Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Rehab chief 'not off the hook'

Former charity chief Angela Kerins has been warned she is not off the hook in the scandal over her salary after quitting as head of the Rehab Group.

The former midwife stepped down from the not-for-profit disability organisation - walking away from a 250,000 euro a year pay cheque - before a second showdown at a parliamentary inquiry.

Ms Kerins and Rehab refused over a protracted period to divulge her salary and only bowed to pressure as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) lined up a hard-hitting investigation in late February.

Concerns centre on the 240,000-249,000 euro salary scale for the chief executive of an organisation that gets 83 million euro a year of public funds.

But issues have also arisen into why Rehab's lottery scratch card scheme barely turns a profit and the role and influence exerted by Fine Gael strategist and former chief executive Frank Flannery, who himself quit Rehab last month over a suggested conflict of interest.

In her resignation letter Ms Kerins said she has been attacked personally and professionally as the scandal continued.

She said: "In recent months I have become increasingly concerned about the toll that public controversy has taken on the Rehab Group, its friends and supporters, my own family and personally.

"In addition I have had to deal with threats to personal safety and also false allegations which my lawyers are firmly dealing with."

The Public Accounts Committee is doggedly pursuing Rehab over Ms Kerins' wages and the pay of 12 executives who were on 100,000 euro or more a year but also information on contracts signed with companies with links to senior figures in the charity.

It is understood the Rehab board expects that Ms Kerins, Mr Flannery and other staff and former executives will attend the PAC's upcoming session.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she will accept nothing but full co-operation from Ms Kerins who had been expected back at the committee on April 10.

She said: "If Angela Kerins has resigned in the vain hope that this will let her off the hook with the PAC, then she is sorely mistaken."

Rehab states it is an independent international group of charities and commercial companies with more than 3,500 staff involved in health and social care, training and education, rehabilitation, employment and commercial services in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, the Netherlands, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

It had a turnover of 183 million euro in 2012. It receives about 83 million euro from the state.

Ms Kerins insisted during a seven hour grilling at the Public Accounts Committee in February that her salary and that of other senior management was 20% below the going rate for their line of work. She also said she was not a public servant.

February 2014 was the first time salary details for the Rehab chief were released since 2011.

Alongside the salary and scratch card issues, Rehab has been under pressure to publish details of a pilot programme struck with Complete Eco Solutions, a firm which had Ms Kerins' husband and brother and Mr Flannery as directors at one stage.

In a letter to the Rehab board released this morning Ms Kerins said she was retiring.

She said: "While I have dedicated my energies and ability to growing and developing the Rehab Group for the last 22 years, I am of the view that it is in the best interests of all concerned that I step down at this time. In doing so I hope the organisation can focus its entire energies on its core activity of developing and delivering services to people with disabilities and others who are disadvantaged.

"I want to thank my many colleagues for their great support throughout my time in Rehab. I wish everyone, the people who work for Rehab and the people who use its services, all the very best."

The Public Accounts Committee said it will discuss Ms Kerins' resignation tomorrow and how it affects the inquiry into Rehab's service level agreements with subsidiaries and state bodies, executive pay and the use of funds received under the charitable lotteries compensation scheme.

Ms McDonald added: "I must emphasise that the matters of public concern regarding pay arrangements at Rehab remain unchanged irrespective of the resignation of Ms Kerins.

"The Public Accounts Committee will continue to probe these matters on behalf of the taxpayers, the service users and in the general interest of the public.

"We will continue to expect Ms Kerins' complete cooperation as former CEO. As such, we expect full and frank disclosure from herself and from Frank Flannery."

Ms Kerins is 56 and it is unclear how her departure will affect her pension, if at all. She will work on at Rehab for a transition period.

Ms Kerins has had a number of senior board roles with the National Disability Authority, business group Ibec, a Department of Foreign Affairs/NGO human rights body, ComReg, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the European Platform for Rehabilitation.

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