Funding and cash collections have plunged following the exposure of scandals in two major charities in the past week, including the use of a credit card in a nun’s name for foreign trips and luxury clothing.
Console, a nationwide charity providing suicide bereavement services and supports, and the St. John of God Group which helps vulnerable people, are under investigation by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The state-owned HSE hands out millions of taxpayer money to both organizations.
A Garda probe is also underway into use of funds at Console where founder and chief executive Paul Kelly vanished after an RTE television investigation revealed that he, his wife Patricia, and their son Tim benefited by almost €491,649 in salaries and cars between 2012 and 2014.
A further €464,777 was spent by the three Kellys in the same period on Console credit cards for items including groceries, designer clothes and foreign trips. Eleven credit cards, one in the name of a nun who left the organization six years earlier, were used for large cash withdrawals, trips to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other destinations, designer clothing in outlets such as Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss, dining out, Rugby World Cup tickets and dental work.
According to draft HSE audit findings, a copy of which has been seen by The Irish Times, the named nun, whose credit card was used by Paul Kelly, made cash withdrawals of €28,785, spent €13,209 on travel, €4,053 on restaurants, €2,956 on hotels, €2,604 on shops and €1,244 on clothes.
According to the audit, she made cash withdrawals in Abu Dhabi, Perth in Australia, and “Playa de Las” in Spain. She also made three purchases at the duty free area in Dubai and two at London’s Gatwick airport, as well as at Pure Pharmacy in Dublin Airport.
Last week, following court injunctions, a €30,600 Mercedes CLS driven by Paul Kelly and a €57,000 Audi Q5 driven by his wife Patricia were handed over to interim Console CEO David Hall.
This week, following a further court order, the interim CEO unlocked and opened a storage unit in Co. Kildare used by the Kellys and where secret Console documents and articles were stored.
The future of embattled Console is under consideration. Interim CEO Hall said the charity had just €53,000 left in its Irish bank accounts.
Separately, the investigation into the St. John of God taxpayer-funded charity is probing secret top-up payments of €2 million to 14 senior managers.
St. John of God Group defended the once-off payments. It said they were made directly by the order and not from public funds to ensure compliance with pay rules.
But under HSE and Health Department rules all publicly funded health agencies must comply with public sector pay scales and cannot top up wages through use of private or other funds.
The Public Accounts Committee at the Dail is also investigating payments at both charities.