Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described revelations that the former head of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) received a secret €742,000 retirement pay-off as appalling.
Speaking at an event in Dublin tonight, Mr Kenny said the financial practices of the charity were “indicative of a time in Irish politics” that he hoped was long gone.
Health chiefs will attempt to claw back some of the €742,000 retirement pay-off secured by former CRC head Paul Kiely.
Mr Kiely was giventhe package after he left his post as chief executive of the clinic in June last year with a clause stipulating that the deal was to be kept secret.
The Public Accounts Committee has been told today that the deal included €200,000 tax free, €273,336 which was taxable and €268,689 paid into Mr Kiely's pension fund.
The third payment was intended to make sure the former clinic chief had a pension pot as though he had remained in the senior post up until November 2016.
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.
He was only in the job for four months when he resigned as the scandal broke over the top-ups for executives at the clinic.
Mr Conlan said he was on honeymoon in the US for three weeks when the controversy emerged late last year and also claimed he was under intense stress, was forced to move out of his house for several days to avoid the media and then stepped down from the role as the committee sought to question him over the remuneration issue.
Mr Conlan, who was chief executive of the Mater Hospital for eight years before he joined the CRC, claimed he was not party to discussions on Mr Kiely's pension top-up or signing off on a confidentiality clause to keep it secret.
He was a member of the board at the time and sat on the CRC audit committee but claimed he did not attend that specific meeting and did not read the minutes of the meeting.
“I was not at the board meeting,” he said.
“What I’m saying to you is that I was not aware that these payments were being made to Mr Kiely. I was not aware of the payment. This is completely new to me. And I am as surprised as anybody at what has transpired here today.”
Mr Conlan said there was no information on the deal in any files he saw in the four months he was chief executive.
Independent TD Shane Ross, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said he was “gobsmacked” and told Mr Conlan he did not believe his evidence.
“There was obviously an intention that this should never see the light of day,” he said.
Barry O’Brien, HSE national director for human resources, told the committee that it would attempt to recover some monies paid to Mr Kiely as part of his retirement if they are found not to be “reasonable and proper”.
Mr Kiely retired on a pension of about €90,000 a year from a private scheme - which was also propped up by a €3 million loan from donations paid to the CRC.
The committee was told today that his €750,000 retirement package was not paid out of the €3 million fund.
In December, after he had confirmed his resignation as a board member of the
CRC, Mr Kiely told the committee that he received a €200,000 pay-off on top of his salary after stepping down as chief executive.
Mr Kiely has already been told to apologise to the committee after he gave evidence of about a pension fund and an alleged “fee” paid to the Mater hospital.
He claimed that he handed over a cheque every year for about €600,000 to the Mater hospital in a supposed “mystery deal” which the hospital later clarified was for pensions for all CRC staff.
The committee warned that his evidence has done significant damage to the hospital and to the CRC as both raise valuable funds through donations.
Later, Kieran O’Donnell, Fine Gael TD, said the HSE’s report on Mr Kiely’s pension was “pure dynamite” and asked for him to be recalled to answer for it.
“I think it’s an affront to the Public Accounts Committee, the people who we represent, the citizens, the taxpayers, the people who provide hard pressed funds, people who collect up and down the country for the CRC,” he said.
The committee has also been told that the 750,000 euro retirement package could not have been paid without money coming from the Friends and Supporters of the CRC - the group which brought in charitable and public donations to help the running of the clinic.
Mr Conlan said: “I did not know that the money was being used to fund Paul Kiely’s pension. “When I joined the CRC first I had other priorities.
“My understanding was that Paul Kiely’s pension had been sorted (as he explained to the committee that it was €200,000).
“I’m telling you the truth. I was not aware of this payment going through. I was the new CEO and I was finding my feet.”
In a statement issued at the start of the hearing Mr Conlan had said it was inaccurate to suggest money donated by the public was transferred directly into salaries of senior executives at the organisation.
Mr Conlan also said he wanted to address the public perception that charitabledonations were siphoned off specifically to pay for additional salary allowances for executives.
He said that was never his understanding in relation to how funds were managed.
“The CRC pools all its revenue from many sources each year into one fund and applies them jointly to the central overheads which includes some salary allowances.
“Of course, all monies received by CRC is public monies of one form or another and there is no support for salary payments in excess of HSE pay scales - but I think the idea that there was a transfer of monies from public donations directly into the salaries of a number of executives is inaccurate in itself.”
Mr Conlan said in his statement to the PAC that he was not responsible for his appointment to the top position and was not responsible for the level of salary he was offered.
He said when the post of chief executive of the CRC became available last April he felt he was “very qualified to apply” as he had served on the board of the organisation for eight years and had run the Mater Hospital for several years.
Meanwhile, the St Vincent's Healthcare Group has said that it is willing to adapt its current arrangements for paying its senior executives in an attempt to reach an agreement with the HSE on compliance with public service remuneration rules.
In a statement to the PAC ahead of its meeting today, the chairman of the group, Prof Noel Whelan, said that it was in discussions with the HSE, which it hoped would lead to an agreed process but there were complex issues to be worked out. He said the group had to ensure that the law was upheld.
“Subject to the early successful outcome of the process, the net result should be that there will be no pay compliance issues with the HSE, the salary of the group chief executive officer will be paid entirely from funds generated by the private hospital and the roles of group chief executive and chief executive of St Vincent’s University Hospital will not be occupied by the same manager,” he said.
Just before Christmas the St Vincent's Healthcare Group confirmed its chief executive, Nicholas Jermyn, was receiving a total package of more than €292,000 a year.
Addditional reporting: PA