Analysis: Angela Kerins’ departure does not herald the end of the affair

Rehab seems reluctant to acknowledge a transparency deficit

Angela Kerins: has resigned, citing toll of recent controversies on her family and on Rehab itself. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Angela Kerins: has resigned, citing toll of recent controversies on her family and on Rehab itself. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 01:00

The seeds of Angela Kerins’s exit from Rehab were sown 87 days ago when she went on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio programme from Riyadh to discuss a contract the disabilities group had just signed in Saudi Arabia.

It was about 8.30am on Monday, January 6th, the first day of the first full working week of the year and memories were still fresh of the pay top-up controversy at the Central Remedial Clinic, which had prompted the resignation of its board before Christmas.

On the air that morning, Kerins was asked more than once to disclose her pay, but she would not. In the unforgiving atmosphere of the times, it was enough to set in train events which would draw an onslaught on Rehab from both the Government and the Public Accounts Committee.

It might have blown over if Rehab, which has charitable status, promptly gave comprehensive replies to the questions posed. But many of its eventual answers were partial, further clouding the picture.

The sense remains that Rehab, which receives annual State funding of some €82 million, is reluctant to acknowledge or confront a transparency deficit at the apex of the organisation.

Serious issues
This raises serious issues now for the Rehab board and its chairman, Brian Kerr, who remained in the background in the last four months as pressure intensified on Kerins and finally overwhelmed her.

After all, there can hardly have been any doubt that the CRC debacle would trigger questions of Rehab. Yet, instead of immediately clarifying Kerins’s pay in January, the board waited almost a month before convening a special meeting to make the disclosure. While a great deal of importance was given to Kerins’s right to pay confidentiality at that time, the more fundamental question of Rehab’s public standing was obscured.

This has continued ever since, in spite of the numerous questions that still surround Rehab’s affairs. For all of Kerins’s insistent defensiveness, the seepage of credibility went on and on. She was the public face of Rehab. If anyone on the board was unhappy with the message, there was no public sign of it.

The first overt casualty in all of this was Frank Flannery, Kerins’s predecessor in the chief executive’s chair and a Rehab board member until he resigned his directorship three weeks ago. He also left a top-ranked, but unpaid, position in Fine Gael.

Now Kerins herself has gone, citing the toll of recent controversies on her family and on Rehab itself.

This is a point worth noting, for the ultimate casualty in all of this is an organisation with operations in Ireland, Britain, Poland, the Netherlands and Saudi which provides valuable employment to 3,800 people.

“I met a Rehab staff member during the week, who told me she is embarrassed and ashamed to be working for the organisation, due to the series of revelations surrounding the salaries of senior executives,” said a statement yesterday from Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, a member of the PAC.

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