St John of God paid thousands in salary top-ups

The behaviour of St John of God (SJOG) in paying hundreds of thousands in secret salary top-ups and lump sum compensation to senior managers to circumvent public pay policy has raised “fundamental issues of trust” with its funder, the HSE.

In an internal audit, released yesterday, the HSE warned the disability service provider needed to address its concerns “having regard to the contractual terms upon which it derives State funding from the HSE”.

SJOG got €511m from the taxpayer from 2012 to 2015.

The audit warns that the “quid-pro-quo required from organisations receiving taxpayer funding is an organisational culture of transparency, accountability, compliance with all public policies, full candour and full co-operation…. In Internal Audit’s opinion..the organisational culture in SJOG did not meet these standards.”

Among the damning findings are:

  • The practice of paying salary top-ups to SJOG community services senior managers, who are public servants, existed as far back as at least 1986;
  • Between January and November 2013, 14 SJOG senior managers were paid salary top-ups of €528,755. These were paid through the order’s private payroll;
  • One individual received a top up of €107,000 pa.

In November 2013, the 14 senior managers were paid lump sum compensation totalling €1.8m after a compensation scheme was devised as part of SJOG addressing its non-compliance with public pay policy.

“SJOG did not inform HSE about its proposed actions nor did it seek to confirm with HSE if its proposed actions were compliant with public pay policy,” the audit said.

In 2013, the total cost of the additional salaries and the compensation payments paid to the 14 through private payroll was €2.4m. 

The order’s audited accounts 2013 make no reference to the costs as salary expenditure and no reference to the compensation payments.

Three senior managers subsequently left SJOG’s employment in 2015 and 2017. 

There was no clawback of the compensation paid to them which had been calculated on the basis of the number of years to their normal retirement age (age 65) which were 16.25 years, 16.58, years, and 18.25 years.

One senior manager availed of a redundancy package of €157,109 in 2015. HSE approval was not sought.

The order declined to comment on the audit yesterday. 

However when details were leaked last June, it said the payments were made in good faith following independent professional advice received by the organisation to discharge a possible future pension liability.

The audit found “no consideration appears to have been given by SJOG to the potential that it was potentially transferring a significant liability onto the Exchequer”.

The HSE said in a statement yesterday that it was engaged with SJOG “to address a number of issues aimed at ensuring the future provision of services to children and adults with intellectual disability, and children, adolescents, and adults with mental health support needs”.

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