Tuesday 24 October 2017

Our taxes pay HSE 'private' pensions

29 senior hospital managers get €345,000 to boost pension pots

TAXPAYERS are funding the private pension pots of a coterie of 29 senior hospital managers to the tune of €345,000 a year, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

A confidential report on the controversial top-ups in the health service shows another 12 senior executives in publicly funded hospitals are getting gold-plated private health insurance of up to €5,300 a year, paid for from public funds.

The damning HSE internal audit report, seen by this newspaper, reveals the full details of the €4.1m worth of allowances to 225 senior health managers in "hospital fiefdoms" each year.

To date, public anger in relation to the top-ups has been limited to senior management in maternity hospitals.

But the "scandalous bonanza" of the full list of the payments, disclosed in the report, amounts to several times what has previously been in the public domain.

Today's revelations come as Health Minister James Reilly is due to receive the HSE service plan for next year, which is set to outline more than €1bn of cuts to front-line services.

The report highlights a widespread failure to have payments authorised, inadequate levels of transparency and a refusal by the majority of hospitals to fully divulge the remuneration packages of senior managers.

The internal audit report reveals that:

* Three hospital managers – one from Cappagh Hospital, one from the National Rehabilitation Hospital and one from Our Lady's Hospice – received €174,000 in Medical Board fees between them.

* One Dublin teaching hospital, confirmed as the Mater Hospital, paid €25,625 in additional remuneration to its CEO Brian Conlon. The Department of Health said that it had no records of it having granted approval for such payments.

* €173,000 was paid to 17 managers in undisclosed allowances. "Agencies did not provide the title of the allowances," the report said.

* One senior figure at St James's Hospital received a €51,617 allowance in a post-graduate co-ordinator allowance, its haemophilia unit director got €43,468 in a top-up, while the director of the clinical audit unit got €36,417 on top of their salary.

The report concluded use of taxpayers' money to fund the private pension schemes was of serious "concern" and the practice should be ceased as soon as possible.

The scale of the payments and the refusal of some hospitals to disclose information to the HSE have been branded as "breathtakingly arrogant" by Simon Harris, a leading member of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The PAC is to grill HSE bosses about these payments next Wednesday.

"The breathtaking arrogance and contempt shown by some of these hospitals and agencies is utterly unacceptable.

"This report gives a startling insight into how these people were running their own fiefdoms," Mr Harris told the Sunday Independent.

The 36 individual allowances paid to the senior health executives are revealed in the 73-page report, which was written by Dr Geraldine Smith, Assistant National Director of Internal Audit HSE.

In total, €3,223,950 was paid out annually to 191 managers in allowances out of HSE funds and €912,472 was paid out to 34 managers in salary and allowance top-ups from private funds.

A significant proportion of the controversial allowances paid every year were found to be unauthorised and in breach of government pay policy.

In many cases, the report states, hospitals and agencies said they historically relied on "verbal approval" from the Department of Health for allowances, but the Department told Dr Smith no documentation to verify such approvals existed on their files.

Controversially, a number of hospitals repeatedly refused to disclose salary and allowance details requested by the HSE audit department, the report states.

Echoing Mr Harris's concerns, PAC chairman John McGuinness said the taxpayer had been footing the bill for the "scandalous bonanza" of allowances by a small number of senior managers.

Mr McGuinness said the report showed that managers at different levels "turned a blind eye" when these payments were awarded. He said they must now be named and shamed over their failure to protect the taxpayer.

DANIEL McCONNELL Political Correspondent

Sunday Independent

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