HSE pay system costing €6m a year

THE PPARS health service salary system, which was heavily criticised in 2005 after a series of glaring errors were uncovered, is still costing the taxpayer more than €6 million a year.

New figures confirmed by the HSE show that despite the scandal over the human resources software, at least €100,000 is being spent on the project every week.

When the programme was developed in the 1990s, it was predicted it would cost the taxpayer about €8.8m.

However, the cost of the personnel, payroll and related systems (PPARS) has soared to over €180m.

Trade newspaper Irish Medical News has reported that the HSE expects the cost for the project this year alone to reach €6.451m. Of this figure, €3.23m is being spent on technical support, €1.591m on staff, €1.149m on software licences and €150,000 on rent.

When this is added to the €6.665m spent in 2009, the €6.9m in 2008, €11m in 2007, €19.6m in 2006 and about €140m spent integrating the system between 1999 and December 2005, the cost of the PPARS project to date stands at more than €180m, more than 20 times higher than the initial expected bill.

Jan O’Sullivan, Labour health spokeswoman, said: “It is a huge sum of money considering patient services are being cut down to the bone. The new HSE chief executive, Cathal Magee, should have an open mind about PPARS’s future. The best thing now is to close that system down completely.”

Shortly after his appointment as HSE chief executive in summer 2005 Brendan Drumm paused the full roll-out of the system after a series of controversies.

In one case an employee was paid a €1m salary due to a computer glitch, while managers at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, which acted as a PPARS pilot site, warned the system was so flawed it threatened the facility’s ability to function.

Later, a Comptroller and Auditor General & report said there was no guarantee the system would cost less than manual payroll and human resources services.

As a result, PPARS is widely considered to be one of the biggest financial excesses of the Celtic Tiger era. Among the other notorious overruns during the period is the failed e-voting system, which cost €53.1m plus €1.55m a year to store the obsolete machines.

Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy’s failed 2003 plan to decentralise 11,000 civil servants cost €900m, while the LUAS, which had a €329m budget for three light-rail lines, cost €778m for two lines which don’t connect.

Although the PPARS system is not fully operational, 40,000 health service staff are paid a salary or pension through it, while it holds the records of 90,000 more.

Where it has been implemented, the HSE said PPARS has received “universal acceptance as being a flexible, timely and accurate transaction processing and management information system for an organisation of this size”.


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