‘Legitimate issues’ raised about € 2.5m Rehab consultancy - Harris

Fine Gael TD says announcement of amount paid to management consultant ‘concerning’

Fine Gael’s Simon Harris talking to reporters outside Leinster House. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Fine Gael’s Simon Harris talking to reporters outside Leinster House. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 12:44

A Government member of the Public Accounts Committee has said that legitimate issues have been raised by the disclosure that a former board member of Rehab was paid over €2.5 mllion in consultancy fees over a period of 11 years.

Fine Gael TD Simon Harris said this morning that the amount paid to management consultant John Hussey and the fact it was not disclosed until now was “concerning”. Mr Hussey was a board member of Rehab for over a decade from 1993 to 2004.

PAC is expected to convene a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the latest disclosures from Rehab in addition to continuing its internal deliberations on whether or not it should compel former chief executives Frank Flannery and Angela Kerins to appear before the committee.

Mr Harris told The Irish Times that any money Rehab has spent that has come from public funds is a legitimate area of examination.

He said the directors of the organisation for people with disabilities were well-meaning but it was clear they had been “kept in the dark” on some issues.

He said one of the most salient details that had emerged from last week’s PAC hearings was that Angela Kerins’ salary had been a blended package, comprising public and private funding, of which 40 per cent came from public funds.

He said that that would put an onus on Frank Flannery, a former senior adviser to his party, to appear before the PAC.

“Frank Flannery’s assertion that he is standing up for ordinary citizens does not stand up as I’m sure he was taking in a salary with a significant public portion.”

Mr Harris said that the PAC inquiries should proceed but with a note of caution. “We have to be sure that we are operating fully within our remit,” he said.

Elsewhere, the terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry into the recording of telephone calls in Garda stations will be formally debated before the Dáil later this evening. It is likely that the opposition will argue that the terms, as they relate to the extent of knowledge of senior political and administration figures, are not strong enough.

There has also been reaction this morning ahead of the expected Cabinet ratification of the Heads (draft) of the Climate Action Bill. The Socialist MEP Paul Murphy said that in the context of the UN report that was published on Sunday, the aims of the Bill were “laughable”.

He said that the absence of binding targets would mean that damage to the environment would remain unabated. He also contended the Government lobbied the EU Commission to change the measure of assessing climate change emissions from GNP to GDP.

“This epitomises how seriously the Irish Government takes the environment. They will all pay lip service but when push comes to shove they will do nothing,” he said.

Friends of the Earth said that lack of political leadership on climate change had encouraged opposition to wind energy and argued that strong climate change legislation could reset the public debate on renewable energy.

Its director Oisin Coghlan said this morning: “This Government has been noticeably silent on the challenges and opportunities posed by tackling climate change.

“There has been no leadership on the rapid transition we face to stop the climate change becoming a climate crash,” he said.