Thursday 21 March 2019

Payroll computer system costs State another €11m

Edel Kennedy

THE Government poured another €11m into the faulty PPARS system over the past 12 months, despite plans for a new computer system for the health service.

The payment system -- which was originally costed at just €8.8m and was supposed to cater for payroll for all health staff -- has now cost almost €190m, and is still climbing.

The €11m spend on PPARS (personnel, payroll and related systems) was at the same time that the Health Service Executive (HSE) introduced a recruitment freeze because they overspent more than €255m early in 2007.

Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show the cost of maintaining and operating the system in the past 12 months were "in the region" of €11m.

"This covers staff costs, hardware costs, software costs and supporting costs," a spokeswoman said.

"We have successfully reduced the cost base over the past year by improving the use of the technology and achieving greater efficiencies in staffing."

However, in July the HSE announced plans to abandon the PPARS system and called for a new IT set-up to pay its staff.

Fine Gael health spokesman James Reilly said that although the HSE needs a payroll system for its 133,000 staff it cannot continue to pour money into something that is not working properly.

"What we have never been told is who was responsible for this," he said.

"No one was accountable for it at the time and no one is accountable now. If this was a public body not only would the HSE be shut down but someone would be in jail at this stage."

Software

Earlier this year the HSE decided to move ahead with a new computer package which would contain software used by PPARS -- but declined to say how much this would cost. They are waiting for approval from the Department of Finance and the outcome of an independent review before going ahead with the plans.

However, in the interim PPARS will have to keep operating. The HSE was unable to provide an estimated cost of running the computer system in 2008, saying it is "finalising" the estimated costing.

PPARS was designed to cater for the payroll, rosters and HR information for 70,000 of the health service's employees. However, it can currently cope with the payroll for just 30,000 in three former health boards.

At one stage it paid one worker €1m and the mistake was only noticed when the honest worker brought it to the attention of the HSE.

Its national roll-out was halted in 2005 amid serious concerns about its accuracy and efficiency.

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