HSE chief treating foster care abuse victim with ‘contempt’

HSE director general Tony O’Brien has been accused of treating foster care abuse victim ‘Grace’, and the general public, with “contempt”, for failing to release a damning report into €600,000 of cutbacks imposed on those who uncovered the sexual abuse scandal.

The Public Accounts Committee made the claim after being formally told, by letter, of the latest delay in publishing the report. The letter also confirmed the HSE has spent €185,984 on the case in legal challenges.

PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said, in response to criticism about the delay last week in publishing the Deloitte cutbacks’ report, that Mr O’Brien had written to the committee to explain the latest holdup.

Stating “here we go again”, Mr Fleming said the HSE chief confirmed that while he told the PAC on June 15 that the report would be made available by the end of that month, it was now being delayed until at least the end of August, as revealed by the Irish Examiner last Saturday.

Mr O’Brien attributed the delay to the fact that HSE officials and the whistleblower involved had, in recent weeks, provided further information to Deloitte’s investigators and that further meetings had not taken place, as people are on holiday.

However, dismissing the comment as an excuse, PAC members criticised the latest delay, with Independent TD, Catherine Connolly, saying “it would be easier to extract teeth without anaesthetic” than to receive information from the HSE.

In a similar vein, Mr Fleming said that the PAC has “been promised this Deloitte report time after time, after time” in recent months, without any success, despite the fact that a draft version was largely completed in late March and formally finished on May 19.

The committee chair said Mr O’Brien had said he was seeking the permission of the commission of investigation in the Grace scandal to send the committee the report.

Ms Connolly said this was “totally unacceptable”, as the report was commissioned over a year ago: “This is adding insult to injury. It’s appalling.”

She said that four of the five staff involved in the Grace case have been promoted, while the two whistleblowers in the case were “seriously impacted on”.

Deputy David Cullinane (SF) said the HSE boss had led the committee to believe the Deloitte report would be published “almost immediately”, but almost a month had passed.

“He is treating Grace with contempt, and the public with contempt,” replied Mr Fleming.

The PAC chair said he would write a stern letter, expressing the “gross dissatisfaction” of the committee regarding the reply and timeline.

He said that unless the PAC receive the Deloitte report, it would be expecting Mr O’Brien to appear before the committee again in September.

The stand-off came as the HSE letter to the PAC confirmed the publicly-funded body has spent a massive €185,984 in its legal defence, to date.

The HSE said that the State Claims Agency believes the final legal cost — which excludes the €6.3m High Court settlement to Grace earlier this year — “has not reached a final conclusion” and further expenses may occur.


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