Government must enact Part 4 of Charities Act immediately - Mary Lou McDonald TD
Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the charity sector cannot be continually undermined by scandals such as the one at Console.
Deputy McDonald described the reports of financial irregularities at the charity as “absolutely shocking” and said “Part 4 of the Charities Act must be enacted without delay to give the Charities Regulator the legal power to carry out statutory investigations of charities.”
“RTÉ’s Prime Time last week told a tale of outlandish spending at the charity Console on the part of its founder and his family.
“A story of irregularities in the charity's finances, of altering accounts were altered to obscure how Directors were paid, and how they extracted benefits.
“All of this smacks of similar recent controversies.
“It is reported that Paul Kelly, the charity’s CEO, his wife Patricia and son Tim used eleven credit cards over a two year period to shell out almost half a million euro of the charity’s funds to fund their lavish lifestyles.
“Money was spent on trips to Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, on designer clothes from Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren. Funds were spent on tickets to the Rugby World Cup, on dental work, groceries and restaurants.
“Mr Kelly received consultancy payments of over €200,000, plus a fully-expensed Mercedes costing over €30,000.
“Ms Kelly picked up a salary of almost €70,000, plus a fully-expensed Audi worth almost €60,000.
“The HSE’s Internal Audit Division, I understand, finds that there were no contracts or Board approvals for the payments to the CEO or his wife.
“Absolutely shocking Minister.
“Console is what’s termed a ‘Section 39’ agency, in receipt of a significant amounts of public money as part of a service arrangement with the HSE.
“From whom it has received €2.5 million in recent years, as well as additional money from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Indeed, half its funding comes from the State coffers.
“The remainder of its budget comes from citizen’s donations and those who fundraise on its behalf.
“There are many people seriously aggrieved by these revelations - those who rely and have benefited from the service; those who give donations to it; those who fundraise on its behalf, and I have no doubt, those who work for it as well.
“We cannot allow the charity sector, the vast vast majority of which are not engaged in any sort of wrongdoing, to be repeatedly undermined by these kinds of scandals.
"So Minister, Part 4 of the Charities Act must be enacted without delay to give the Charities Regulator the legal power to carry out statutory investigations of charities. On this point I’m sure you agree.”