HSE overpays 2,500 workers by €5million in past two years

The HSE has overpaid almost 2,500 employees to the tune of €5m in the past two years, with only half of the money being paid back by those who incorrectly received it.

The figure will be revealed by the Dáil’s cross-party public accounts committee this morning after it received correspondence from the HSE confirming the over-payment has taken place.

After recent meetings with the State’s new national shared salary office, the PAC asked the HSE last month to provide a breakdown of any potential overpayments to have taken place in the system.

In its response, the HSE’s finance division said that despite intense scrutiny over value-for-money issues it is aware of a large number of overpayments in the past two years that is has yet to ensure have been fully repaid.

According to the HSE, in 2016 a total of 1,306 health service employees received salary overpayments worth a combined €2.428m, a figure that was repeated last year with 1,295 employees receiving €2.419m more than planned.

In both years the HSE said the average overpayment was just under €2,000 per person, with the correspondence to the PAC stressing the amount of money involved is minimal compared to the HSE’s overall budget and staff levels.

However, the records provided to the PAC also admitted that of the €5m overpaid in the past two years, almost half has yet to be paid back to the State.

Like a number of other state bodies, the HSE has faced significant salary overpayment errors in the past —most notably from the PPARS payments system scandal a decade ago.

It is currently examining ways to further improve oversight of its salary system to reduce overpayment and underpayment risks.

The salary overpayments figures come after the PAC recently heard from the newly formed State’s national shared salary office that a number of similar overpayments are taking place across public services.

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, the new office is aware of at least €7.5m in salary overpayments that have yet to be repaid from the public sector, a rate PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said is “substantially higher” than believed.

While it was initially thought in the region of €4.6m was owed to the State from the public service that had yet to be returned, this rate only relates to the national shared salary office which was created in 2014.

However, a number of other public bodies, including the HSE, fall outside of the scope of the new office and as such are not included in the €4.6m figure.

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