Saturday 18 November 2017

Tallaght ignored the rules to hire €1.8m consultants

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

TALLAGHT Hospital ignored normal rules of tendering and cost control when it hired outside consultants for €1.8m to find out how well it was run, it emerged yesterday.

Management at the hospital shelled out on the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers to review its corporate and clinical governance, even though it was cutting services and struggling with an expected €7.2m deficit in 2010.

The HIQA report revealed the awarding of the contract, worth €1.6m and €200,000 in fees, bypassed the required tendering and procurement procedures, with no quotes sought from other firms.

The hospital refused to say yesterday who signed off on the contract but the HIQA report revealed how the hospital's audit committee expressed concern that it had not been told about it in advance.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which declined to comment on the revelations yesterday, produced a highly critical report, saying the hospital was riven with mistrust and damaged by vested interests.

It said Tallaght suffered from "unconvincing leadership at board and management level" and called for a slimmed down board.

It also emerged yesterday that five senior management staff at the hospital received €739,000 in top-up payments between 2005 and 2010.

One of them received €150,000 of this money which was sanctioned by the board for certain additional duties.

Payments

The HIQA report said it was not clear how decisions on these additional payments were made, and the board had no remuneration committee to oversee this.

Responding to the report yesterday, Tallaght Hospital chief executive Eilish Hardiman, who took over in August last year, said four of the five executives were no longer employed by the hospital.

One of the executives who is still receiving the top-up payments is still with the hospital but it was not possible to say what they are doing for the money because of contractual arrangements, she added.

"By way of explanation, the new interim board was made aware of a previous practice whereby an external payroll facility was adopted to supplement senior pay.

"We have established that this amounted to €739,000 over a five-year period to five individuals. The supplementary payroll ceased in 2010 with remaining contractual payments moved to the hospital payroll.

"As of today that obligation amounts to an ongoing €35,000 per annum. To ensure that the hospital does not incur further financial liability it cannot comment on the individual arrangements."

HIQA and the interim board have referred the issue to the Comptroller and Auditor General who is preparing a report.

The Health Service Executive (HSE), which funds the hospital with which it has an annual service level agreement, cannot demand the removal of a chief executive or member of the board.

Irish Independent

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