Ex-official refuses to attend slush fund probe

A former Siptu official has blamed garda inquiries for his refusal to co-operate with a Dáil committee investigation into a ‘slush’ fund he managed.

Matt Merrigan, the union’s former health division organiser, has told the Public Accounts Committee he will not attend a hearing on the fund next month.

PAC officials described yesterday how Mr Merrigan, former union official, Jack Kelly, and a former HSE employee, Alan Smith, were compelled to attend the hearing.

But the committee has received a letter from Mr Merrigan in which he claims that he cannot attend the hearing because of an ongoing garda inquiry into the matter, TDs heard.

TDs were told the three were questioning the legality of bringing them in.

But TDs have been told they already have the power to compel people to attend hearings, even if their investigations run alongside garda inquiries, the committee said.

Legal advice will now be sought on whether the matter will go before the courts.

Independent TD Shane Ross insisted that PAC could compel them to attend and the matter of the garda’s involvement was “clouding” the issue.

Siptu last year admitted the so called ‘Health and Local Authority Levy Fund’ — uncovered in 2009 but operating since 1998 — had “tarnished” its reputation.

The Department of Health and the HSE have admitted that its members travelled on dozens of trips with money from the account. 

The C&AG has said that the net cost to taxpayers was €3.15m, with €2.2m spent on training initiatives.

TDs have branded the Siptu bank account as a “slush fund” where trade union officials and senior public and civil servants “cosied up” to each other.

Many of the supposed visits to places like the US and Canada for training and development occurred around St Patrick’s Day.

Siptu has repeatedly insisted the account was neither known to or under the control of the union.


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