Monday 22 April 2019

HSE probe uncovers €12,000 taxi bill

Ann Marie Walsh and Eilish O'Regan

A €12,000 bill for taxis plus the cost of trips to Australia were uncovered in a probe into a controversial HSE training scheme now being investigated by gardai, it emerged last night.

An HSE audit -- which revealed unaccounted funds of €2.35m -- also disclosed trips to New York around the St Patrick's Day festival. The revelations emerged in the internal audit which examined the €60m SKILL government-backed training scheme for low skilled health service workers.

It led to a decision by the HSE board to pass on the audit to gardai after around €2.35m in administrative expenses could not be explained fully.

The HSE became alarmed after it could not find any receipts for at least half of the missing millions. It emerged last night that a another internal review is now under way after the Department of Health confirmed that it is to examine its records to find out to what extent its own officials took part in SKILL "study visits".

It followed the decision of the Department of Finance earlier yesterday to conduct its own internal review into the expenses incurred by one of its retired officials who was on study visits. SIPTU, which is alleged to have administered the funds , is also conducting an internal inquiry into the involvement of one of their senior officials.

It understood the HSE audit which sparked the garda investigation revealed:

  • €12,000 spent on taxis between 2006 and 2009. Some of these taxis may have been taken from home to workplace.
  • A 2008 trip to Australia including a stop-over in Hong Kong.
  • Big spends on hotels and restaurants.
  • Study trips to the UK.

It is believed that the audit found that some receipts were related to promotional material used to market the courses for staff. SIPTU has denied it received the funds and said it has yet to see the audit.

Health Minister Mary Harney said yesterday that if any money had been misappropriated, it was a very serious matter.

She added that the matter is now being investigated by the Comptroller and Auditor General .

The training fund was set up as part of a Labour Court recommendation covering 2004-2008. It provided for a "discreet training fund" of €60m over five years to 2008 after which a fund of €12m was provided each year.

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