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Tuesday 26 September 2017

€660,000 paid into 'phantom' pension fund at Mater

The Mater Hospital
The Mater Hospital

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE Central Remedial Clinic is forced to pay €660,000 from its own funding -- which is supposed to care for disabled children and adults -- to the Mater Hospital for a so-called "phantom fund".

The massive annual payout dates back 30 years and was described as "ridiculous" by former chief executive Paul Kiely, who said he tried in vain to get it stopped.

But the Mater Hospital last night rejected his claims and said it is money due for its administration of the pensions of Central Remedial Clinic staff.

The payment was uncovered during a Dail Public Accounts Committee hearing by Independent TD Shane Ross, who described it as "bonkers".

Mr Kiely said the payment was supposed to be for administering a pension fund known as the Voluntary Hospitals Superannuation Scheme (VHSS). This is the public pension scheme for staff who are on the state payroll.

It works out at between 10pc to 13pc of staff salaries and he tried to end it as far back as 2000. He said he was warned to stay away from it.

The payment comes from the funding the CRC gets from the HSE to provide disability services -- but it ends up having to go to the Mater.

Barry O'Brien, the HSE head of human resources, said the pension scheme was administered centrally in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim. "I have no idea why they would be charging any fee when we do the work centrally for them," he said.

Responding to the latest bizarre twist in the CRC saga, a spokeswoman for the Mater Hospital said last night it absolutely refutes the suggestion made by Mr Kiely that the payments being made by the CRC to the Mater Hospital had no meaningful basis.

This in turn caused Mr Ross to refer to a "phantom fund".

The spokeswoman said the payment relates directly to the Voluntary Hospitals Superannuation Scheme administered by the Mater Hospital on behalf of 181 staff members of the CRC.

LIABILITY

"The CRC's employer contribution to the scheme on behalf of its staff members was circa €660,000 in 2012. The liability for the pension payments to those CRC staff in the scheme will rest with the Mater Hospital in perpetuity," she said.

"This arrangement, on behalf of the CRC staff, dates back to the mid-1970s when the CRC first sought Department of Health funding.

For technical and legal reasons, the Department of Health could not at that time provide any funding to the CRC as it was not deemed to be a hospital.

In order to overcome this difficulty a decision was made that all funding to the CRC should be provided through a voluntary hospital.

Irish Independent

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