Mater says it did not get €666k from CRC

Former CRC boss Paul Kiely deliberately misled the public accounts committee over a claimed “phantom” €666,000 Mater pension fund.

The allegation was made by PAC chairman and Fianna Fáil TD, John McGuinness, at the latest meeting of the cross-party body.

During last week’s five- hour grilling of then senior CRC personnel over the ongoing top-ups scandal, Mr Kiely was asked to clarify why the disability group paid the Mater Hospital €666,000 a year.

The former CRC chief executive said the money was a “fee” for a pension agreement which should have gone out of existence more than a decade ago as the CRC could now link directly to the HSE pension system. Mr Kiely claimed he attempted countless times to end the system as it was wasting valuable money, but was “kicked out of the water”.

However, attending the latest PAC meeting yesterday, Mater chief executive Mary Day said the claim was completely untrue.

She explained that the €666,000 fund is used specifically for 181 CRC pensions and their liabilities, which are administered by the Mater as part of an agreement dating from the 1970s.

This is because these individuals started their pensions before the CRC was allowed to access the HSE pension funds directly, meaning they had to go through the Mater instead.

The Mater makes no money from the agreement, and ringfences the fund to ensure it is only used to guarantee these individuals’ pensions.

While just over €1.7m of the total €9.5m amount has been paid out to date, this is due to non-retirement of the majority of the staff involved.

Ms Day further claimed that Mr Kiely did not contact the Mater at any point of his near quarter of a century tenure as CRC chief executive to stop the agreement, despite his claims to the contrary.

Reacting to the situation, Mr McGuinness said it was clear Mr Kiely deliberately misled the PAC last week for an as yet unknown reason as he would have had this information available to him at the time.

Noting the impact of the wider top-ups scandal at the CRC on the rest of the charities sector, which has seen donations tumble in its aftermath, he said: “They [the now resigned CRC officials] owe an apology to the committee, to the sector, to the CRC, and to the Mater.”

Suggestions that significant charitable donations from the individuals involved, including Mr Kiely — who saw his salary doubled, received a €200,000 lump sum pension payment, and a €98,000 pension via charity money — should be considered, he added: “Given the fact it is Christmas time, they should maybe go beyond an apology because substantial damage has been done.”

Since he resigned last Friday, the former CRC board has been replaced by interim HSE administrator, John Cregan.

It is still unclear if the officials received payouts to resign.

Meanwhile, the PAC has confirmed that ex-CRC and Mater chief executive Brian Conlan will attend the group’s next meeting on Jan 16.

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