Acting CRC chief rejects calls for his resignation

By Mary Regan, Irish Examiner

Director and acting chief executive of the Central Remedial Clinic, Jim Nugent, has rejected calls for his resignation in light of controversy surrounging top-up payments to nine senior staff members at the disability agency.

He said the board "very much regret the hurt that has permeated the organisation with the way the issue became public" and have met with many groups involved and listened to their concerns.

Mr Nugent was appearing before the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee to answer questions surrounding the appointment of Brian Conlon who resigned in recent days following just a few months as Chief Executive, as well as a €116,000 top up paid to his predecessor, Paul Kiely.

Asked by Committee member, Independent TD, Shane Ross, if he would consider resigning, Mr Nugent said: "I don't intend to answer that question and I don't believe I have to."

Mr Nugent - who was one of the contributors to the "dig-out" payments to former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said he had only the "height of respect to the taxpayer."

He said the board of the CRC "always behaved properly in repect of what our role is in the public eye."

Mr Kiely who also appeared before the committee, said he was never asked to voluntary give up the €116,949 part of his salary funded through the charity arm of the HSE, on top of his €106,900 HSE salary.

One out of every five euro in charitable donations made by the public to the Central Remedial Clinic were used to top up the salaries of some of its highest paid staff members.

A total of €271,057 a year was paid to five staff members to supplement their tax-payer funded pay from the Health Service Executive, out of a yearly average of €1.5m donated to its charity arm, Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

The payments include 116,997 top-up and an allowance of €19,016 to Paul Kiely who retired as Chief Executive earlier this year, on top of his HSE salary of €106,900.

It has also emerged during hearings by the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that Mr Kiely received a lump-sum payment of €200,000 when he retired in June which was paid out of the charity donations which amounted to €2m last year.

Mr Keily will also be entitled to a pension of between €90,000 and €100,000. Asked during the meeting if he had any qualms about drawing down a lump sum payment from funds donated by the public, he said: "I have qualms with everything to do with this, absolutely everything to do with this."

Further top-up payments of €32,537 each were made to four senior staff in the CRC, working in client services, administration, HR and IT, on top of their HSE salaries of €79,000.

Sinn Fein TD, Mary Lou McDonald, said the top-payments made up a "very substantial portion of money raised through the generosity of the public."

Fine Gael TD, Aine Collins asked if the committee could be provided with the CVs of all those in receipt of top-ups. But CRC director, Jim Nugent, said would be in breach of data protection laws, and would require the consent of staff members involved.

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