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Wednesday 29 March 2017

SIPTU official got €1,000 a day from HSE's €2.35m slush fund

Eilish O'Regan and Ann Marie Walsh

A FORMER trade union boss was entitled to fees of up to €1,000 a day for chairing each meeting of the group overseeing the controversial state training scheme for health workers, the Irish Independent has learned.

SIPTU's Billy Attley chaired the steering group for the €60m 'Skill' training scheme, which will be at the centre of a hearing by the Dail Committee on Public Accounts today.

A damning internal Heath Service Executive (HSE) audit has found that €2.35m paid into a SIPTU account to administer the scheme was poorly accounted for, with money lavished on foreign study trips, taxis and a private pension.

The union announced last night that it had lodged €348,000 with the Commissioner for Oaths "in good faith". This is equal to a sum that the auditors found could not be accounted for.

A SIPTU spokesman again insisted that the account was not in the control of the union. But he said the union had told the HSE it would reimburse any expenses that could not be properly accounted for.

Expenses

Mr Attley, who was appointed to the chair in 2004, told this newspaper he was entitled to up to €1,000 for chairing each meeting, but only claimed half that for half-day meetings held every second month.

Mr Attley said he was also entitled to unspecified expenses that he did not claim.

The audit report showed that he had been paid €26,750 up to the end of 2009.

He rejected claims that the steering group was at fault for not monitoring the €2.35m fund, saying its brief was to approve training programmes.

"We had no control over finance. We had no role in that area -- that was the responsibility of the HSE," he added.

The report revealed yet more waste of the €2.35m. It found:



  • The Skill office clocked up service costs of €526,444, none of which were tendered for.
  • One journey involved a taxi from Dublin to Kilkenny, a wait for the client and a return to Dublin at a cost of €432.
  • Another involved a journey from St James's Hospital in Dublin to Tullamore, returning to the capital via Louth and Dublin Airport, at a cost of €544.


In evidence to the audit committee, one of the union officials with access to the account said the Department of Health gave him the grant with no guidelines or terms and conditions as to how the money should be spent.

Irish Independent

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