Console: Words disappear from credit card statements

Redacted Visa card details and unclear fun run details raised auditors’ suspicions

A certain reticence was evident in information supplied to Health Service Executive auditors by Console when it came to Visa card spending details provided for transactions between January and June 2014. As the audit report put it “some words were redacted from the descriptions on the statements”.

It supplied a list of "17 redacted descriptions on the credit card statements" examined by the auditors. These included the word "Cafe" redacted from five spending episodes at the Zest Cafe in Clane, Co Kildare, totalling €428.60, averaging €85.72 per visit.

Also redacted was the word "Still" from Poitín Still in Rathcoole, Co Dublin, where on two visits €42.80 was spent. Blocked out too was the word "Island" in River Island Dublin where €157 was spent on two visits and the word "Menswear" in Dawsons Menswear, Maynooth, where €230 was spent on one visit.

The word "master" was deleted on spending at Ticketmaster which came to €359 in two transactions. Similarly disappeared was the word "Records" in Tower Records where €49.99 was spent and "Pharmacy" in Fadden's Pharmacy, Clane, where a modest €6.27 was spent. Similar details were redacted from one transaction abroad.

Original statements

On observing these redactions, auditors “requested the original Visa statements” but were informed by Console’s external accountant that “he would have to order the statements from the credit card company as he could not find them”.

The report added “CEO [Paul Kelly] and the external accountant stated that the original Visa statements were missing but duplicate copies had been ordered from the bank”.

From the auditors’ report it is clear in correspondence with Console’s external accountant between June and August 2015, as it repeatedly sought copies of original credit card statements, a certain impatience crept in.

On August 18th, 2015, an email from the accountant informed auditors “you may not call to the Console office in the morning”. On August 19th, the external accountant accused the auditors of “causing quite an inconvenience and consumption of time”. He insisted “most of this information was already provided to you”. He would pursue the auditors’ request but said, “I now however expect no further additional requests from you in this matter.”

He was "baffled" by the auditors' remark "there is a lot of other information still outstanding", and asked: "What is this about? Please explain." He also knew "that Paul Kelly is separately responding to additional queries which you sent him". He added, "Mr Kelly is now under a lot of stress and pressure dealing with this while necessarily executing his hefty workload of duties at Console."

Missing statements

Later that day, the accountant sent four out of 11 missing items to the auditors, describing others as “missing/on order” and said “as soon as any of the missing statements above are obtained I will send them to you”. It was his last communication with the auditors.

When asked about the redactions, Console said it relied on the external accountant to do its book-keeping. However, it also felt “the redactions are not extensive and the locations at which the expenditure took place are easily discernible”. Any implications “that there has been some concealment [of] spending does not stand up to scrutiny,” it said.

Separately, the auditors questioned Visa credit charges for spending on groceries in March 2014. In visits to Tesco on March 15th, Supervalu Maynooth and Lucan on March 16th, and Supervalu Clane on March 17th, a total of €243.52 was charged to the Visa card.

Paul Kelly told auditors the spending was “in respect of a Fun Run organised by a supporter”. He said “it was a once-off event and the supporter has no plans to organise another one in the future. There were no fun runs in 2012/2013 or 2015.” The auditors’ noted “no information appeared on the Console website or the internet in relation to this Fun Run”.

But, they found and despite what Paul Kelly said, there had been Console fun runs in Rathcoffey, Co Kildare, and Wexford in 2013, one at Rathcoffey in 2014 and one at Desmond College, Newcastlewest, Co Limerick in 2015. The contradiction was "a matter of concern" the auditors concluded.