Revelations over executive pay will rankle in wake of cuts to supports

Confidential audit states some senior salaries were boosted by fundraising income

Hard-pressed families are raising funds to support crucial services.

Hard-pressed families are raising funds to support crucial services.

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 01:00

At a time of savage cutbacks to disability services, disclosures over the scale of pay for senior managers in voluntary bodies will rankle most of all with families of children who have lost vital supports.

Most damaging of all are reports that senior managers’ publicly funded salaries have been supplemented in some cases by other income, such as fundraising and retail income.

In many cases, hard-pressed families themselves are fundraising to support crucial services for their children.This is because thousands of children with developmental delays and behavioural issues are waiting more than a year to see specialists. Many others have had crucial day or residential services cut. Families who are struggling to meet their children’s needs have, in many cases, reduced access to respite services.

Despite the fact that taxpayers give €1.5 billion to voluntary bodies each year, there are still long-standing concerns over the lack of transparency over salaries received by senior staff in not-for-profit organisations.

An audit in 2005 by the Comptroller and Auditor General found a widespread failure among voluntary bodies to provide audited financial statements or disclose levels of executive pay.

Executive pay
When The Irish Times sought details of executive pay in 2010 under the Freedom of Information Act, several refused to disclose the precise details of their salary packages.

This latest HSE audit gives the most detailed insight to date into senior pay at these organisations.

Overall, 34 organisations reported that senior staff remuneration was in excess of HSE pay scales. Some 13 of the 34 organisations exceeded these public pay scales by more than 15 per cent.

In all, total pay packages range from between €109,000 and €300,000.

It found there was no evidence of comprehensive agreements or guidelines from the Department of Health or former health boards in relation to salaries for chief executives.

In practice, however, many have been paid at salary scales equivalent to the chief executives of the former health boards.

It states the Department of Health has been aware since at least 1998 that some organisations have paid their chief officers over and above HSE pay scale levels, through other resources available to these organisations.

The National Federation of Voluntary Bodies – the main representative group for this sector – said yesterday it was not aware of any situations where member organisations are supplementing senior salaries through income generated by retail or fundraising.

The federation said it took the view that remuneration of senior staff was a matter for the boards of individual organisations. However, it pointed to a value-for-money review of disability services published last year, quoting a 2009 survey of voluntary bodies.

This established that 25 of 28 providers surveyed were remunerating their chief executives in line with the department’s salary scales.

Brian O’Donnell, the federation’s chief executive, said voluntary organisations have managed to maintain and in some instances increase essential frontline services despite significant cuts to services.

“This has been achieved largely through innovative changes in work practices and in managing transitions from older more expensive service delivery models to newer more cost-effective ones,” he said.

He added that reductions in funding were separate salary reductions agreed under the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements, which applied to all staff working in HSE-funded voluntary agencies.

“Although it is difficult to give a definitive position on this, my assessment is that salary reductions would be in line with overall funding reductions and in some cases would be in excess of this,” O’Donnell said.