Sunday 15 December 2019

HSE spent €3m on extra advisers for chief Drumm

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

THREE advisers to former health service boss Brendan Drumm were each paid around €1m by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The revelation comes as Taoiseach Brian Cowen was yesterday forced to reject opposition claims that the Government was turning a blind eye to waste in spending public money.

Payment records obtained by the Irish Independent reveal huge sums paid to Prof Drumm's advisers, some of whom were earning €1,300-a-day.

Some received massive taxpayer-funded payments despite the fact other people were employed within the HSE to carry out similar functions.

The well-paid advisers included:

  • Communications consultant Karl Anderson, who earned €996,119 between 2005 and the end of 2009 despite the fact the HSE had fully staffed public relations offices around the country.
  • Human resources adviser Maura McGrath, who earned €994,334 in the same period even though a human resources boss was appointed internally in 2008.
  • Management consultant Maureen Lynott, who was paid €1,125,493 between 2005 and the end of last year.

Contracts for Mr Anderson and Ms Lynott, who were handpicked by Prof Drumm for his so-called kitchen cabinet, ran out earlier this month.

New HSE boss Cathal Magee will not be allowed hire his own advisers, such is the furore over the huge fees paid to those appointed to assist his predecessor. The revelations come amid mounting pressure on health chiefs to explain failings after a damning audit report revealed a catalogue of wasteful spending and serious breaches of corporate governance in a HSE-funded training programme.


Questions have also been raised about the level of spending on costly external consultants, with opposition TDs claiming the money would be better spent on front-line services. Records seen by the Irish Independent reveal how €76.7m was spent by the HSE on outside consultants between 2005 and the end of last year.

The records also show how HSE bosses have failed to significantly rein in spending on outside advice. Some €15.1m was spent on outside consultants last year, compared to €15.6m in 2008 and €16.7m in 2007.

Many of the companies who benefitted from contracts had close links with the health services. They included Prospectus Consultants, whose managing director Vincent Barton is a former Department of Health official. The firm was paid €1.58m for contracts between 2005 and the end of 2009.

These included advice on adult critical care services, palliative care, obstetrics and gynaecology services, and hospital co-location.

SMG Healthcare Consultancy Ltd, run by another former Drumm adviser, Dr Sean McGuire, was paid €440,864 for primary care and healthcare strategy projects between 2005 and 2008.

Dr Joe Clarke, a GP adviser, was paid €284,915 for consultancy work on family doctor services in 2008 and 2009.

The sums paid included VAT.

Mr Anderson was paid €224,886 last year using the business name Anderson Editorial. At the same time the HSE employed 12 press officers in offices around the country.

Ms Lynott's company, Lynott Management Consultancy, was paid €224,568 in 2009 for advising Prof Drumm.

Ms Lynott is a former chairperson of the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Both were appointed in 2005 on 60-month contracts, which have just run out.

The contracts required 135 days work per year, with up to 27 additional days if necessary.

Even though Prof Drumm left the HSE in August, their contracts continued to run until last week.

Fees paid for this year have yet to be disclosed, despite requests being lodged with the HSE under freedom of information rules two months ago.

Ms McGrath's company, McGrath Associates, was paid €92,663 last year and €294,785 the year before. Its contract with the HSE ended in February 2009.

It had involved €1,350-a-day, to be paid for three days' work per week for advice on organisational change and strategic human resource management.

"The figures are striking," Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said.

"This is clearly further evidence, if it were needed, of the savings that can be made instead of hurting patients on the front line.

"It is only proper that Prof Drumm's successor is not being given the same army of highly-paid advisers."

Irish Independent

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