HSE censured by spending watchdog after sample audit reveals 'systemic' failings in procurement
The HSE has been censured by the state's spending watchdog for "systemic non-compliance" in its procurement policies after the health agency was found to have flouted purchasing rules in 30pc of cases audited in 2015.
The HSE spends €1.6bn on goods and services each year, so a 30pc non-compliance rate would translate to €480m worth of contracts that may have breached government guidelines.
The comparable result for HSE non-compliance in 2014 was 12pc, which reveals that the problem has worsened significantly, despite efforts by the Office of Government Procurement to impose tighter spending controls on the agency.
The Health Service Executive accounts for almost half of the country's public contracts.
In a briefing note sent to the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, the Comptroller and Auditor General revealed how the HSE has consistently failed to meet acceptable standards.
"Audits in recent years have consistently identified issues in relation to competitive procurement at HSE locations visited. On this basis, it can be reasonably concluded that non-compliance with procurement requirements in the HSE is systemic."
The watchdog's verdict on the HSE's conduct concludes: "Due to the significant levels of non-compliant procurement… the C&AG has drawn attention to this matter in his audit certificate."
Audit testing of HSE procurement in 2015 involved testing of procurement in five locations, to a total value of €26.9m.
In the sample audit, 30pc of purchasing deals were found not to be compliant with procurement rules.
In response to the findings, a HSE spokeswoman said: "The HSE is aware that compliance with procurement rules is a challenge across the system. This occurs for a variety of reasons but in order to address acknowledged compliance issues the HSE is currently finalising a three-year Procurement Plan.
"This will involve a series of measures being implemented across the system including contracts and frameworks being put in place across the categories of medical professional services. These also extend to medical and diagnostic equipment and supplies, medical surgical and pharmaceutical supplies."
Outlining steps taken to solve the procurement crisis, the spokeswoman added: "The HSE will work with the Office of Government Procurement who have responsibility for putting contracts and frameworks in place for non health specific areas including professional services, facilities management, utilities, ICT and office equipment, fleet and plant and managed services. The plan will assist the HSE to address and improve the level of compliance. This is consistent with the new procurement model and approach across the public sector."
Sunday Indo Business