Clinic could be before PAC next week

The Central Remedial Clinic could be hauled before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as soon as next week to give a detailed response to serious concerns over its use of millions of euro worth of charitable donations.

PAC chairman and Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said the cross-party body is seeking a meeting with the disability organisation as soon as it can be arranged.

An exact date for the meeting has to be decided, as the PAC wants to ensure officials from the Department of Health and HSE are also available to attend.

However, if all three groups can provide a detailed paper trail of what happened, and why, the meeting could take place as soon as next week.

External PR firm WHPR, which has been involved in crisis public relations for the CRC since Monday, declined to comment on the issue yesterday — in keeping with the group’s repeated refusal to clarify key issues at the centre of the scandal.

However, while the CRC has yet to clarify who will be attending the meeting on its behalf, it has indicated a “willingness” to speak with the PAC.

Independent TD and PAC member Shane Ross said it is essential the former chief executive Paul Kiely, current chief executive Brian Conlan, and “most of the directors” attend to provide full details of the affair.

Mr Ross has been at the forefront of investigations into how the CRC is using charitable donations since he revealed the Friends and Supporters of the CRC accounts at the most recent PAC meeting on Nov 27.

During that meeting, he revealed to HSE director general Tony O’Brien that the charity wing of the group had €14m in its account at the end of 2011 — the most recent account details filed with the Companies Registration Office.

This is despite the fact the CRC has been imposing cuts to services for more than 4,000 children with disabilities.

Further revelations concerning the CRC include the fact that, between 1998 and 2011, just €7m out of €27m in fundraiser lottery donations to the Friends and Supporters of the CRC were sent on to the CRC.

More than €15m of this fund was instead spent on a “provision of loans to associates” category, which the CRC has repeatedly failed to clarify.

Other issues include the fact that senior CRC salaries were topped-up by charitable donations from the Friends and Supporters group without the knowledge of people donating to this organisation.

Top-ups were given to at least nine senior CRC officials, including ex-CEO and current director Paul Kiely — who more than doubled his €106,000-a-year salary in this way.

Mr Kiely also held senior positions with the Friends and Supporters group, which had a near identical board to the CRC.

The group’s ex-chair, Des Peelo, claimed on Monday the charitable donations were used to top-up salaries with the full knowledge and permission of the HSE.

However, correspondence between the groups over the past four years shows that the HSE at no point gave permission for this.

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