Four more agencies to face top-ups inquiry

In Longford yesterday, Enda Kenny said Mr Conlon should go before the PAC

Fresh enquiries are under way into suspected top-up payments at another four state-funded bodies as the investigation into bonuses for senior managers at voluntary hospitals and agencies is set to widen.

The claims emerged after the chief executive of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), Brian Conlon, yesterday resigned after just five months in the role amid public outrage that funds raised through charitable donations were used to top up the pay of at least nine CRC executives.

Mr Conlon himself never received any extra payments, but his predecessor Paul Kiely was paid €135,000 from privately donated funds on top of his state salary of €106,900.

CRC chiefs past and present as well as HSE top brass are preparing for a showdown with the Dáil Public Accounts Committee tomorrow morning. The committee told the Irish Examiner a number of hospitals which were previously not in the public domain were now under scrutiny.

“Four whistleblowers, all insiders from Section 38 institutions, came forward late last week and the PAC will check the information out. If it’s accurate, the hospitals will have to come before the committee and account for themselves,” said PAC chairman John McGuinness.

Hospitals and agencies that come under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004 receive most of their funding from the State, whereas so-called Section 39 groups receive less than half.

Yesterday, Mr McGuinness revealed the CRC’s interim CEO Jim Nugent and its former chairman Des Peelo, Charlie Haughey’s one-time tax adviser, will be grilled by the committee alongside the HSE national director of human resources Barry O’Brien and officials from the Department of Public Expenditure.

Mr McGuinness said he had also requested former CRC chiefs executive Paul Kiely and Brian Conlon to come before the committee but last night, Mr Conlon refused to appear, saying he was no longer an officer of the CRC, and hadn’t any information that was not known by the remaining officers and directors.

In Longford yesterday, Enda Kenny said Mr Conlon should go before the PAC.

In his resignation statement, Mr Conlon advised the CRC to go for a clean break with the past, saying it was in the best interests of clients and staff the new chief executive “should not have any association with legacy matters at the CRC”. The board accepted his resignation “with regret”.

The PAC will attempt to establish how long the top- up payments have been in existence; who authorised them; who was aware charitable donations were being used; if pensions were top-ped up; and if public sector pay cuts were implemented.

In 2012, CRC received €16m in public funding and has been dipping into funds raised by a company named Friends and Supporters of the CRC to boost pay packets of top executives.

Yesterday, Labour Party TD Robert Dowds, a former special needs teacher at a CRC school, said the rest of the board should resign unless they can defend their own role in the controversy.

“The CRC has a lot of questions to answer about what was going on in this matter and, to my mind, they have yet to answer them satisfactorily.”


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