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Saturday 30 August 2014

Two-thirds of senior health staff still getting controversial top-ups

Eilish O'Regan

Published 04/07/2014 | 02:30

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Laverne McGuinness: HSE may need to take legal advice
Laverne McGuinness: HSE may need to take legal advice

MORE than two-thirds of the 143 well-paid senior managers and doctors, who were given three months to sort out their controversial salary top-ups, are still receiving the payments.

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Some of the best-paid people across a range of disability organisations and voluntary hospitals – many of them already on salaries over €100,000 – were ordered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in April to either have ended the top-up or be ready to prove it is part of their employment contract by July 1.

Laverne McGuinness, deputy head of the HSE, told the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday that just 43 of the payments have stopped and another 60 individuals receiving the payments have provided strong supporting documentation claiming the top-ups are part of their contract.

Four of the organisations – all of which are funded by the HSE – have not yet even responded. Another 18 say they have contractual entitlements but have not produced them.

Included in the rest of the mix is the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in Dublin, which is part of a separate process. The committee was told yesterday that six of its executives are still in receipt of top-ups. Three of these managers have volunteered to pay back the cuts in their public pay which they were spared but the top-ups are likely to continue until next year to allow the new board time to review arrangements.

"There will be detailed discussions with the Department of Health and the Department of Expenditure and Reform. Legal advice may have to be taken on some of them as well," Ms McGuinness said.

The committee was discussing the report of CRC interim administrator John Cregan which revealed how former chief executive Paul Kiely's retirement package of more than €740,000 was based on an overstated salary which did not include public service pay cuts.

Complexity

The CRC's new chairman, Kieran Timmins, said it will be a number of months before it is ready to write to Mr Kiely because of the complexity surrounding the calculation of his payments and the need for legal advice.

Former CRC chairman Hamilton Goulding – the only member of the old board who attended the meeting – denied the existence of a separate payroll for its executives was aimed at the "chosen few".

He said the CRC had contracts with their executives which meant their salaries could not be reduced. Mr Goulding, whose mother founded the organisation, said he only found out Mr Kiely was paid in the region of €240,000 in 2010 and was "shocked".

He took action "due to unease about this salary level in the charity sector, and brought it to the board hoping to address it in some practical way, while respecting contractual constraints.

"I held talks with Mr Kiely and an agreement was reached and approved by the board which reduced the €2.08m contractual liability by €1.34m."

He said the board, which had expertise among its members, did not get outside legal advice. He denied they were taken hostage saying Mr Kiely was well aware of his rights such as potential constructive dismissal.

Irish Independent

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