herald

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Clinic chiefs may be grilled over €136k pay top-up

BOSSES at the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) could be hauled before the Public Accounts Committee to explain why public donations were used to top up senior staff salaries.

The CRC, which receives €19m from the HSE and has cut back on services, is the first disability organisation to admit continuing to use charity funds to pay salary extras of more than €32,000.

Details of the fundraising arm's accounts were revealed at the Dail Committee on Public Accounts. They showed its former secretary Paul Kiely, before retirement, was on a €106,900 State salary and €136,000 from the charity.

EXTRAS

A CRC spokeswoman said five managers, who have not been named, continue to be paid the extras to their State salaries.

These salaries were all over €100,000 before the Haddington Road cuts.

She said the charitable funds were raised by "a separate company" – the Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic.

Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness said he intends to bring CRC members before the committee if a HSE report into top-up payments is not satisfactory.

Speaking on RTE radio this morning, Mr McGuinness said the CRC was in breach of government pay guidelines and the 2004 Health Act, and it needed to account for public monies.

Joe Watson, parent of a nine-year-old boy who attends the CRC and a fundraiser, said he was "absolutely disgusted" with the top-up revelations.

"When you do fundraising you think your child or another child will benefit from it," he said.

He said further fundraising for the CRC will be "hurt big style".

Mr Watson, who works as a bus driver, said there was no justification for anyone to earn over €100,000.

"It is not right. It is a bitter pill for people to swallow".

Chairwoman of the Special Needs Parents Association, Lorraine Dempsey, said many donors would be "pulling the plug"on their charitable donations for fear the funds would be used to pay salary top-ups.

APPEAL

"We already know parents who are connected with the CRC who would have been involved with fundraising through their annual Santa bear appeal and they're now pulling the plug on their support because they're looking at, [and thinking] 'is it a top-up to a CEOs salary'."

Similarly, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin explained the obstacles necessary to overcome in order to address top-up payments as a whole in the public health sector.

"With great difficulty is the honest answer," he told Morning Ireland, when quizzed about how the government planned to tackle the top-up payment

"I'm a former health minister and I know the way our health services have developed over time is that we do franchise work to private companies in terms of voluntary companies incorporated into company law.

"They have their own governing structures, accounting bodies and accounting officers. To actually have transparency across everyone who has public money has been one of my ambitions for the last two-and-a-half years, but we're unravelling decades of practice.

"Even the efforts of the HSE to get data from some of these agencies wasn't responded to until the internal audit unit of the HSE was tasked with the job and drilled down. Now we have a report that I think lays out, for the first time, how extensive these top-up payments are. But they're not all the same.

"They're coming from different sources, some are contractual arrangements, some are just downright top-ups.

"We have to find out who is breaking the rules," Mr Howlin added.

hnews@herald.ie

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