Board plans transfer of Console services

The likely liquidation of scandal-hit suicide bereavement organisation Console and transfer of its services were being discussed by the board late last night.

Board plans transfer of Console services

It met ahead of a possible wind-up application to the High Court and tomorrow’s scheduled appearance of the HSE at the Dáil public accounts committee over its historic handling and monitoring of Console’s use of taxpayers’ money.

Among the issues being discussed by the three Console directors with interim chief executive David Hall and legal advisers were its assets and liabilities. Mr Hall has been assessing Console’s financial standing since the revelations late last month of former boss Paul Kelly’s spending at the charity.

He has also been in discussion with the HSE about the possible transfer of its publicly funded suicide bereavement counselling services to one or more other agencies. Around 300 people have been in continuing receipt of services from Console.

While the Revenue Commissioners are among the main creditors, dozens of counsellors are owed payments, and the ability to meet these and other debts were on the agenda for last night’s meeting.

The board was also scheduled to consider questions about any transfer of services in the event of a wind-up being sought, and details such as the ability under any new arrangements to keep clients in touch with counsellors with whom they had already been dealing.

On Tuesday, the High Court extended orders freezing Console’s assets for another week, after hearing that agreement is hoped to be reached about allowing living expenses for the Kelly family from their accounts, which have been frozen pending the determination of a case against them.

HSE chief executive Tony O’Brien yesterday attempted to distance his organisation from the Console scandal, by saying the HSE was only a partial funder of Console.

“I am still satisfied that the funds we provided were good value; the interim CEO has said we probably weren’t paying enough for those services,” Mr O’Brien told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

He said full details of how the HSE had responded to the revelations contained in the internal audit would become clear at tomorrow’s PAC meeting.

Mr O’Brien said the HSE became aware of problems at Console when discrepancies between different sets of accounts led the National Office of Suicide Prevention to request an internal audit. He defended the HSE’s decision to warn Console about the imminent audit.

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