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Friday 30 September 2016

Shamed charity boss Kelly inflated wages bill by nearly €116k

Shamed Console chief Paul Kelly Picture: Robbie Reynolds
Shamed Console chief Paul Kelly Picture: Robbie Reynolds

Shamed Console charity chief Paul Kelly inflated his staff numbers and overestimated his annual wages bill by nearly €116,000 in a bid to dupe the HSE into giving him bigger payouts.

His elaborate accounting hoax - exposed in an unpublished audit - led him to provide wildly different sets of annual accounts to various agencies.

Accounts provided to the HSE, as part of his application for generous funding for the suicide bereavement charity in 2012, show he claimed to have seven staff and a salary cost of €368,074.

But in the same year his accounts submitted to the Companies Registration Office (CRO) said he had seven staff and his outgoings on salaries came to €252,200.

He told the HSE his administration costs that year were as low as €45,633 - giving the clear impression that as much funding as possible was devoted to frontline services.

But the CRO document reveals they were more than three times higher, at €161,487.

The pattern of false accounting was repeated in other years, according to the unpublished HSE audit carried out last year into Console's finances.

The extent of his deceit comes as health officials and interim chief executive David Hall drew up plans to shut down Console and transfer its helpline and counselling services to other organisations, with the majority of the work to be provided by Pieta House.

Some 300 people who were receiving bereavement counselling after losing a loved one to suicide will be offered the alternative service, while 12 staff will lose their jobs.

The UK Charity Commission, which has frozen around £43,000 (€50,000) in a bank account linked to its London counselling centre, announced it has launched a statutory investigation into Console.

"The nature of the concerns reported include - but is not limited to - allegations of falsifying of accounts to obtain funding, significant private benefit, conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement," it said.

Generous

The HSE audit shows they handed over €855,227 in just one year. Generous public donations and fundraising topped up his charity's income to €5m between 2012 and 2014.

The HSE auditors also discovered that people who donated money to Console would be sent a thank you letter - but no copies were held at Console's head office in Kildare.

An ambassador for the charity organisation described the shattering impact the collapse will have on service users and volunteers.

Peter Roche, whose son Colin died by suicide in 2010, said he is concerned about what lies ahead. "My heartfelt wish is that we can rake over the coals and salvage something to put some structures in place to go forward," he said.

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