Money donated to Cork University Hospital (CUH) for research and education has ended up in bank accounts set up by staff without senior management approval and the hospital’s finance department is not always made aware of these funds.
An internal HSE audit of non-routine income received by the hospital from external sources — as opposed to routine income generated by patient charges and carparks — found it is often not routed through CUH’s finance department or through the official HSE bank account.
Auditors said this increased the risk “that solicited and unsolicited income is received by CUH employees and departments...outside of hospital or HSE management control” and that all sources of income “may not be properly identified, collected or accounted for”.
While a number of HSE national financial regulations govern receipt and control of such income, the audit revealed there was “no specific policy, procedure or regulation in place at CUH or in the HSE governing the receipt of monies from research bodies, corporation or individuals for the purposes of research and education”.
The audit found a number of department “funds” and “research accounts” operating within the hospital, the purpose of which ranged from the purchase of small pieces of office equipment to the funding of clinical trials. CUH’s finance department told auditors that they were not made aware of the existence of the funds in certain cases.
Out of an audit sample size of 24, in five cases income was received from three pharmaceutical/medical development companies with no evidence that the companies involved received an official HSE receipt or Letter of Acceptance as required by national regulations.
Auditors also examined an agreement between external companies and laboratories in the hospital to provide occupational screening tests on their behalf. Under this agreement, income generated by the screening was to be split equally between biochemistry and haematology for the purpose of staff continuing professional development. However auditors found the fund had evolved to include two other departments — histopathology and neuropathology — outside the scope of the original agreement.
The audit sample and fieldwork identified four separate bank accounts for research and education funds set up without the required senior management approval and whose signatories included staff members in relevant departments.
Three amounts of €75,000, €60,000 and €40,000 were received by CUH from one of these research funds. The auditors recommended that CUH finance managers liaise with the administrators of the four funds to ensure that all monies were transferred to the official HSE bank account and that the closure of each bank account be expedited.
In response the CUH finance department said administrators would again be requested to close the accounts and transfer the moneys, but said “the capacity of CUH finance to take on additional administrative duties in dealing with these accounts is extremely limited within the current depleted staff complement”.
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