Majority of voluntary health agencies have not confirmed they adhering to pay policy
Reilly says funds from car parks and shops cannot be used to supplement pay
Dr James Reilly: said only five organisations had replied to a circular letter issued at the end of September. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times
Fewer than half of the country’s 43 State-funded voluntary hospitals and health agencies have responded to calls by the Government for confirmation that they are complying with official pay policy.
Minister for Health James Reilly yesterday said that only five organisations had replied to a circular letter that was issued at the end of September setting out policy in relation to executive remuneration in such organisations. He said that 10 other bodies had requested more time to reply.
Official HSE figures issued last night subsequent to the Minister’s comments reported that six agencies had confirmed compliance with official policy, while 10 had said they were in breach. A further eight agencies had issued holding letters seeking more time to respond, which nine others had said they were seeking legal advice. The HSE said that 11 agencies had not responded but it took this as an indication that they were in compliance with pay policy.
On September 27th last, the HSE forwarded a new Department of Health policy circular to directly funded voluntary hospitals and agencies. It stated that the Minister had instructed that all such organisations – officially known as section 38 bodies– be reminded of their obligations to conform fully to Government pay policy.
The circular followed a controversial HSE internal audit report which found a wide range of anomalies, including some State-funded voluntary bodies supplementing official salary levels with additional income or benefits which were funded from either exchequer or private sources.
It found at least 36 different types of allowances – including non-sanctioned benefits such as health insurance cover, motor or travel allowance, and extra payments for serving as secretary to a board – were being paid from HSE funds to managers in voluntary bodies at an annual cost of €3.2 million. In addition, auditors found that 13 agencies were paying additional remuneration and benefits, including top-up salary and allowances, to 34 mangers from private, non-State sources.
The circular said the voluntary agencies should confirm in writing to the HSE that remuneration was in accordance with the Department of Health consolidated salary scales; that non-exchequer sources of funding were not used to exceed approved rates of remuneration; that payment of all unsanctioned payments had ceased; and that the recoupment of any overpayments would be pursued as speedily as possible.
Speaking in Belfast yesterday the Minister said that the health authorities had not received the confirmations it had sought from the voluntary bodies and if these were not received shortly, further action would have to be taken.
He said that section 38 organisations were covered by Government pay policy and were expected to comply.
Dr Reilly was commenting on foot of reports in The Irish Times yesterday that Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin was paying its chief executive an allowance of €30,000 on top of salary, funded from profits generated by shops on its campus.
The Minister said this was not the full story and that he was aware of other arrangements elsewhere in the sector which needed to be corrected and brought into line with public pay policy.
Dr Reilly said that additional funding generated from other activities, such as car parks and shops, could not be used to supplement pay.
However, he said that voluntary hospitals and agencies could make business cases if they wished to retain specific existing arrangements. He said these would then be looked at by the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.