The ex-chairman of the crisis-hit Central Remedial Clinic has "apologised" for its charity top-ups scandal — but has insisted he and his colleagues have a "clear conscience" as they did nothing wrong.
Hamilton Goulding made the claim as the latest Dáil public accounts committee was told clawing back a fortune in charitable donations given to ex-officials instead of frontline services, will be a drawn-out battle.
Speaking during a six-hour meeting on the recent HSE interim administrator’s report into how taxpayers’ money and charitable donations were used by senior CRC bosses, Mr Goulding said the revelations have been “very difficult for me personally”.
However, the former disability group chairman insisted he and other ex-bosses have done nothing wrong.
“I have a clear conscience that nothing I did, or failed to do, took place with any motive other than the best interests of the clinic. I believe this to be true for the other [former] board members,” he said.
Citing the payouts given to his now departed colleagues via the Friends and Supporters of the CRC charitable wing, which was set up to oversee the spending of public donations, Mr Goulding said contractual obligations meant there was no option other than to pay the money out.
And while he came under fire from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Independent TD Shane Ross — who also thanked him for turning up for questioning — Mr Goulding went further by blaming the HSE for the crisis.
“I am disappointed that the HSE, in pursuing these issues [the charitable donations-funded payouts to board members] forced a position on the CRC board that it now accepts cannot be implemented.
“It has in the process caused serious damage to public perception of the CRC and to the charity sector in general. I believe the HSE should correct the public record in this regard,” he claimed.
The stance emerged as the HSE and new CRC board insisted charitable donations paid to ex-chief executive, Paul Kiely, must be recovered. Mr Kiely retired at the height of the CRC scandal last Christmas on a total severance package of €741,000, which is linked to a €700,000 transfer of funds from the Friends and Supporters donations wing.
On his departure, Mr Kiely was on a salary of €240,000, almost half of which was topped-up via donations meant for frontline services.
HSE deputy director general, Laverne McGuinness, said the money — paid between June 2010 and June 2013 — “should be recovered”.
New board chairman, Kieran Timmins, agreed, but said the issue is “complex” and “requires careful consideration and legal advice”. Asked how long that could take, he said “we are talking about months”.
Despite a request to attend, ex-CRC chief executives Paul Kiely and Brian Conlan, and ex-board members Jim Nugent and David Martin, failed to attend for health and travel reasons.
Among the issues they were not available to discuss was why Mr Kiely was allegedly “allowed to write his own cheque” due to a lack of board independence, concerns the HSE was not aware of the charity wing at the centre of the controversy and why files on board members sought by the HSE were not available.
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