An audit of expenses paid to HSE staff providing community healthcare services in parts of Dublin, Kildare, and Wicklow has flagged dozens of examples of bad practice and overpayments.
The probe found instances where an employee claimed more than four times the mileage expenses for the distance they had travelled, were paid expenses for their parking at work, and entered kilometre figures instead of mileage, and an example where three subsistence allowances were claimed by one employee for a colleague.
Overall, the audit reported 25 findings that pose a significant risk of substantial financial loss, accounting error, major non-compliance with policies or regulations, and “requires immediate action”, all of which were potential systemic issues.
The audit covered Community Health Organisations in HSE Area 7 (Kildare/West Wicklow, Dublin West, Dublin South City, and Dublin South West) and Area 9 (Dublin North, Dublin North Central, and Dublin North West), and examined samples of travel and subsistence claims and summary returns to payroll during 2015 and 2016.
Travel and subsistence across the two areas audited amounted to €3.9m in 2015.
In one sample, auditors found 70km worth of mileage expenses was claimed for a 15km return journey from Celbridge to Leixlip in Co Kildare.
In another, a staff member said they made seven journeys to Castledermot from Athy in May 2016, but the distances for which they claimed mileage ranged from 52km to 82km.
There were examples where staff had no defined work bases from which they would claim expenses and offered vague locations from where their journeys would originate.
One staff member had declared their work location as Naas, but made claims that journeys started in “Dublin”.
Another claim saw a member of staff overpaid by €121 when their claim of 500km was not converted to miles for the purposes of processing the payment.
A further case involved a claim for €60.30 in expenses for parking charges accumulated for parking outside their work base.
A worker also claimed travel expenses over a nine-month period worth €810 they were not entitled to when transferred from one work location to another.
One member of staff claimed €56.04 in subsistence rates for another employee.
And, in another case, a claim form did not state the journey destination for nine separate trips.
Staff in Area 7 converted their kilometres to miles by dividing by eight and multiplying by five, instead of using the correct formula. Auditors estimate it led to an overpayment of €15.70 for every 4,000km converted.
A certifying officer who signed off on expense claims did not take responsibility for the mileage figures claimed and redacted a sentence on the certification section of claim forms which required the mileage claimed to be correct.
Three quarters of the sample claims processed in Area 7 lacked all the details required to make a claim, with 69.5% of such claims in Area 9 lacking details.