The State accountant for Ireland is to investigate the HSE’s procurement policy during the initial phase of Covid-19, including a €14.1m transaction to import ventilators which didn’t work.
Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Seamus McCarthy told the marquee Public Accounts Committee that a separate chapter would be set aside in his organisation’s annual report for 2020 on the subject.
He said the investigation will be conducted with a view to “a value for money evaluation” and “lessons learned”.
He said he would “expect” the HSE to “raise issues they have noted themselves”.
“I particularly want to focus on lessons learned, as in what lesson have they learned now in terms of how to prepare for the future,” he said.
“I don’t wish to prejudge,” Mr McCarthy said in response to a question from TD Catherine Murphy as to how a company with no experience in terms of medical devices could be used to procure same.
He added however that “you need good strategies; you don’t need a new way of doing it” with regard to procurement.
“You already have the details of suppliers, you should be able to rely on that information when you have to procure something urgently,” he added.
The HSE is due to appear before the PAC in February of next year, with head of procurement at the executive Sean Bresnan also expected to attend.
Separately, the behaviour of the chief of Ireland’s prison service and the head of the Department of Justice at last week’s PAC hearing was described as “appalling” at last evening’s meeting by Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry.
Last Thursday director general of the Irish Prison Service Caron McCaffrey and secretary general of the Department of Justice Oonagh McPhillips repeatedly declined to discuss a case involving a named prisons whistleblower, Noel McGree, saying it would be “inappropriate” to do so.
“I was appalled by what happened last week,” Mr MacSharry said at last evening’s meeting. “I’m appalled we were only making up the numbers given the lack of candour and basic respect afforded this committee.”
Vice chair of the committee Ms Murphy said that Standing Order 218, a new Dáil rule which greatly reduces the scope available to PAC in its questioning, now “works against the committee in favour of the witnesses”.
“It’s like having a pair of handcuffs on,” she said. “I don’t see how we can do the work without a rebalancing.”