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Friday 22 August 2014

Health worker was paid €128k for work never put out to tender

Eilish O'Regan

Published 08/07/2014 | 02:30

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A full-time health employee in a community hospital was paid an additional private fee of €128,000 for a delivery and repair service
A full-time health employee in a community hospital was paid an additional private fee of €128,000 for a delivery and repair service

A full-time health employee in a community hospital was paid an additional private fee of €128,000 for a delivery and repair service, an internal Health Service Executive (HSE) audit discovered.

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The audit of aids and appliances, such as wheelchairs, in community services in Donegal found the home's work had never been properly put out to tender and was in breach of HSE rules which ban employees from seeking contracts for the supply of goods and services for their own benefit.

The employee also carried out "a large bulk of his private aids and appliances work on a Friday" in Killybegs over five years and had historically been allowed to start and finish early even though there was no written approval.

The audit, carried out in October last year by the HSE's own internal financial watchdog, headed by Michael Flynn, is among a number of investigations released under freedom of information law which reveal improper use of public funding and wastage in the cash-strapped health service.

The audit also found other evidence of not enough quotes being obtained for equipment and lack of garda clearance for staff carrying out servicing and repairs in people's homes.

In response, the management agreed to ensure that procurement guidelines are strictly adhered to when securing services and that all staff and service providers have an up-to-date garda clearance certificate.

A separate audit of payments to management and administration staff in a corporate role in the HSE South found that one employee claimed €10,572 in an "overnight allowance", which would have meant they were away from their official base for 70pc of their working time. On closer inspection it emerged that the employee was "being paid to travel to a normal place of work which is not their official base".

The auditors also found that mileage expenses were consistently being paid to employees "irrespective of the fact that their base location was within easy access to the public transport network".

Overall a total of €8.2m was paid in travel and subsistence to 3,355 employees from January 2012 to June 2013. The highest payout was €31,043. The audit found that some employees routinely travel to a regular or normal place of work "which is not their official base."

For one of the employees, 90pc of the trips claimed for were to Dublin with mileage of 300km for each return journey. However, HSE rules state that if public transport is available the mileage claimed should not be higher. The auditors pointed out that the saving "would be considerable if public transport rates were payable rather than mileage rates".

Management has since accepted the auditor's recommendations to communicate the rules on travel expenses to staff.

Other audits revealed:

* An investigation of budgetry control for Section 39 agencies receiving HSE funding in the mid-west found that two had not provided a valid tax clearance certificate or registered charity number. The agencies provided services such as palliative care and disability services, which received HSE funding. A sample of files for those getting various amounts up to €330,459 were looked at.

* In a sample of files examined by the auditors, just five of the ten agencies getting more than €50,000 provided evidence the grant was used for the approved purpose. A new filing system is now being implemented.

Irish Independent

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