Oh, what a twisted web we weave . . .

No crock at the end of the rainbow, but there was a crock of something else found

The committee heard detail of the package from the Health Service Executive (HSE) today and also questioned Brian Conlan, who took over as chief executive of the CRC after Mr Kiely’s departure.

Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 12:28

And then the chairman clicked his heels and we all woke up in Kansas – except this wasn’t somewhere over the rainbow, even if it felt like it at times.

We were in the real world, where rainbows do exist and, for the lucky ones in the loop, there really is a crock of gold at the end of that rainbow. But what the Public Accounts Committee found was a steaming crock of something else.

It was the astounding story of the cosseted CRC officer class that commanded most attention yesterday. On its own, it stands out as a stunning example of that certain breed of senior executives in Ireland who move through the world swaddled in the sense of their undoubted entitlement.

That’s bad enough.

But what is worse – after two days of hearings involving a procession of management bigwigs from a number of organisations – is the depressing feeling that the carry-on at the CRC is not an aberration in the top echelons.

Through the thick pall of management jargon that has settled upon the committee rooms since Wednesday, we have seen a cohort of people who have a great welcome for themselves. They talk like men who have learned their patter from the Top Gear school of macho management guff.

High performance utility models . . . key motivators driving the core engine . . . bonus payment models . . . absolutely outstanding performers . . . delivering on service . . . importing synergies.

And our runaway favourite, from Prof Noel Whelan of St Vincent’s hospital yesterday: “We are going to swing around into compliance.”

That got a laugh.

But back to the CRC, where former chief executive Brian Conlan – only in the job for four months before he stepped down, but eight years on the board – rapidly overheated and suffered an engine blow-up within minutes of being questioned by TDs about the organisation’s “dodgy” accounting practices.

He was up on blocks for the rest of his time before the committee – a rather pathetic sight. His evidence was mortifyingly awful as he tried and spectacularly failed to give a credible account of his time with the organisation.

At least that was the overwhelming opinion of the committee.

The members gutted him.

He is a former chief executive of the Mater hospital. One can only hope he was more clued-in during that particular tour of duty, because he confessed to not having a notion of what was going on under his nose at the CRC in Clontarf.

Why? Because, like Bo Peep, Brian had lost his feet and didn’t know where to find them. This was his explanation for not noticing that the organisation had a €700,000 “donation” on its draft account which was nothing of the sort.

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