Monday 20 February 2017

HSE advises health agencies to keep salaries of top staff a secret

Published 11/07/2016 | 02:30

The HSE has told health chiefs in Section 38 health agencies, which were at the centre of salary top-ups controversies, that they do not have to tell the media how much they earn. Stock image
The HSE has told health chiefs in Section 38 health agencies, which were at the centre of salary top-ups controversies, that they do not have to tell the media how much they earn. Stock image

The HSE has told health chiefs in Section 38 health agencies, which were at the centre of salary top-ups controversies, that they do not have to tell the media how much they earn.

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The advice, seen by the Irish Independent, runs contrary to HSE statements supporting transparency about how public funds are spent.

It comes in the wake of the renewed spotlight on these agencies, which receive millions in funding from the HSE under section 38 of the Health Act 2004.

There were revelations that 14 executives in the St John of God organisation shared in an undisclosed €1.6m pension and employment liability buyout in 2013.

The HSE has written in recent days to all the Section 38 agencies it funds for an update on how much they are paying their managers, in advance of HSE chief Tony O' Brien's grilling on the issue at the Public Accounts Committee on Friday.

However, advice given to the agencies by the HSE at a recent training day on freedom of information legislation said that if a journalist wants salary figures, the agency can limit the amount of information it gives.

It "can confirm grade and confirm that the staff member is paid in accordance with the Department of Health consolidated salary scale."

However, the point at which the staff member is on the scale is considered personal information, so they are not obliged to provide an actual salary figure.

The HSE did not respond when asked why it gave agencies this advice.

An examination of salary scales at that level by this newspaper shows there can be a difference of as much as €15,000, which means the lack of an exact figure can be potentially misleading.

A snapshot survey by the Irish Independent of a number of Section 38 agencies which had been paying top-ups in the past, found they were sticking to HSE advice. And in its most recent update the HSE said that 67 employees at Section 38 agencies were to continue being paid top-ups because of legal contracts.

There are 44 such organisations in the State, providing health and social services on behalf of the HSE.

They receive around €2.5bn in funding.

Irish Independent

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