St Vincent’s University Hospital has refused to tell a HSE audit into top-up payments how much it has been paying senior staff in private allowances.
In an update to its audit of voluntary hospitals and disability organisations which have been paying senior staff unauthorised allowances, the hospital stated it was “not appropriate” to provide details as public funds were not involved.
The latest audit figures will be discussed at a meeting of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee today, and will put the controversial top-ups issue back under the spotlight.
“Three senior managers are paid by the company for work carried out over and above their public service contract. This is funded from private resources, i.e, not from the HSE or the (St Vincent’s) foundation,” the Dublin hospital told HSE auditors.
Overall, the latest audit shows a total of 13 voluntary hospitals and health agencies were collectively paying more than €900,000 in additional remuneration and benefits to executives from funds drawn from unknown private sources.
The audit restates that the Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr Rhona Mahony was getting an unauthorised private allowance of €45,000, in addition to a publicly funded salary of €183,500.
This is despite her statement last month that the €45,000 came from fees for seeing private patients.
Three other senior employees at the hospital were also getting private allowances ranging from €30,000 to €39,000.
Similarly, it states the Master of the Rotunda Dr Sam Coulter Smith received a privately funded allowance of €60,000, in addition to a publicly-funded salary of €183,500.Four other senior staff received private allowances of between €6,000 and €17,000.
New correspondence from the Department of Public Expenditure to the committee shows that officials warned health authorities up to four years ago of the need to tackle unauthorised private salaries paid to staff in State-funded voluntary hospitals and disability organisations.
Correspondence the Department gave the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee says officials were alerted in 2009 and 2010 to three cases where unsanctioned payments were being made to employees in the Cope Foundation and Our Lady’s hospital in Crumlin.
The letter states that the Department of Health had sought sanction for the payment of pension entitlements from the Department of Public Expenditure for retiring staff who had been getting “unsanctioned, non-standard salaries”.
In response, the Department of Public Expenditure said this was a “very unsatisfactory” arrangement and only sanctioned the payments on condition that the health authorities address the wider issue. This includedconducting an audit of the situation in the voluntary health sector to identify the extent of the problem and potential liabilities for the public purse; proposals to address the issue of unauthorised salary rates and arrangements for appropriate penalties for the public funding of these bodies.
The correspondence also contains details of a special annual pay deal of €195,000 agreed two years ago to facilitate the transfer of a senior executive in St Vincent’s into the mainstream HSE so he would not lose out on additional or top-up income he was earning.
It states this sanction was for a three-year period and that payment for an additional “detached duty” allowance was also authorised, as the individual was living away from their normal location.
Last month, The Irish Times named the individual as Bill Maher, the then acting chief executive of St Vincent's University Hospital, who took over the running of the group of HSE-operated public hospitals in the west of Ireland.