herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Probe into charity chiefs' 'cash top-ups'

AUTHORITIES have ordered an investigation into alleged 'secret' payments to disability charity chiefs who are already on six-figure salaries.

The Department of Health is conducting a probe into how charities are spending State funding of up to €1.5bn.

They suspect that some senior executives are getting bonus or 'top-up' payments on top of their normal salaries.

However, so far a number of charities are unwilling to publicly volunteer information about their pay agreements.

It is understood that the officials from James Reilly's (pictured) department think that extra payments range anywhere between €22,000 and €43,000.

Power

The Health Minister does not have the power to compel the charities to hand over details of salaries and top-up payments if they are paid for through fundraising or donations.

However, his department does provide significant funding to help the running of many of organisations.

An internal memo in the Department of Health criticised the lack of transparency over how much chief executives were being paid.

It pointed out that while the organisations say the salaries are in line with comparative public service pay scales, "we know that they are most likely topped up from other funds".

Sources say that the department suspicions are being heightened by the refusal of some charities to readily give up information as part of an overall value-for-money review.

This probe has been running for three years -- ever since a highly critical report by the Comptroller & Auditor General. That report highlighted a glaring lack of control and regulation of the sector, which gets around 10pc of the Government's health budget every year.

The long-awaited review is due to go to Cabinet in the next two months.

It is expected to highlight the refusal of a number of charities to provide comprehensive financial data on the packages for chief executives, most of whom are on basic salaries of between €130,000 to €150,000.

Last night seven out of 10 leading charities refused to divulge what their chief executives earned.

Five of the 10 also refused to say whether they were getting top-up payments.

Concerns over the lack of transparency prompted Dr Reilly to write to the chairmen of a number of disability groups seeking information on their chief executives' remuneration.

One leading charity, Rehab, made it clear that it did not welcome Dr Reilly's request for information on its chief executive Angela Kerins' package.

Rehab chairman Brian Kerr told the minister that Ms Kerins' remuneration was "not a matter in which you have a role" as her salary was funded from money raised from other commercial sources rather than out of the €36m the charity received from the State last year.

He did, however, tell Dr Reilly that Ms Kerins received a salary of €234,000.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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