Questions on Rehab still need to be answered
Brian Kerr left to pick up pieces after refusal of former bosses to yield to PAC damages Rehab
Angela Kerins and Rehab chairman Brian Kerr at a Rehab board meeting at Sandymount, Dublin, in February. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Separate manoeuvres yesterday by former Rehab leaders Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery stand as a direct challenge to the examination of the disability group by the Public Accounts Committee.
Although PAC chairman John McGuinness and other committee members have made it clear for weeks that they want to further scrutinise top-level remuneration and pensions at Rehab, both Kerins and Flannery are refusing to yield.
Only two days after Rehab chairman Brian Kerr publicly declared that the group’s directors would now deal “candidly” with the issues they faced, it all makes for an uncomfortable hearing when he and four other board and management figures go to the PAC this morning.
Although several highly pertinent questions remain outstanding from her infamous seven-hour appearance at the committee in February, Kerins’s solicitors have told the PAC “it was never then and is not now” her intention to discuss salary and conditions beyond disclosures she permitted two months ago.
Similarly, Flannery has accused PAC members of wrongly raising “personal matters” not relevant to the committee’s work. Each is understood to have instructed Kerr and his colleagues not to divulge anything linked to pay, pensions, bonuses and severance entitlements.
While that might very well make for fireworks today in the committee room, it seems likely that there will be more noise than clarity on that front particularly. But that is far from the end the matter.
For one thing, questions remain over Rehab’s commercial dealings on a failed coffin venture in 2010 with Complete Eco Solutions, a firm Flannery co-owns with Kerins’s husband and brother.
For all the assertions about the right to privacy over pay and pensions, the same claims cannot be made in relation to that deal. After all, Kerins failed to mention her husband Seán Kerins’s shareholding in Complete Eco Solutions at the last PAC hearing. While she said he stood down as a company director “once the activity began”, records show he did not resign until eight months after a contract was signed with Rehab.
Kerr may well be asked what exactly went on in relation to these dealings and the potential scope of the arrangement Rehab made with Complete Eco Solutions. There is also the matter of Flannery’s professional lobbying of the Government on behalf of Rehab, the disclosure of which prompted his exit both from the Rehab board and from a ranking political post in Fine Gael.
While Flannery will not be present, it seems likely that Kerr will be asked to explain the rationale behind Flannery’s engagement by Rehab.
Rehab has sustained – and acknowledged – serious reputational damage over all of these matters. The group receives more than €82 million a year in payments from the State, but its response to the affair has been tardy and partial. With Kerins and Flannery out of the organisation, it now falls to Kerr and his colleagues to pick up the pieces.