AN internal audit report for the Health Service Executive has outlined a catalogue of waste of public money and serious breaches of corporate governance involving a training programme.
It appears at least half of a total of €2.35m from the training fund set up by the HSE seven years ago, and supposed to be administered by the union SIPTU, cannot be accounted for.
However, it is known that more than 30 overseas trips were paid for from the fund, with officials from the HSE, unions, the Department of Health and the Department of Finance going on trips, some of them bringing partners. Money was spent on airline flights, meals, taxis and accommodation. One bizarre expense uncovered by the report was €1,586 for a retirement party.
The Taoiseach yesterday rejected opposition suggestions that the Government turns a blind eye to waste of public money.
He was speaking in the present tense; could he be quite as assertive about the recent past?
If massive salaries and bonuses for senior HSE executives, whose duties -- in some cases at least -- might have been duplicated by others, could be classed as waste, then the answer must surely be in the negative.
Until quite recently, the executive was still defending astronomical salaries and bonuses that would make a Premier League footballer blush, citing "special responsibilities" and officials "taking on more duties".
We know that special advisers to the HSE's former CEO received colossal rewards, even though, in some cases, their expertise does not appear to have been unique within the organisation.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach told the Dail that centralisation of services, under the HSE, was a great improvement on the old regional health boards system.
This was in stark contrast to the ombudsman's assertions, last July, that the HSE had deteriorated into what she called a rotten, secretive monolith that operates according to the laws of some parallel universe. Naturally, the HSE rejected the accusations.
The big question is, did the public get value for money for the massive expenditure and a proliferation of enormous salaries and bonuses within the HSE? Are we getting value for money today, or is there an element of waste here, too? It would appear that reform of the HSE still remains an enormous challenge.