Taoiseach: Charity issue like finding maggots in carpet

Rehab CEO Angela Kerins

Update at 1.15pmThe Taoiseach Enda Kenny has compared the issues in the charity sector to finding carpets infested with maggots.

Mr Kenny said the country will come through the current issues around charities and how they spend funds with a system the public can have confidence in.

His comments in the Dáil come in the wake of revelations that Rehab had made less than €10,000 profit from €4m in sales of lottery scratch cards.

Mr Kenny says the Government through a new regulator will ensure the public can have confidence in charities.

Meanwhile, the Top Flat ward at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin has been given a €2m facelift with the majority of funds coming from donations.

The 22-bed ward sees 1900 children pass through its halls each year, but has not seen any major improvements since the 1930s.

Now it features state-of-the-art isolation rooms, crucial to children with Cystic Fibrosis.

The CEO of Temple Street's Fundraising Charity Denise Fitzgerald says all their funds go where they're meant to.

She said: "As a fundraising office, our job is to raise money and put it into projects.

"From our prospective, we put a statement out to look at every single euro that is given to us, it goes where it is supposed to and it does what it says.

"That's why today is kind of important, this is a lot of work by thousands and thousands of people, it's not just us, and we really wanted to make sure that everybody realises that we are so grateful."

Original story from 10amJoan Burton earlier called for the chief executive of Rehab to disclose her salary, in the midst of a row over the money generated by the charity from scratchcard sales.

Minister Burton's cabinet colleague Alan Shatter sparked a row with the organisation last night when he revealed that Rehab made a profit of less than €10,000 on scratchcard sales of almost €4m in 2010.

He also questioned a "costly" legal action the charity has taken against the state, in which he said Rehab is suing the State for up to €1.5bn in a separate litigation under competition law, in connection with the operation of the National Lottery.

His comments drew a furious response from Rehab, which is demanding an apology.

"It is with considerable surprise that the Rehab Group learned that Minister Alan Shatter made comments in the Dáil on matters that are clearly pending before the courts and in which the State is the defendant," Rehab said in a statement.

"For a Minister who was or is a solicitor and thus an officer of the court to comment in this manner is simply outrageous.

"We expect the Minister to withdraw his remarks and apologise."

The organisation said it was "very disappointed in the Minister's conduct".

The charity sector is coming under increasing pressure over transparency in the wake of the Central Remedial Clinic controversy.

Rehab's chief executive, Angela Kerins, has so far refused to reveal how much she earns.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said openness in the charity sector was very important.

"I would be on the record that people (and not only Angela Kerins) in the charity sector should disclose their salaries, and the salaries should not be excessive," she said.

Angela Kerins recently called for transparency in the charities sector, but refused to reveal her salary when asked a number of times. Her salary is believed to be around €240,000.

Update at 11am: The Taoiseach has said he was "surprised" to hear that Rehab made less than €10,000 profit on scratchcard sales in one year.

Mr Kenny said he believed that a charities regulator would help ensure public confidence.

He added that every charity needed to explain themselves to the Public Accounts Committee.

"All of them will be called before the PAC and all of the details insofar as public monies are concerned, will be dealt with," he said.

"They must all be treated in the same fashion - fully transparent, fully accountable and fully answerable to the public where public monies are involved.

"It must all be laid out so that the public knows that when they donate, the money is going to where it is intended."

Update at 12.45pm: An interim charities regulator will be in place by the end of February with the authority fully in place in late April.

Rehab, which provides education, training and employment for people with disabilities, rejected Mr Shatter’s disclosure.

It accused him of giving out misleading information, abusing his position by talking about a matter that is before the courts and demanding that he apologise and withdraw the remarks.

The organisation said it will not be commenting further until it has consulted its legal team.

Rehab is taking legal action over Government plans to abolish funding available to private charitable lotteries and is also battling the state over the National Lottery licence sale.

Its chief executive Angela Kerins has been criticised over the years for refusing to publicly reveal her salary which has been revealed as being €234,000 for 2012.

She travelled with the Taoiseach earlier this month on a trade mission to the Middle East including to Saudi Arabia. The company signed a €2.3m contract to supply training and support programmes for people with disabilities in the country.

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