Former chairman seeks investigation into mental health organisation


Letter to Brendan Howlin calls for a review of funding of voluntary group by the HSE

A FORMER chairman and director of Mental Health Ireland (MHI) has called for an investigation into the voluntary organisation.

Denis O’Dwyer wrote to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin last month, asking for an investigation into “the manner in which the MHI is funded by the HSE” and raising concerns about several issues.

Mr Howlin’s office confirmed receipt of the letter and said it had been passed on to the Minister for Health, James Reilly.

In the letter, Mr O’Dwyer said he had been a director and chairman of the organisation for more than 25 years.

He was deputy chief executive of the Midland Health Board before he retired in 1999.

He confirmed his resignation from Mental Health Ireland in a letter to the company in February and expressed unhappiness at the manner in which he left the organisation.

In his letter to Mr Howlin, he pointed out that the HSE had sent a solicitor’s letter to Mental Health Ireland in 2010, asking about its intentions to refund €975,000 due to the HSE.

“This amount in the main related to funding provided by the HSE to cover the cost of a number of posts which had arisen over a period of years and which had not been filled by MHI,” the letter stated.

The HSE confirmed that the money had since been returned by Mental Health Ireland.

It said it had an agreement with Mental Health Ireland to deliver an agreed level of service across a broad range of mental health activities throughout the State.

“The service level agreement is under continuous review to ensure accountability for funds received and that activity levels are in compliance with the funding allocated,” a HSE spokeswoman said.

Mental Health Ireland runs more than 100 local mental health associations around the State and promotes positive mental health.

Mr O’Dwyer’s letter also highlighted a dispute over pensions which has resulted in a pending High Court action against the company.

The 2010 annual report refers to “a claim against the company in relation to treatment of pension arrangements for certain current and former employees”. It states that the company had provided €575,000 in the financial statements in respect of the claim and said the directors were of the view that the dispute could be resolved.

“In the event that this claim becomes payable and the company does not have resources to discharge liabilities arising, it may not be appropriate to prepare the financial statements on a going concern basis,” the annual report states.

Mr O’Dwyer’s letter expressed concern about the failure to secure a resolution to avoid “substantial legal and probable considerable compensation costs” associated with a court case.

Mental Health Ireland’s chief executive, Brian Howard, declined to comment on the matters raised in the letter.

He said the company had no knowledge of any letter from Mr O’Dwyer to Mr Howlin and “it would be wholly inappropriate to disclose Mental Health Ireland’s confidential business and as such I cannot comment upon the issues”.

A spokeswoman for Mr Howlin confirmed that he had received the letter and had referred it to Minister for Health James Reilly.

A spokeswoman for Mr Reilly said the correspondence was “under consideration. The Department will be making no further comment.”

In his letter, Mr O’Dwyer expressed the hope that a resolution would be found to the problems confronting “a loyal and dedicated staff”.