Set the right example from the top tier down

There is something seriously, perhaps even terminally, wrong with our governmental management and control systems if functionaries in State agencies can decide to ignore the rules when it suits them.

The fact that they ignore those rules which impact on their own pay packets while penalising the population with poor service and targeting those who can least afford, it is bordering on criminal.

Simultaneously reducing the pay and conditions of its own lower level employees is simply an object lesson on how not to treat your employees and deserves every reaction it gets. It underpins the impunity that some people seem to have and the total lack of responsibility and accountability that exists in much of our public sector.

In case you missed it, it has once again come to light that many senior personnel within the state-funded health sector are in receipt of, what are euphemistically called, top-ups to their salaries. The State sets maximum salaries/remuneration levels and folk within the sector decide that they are worth more, so they get paid more with money coming from other sources.

The fact that these other sources may include funding obtained through charity/fundraising drives without advising those from whom charity is requested, is misrepresentation and arrogance. It’s a pity but genuine charities will lose out as people become ever more cynical and choose to keep their hands in their pockets rather than to contribute to what are sold as charitable collections, but are really collections for illicit salary top ups.

On Tuesday Enda Kenny said hospitals are not allowed to arrange extra payments to senior managers from private sources.

Indeed, in the Dáil he said that in no circumstances should an employee receive remuneration in the nature of pay and allowances greater than the amount prescribed.

“Non-exchequer sources of funding may not be used to supplement approved rates of remuneration. It’s very clear. It’s very straight.”

So how come there appear to be so many folk in this one sector who appear to be receiving these illicit payments?

It’s not that long ago that we were reading reports of similar top-up payments in the third-level sector.

It’s been reported that Mr Kenny also said that the Government wants to weed out additional sweeteners provided by State-funded voluntary hospitals and agencies to senior managers. However, he is being very vague on whether the Government will seek to recover unauthorised payments. Could it just be the use of the word ‘unauthorised’ versus what many of us would see as the more correct word, and that is ‘illegal’, is the real key.

The scale of these top-up payments is considerable. One person received over €225,000 in extra pay between 2005 and 2010. The CEOs of 19 of Ireland’s leading voluntary hospitals and agencies are receiving almost €550k a year in extra top-up payments. The beneficiaries already earn between €96k and €168k per annum and work in facilities that receive significant charity contributions.

According to one report, two internal inquiries into Tallaght Hospital found that a ‘parallel executive payroll’ existed for some of its highest ranking executives from 2005-2010.

It would seem that either management control systems or government criteria are totally inept or there is some dodgy business going on.

The solution is simple. Immediately, cease the payment of these top-ups and/or deduct the amount paid to the agency.

Give all of these State-funded organisations 30 days to set out all illicit payments that are being made and also to advise on any other under-the- counter payment or dodgy deals. If they fail to respond stop government payments immediately.


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