Hospital ‘can’t explain’ €700k in top-up fees to 5 staff

A leading hospital cannot explain why five senior officials received almost €700,000 in non-salary, “top-up” fees — with “inconsistent recollections” from board members over who approved the deals.

A major audit of the unusual spending has found Tallaght Hospital is unable to provide any documents showing why the significant amount of money was handed out between 2005 and 2010.

The Ernst and Young financial investigation was launched last year after the Health Information Quality Authority raised concerns over the payments.

The audit, obtained by www.irishhealth.com under the Freedom of Information Act, confirms initial concerns that five staff received €24,000 to €259,000 from a “supplementary payroll” over the period.

However, the probe has been unable to explain why this fund was set up or documents showing what approval procedures were followed in terms of the taxpayer-funded payments.

The audit confirms that:

*“No evidence” was provided “which documents the rationale for or approval of the supplementary payroll”.

*Board members at the time “provide inconsistent recollections as to the existence and approval” of this fund.

*One individual received €225,833 in extra pay.

The audit said “no supporting documentation” was available to confirm this payment, with the amount only revealed “through interviews with the board chair at the time”

*Four other staff members received €104,667, €61,250, €24,000 and €259,000 respectively for a variety of reasons.

These included pension contribution top-ups and full salary for a specific hospital role for individuals four and five

*Clear statements of an individual’s contractual entitlement were not always easily identifiable from the files available

A spokesperson for Tallaght Hospital, which has since undergone significant management structure changes, told the Irish Examiner the facility “notes the findings of the independent review”.

“The hospital wishes to point out that the external payroll system ceased in 2010. The review was commissioned by the chairman of the hospital board’s audit committee in Nov 2011.

“In Dec 2011, the new board appointed a new remuneration and terms of services committee to oversee all executive management recruitment and compliance with Department of Health-approved salary scales.”

The hospital declined to comment on whether the five staff members at the centre of the controversy are still working there, and or whether money already paid out can be retrieved.

Tallaght Hospital Action Group chairman, Triona Murphy, said it is “astonishing that kind of money was floating around” when budgets for patient services were being cut.

“All through those years [2005 to 2010, the years of the audit] hospital budgets suffered, like now. Tallaght had to run at a deficit.

“In terms of what the money could have done, €8,000 will get you a hip replacement, so €671,916 would have done quite a few hips.

“The new board fully endorsed the Hiqa findings last year and said they were disturbed by the payments…

“We certainly wouldn’t stand over those kind of payments and we’re very upset by what happened,” she said.

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