Agencies to face HSE chief over top-ups

All health bodies giving top-ups to senior officials will be hauled before the head of the HSE between now and Christmas to explain how they will “immediately” end the ‘second salaries’ culture.

Health Minister James Reilly confirmed the move last night as a spokesperson warned he will take “whatever actions are necessary” to stop the extra payments in their tracks.

The department said Dr Reilly and HSE director general Tony O’Brien met yesterday to clarify what — if any — progress has been made.

During the meeting, which took place as the Central Remedial Clinic claimed it was innocent of any wrongdoing, Dr Reilly called for “urgent action” to ensure “every agency is fully compliant with Government pay policy”.

The HSE currently has “a team of senior managers” contacting individual agencies to question them on what action is being taken.

However, if there is a failure to stamp out the top-ups culture, the department said it has licensed the HSE to take “whatever actions are necessary to deliver full compliance and ensure any governance deficits identified are comprehensively rectified immediately”.

The individual meetings between the health agencies involved and Mr O’Brien will begin next week and conclude before Christmas.

While the timing of the meetings will dovetail with the expected publication of the HSE’s 2014 service plan — which will outline how €666m worth of cuts will be imposed — officials stressed this is a separate issue.

The groups being examined include 12 agencies that admit breaking top-up rules: Central Remedial Clinic; Carriglea Cairde Services; Dublin Dental School and Hospital; Royal Hospital Donnybrook; Muiriosa Foundation; Tallaght Hospital; the Coombe; Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross; Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital; St Michael’s House; and the Rotunda, Holles St).

Meanwhile, umbrella charity group The Wheel has condemned the culture of top-ups but said it “would be a terrible consequence for the thousands of people served by the vast majority of well-run charities, if the justifiable shock and anger caused by these recent revelations were to affect the fundraising”.

CRC still has questions to answer as issues left unresolved

They have the nation’s full attention, an outside PR firm’s help, and a high-profile RTÉ interview, but — on some issues at least — a cat still has the Central Remedial Clinic’s tongue.

The Irish Examiner was faced with a closed door and an empty email inbox after attempting to clarify as-yet unanswered questions over how public donations to the Friends and Supporters of the CRC charity are spent.

This newspaper tried to gain answers to issues left unresolved during Des Peelo’s RTÉ interview and a carefully worded statement from the group by contacting former chief executive and current director Paul Kiely at his home in Castleknock, Dublin.

However, Mr Kiely — who, in addition to his €106,000 HSE salary, received a ‘second salary’ of €116,949, a €19,016 allowance and a €25,000 pension contribution from the CRC’s charity wing — did not answer.

Questions which would have been put to Mr Kiely and not clarified by Mr Peelo were then put to the CRC, as they have since Thursday.

The group’s internal spokesperson said outside PR experts WHPR are now in charge of queries — for free, the PR firm said.

WHPR re-stated Mr Peelo’s points, said funds donated directly to the CRC instead of the charity wing were not affected by the affair, and said “overall charitable donations fund only 1.1% of the CRC wage bill”. However, it did not clarify:

- What percentage of fundraiser lottery donations were spent on the wage bill? How many people are on the wage bill (nine were in receipt of top-up payments)?

- Why did Friends and Supporters of the CRC receive €27.856m from fundraiser lotteries between 1998-2011 but donate only €7.728m to the CRC?

- Why was €15.48m of this spent on a “provision of loans to associates”?

- Were charitable donations used for top ups before 2009?

- Who are the nine people receiving top-ups from 2009, five of whom still work at the CRC?

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PAC chief 'surprised' by timing of hospital top-ups statementPAC chief 'surprised' by timing of hospital top-ups statement


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