Auditors give warning over St Vincent's pension fund
MAJOR concerns about the pension fund at one of the country's largest hospitals were highlighted by external auditors, the Irish Independent can reveal.
The pensions issue in the accounts of St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin has implications for the taxpayer, as they will potentially have to foot the bill for any shortfall.
The hospital's auditors have left a warning note, known as an adverse opinion, on the annual accounts saying they "do not give a true and fair view" of its financial position.
The hospital is also one of the Section 38 hospitals and agencies found to be in breach of the HSE's pay policy, on foot of its recent internal audit into unsanctioned top-up allowances.
Newly filed accounts for 2011 by St Vincent's Healthcare Group, which is the parent company of the public and private hospitals, reveal its auditors, PwC, made an "adverse opinion" against the hospital over its pension liabilities. Accounts for 2012 have not yet been filed.
Such is PwC's concern, the auditors said the accounts as filed "do not give a give a true and fair view" of the financial status of the hospital, because it omitted details of "pension costs, liabilities and assets" from its accounts, in breach of normal accounting rules.
Grave concern about the goings on at St Vincent's Hospital was expressed by Dail Public Accounts Committee member Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, who has called for its directors to come before the committee.
"The adverse opinion of the auditor in the 2011 accounts is pretty scathing and casts significant questions over the organisation.
"The St Vincent's accounts highlight yet again the need to cast a light on these state-funded organisations and find out exactly what is going on," he said.
The Irish Independent can reveal directors at the hospital did not include the pension cost liabilities and assets of staff in the Voluntary Hospital Superannuation Scheme (VHSS) because they believed the Department of Health would assume the liability.
Such a scenario has major implications for the taxpayer, who could face a pensions bill of several hundred million euro.
"The financial statements do not include the pension costs, pension liabilities and pension assets of those staff who are members of the Voluntary Hospitals Superannuation Scheme," the PWC report said.
Last night, the HSE said St Vincent's Hospital, as a Section 38 institution, is subject to the audit process. It said it is engaging with the hospital.
"All of these matters will be examined as part of that engagement with the hospital," the HSE spokesman said.