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Monday 18 December 2017

HSE overpaid some staff €30,000

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Scores of health board staff have been overpaid -- some by as much as €30,000 -- and many are in no hurry to pay the money back, the Irish Independent has discovered.

Now the HSE is struggling to recover the cash, some of which is outstanding for 30 years.

The overpayments are revealed in a confidential audit in HSE South which was released to the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act.

It highlighted how:

• One nurse who had reduced her hours was overpaid by €30,246 in 2007. Although she increased her working hours in 2010, there was no rise in her repayments of €25 a fortnight. At that rate it will take her 46 years to repay the money.

• Another nurse who was job sharing was paid €25,038 too much between 2001 and 2002.

Her entitlement to sick leave ended in 2009 and since then repayments have stopped, leaving €11,893 outstanding.

• Thirty-one staff who had outstanding overpayments were no longer on the payroll at the end of 2010.

• An amount of €248,572 was overpaid in 2010.

The difficulties encountered in recovering the money are also detailed.

The probe found one hospital consultant who received a large overpayment 18 years ago of €16,054.

Although the Cork University Hospital doctor has repeatedly been asked to follow a repayment plan since then, the balance of €10,125 is still due.

One of the main causes of overpayment is the late notification to payroll departments about changes in employees' terms of employment, working hours and unpaid absences.

The report said there was a need to strengthen controls to recoup the money in the shortest timescale.

Legal

In a separate audit of the HSE's voluntary early retirement and redundancy schemes of 2010 it was found that two staff in the Dublin region were overpaid -- one by €63,570 and another by €15,024. All of the first overpayment has been returned and legal action is under way to secure an outstanding €1,613.45 in the second case.

Overpayments were also made to foster carers in Dublin West. There are currently 19 cases involving €132,132 that may in the future be recouped.

The audit also found families were not being subjected to garda clearance every three years. A sample of health staff working in the community in Co Louth found there were delays in getting garda clearance and three staff who had worked abroad were not vetted by overseas police.

And an audit of travel payments worth €1.1m to HSE staff providing home care services to people in Donegal found payment was made to 584 workers without any back-up for the actual journeys undertaken.

Meanwhile, more financial controls are needed to oversee how the four support organisations representing victims of Hepatitis C are spending grant funding, which amounted to €6.3m between 2000 and 2010, according to a HSE audit.

It found that there was no service level agreement -- where the organisations set out what they would do with the funding -- in 2007 and 2008.

In 2007 the annual grant funding amounted to €1.6m and a similar sum was handed over in 2008.

Irish Independent

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