My image needs no rehab

On May 1, 2011, in Disability Issues, by Paddy

As chief executive of a not-for-profit company, Angela Kerins denies reports of an extravagant pay packet and bonuses. She tells us just what she earns:
Justine McCarthy: May 1st 2011 – The Sunday Times.

Kerins is described an indefatigable worker and comfortable among the powerful elite Kerins is described an indefatigable worker and comfortable among the powerful elite

Reports of the sumptuousness of Angela Kerins’s office turn out to have been exaggerated. Legend tells of €200-a-roll wallpaper and red velvet curtains, but the walls are painted (mint blue) and the curtains are recycled and though red, are not velvet. Still, as offices go, the chief executive of Rehab Group is hardly slumming it in her spacious eyrie in its Sandymount headquarters. The cost of refurbishing the office after she took over as boss five years ago was “modest”, according to her spokesman.

Guessing the cost of Kerins’s trappings is more than an idle exercise. The Department of Health is examining state funding to the disability sector following media speculation that Kerins, whose organisation has received almost €375m in grants and fees from the state since 2005, has a pay package of more than €400,000 a year. The company says it is not obliged to reveal executive salaries.

Rehab, the country’s biggest provider of disability services, is a private, not-for-profit company with a complex structure. Last year, the state handed it almost €82m.

Separate to the department’s review, Siptu has been allowed access to Rehab’s accounts as part of labour court proceedings taken by the trade union against proposed pay cuts of 5%-15% for Rehab workers. Last Christmas, the court recommended that the organisation, which operates in four countries and has an annual turnover of €200m, should co-operate with an inspection of its books.

Kerins drives a 2010-reg, Audi 4×4, adding to the mystery about her pay and perks. Brian Kerr, Rehab’s chairman, has dismissed “seriously inaccurate, wild and unfair speculation in the media”, pointing out that Kerins took a voluntary 10% salary cut last year, and did not receive a bonus. Nor will she this year.

But Kerr’s statement only dealt with the chief executive’s salary and failed to address conjecture that, all in all, Kerins’s package is worth more than €400,000 a year. Asked whether, in addition to her €260,000 salary in 2009, she received a €70,000 bonus that year, Kerins says: “I have never got bonuses that size. That is fiction. We have a remuneration committee and all the senior salaries are independently benchmarked. We’re a large commercial organisation. As well as about 10 charities in the group, [there are] about six multimillion-euro businesses. None of my costs are associated with the charity business. Most state funding — all of it — goes to the delivery of services. Other income we earn has to pay for our core activities as well.”

But let’s consider her 2009 package. As well as the €260,000 salary, she is reported to have received a bonus, a health insurance plan, a pension scheme, a luxury car upgraded every two years, and expenses covering frequent travel abroad to Rehab’s subsidiaries in England, Scotland, Poland (a commercial recycling facility for Dell) and the Netherlands (a similar facility for Microsoft), and travel in her role as Rehab’s permanent representative at the United Nations’ economic and social council.

“I don’t claim for my travel,” she says. “If I have to go to Birmingham, Glasgow or whatever, the flight is booked and whatever it costs is what it costs. I do have a car and my pension is a contributory pension. If you added another €20,000 [in expenses], I’d say that under €260,000 [referring to her total package for this year] would be very safe in relation to that.” But what about the occasion when she arrived at the office by helicopter, landing on the front lawn? She dismisses it as “private” and “nothing to do with Rehab”. And to the suggestion that she has stayed at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin at Rehab’s expense, she says: “I used to live way out in Summerhill [in Co Meath]. The journey was too far and too long. There possibly would have been times that I stayed, but if I did it was because I needed to for whatever reason. To the best of my knowledge, I would have stayed in the Burlington once or twice in the last five or six years.”

Kerins is not embarrassed to say this, clearly not afraid of being at the centre of political controversy. Indeed she was born and bred into Fianna Fail, and once stood for the party’s national executive. “I was asked would I run because a few people wanted someone different in it. So I said yes. That was 19 years ago. I didn’t get it because the man who was in there was much cleverer than I.”

Described as an indefatigable worker and comfortable among the powerful elite, she hosted former American President Bill Clinton at a Rehab fundraising dinner in 2005, when he charged €158,000 for a 40-minute speech. The event grossed €600,000 in ticket sales.

More recently, she co-chaired Ireland First, a group of 17 business and political figures who drew up a list of proposals to fix the economy, entitled Blueprint for Ireland’s Recovery. She was among those who presented the blueprint to the taoiseach in his office last month.

Among its proposals were the disbursement of social welfare payments by chip-and-pin cards, the transfer of medical cards and long-term health care from the Department of Health to the Department of Social Protection, the liberalisation of casino gaming laws, and the establishment of a council of economic advisers including “expert business leaders” to advise ministers on running the country.


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