The acting head of the HSE has been overpaid more than €160,000 since 2006.
Despite the blunder — which if addressed would mean 492 families could be spared the controversial respite carers’ cut — he will be allowed keep the money.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Health have confirmed HSE director designate Tony O’Brien was paid the extra funds in breach of Government rules. Correspondence between both departments said the issue was not the fault of Mr O’Brien, who was described as “an exemplary public servant”.
However, despite the oversight — which centres on the fact his extra payments were not subjected to Finance Department scrutiny — no attempt will be made to retrieve the money.
The incident, which emerged over the weekend, began in 2006 when Mr O’Brien was named as chief executive of the National Cancer Screening Service on a €140,636 a year deal.
Due to the increased responsibilities involved, the HSE granted him a yearly allowance worth 18% of his salary — the equivalent of €25,314 — without contacting any Government department to clarify whether this was allowed.
When Mr O’Brien was seconded to the National Cancer Control Programme the group’s then chief, Professor Tom Keane, agreed to continue the extra payment.
Mr O’Brien was named as Prof Keane’s interim replacement after his departure in 2010 and the annual allowance continued. In Aug 2012, Mr O’Brien was appointed as HSE director designate by Health Minister James Reilly.
Wider system structural changes meant his new €195,000 a year salary had to be sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
It was only at this stage that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform secretary general Robert Watt uncovered the six years of overpayments.
The official wrote to his counterpart in the Department of Health, Ambrose McLoughlin, asking for “corrective steps” to be taken. Freedom of Information Act documents show Dr McLoughlin said the extra salary was the fault of the HSE not the Department or Mr O’Brien and the money could not be retrieved.
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