Latest: Charities Regulator 'still doesn't have teeth' as former Console CEO Paul Kelly accused of massive credit card bills

Latest: Charities Regulator 'still doesn't have teeth' as former Console CEO Paul Kelly accused of massive credit card bills

Update 6.36pm: There are calls for the Charities Regulator to be given extra powers in the wake of allegations of bad governance at Console.

The founder of the charity, Paul Kelly, his wife and son Tim are being accused of running up credit card bills of almost €500,000.

There remains some confusion about whether they three have resigned or not, although the charity's board has insisted that they are no longer involved with Console.

Ivan Cooper from charity representative body The Wheel said that draft laws would greatly enhance the Regulator's powers.

“The Regulator currently doesn’t have a full set of teeth,” he said.

“A section of the Charities Act hasn’t been commenced by the Minister – we’ve called on the Minister to complete that, and when it’s done, it’ll mean the regulator will be able to go in, it’ll be able to compel people to appear before it, it’ll be able to replace trustees if it deems that’s what needs to happen, and in actual fact it will be able to seize the assets of the charity concerned and take them into responsible custodianship.”

Sinn Féin TD and Mental Health and Suicide Prevention spokesperson Pat Buckley TD also called on the Government to do more to regulate charities.

“The government must do more to … identify past abuses and to bring them to light so that people can again have faith in the charities to which they donate,” he said.

Update 11.10am:

Fundraisers for Console have said they are looking at withdrawing their support for the charity after serious issues were raised about governance and spending.

Charlie Bird, who had planned to donate the royalties of his latest book to Console, said he is reviewing that decision in the wake of revelations about the management of the charity.

Mr Bird said: "We're not going to take any decision to give any money to Console at the moment. In the light of what has transpired, it is not our intention to make any fast decisions about where the (royalties) are going."

Earlier:

The founder of the Console charity, his wife and son Tim are being accused of running up credit card bills of almost €500,000.

The money was spent by the three on groceries, designer clothes and foreign trips, according to a draft copy of the HSE audit into finances at the charity, as seen by the RTÉ Investigates team.

Details of a HSE audit of the Console books revealed on Prime Time last night show company credit cards were used for trips to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

They were also used to pay for dental work, tickets to rugby matches and designer brands like Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren.

Latest: Charities Regulator 'still doesn't have teeth' as former Console CEO Paul Kelly accused of massive credit card bills

The audit shows console founder Paul Kelly (pictured) his wife Patricia and their son Tim received a further €500,000 in salaries and cars between 2012 and 2014

The three held 11 of the charity's 20 credit cards. During the period under review, nearly €90,000 in cash was withdrawn on the credit cards; €66,000 of it by Paul Kelly himself. However, there is no documentation to show how the cash was used.

Paul Kelly resigned as chief executive of Console last week and has denied allegations of mismanagement. He arrived at the charity's Dublin office on Monday and is reported to have told staff it was "business as usual".

A HSE audit into Console, which provides bereavement counselling to those who have lost loved ones to suicide, found there were “serious governance concerns” at the charity, revealing widespread failings in proper standards in management.

The audit notes there were inadequate governance structures during the period examined.

“Console was controlled and dominated by Paul Kelly. He was responsible for the full running of the charity,” it said.

It found he continued to operate as a “shadow director” even after he resigned as a director in 2013.

The report states that auditors encountered “significant difficulties obtaining information and explanations, and explanations, when received, were inconsistent and vague”.

For example, the report found that Mr Kelly and his wife Patricia were/are directors of at least 12 companies.

“Inconsistencies in names, signatures, and dates of birth were identified by the audit on statutory documents with the [Companies Registration Office] in relation to these 12 companies,” it states.

“Information contained in some statutory declarations filed with the [Companies Registration Office] was incorrect. For example the number of directorships held by the CEO’s wife.”

Ms Kelly also signed using her maiden name of Dowling when filing details of her directorships of some of the companies.

According to the draft report, Mr Kelly was and is a director, company secretary, chair, and cheque signatory of Console.

However, throughout the audit Mr Kelly described his wife’s role as a volunteer and not employed by the organisation, when in fact she was a key officer of the company.

Other financial issues raised by the report include whether the issue of expense claims not being signed had been approved.

“Controls around receipting donations and fundraising were lax and non- existent. Console did not maintain a receipts book, there was no record listing all amounts received, and money received was not lodged intact into Console’s bank account,” the report stated.

Helplines:

In relation to Console’s helplines, between 2012 and 2014 Console reduced the number of helplines from six to two. The report states that Console informed the audit team that the cost of running its two helplines in 2014 was €346,560, of which the HSE provided €294,000.

During the audit no documentation was provided to the audit team to support this costing.

Console UK:

In May 2012 Mr Kelly and and his wife established a separate company in England to operate Console UK.

Significant issues were identified in relation to Console Ireland and Console UK.

Console Ireland incurred expenditure in excess of €140,000 in relation to Console UK between 2012 and 2014. This was not disclosed in either Console Ireland’s audited financial statements or in Console UK’s accounts.

In essence Irish funders and donors are funding a UK charity.

“As director of services [at Console UK], Tim Kelly [their son] is paid a salary of stg£31,300. This is paid by Console Ireland directly to him at a rate of £600 per week and it is not taxed,” states the report.

It found that between 2012 and 2014, Paul Kelly received “consultancy payments” totalling €218,586, Ms Kelly received salary payments of €67,149, while Tim Kelly received £93,924.

Additional reporting by the

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