Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said the Public Accounts Committee should be allowed to complete its investigation to the Central Remedial Clinic before other agencies such as An Garda Síochána get involved.
Speaking yesterday after it emerged that the clinic’s former chief executive was given a €740,000 payoff to speed up his exit from the organisation due to his large pay package, Mr Noonan said it was “an astounding set of circumstances” and that the developments were “absolutely shocking”.
The Minister, in an interview on RTÉ’s The Business, said he believed the approach being taken by the Public Accounts Committee in investigating the clinic was “the correct one” and that it should be allowed to hear and process the relevant information and come to a conclusion.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate that the PAC inquiry was inhibited in any way by an early intervention of the gardaí,” he said.
“When PAC has completed its work and arrived at conclusions, then the other relevant agencies could get involved.”
Asked if the money paid to Mr Kiely, which accounted for almost half the sum raised in a year by the CRC's fundraising arm, should be returned, Mr Noonan replied: "On the face of it, it should, yes."
He said he hoped the CRC chairman Hamilton Goulding would also appear before the committee.
Mr Goulding told The Irish Daily Mail that he had for years tried to cut Mr Kiely's salary but was told he could not.
He said that paying Mr Kiely off had saved the clinic €1.4 million and that his replacement came in on a far lower salary.
The CRC received advice on Mr Kiely's situation from Mercers, auditors Ernst and Young and the Irish Pension Trust, which culminated in the agreement of the €742,000 package at a special CRC board meeting last March.
Five members of the board – Mr Goulding, Hassia Jameson, Jim Nugent, Ailbhe Rice Jones and Martin Walsh – were present when the agreement was reached, while another four – Vincent Brady, Brian Conlan, David Martin and Pat Ryan – sent their apologies.
The board agreed that the terms of Mr Kiely’s settlement would be confidential and that a legally binding confidentiality agreement would be put in place.
Separately Chairman of the Public Accounts committee John McGuinness backed Mr Noonan’s statement. “We need to complete our work, we need to get all of our information together so that whatever action is going to be taken by some other agency if necessary, it can be done swiftly and property.
“ And those that have been doing wrong can be brought to book on the basis of what we find out,” he told Saturday with Claire Byrne on RTE Radio.
Mr McGuinness said the PAC had asked the gardaí and office of corporate enforcement to keep a watch on the matter as it “spills out”.
Mr Goulding would “have to be part of the next phase of the investigation” on foot of his statement, Mr McGuinness. “He will be invited to come before the Public Accounts Committe because this statement has to be clarified for us, and the legal issues around it need to be understood,” he said.
Mr McGuinness also said that the interim administrator of the CRC would brief the committe on “all of the paperwork” and on “what he has found”. On the same day the PAC also intends to bring the former CRCboard, the remuneration committee, Mr Conlon and Mr Kiely before it, he said.
“I hope that that can be done within a matter of weeks because this is too much of a public interest story. It is impacting in a negative way on too many organisations...we need to insist on the reform an the action as soon as possible,” he said.