HSE was ordered to keep €198m debt off books

HSE was ordered to keep €198m debt off books

The Government has been accused of trying to spin the HSE’s funding crisis by “massaging” official figures, after it emerged that the Department of Health ordered senior managers to keep a €198m debt off its books last year.

The PAC has demanded that the department and HSE produce answers at an emergency meeting next week after the issue was highlighted by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In a landmark decision last summer, the Government agreed to strike a deal which saw hospital consultants told they would receive €198m in unpaid salary increases dating back a decade.

The payment was agreed after a long, drawn-out legal battle which ended up in the High Court after a repeated campaign by medical unions.

It had been expected that the extra €198m would be included in the HSE’s final accounts for 2018 in accordance with international accountancy best practice, which would have increased the HSE’s debt last year to just over €280m.

However, in his report to the PAC, the C&AG Seamus McCarthy noted the extra cost has not been included — an issue he said occurred after HSE officials were directed by the Department to delay including the cost, at the discretion of Health Minister Simon Harris.

PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said while the sitting health minister has the legal right to tell the HSE how to present its accounts, this has traditionally only been in relation to pension matters.

Criticising the situation yesterday, he said the figures show there has been an attempt to “whitewash” the HSE’s debt, adding that the “massaging” of figures is a worrying precedent for the health service.

“The deficit of the HSE last year was €280-odd million, not €80-odd million. There has been an attempt by the minister and the Department to massage and fool the people, to present what I will call unacceptable figures, to direct the HSE to exclude it,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane agreed, saying there has been an apparent “sleight of hand”, while Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said:

“It is not just an accounting concern, it goes beyond that”.

“Is there not something bigger at stake, in relation to the independence of the audit function at the HSE, that a minister can make such an instruction? I have serious concerns about that,” she said.

While Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell said the €198m payment is due to be included in the 2019 and 2020 accounts, both the C&AG and Mr Fleming said international accounting best practice states any debt should be included in the year it is accrued.

The PAC has asked the department and HSE to attend an emergency meeting on the issue next Thursday.

More on this topic

HSE to be restructured into regional boardsHSE to be restructured into regional boards

HSE to withhold 2019 projects budget until AugustHSE to withhold 2019 projects budget until August

Closure of Dundalk respite centre would see clients travelling across country for careClosure of Dundalk respite centre would see clients travelling across country for care

Records centre break-in led to medical files being found on the street, HSE admitsRecords centre break-in led to medical files being found on the street, HSE admits

More in this Section

Children 'need their dad back' says wife of Cork man facing deportation from US Children 'need their dad back' says wife of Cork man facing deportation from US

New study to give voice to 'hidden group' affected by child sexual abuseNew study to give voice to 'hidden group' affected by child sexual abuse

Katherine Zappone to discuss importance of children's rights at UN forumKatherine Zappone to discuss importance of children's rights at UN forum

Concern that 100 permanent consultant psychiatric jobs remain unfilledConcern that 100 permanent consultant psychiatric jobs remain unfilled


Lifestyle

This year heralds the return of a much-maligned shade, pulled from the design doldrums and now paired with some unexpected complementary colours, materials and tone-on-tone activity, writes Carol O’Callaghan.Fifty shades of beige

Their romance took Laura Roset and Ken Mohally from Mallow to Moldova and back again.Wedding of the Week: Love spreads from Mallow to Moldova

Every day, I take my wife a cup of tea in bed. However, we sometimes make love in the mornings and she pauses to finish her cup before it goes cold.Sexual healing: Her long tea breaks cools the moment

As the Caped Crusader hits 80 years of protecting Gotham City, Chris Wasser looks at the history of the world’s darkest superhero.80 years on, Batman still packs a punch

More From The Irish Examiner