Committee treated witnesses like ‘slabs of meat’

Former Rehab boss Frank Flannery has hit out at members of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who, he said, had shown a "feral attitude" to him and treated witnesses "almost as slabs of meat".

Mr Flannery, who was forced to step down from his role as a top Fine Gael strategist over his controversial refusal to appear before the committee’s hearings, said the Taoiseach was “ill-advised” when he urged him to give evidence.

He was speaking during two radio interviews yesterday, following a ruling by the Oireachtas Committee on Privileges and Procedures (CPP) on Wednesday night that the PAC could not compel him or the recently retired Rehab boss, Angela Kerins, to appear.

In an interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ, Mr Flannery said the ruling meant PAC was acting outside its remit in examining spending at Rehab and, therefore, had “set upon a lawless path” and “attacking the constitutional rights of citizens”.

He said: “Someone had to stand up for the citizen and prevent this abuse of public power. And to my great misfortune, that obligation fell upon me to do it. I’m not the kind of person who would shy away, I did this entirely on a matter of principle.”

He said: “When lawmakers become lawbreakers, the country is in a very dangerous situation.”

The committee wanted to hear about the pension arrangements of Mr Flannery, who retired as chief executive at the disability agency in 2006, and as board member earlier this year. They also wanted to know about €400,000 he was paid in consultancy fees.

However, he claims members were “only interested in the personal details of people’s lives,” and his involvement in Fine Gael was “not at all unrelated to their decision to haul me in”.

The whole episode had left him “pretty battered and pretty bruised,” he said, but the damage caused to the disability organisation is “the greatest agony in my life now” and “that was done by an illegal enterprise by this committee”.

He also said he had put “sweat, blood and tears” into the Fine Gael organisation and “the fact that I am now outside that as well is another very serious damage done to me.”

When Enda Kenny told him to appear before the committee, he “clearly did not know the kind of endeavours PAC was involved in,” he said, adding “those who advised me to co-operate with them were ill-advised.”

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk Radio, he said the committee had “expressed their desire to attack every organisation in the not-for-profit world. They would have caused mayhem if someone had called a halt to their gallop”.

Independent TD and PAC member, Shane Ross, said the committee did not break the law, but sought legal advice on an investigation into the use of €95m of public money paid to Rehab last year.

“I welcome the fact that we now have a legal decision telling us this is outside our remit, that gives us an opportunity to change the rules of compellability and not to allow legitimate inquiries into where public monies have gone to be frustrated,” he said.

PAC wanted to probe pension and €400k lobbying fees

By Mary Regan

There are essentially three things that the PAC wanted to ask Frank Flannery about:

 - His remuneration, severance payments, pensions, and any ongoing payment he receives since retiring as chief executive of Rehab in 2006, and stepping down from the board in March.

The PAC says the “myth” that his packages come from Rehab’s commercial enterprises was busted when the committee heard that, of the €118m in funding from within Ireland last year, €95.5m is public taxes and €13.5m is charitable donations.

Mr Flannery says Rehab does not get any “grants or funding” from the State but, as a private company, “does a huge amount of business with the State”.

Rehab wins contracts to provide services “and then it sends in its invoices and gets paid,” he said.

- The €400,000 in lobbying and consultancy fees paid to him by Rehab.

These were sanctioned by former chief executive Angela Kerins without the approval of the board or the group’s finance director, Keith Poole.

“No one knows much about these consultancy contracts except the two of them,” the PAC chairman, Deputy John McGuinness said. “The substantial payments to Mr Flannery were obviously coming from taxpayers’ money, unless he wants to inform us otherwise.”

Mr Flannery said Rehab “got enormously good value for money”.

 - The chronology surrounding the coffin company deal.

During a November 2009 board meeting, chief executive Angela Kerins recommended that a plan to import coffins from China and put them together in Ireland should be outsourced to a group called Complete Eco Solutions.

The firm’s directors were Mr Flannery, Ms Kerins’ brother, Joseph McCarthy, and her husband, Sean Kerins.

Ms Kerins told the board that this company already existed. But records revealed by Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald show this company was only set up on December 7, 2009, more than a fortnight after Ms Kerins made the recommendation.


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