Thursday 21 November 2019

HSE chief defends his Spanish trip

Tony O'Brien
Tony O'Brien
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

HSE chief executive Tony O'Brien has defended his decision to allow a medical company pay his expenses to attend a conference in Madrid while the health service is in crisis.

Mr O'Brien confirmed that medical firm Acelity paid for his flights and accommodation when he travelled to the Spanish capital earlier this month.

The HSE boss defended the decision to allow the company pay for his trip by insisting the firm paid the travel expenses of all the speakers at the conference.

Speaking at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing, Mr O'Brien said he did not want the taxpayer to pick up the bill for his attendance at the conference.

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming asked the health chief if he thought it was appropriate to allow a medical company pay for the trip, in the wake of the controversy surrounding health service staff passing commercial information to a medical firm in return for gifts and holidays.

The HSE suspended contracts to Eurosurgical Limited after it was alleged the company paid for holidays and gifts for hospital staff in return for inside information ahead of contract talks.

It emerged at the PAC meeting that the HSE has resumed paying the company for services for which it is contractually obliged.

Mr O'Brien admitted he has not spoken to the whistleblower who first raised the concerns about Eurosurgical's dealings with hospitals.

It also emerged that the HSE had to make a tax settlement with the Revenue Commissioners of €22.4m, including penalties.

The cash-strapped agency has now had to set up a tax department.

Mr O'Brien said: "As a result of this process, the HSE and Revenue Commissioners agreed a full and final payment of underpaid taxes, including penalties and interest, of €22.4m, which was formally accepted by Revenue in August 2015."

Irish Independent

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