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Central Remedial Clinic — Translating the Officialese

central remedial clinicI’m sure John Cregan is an excellent fellow and I certainly wouldn’t want to criticise his efforts in picking at the CRC scab, but at the same time, I thought his famous letter to the HSE’s director general was a classic example of CivilServiceSpeak.

Why is this relevant? you might well be asking, and you’d be right to ask.

This is why: officialese in captivity is no threat to anyone, but it becomes dangerous when it escapes into the wild.  Deprived of natural prey and of keepers to fling it hunks of raw text, it begins to feed on the everyday speech of normal folk such as ourselves, and this is never a good thing.

John Cregan thought he was writing to his boss, and therefore he’s blameless for the turgid language in which this letter is couched, but the rest of us had to sit through a reading of the letter in front of the Public Accounts Committee, and that’s when, yet again, I was reminded how much effort could be saved if only people would take the trouble to write in plain words.  Maybe I’ll just take the letter paragraph by paragraph and show you what I mean, with apologies to John Cregan, who is without doubt doing a fine job.  I look forward to reading more of his insights about the CRC and perhaps some other prominent charities.

This is my translation. Feel free to skip over the bits you find boring.  I’ll take out words that are irrelevant and suggest a few replacements in italics.  Then I’ll put it back together in what I hope is the version that John Cregan really meant, though I’d really love to hear the version he’d tell at a bar counter.

Here we go.

Dear Mr O’Brien

As you will be aware, know, as the Interim Administrator, I am working my way through a range of operational, governance and legacy issues at examining how the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) has been run up to now.

It is anticipated that much of the related work and audits will be completed by the end of the first quarter of this year, at which time issues requiring further attention of the CRC/HSE  will have been identified.  I expect to have most of the details by April, However, at this stage is is necessary to brief you on a significant remuneration issue which has now been identified but I need to tell you about a serious pay problem.

The issue of remuneration continued to be a live issue for the Board of Governors of the CRC in early 2013.  The Chairman formally announced to told the Board, at a special meeting in February 2013, that the Chief Executive, Mr Paul Kiely, wished to resign in June 2013.  The Board accepted Mr Kiely’s resignation and approved, notwithstanding the focus on remuneration, a retirement package.  The Chairman, in outlining the details of this package, intimated said that the proposed package  “was considerably less beneficial to Mr Kiely” when compared with the terms of than the HSE’s Early Retirement Scheme. It was, also, agreed by the The Board agreed that the terms of Mr Kiely’s settlement would be kept confidential and that under a legally binding confidentiality agreement would be put in place.

In addition to his basic salary, Mr Kiely received in his final salary payment from the CRC in June 2013, the following amounts in addition to his basic salary.

€200,000 Tax free

€273,336  Taxable

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€473,336  Total

In addition, an amount of Another €268,689 was paid to Mercers to ensure that Mr Kiely’s Mr Kiely would get an extra 41 months’ pension/lump sum benefits would not be less than if Mr Kiely had continued to remain as Chief Executive until November 2016.  At about the this time of this final payment an amount of €700,000 (in two instalments of €450,000 and €250,000) was paid by the Friends and Supporters of the CRC that was described in the draft internal accounts as a donation.  The minutes of the Friends and Supporters does not record an approval for this donation (which represents almost half its annual income) by the Board of Directors.  The payments to Mr Kiely could not have been made by the CRC if the €700,0000 had not been received from the Friends and Supporters.  and all these payments were made possible by a payment from the Friends and Supporters (FS) to the CRC. The FS accounts describe the payment as a donation but there is no record of approval for the payment it in the FS Board’s minutes.

The above arrangements raise a number of serious matters:

  • The CRC’s Memorandum of Association allows its income, whencesoever derived, to be applied for payment of reasonable and proper remuneration of any officer in return for services actually rendered.   Payment of ex gratia amounts of the magnitude paid in the above case would not appear to be in line with the memorandum.  It does not allow the sort of payments given to Mr Kiely.
  • The benefits derived from the package paid, coupled with the benefits to be derived from the payment of further benefits under the terms of Mr Kiely’s defined benefit pension scheme membership, could not be regarded as being “considerably less beneficial” to Mr Kiely than the HSE Early Retirement Scheme.
  • The cost of the package to the CRC/Friends and Supporters of the CRC is substantially greater than an option of allowing Mr Kiely to retire on the basis of pension benefits accrued to date of retirement.  However, early retirement with payment of benefits was not an option under the terms of the pension scheme.Mr Kiely was not entitled to retire early, and even if he had been, it would have been far cheaper than the cost of the package he received from the CRCIt should be noted thatpension and lump sum benefits would be paid out of the pension fund and not by the employer.  The CRC contributes to the pension fund on a current basis.
  • Payment calculations in relation to benefits are based on a remuneration, of which, approximately half, has not been adjusted for public sector pay cuts.  Even if Mr Kiely had been entitled to a pension based on his salary, about half of that salary was not reduced in line with public sector pay cuts.

In relation to confidentiality, it is difficult to envisage how payments amounting to €700,000 by the Friends and Supporters to the CRC which is clearly linked to the payment made to Mr Kiely could, or indeed should, not be disclosed in the accounts of the Friends and Supporters of the CRC and the CRC.  It should also be noted that the minutes of the Board of Governors meetings (which record the Board approval of the package) are subject to disclosure under FOI.  The CRC are not entitled to keep the payments confidential.
I have not, as yet, had sight of the detailed advices (from EY and Mercers) provided to the Board/Remuneration Committee in support of the granting of the package/payments and these may cast further light on the Board’s rationale for sanctioning the package.  However, on the basis of the available documentation, the arrangements are considerably at variance from the understanding the PAC may have gained from evidence given at the hearing attended by the CRC Board of Governors.  Mr Kiely’s payments are not what the CRC told the PAC.  The onus is on the HSE [poss typo: CRC?], as its accounts are the subject of the examination by the PAC to ensure that, in so far as is possible, is available to the PAC.

At this stage it is necessary for the CRC to satisfy itself that the payments made/benefits conferred are reasonable and proper (in the context of its Memorandum of Association) and that any amounts paid were correctly calculated and authorised.  In the event of there being a loss to the CRC (or the Friends and Supporters of the CRC) steps will require to be taken to make good that loss and deal with other consequential issues.  The CRC needs to think hard about what it has done and get back any money it handed out illegally.

Yours Sincerely

John Cregan

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Here is John Cregan’s letter, boiled down for people like you and me, while losing none of the meaning.  I haven’t had the time to polish up the writing style, but wouldn’t it be great if they did this sort of thing all the time?

Dear Mr O’Brien

As you know, I am examining how the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) has been run up to now.  I expect to have most of the details by April,  but I need to tell you about a serious pay problem.

 The Chairman told the Board, at a special meeting in February 2013, that the Chief Executive, Mr Paul Kiely, wished to resign in June 2013.  The Board accepted Mr Kiely’s resignation and approved a retirement package.  The Chairman said that the proposed package  “was considerably less beneficial to Mr Kiely” than the HSE’s Early Retirement Scheme. The Board agreed that the terms of Mr Kiely’s settlement would be kept confidential under a legally binding agreement.

In addition to his basic salary, Mr Kiely received in June 2013, the following amounts.

€200,000 Tax free

€273,336  Taxable

_____________

€473,336  Total

Another €268,689 was paid to ensure that Mr Kiely would get an extra 41 months’ benefits and all these payments were made possible by a payment from the Friends and Supporters (FS) to the CRC. The FS accounts describe the payment as a donation but there is no record of approval for it in the FS Board’s minutes.

The CRC’s Memorandum of Association does not allow the sort of payments given to Mr Kiely.

Mr Kiely was not entitled to retire early, and even if he had been, it would have been far cheaper than the cost of the package he received from the CRC.  Pension and lump sum benefits would be paid out of the pension fund and not by the employer.  The CRC contributes to the pension fund on a current basis.

Even if Mr Kiely had been entitled to a pension based on his salary, about half of that salary was not reduced in line with public sector pay cuts.

The CRC are not entitled to keep the payments confidential.

Mr Kiely’s payments are not what the CRC told the PAC.  The CRC needs to think hard about what it has done and get back any money it handed out illegally.

Yours Sincerely

John Cregan

 

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