Hospice criticised for awarding €119,000 contract to firm linked to former CEO

Auditors say hospice did not comply with tendering process for training contract

 Light Up A Life, a remembrance celebration held annually at Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Light Up A Life, a remembrance celebration held annually at Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services in Harold’s Cross, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

HSE internal auditors have criticised the country’s largest hospice, Our Lady’s in Harold’s Cross in Dublin, for paying out nearly €120,000 on staff training to a company with family links to its then chief executive officer.

In a new report published on Tuesday, HSE internal audit also said that Our Lady’s Hospice did not comply with tendering processes when it engaged the external training company in 2010 and 2012.

The internal audit also said it found no evidence of business planning for the purchase of training in 2010 and 2012. It said there was no training needs analysis for the initial training in 2010 or for the extension of the training to other grades in 2012.

“There was no evidence of a signed contract with the successful supplier for the provision of training in accordance with agreed rates and standard terms and conditions. There was also a lack of supporting documentation for the procurement of the training as required by national financial regulations.”

The auditors also said there was a lack of budgetary controls over training expenditure. It said there had been many revisions to the original training proposal and associated costs which increased from an estimated €20,000 to over €119,000 in a three-year period.

The internal auditors said there were grounds to support anonymous allegations about the training programme at Our Lady’s Hospice which were sent to a member of the Oireachtas. On foot of these allegations the director general of the HSE subsequently sought the internal audit into the allegations.

Our Lady’s is a 218-bed hospice providing specialist services for people with a range of conditions ranging from rehabilitation to end-of-life care. It has about 600 staff and almost 300 volunteers.

It is known technically as a Section 38 organisation – its staff are considered to be public service personnel and it received about €23 million in State funding.

The internal audit was commissioned by the head of the HSE on foot of allegations made anonymously by a whistleblower. These suggested that a contract for training worth about €142,000 had been paid to a company with family links to the then chief executive officer, Mo Flynn.

The audit found that the training provider did have family links to Ms Flynn who is now head of the Rehab organisation.

It said the managing partner of the firm that provided the training was her sister-in-law.

It said there was also evidence that the former chief executive’s brother was involved in the business.

In a submission to auditors, Ms Flynn said that on being informed that one of the companies being invited to tender was linked to her through family connections, she had informed hospice management that she could not be involved in the process.

She said while there was no documentary evidence disclosed by HSE audit, “what is clear from the face of the report are that verbal submissions by hospice management were made to the effect that at the relevant time the former CEO had absented herself from the process which has been affirmed by the former CEO.”

The HSE internal audit said it had been told that all relevant records had been provided to it and that in these documents it could not find any reference to either the former CEO recusing herself from the procurement process or that written quotes had been received from a number of potential suppliers.

“Our Lady’s Hospice management advised internal audit that the relevant paperwork had gone missing due to the passage of time.”

It said that therefore no documentary evidence was made available to the audit by the hospice to support the explanations given by Our Lady’s Hospice management.

Auditors said in their opinion that based on their fieldwork “there appear to be grounds to support the anonymous allegations received by the director general of the HSE”.

“Approximately €119,000 was paid to a provider of HR training over a three-year period who had family links to the former CEO of Our Lady’s Hospice. Management at Our Lady’s Hospice have advised Internal Audit that written quotes were sought from a number of potential suppliers and that the former CEO absented herself from the procurement process. However no evidence to support this has been made available to Internal Audit.”