The HSE spent more than €117,000 'spying' on consultants in preparation for its High Court battle over pay, it has emerged.
Private investigators were hired as part of the State's work on a counter-claim following proceedings lodged by consultants over a decision not to pay a salary increase pledged in a 2008 contract.
Some 700 consultants lodged proceedings, with 10 'lead' cases settled earlier this year. In preparation for contesting the case a legal firm hired by the State, Philip Lee, contracted the private investigators to determine if consultants were working within their contracts in relation to private practice hours.
The dispute centred on a 2009 decision to withhold the pay increase, which linked the salary hike with a reduction of private practice hours. In response to a Freedom of Information Request by the 'Medical Independent' the Department of Health confirmed the cost of the work undertaken was €117,853.
Following the settling of the cases the Government struck a deal with consultants which saw thousands of them entitled to backpay at a cost of some €200m to the taxpayer.
The deal will also add €60m to the annual consultant pay bill. Previously, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the decision to enlist private investigators, telling the Dáil the State has an obligation to ensure that it is getting value for taxpayers' money.