Six senior medics contravened ethics legislation

Sipo says the ‘serious’ contraventions relate to tax compliance documentation

Sherry Perreault , Sipo’s head of ethics and lobbying regulation: ‘When contacted, the vast majority of people come into compliance quite quickly.’ Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Sherry Perreault , Sipo’s head of ethics and lobbying regulation: ‘When contacted, the vast majority of people come into compliance quite quickly.’ Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Six senior medical consultants have been found in contravention of ethics legislation in the first tranche of reports on individuals published by the standards watchdog.

They relate to a failure to provide the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) with tax compliance documentation.

It described the contravention as a “serious matter that requires appropriate action” but did not comment on what that might be.

The six consultants are: Dr John Doherty of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, who was appointed to a senior position in February 2017; Prof James Paul O’Neill of Beaumont Hospital; and Dr Giuseppe Gullo, Mr Emir Hoti, Dr Jeffrey McCann and Mr Kieran O’Shea, each of St Vincent’s University Hospital.

Mr Hoti subsequently complied with his obligations, Sipo said.

Under the Standards in Public Office Act 2001, those holding senior office must provide Sipo with a tax clearance certificate from the Revenue Commissioners and a statutory declaration by the person confirming compliance with their tax obligations.

A senior office holder is defined as someone in a position or directorship in a public body with remuneration of not less than a deputy secretary in the civil service, which includes senior medical posts.

Compliance

In each of the six investigations Sipo had contacted the consultants in order to request compliance.

They were appointed to their roles between August 2009 and February 2017. Investigations were launched between December 2017 and April 2018.

Sherry Perreault, its head of ethics and lobbying regulation, said that about 2½ years ago, information had come to light regarding a number of public appointments it had not been aware of. This prompted it to contact public sector organisations to assess how many other positions might exist that would fall under its remit.

It is understood the six reports published on Thursday are the first of that trawl, and relate to a relatively small number of people found to be in breach of the compliance legislation.

“When contacted, the vast majority of people come into compliance quite quickly,” Ms Perreault said.

The body has provided copies of the reports to the Oireachtas and to the employers. It said that in most cases those who fall under the legislation comply, and where they do not, investigations are undertaken.

However, it has been critical of a lack of statutory obligation on public sector bodies to inform it of relevant appointments and said it would welcome such a provision.

Senior office

“The commission notes that there may be a number of appointees to senior office that have escaped scrutiny as not all public bodies notify the commission of appointments to public office,” it said in a statement accompanying the reports.

In its most recent annual report, Sipo said it was difficult to identify relevant people as not all information was provided by employers.

“The failure by public bodies to provide the necessary information has the effect of obstructing the effective implementation of these provisions of the Act, and places the employees in a position of non-compliance, for which they could be subject to investigation,” its statement said.

These are the first reports of their kind released by Sipo relating to non-compliant employees and cover medics only. It is understood future reports on individuals, including in other areas of public service employment, may be issued if Sipo identifies further breaches.

In its findings on all six consultants, Sipo said it was “strongly of the opinion that a substantive contravention of the legislation, as in this case, is a serious matter that requires appropriate action”.

Ms Perreault declined to comment on what action it would like to see taken, adding that this was a matter for individual employers to consider.