAC hearing.

Mr Conlan, who took up this post with the CRC in July, has since repaid unauthorised salary top-ups made to him.

The Committee heard that the HSE wrote to the CRC on nine separate occasions this year expressing concern over the recruitment process used to hire Mr Conlan.

This year, the HSE issued two official warnings, known as performance notices, to the CRC for failing to comply with the provisions of its service agreement in relation to the recruitment of new CRC CEO. This was the first time it had ever had progressed to this stage of action with an agency it funded.

It also threatened to withhold funding from the CRC unless it complied with its service agreement. The HSE had been in correspondence with the CRC since 2009 in relation to salary levels at the Clinic.

CRC Chairman Jim Nugent said the CRC had no power to compel Mr Conlan to appear before the Committee.

Pressed by Shane Ross, Mr Nugent would not be drawn on whether he would consider resigning as head of the CRC board.

Deputy Ross said Mr Nugent had let down the State, the taxpayer and the Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

Pressure is now growing on the CRC board to resign in view of the damage that has been done to the Clinic.

Are top-ups giving us a top service?

A democratic deficit

[Posted: Wed 11/12/2013]

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