A charity which awarded €1.64m in top-ups to senior staff has continued to defend them even with mounting political pressure for the money to be repaid.
Despite a HSE review into payments to 14 managers, St John of God has maintained “it is in compliance with public pay policy”.
It comes after Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe demanded that any payments made above the allowance level be returned.
However, if the payments are found to be unauthorised, it may be down to the charity and not the HSE to recoup this money.
“We are of the view that the once-off payments made to senior managers in 2013, which were based on professional advice, was the correct thing to do,” the charity said in a statement reissued to the Irish Examiner.
“The payments were made by the order to discharge contractual obligations with managers.”
The HSE said it has “the ability to act appropriately on a case-by-case basis” where unauthorised payments are found to be made to employees of Section 38 bodies such as St John of God. However, this could be challenged legally.
HSE director general Tony O’Brien pointed out that in some cases, such as the Central Remedial Clinic, it is not the responsibility of the HSE but the board to pursue payments. The CRC board decided not to go after a €741,000 severance package given to former executive Paul Kiely on his retirement.
“The board that is there has reached the conclusion that the cost of seeking to recover the money would outweigh the likely amount it has to get, now that’s not a decision the HSE makes,” Mr O’Brien told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.
St John of God claimed its CEO, John Pepper, who earns €182,000, left the public service in 2013 and so was not subject to Financial Emergency Measure in the Public Interest.
But Mr Harris said: “We cannot have a situation whereby some people working in St John of God are earning salaries lower than that of the chief executive and are subject to the FEMPI act, while people at the very top earning are large salaries not subject to it.”
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