HSE audits reveal financial waste

More than €92,000 of credit card expenditure by a State-funded youth service — largely on hotels, restaurants, and entertainment — a €14,000 payment to a consultant for a week on call, and close to €20,000 to a recruitment agency for a doctor already working in the hospital are among a litany of poor financial practices highlighted in HSE audits.

HSE audits reveal financial waste

The reports, released under Freedom of Information legislation, raised wide-ranging concerns such as:

- Seven separate expense accounts operated by Youth Advocates Programnmes (YAP), funded by the Child and Family Agency, for which there were no written guidelines for what could be claimed or for the amounts;

- A risk of unauthorised expenditure at YAP on credit cards as two of the three cards were authorised by the same people in possession of the cards;

- Whether YAP was achieving value for money when paying €6,000 to fly two US resident board members to Ireland for board meetings and events.

Total credit card expenditure at YAP across 2014 to 2016 exceeded more than €92,000, including nearly €20,000 on hotel stays, €12,500 on restaurants and €9,590 on gifts and entertainment. Another €1,690 was spent on laptops including “a gaming laptop”.

The internal HSE audit team warned “some of the credit card expenditure, in particular, the restaurant expenditure and gifts and entertainment may not have a business purpose”.

The auditors identified 60 findings, 42 of which were rated “high risk” meaning they “pose a significant risk of substantial financial loss”.

A separate probe into Familiscope, which was wound up in 2014, was unable to locate three years of financial records. Familiscope provided a service to children, young people and families in Dublin who had experienced emotional and behavioural problems.

Records for 2012 to 2014 could not be located. When auditors were eventually provided with bank statements, they showed ATM withdrawals from one account totalled almost €20,000, with €12,500 of transactions taking place after it was wound up. Nearly €5,000 was spent on a credit card. Auditors said they could not say if it was “appropriate and germane to the business”.

Audits of hospitals in the South/Southwest Hospital Group found:

- CUH paid over €14,000 to a consultant for one week on call, an amount 150% greater — or almost €8,500 more — than specified in the contract with the agency. The hospital said it was essential in order to avoid having to close a facility;

- University Hospital Kerry paid a recruitment company €19,260 excluding Vat for the appointment of a consultant, “but it was found the consultant was an employee at the time the fee was paid”;

- At Bantry General Hospital no procurement process was followed in awarding a contract, worth €25,000 a month, to an external medical services supplier for the provision of a radiology service. The contract was in place since 2013. It went out to tender in May of last year.

At Galway University Hospitals, the audit team found a contract entered into in 2008 for external storage of medical records had been added to by hospital management without going to tender. When the contract was first entered, the estimated cost for storage was €7,000 per annum.

By 2016, it was €800,000. The audit report said the contract was for two years with an option for renewal, but it remained in place after nine years along with a related agreement that had no termination date.

An audit looking at the use of non-emergency ambulance transport by Sligo University Hospital found it was paying an additional €700 for each return trip to Dublin when its first choice provider, LifeLine, was used ahead of its second choice provider, Medicall.

This was because LifeLine’s interpretation of the compulsory pricing schedule in the National Framework Agreement covering the region differed to the interpretation of the other providers.

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