Former members of the board of the Central Remedial Clinic, who were forced out over the charity top-ups scandal, have refused to turn up for a high-profile meeting on the issue.
Paul Kiely, Jim Nugent, David Martin, and Brian Conlan said they are too ill, abroad in Britain and Italy, or believe they do not need to attend, while ex-chairman Hamilton Goulding has not responded.
As part of its ongoing investigation into how public donations and taxpayers’ money is spent by voluntary health groups and charities, the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee asked the former board members to attend a meeting on the issue tomorrow.
The meeting was called for after HSE administrator John Cregan’s report on the CRC’s practices under the old board raised concerns about why the clinic’s charitable wing, the Friends and Supporters of the CRC, was set up.
However, despite publicly stating last week that questions still need to be answered by all five of the individuals at the centre of the dispute, the Public Accounts Committee appears to have hit a brick wall.
In correspondence to the cross-party body, former chief executive Mr Nugent and board member Mr Martin said they will not be able to attend as they are in Britain and Italy for work and holiday reasons, respectively.
Mr Kiely, another former chief executive who used charitable money to top up his salary and €742,000 retirement package, is currently fighting a serious health condition — which committee chairman John McGuinness last week advised should be taken at face value — while Mr Goulding has yet to respond to the invitation.
The acting chief executive of the old board before it resigned en masse over the widespread top-ups controversy, Mr Conlan, is the fifth member of the former board under examination.
Yesterday, Mr Conlan told the committee through his solicitors that the group does not, in their opinion, have jurisdiction over how public donations and taxpayers’ money were used to top-up executive salaries at the charity.
Giles J Kennedy and Co, the legal team acting on his behalf, said they also have concerns over the accuracy of a number of issues detailed in the HSE report, and have already written to the HSE to voice their concerns.
“We have advised our client that, in our opinion, there is a serious question mark as to whether PAC has any lawful jurisdiction to embark on an enquiry into the accounts, reports, or executive remuneration of the CRC,” the legal firm said.
“We must advise that it is our opinion that PAC do not have lawful jurisdiction to review a number of matters contained in the [administrator’s] report.”
While the correspondence went on to say that Mr Conlan “neither refuses nor consents” to the request to attend, it also said that, before he does so, the questions he is obliged to answer must be set out.
The de-facto rejection of the PAC’s authority comes as ousted Rehab bosses Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery continue to refuse to attend a separate meeting of the committee.
The PAC is in an ongoing battle with the Dáil’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges over whether it can force the officials to submit to further questioning.
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