HSE offered conference sponsors 'facetime' with its leading buyers
The HSE offered "guaranteed facetime" with its own buyers in return for sponsorship of an event, it has emerged.
The HSE, which is one of the biggest buyers in the State, offered "invaluable opportunities" to potential sponsors of a masterclass conference.
The face-to-face opportunities were offered on the HSE website as part the promotion bid to secure sponsorship for the conference to be held in the Convention Centre next month.
The posting has since been removed by the HSE from its website, and the HSE said it should not have been posted.
The Healthcare Leadership Masterclass, organised by the office of the HSE director general Tony O'Brien, bills itself as a key calendar event for senior managers and leaders in the Irish health system and the wider business community.
The HSE is one of the biggest buyers of services in the country with hundreds of millions of euro to spend every year on public procurement.
The offer for sponsors of the Healthcare Leadership Masterclass 2017 has now been removed from the website.
A HSE spokesman said that the offer was "put up in error" and should not have been "put up".
However, the posting raises serious questions about potential conflicts of interest in the whole process of public procurement.
The masterclass is a yearly event which was plunged into controversy in recent years after it emerged that a Harvard professor, Robert Kaplan, was paid €50,489 to give eight sessions over two days on 'Value in Healthcare'.
The total cost of staging the event in 2014 was €150,000 and was attended by 470 participants at a cost of around €319 each.
The original text, which was posted online up to last month, said that "sponsoring this event will afford you with invaluable opportunities to use the masterclass as a platform to promote and market your company to many of the leading professionals within the HSE," the 'Medical Independent' reported.
"Other opportunities involve complimentary tickets to the masterclass and guaranteed facetime with a HSE buyer at the event.
"Sponsor branding will be prominently placed on all conference material."
The revised wording says that "other opportunities involve complimentary tickets to the masterclass and attendance at the procurement workshop".
Among the speakers at the event on April 27-28 are Health Minister Simon Harris, Dr Mark Britnell, chair and partner in Global Health Practice KPMG, and Keith Grint, Prof of Public Leadership and Management at Warwick Business School. Other speakers include Pat Lam, former rugby international and head coach of Connacht Rugby who will talk about 'Transformation through culture'.
The conference is marketed at leaders from regulatory and professional bodies and other public, private, government and business sectors. There is no charge for senior HSE managers and leaders who are invited by the HSE to attend the conference.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said last night that securing sponsorship for the event "with the objective of making it cost neutral to the organisation" is a very economical and cost effective way for the HSE to host such an educational event.
"A Lunch and Learn session is being held on Thursday, April 27 where attendees will be given the opportunity to hear from the HSE head of procurement about the 'One Voice for Health' policy and future plans for procurement. The 'One Voice for Health Procurement' involves ways of working to support a government decision requiring all agencies funded via the HSE to collaborate in relation to procurement," she said.