THE country's most senior executive overseeing hospitals has admitted he was a guest at the hospitality suite of a leading supplier of medical services to the health service at a recent race meeting in Leopardstown.
Ian Carter, national director of acute services in the HSE, said he attended the reception hosted by the firm, Philips, on a "personal basis".
A HSE spokeswoman confirmed that Philips had a contract for the repair and maintenance of its equipment in the health services.
She said Mr Carter was not in breach of any conflict of interest rules and he had no involvement in the awarding of the contracts.
"The HSE also has contracts of this nature with a range of other equipment providers. Such contracts are agreed in line with HSE policy.
"Mr Carter has no involvement in awarding these contracts," she said.
A spokeswoman for St James's Hospital also confirmed that a member of St James's management was also at the reception hosted by Philips.
"This individual has no direct involvement in the procurement process.
"St James's Hospital has a detailed policy regarding conflicts of interest. There was absolutely no breach of any of those rules in this instance."
The HSE was asked to elaborate on its policies for staff availing of corporate hospitality from commercial operators which have a business relationship with the health services.
It referred to a general series of human resources circulars but did not respond to a request for a direct reference to potential conflicts of interest relevant to this area.
St James's also refused to respond to requests to provide the exact reference in its codes of conduct which related to how senior managers must avoid potential conflicts of interest.
A spokesman for Philips was unable to confirm details about the reception and why the healthcare giant hosted it when contacted by the Irish Independent.
The meeting in Leopardstown on January 26 last was a major highlight of the racing calendar.
Mr Carter took over his new role in the HSE in the middle of last year, having previously worked as chief executive of St James's Hospital.
It emerged in September that the HSE had withdrawn more than €40,000 in allowances paid on top of Mr Carter's salary.
It carried out a review and decided to no longer pay him an academic allowance of €32,473 and a car allowance of €8,937 which had been part of his remuneration at St James's.
The HSE said that the removal was "to ensure full compliance with salary for the position approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform".