independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Top-up hospitals given year to change way they are run

David Martin of the CRC Chairman and current interim chief executive of the CRC, Jim Nugent Former CRC chief executive and Paul Kiely (right) pictured  after a Public Accounts Committee meeting (PAC) to examine top-up payments at the CRC in Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
David Martin of the CRC Chairman and current interim chief executive of the CRC, Jim Nugent Former CRC chief executive and Paul Kiely (right) pictured after a Public Accounts Committee meeting (PAC) to examine top-up payments at the CRC in Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

HOSPITALS and other agencies at the centre of the top-ups controversy are being given a year to overhaul the way they are run.

The generous deadline is set out in a new HSE compliance document, which all the Section 38 agencies - in receipt of €2.4bn in public funds - have to sign by Friday week.

They have also been told they must have a plan in place at the end of this month with "realistic timeframes" to stop the salary top-ups.

The new document sent to 30 agencies, including hospitals and disability agencies, was introduced in a bid to clean up the poor state of supervision which has been revealed in recent weeks, exposing the failure of many agencies to follow public-pay policy.

STRICTER

The most high profile has been the Central Remedial Clinic where former board members are under fire for sanctioning a massive €742,000 deal for former chief executive Paul Kiely.

However, the decision to allow the agencies a year to instal stricter controls - in areas such as the appointment of board members and the way they conduct business - contrasts with some of the 'get tough' public statements made by the Government about weeding out sweeteners.

The compliance document says all the agencies must now do an audit of their governance arrangements and present a plan on how they can meet standards by the end of March.

"This plan should set out clearly the plan to bring the provider into compliance by December 31, 2014," it said in an explanatory document.

It said it recognised that some organisations at this point in time would not be fully compliant with core standards - but they should be in place by December 31 at the latest.

Public confidence in the ability of several of these agencies and disability organisations has been shattered in recent weeks as some board members admitted poor attendance at meetings and others of being in the dark about top-ups and pension payouts from public and charity funds.

The HSE said it would insist that progress reports on the changes should be made available to the chairman of each board on a quarterly basis, and be available for inspection by the HSE when required.

The standards which the agencies have to meet by the end of the year will mean that boards have to account "accurately" to the State and ensure adequate internal financial controls.

Other requirements include:

* Ensuring the board reflects diversity in terms of skills, competence and gender.

* Board members should not be appointed for more than three years.

* Clearly documented procedures for the identification, selection and appointment of members of the board

* The attendance record of every member of the board.

* The establishment of an audit committee and a remuneration committee to ensure public pay policy is not breached.

The proposed new controls come in the wake of a promise by Justice Minister Alan Shatter to have the first charity regulator in place by the end of February.

This will put a new onus on the charity arms of these agencies but it is expected to take time before it is fully up and running with a proper watchdog role.

Eilish O'Regan

Irish Independent

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