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HSE personnel boss was cleared in nepotism claim

The new director of human resources in the Health Service Executive (HSE) was at the centre of allegations of nepotism nearly two years ago.

Barry O' Brien, formerly HSE South assistant national director of human resources, is newly-appointed manager in charge of industrial relations for the organisation's 104,000 staff.

However, in 2010 he was among a number of senior HSE staff who were accused of nepotism after it emerged that several of their family members were recruited for well-paid temporary summer jobs.

An inquiry, ordered by the former HSE chief executive later said the managers were not guilty of nepotism because all the candidates were interviewed.

However, it called for an overhaul of procedures and said the recruitment process had bypassed existing formalities.

Mr O'Brien's daughter was among those who was hired to fill some of the €23,000-to-€29,000-a-year jobs as community welfare officers and clerical officers in the south and mid-west regions.

They were brought in to help speed up the payment of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

However, it led to protests by the IMPACT trade union and a decision by former HSE chief Brendan Drumm to ask for a review of the manner of their appointment.

The review forced an overhaul of recruitment systems.

Relatives

It found the recruitment bypassed many of the existing formalities and drew from a list of CVs on file, several of which were unsolicited and belonged to relatives of HSE staff.

The summer workers were needed because applications for the allowance had soared during the economic crisis and there was considerable paperwork to be done.

The inquiry report has now been sent to the Commission for Public Service Appointments, which is to draw up new guidelines.

The report found that the human resources managers who hired the workers used the existing code of practice in the public service, which allows for short cuts to be taken in the hiring of staff for critical, unplanned and short-term service needs.

This code, which allows managers to examine existing CVs on file and recruit without advertising, should only be called in when critical staff such as doctors or nurses are needed.

The inquiry team said it should not have been used to recruit managerial, administrative or clerical staff.

The fault appeared to be one of interpretation of the code rather than a breach.

Irish Independent