Caranua used survivors’ redress funds to pay for offices

Independents4Change TDs ‘inundated’ with complaints about independent State body

Independents4Change TD  Catherine Connolly is to  move a motion in the Dáil calling for measures, including a review of operations at Caranua, “without delay”.

Independents4Change TD Catherine Connolly is to move a motion in the Dáil calling for measures, including a review of operations at Caranua, “without delay”.

 

Caranua, the independent State body established to distribute religious funding to survivors of institutional abuse, has been paying for office space despite having told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) it was not.

According to a letter to the PAC, seen by The Irish Times, Caranua paid more than €50,000 in the past year from a fund it manages to enhance abuse survivors’ lives, for office space.

Its chief executive Mary Higgins told the committee last month none of the €110 million pledged by religious orders had so far been spent on accommodation for Caranua.

“We have had rent-free accommodation from 2013 until May this year,” she said.

However, in a letter dated May 10th, Seán Ó Foghlu, secretary general of the Department of Education, told the committee though Caranua had been due to leave its current Office of Public Works-managed accommodation in June 2016, the lease was extended for a year.

The OPW “advised Caranua that they would be levied for a contribution of €106,000 for this lease extension. It is understood that, to date, Caranua has paid half of this levy.”

In addition, the department said Caranua has not sought the approval of the Minister for its plan to pay almost €820,000 from the survivors’ fund for rent at a new premises, despite a requirement in the governing legislation that it do so.

Parking spaces

According to the OPW, which has sourced the new accommodation, Caranua has “agreed to pay” rent of €272,396 per year – including €9,000 a year for three parking spaces, for the next three years.

According to section 7 (7) of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012, which established Caranua: “The board, from time to time as it considers necessary for the performance of its functions and with the approval of the minister, may enter into contracts.”

Asked whether Caranua had sought the Minister’s approval to enter into a contract for new office space, a department spokeswoman, said: “While Caranua has been in regular contact with the department . . . regarding its accommodation and the necessity to move, it has not, at this time, submitted a contract in respect of its accommodation for the proposed new premises.”

The PAC, when Ms Higgins was before it last month, asked that no lease be signed for new premises until cheaper or cost-free accommodations options were explored. It remains unclear whether Caranua has signed a contract for new office space.

In response to a series of questions about the issue, from The Irish Times a spokeswoman said: “Caranua will not be making a comment on this matter.”

The OPW said it was unable to source the information before close of business on Friday.

The ongoing issues surrounding management of Caranua come as survivors continue to contact The Irish Times about feeling mistreated and “re-abused” in their interactions with the organisation.

Independents4Change TDs Clare Daly and Catherine Connolly say they are “inundated” with complaints about the body.

On Wednesday, Ms Connolly will move a motion in Dáil private members’ time on the issue, calling for measures including a review of operations at the organisation “without delay”, and negotiations between the department and the OPW to find accommodation that will not incur a cost to the survivors’ fund.