The 26-County public is turning against the state’s corrupt elite as never before following revelations of secret payments at a state-funded clinic and runaway spending by the new water board, Irish Water.
It emerged this week that some 742,000 euro (over $1m) worth of charitable donations to the Central Remedial Clinic was used to fund a retirement package for former Chief Executive, Paul Kiely, when he left the service in June.
The clinic operates to provide care services to disabled children, but since late last year has been mired in a payments and nepotism scandal involving previous Fianna Fail governments and ‘crony’ circles of medical administrators.
The Dublin parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) heard this week that the lump sum retirement payment of Kiely, a friend of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, was far greater than he had claimed when he appeared before them in December.
The revelation shocked and electrified the Public Accounts Committee, a function of the Dublin parliament in which officials normally discuss accounting details in polite and subdued exchanges.
But Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell described the new information as “pure dynamite”, while all sides insisted that Mr Kiely reappear before the committee.
Under questioning, Brian Conlon, who replaced Mr Kiely as CEO of the CRC, said he was not aware of the payments being agreed to or made. “This is completely new to me, I am surprised as anybody,” he said, to general astonishment.
He also suggested information on the payments may have been shredded. “There are no files in the office that would give reference to any of this being agreed,” he said.
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, who is a member of the PAC and closely questioned Conlon, described the saga as “a tale of two CEOs - one who misled a Dail Committee and one who attempted to stonewall and frustrate efforts to get to the bottom of the scandal”.
The developments at the PAC were broadcast and rebroadcast online and drew a furious public response, forcing Health Service Executive officials to consider involving the Garda police -- the ultimate taboo for Ireland’s wealthy elite.
“To the average person the notion of any senior manager working in the disability sector receiving a lump sum payment of 200,000 euro paid from monies gathered from charitable donations is hard to swallow,” said Ms McDonald.
“To then discover that Mr Kiely had in fact received a pension package to the tune of 742,000 euro really beggars belief. That could pay for a lot of therapy and support for children with disabilities.”
DOWN THE TOILET
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has called on Minister Phil Hogan to resign over his handling of Irish Water after it emerged that its administrative set-up costs are expected to be an incredible 180 million euro, including 85 million euro in consultancy fees.
Many of the fees involve back-room software deals not put to public tender. None involve the improvement or maintenance of Ireland’s water network, but were made only to facilitate new billing and payroll arrangements and the ‘rebranding’ of local council water supply as a national consumer commodity.
With families set to receive water bills of up to a thousand euro a year from next year, there have been demands for more information as to the nature of the spending by the secretive new organisation’s highly paid executives, many of whom have already accorded themselves ‘top-up bonuses’.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD said the affair showed that a lack of transparency and accountability is a hallmark of the Fine Gael/Labour government.
“The current debacle surrounding Irish Water shows how this government has implemented a broad programme of stealth charges and cuts while actively obstructing transparency and accountability in public administration.
“A lack of debate around the establishment of Irish Water played a key role in creating this scandal. The government is responsible for that.
“Irish Water must be made compliant with the Freedom of Information Act and move speedily to ensure all relevant information about the establishment of the company is accessible and available to the public.”
When Environment Minister Phil Hogan insisted he hadn’t been told about the profligate spending by the Irish Water, and that it is “not his business to micromanage semi-state companies”.
Mr Adams said that it wasn’t acceptable for a minister to admit he hasn’t been watching where public money is spent.
“By failing to answer repeated questions, from Sinn Fein TDs and others, on the cost associated with establishing Irish Water, Minister Hogan and his department have shown contempt for the Dail, its members and the citizens they represent,” Adams said today.
“He is incompetent. He has been involved in too many debacles. Minister Hogan should resign immediately and the government should abandon its regressive policy on water provision.”