HSE audit highlights weak financial controls at Our Lady’s Hospice

Auditors indicate doubts over ownership of house on which hospice spent €94,000

Mo Flynn: The expenditure in the pub involved a “gesture” for volunteer staff after the annual Light up a Life event, she wrote  in a submission to the  auditors. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

Mo Flynn: The expenditure in the pub involved a “gesture” for volunteer staff after the annual Light up a Life event, she wrote in a submission to the auditors. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

 

Internal HSE auditors have said there were weak financial controls within the country’s largest hospice and have highlighted credit card spending including on entertainment and hospitality.

The new HSE internal audit report said there had been significant expenditure on donated assets from charitable funds at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross in Dublin.

Auditors said Our Lady’s Hospice needed to improve the management of charitable funds so that it could be certain that expenditure was appropriate and was in accordance with the donor’s intentions.

The internal audit report said that a significant amount of money had been spent on a property to which the hospice had been declared a beneficiary in a will.

However auditors said it was not clear whether the hospice had established ownership of this property and “therefore whether the expenditure was an appropriate use of charitable funds”.

The report said the hospice had spent €94,339 on refurbishing a residential property in Dublin in 2006/07 which it maintained it had been left in a will.

Auditors said there “may be a misunderstanding” on the part of the hospice as to the ownership of the house.

It said the hospice maintained it had been bequeathed the property on the proviso that an adult sister of the grantor could live there until her death. However the auditors said the will indicated that the hospice may have no right to the house until after the woman had died.

The audit said that the €94,339 spent on refurbishing the house had come from fundraising income and that it had been treated as revenue expenditure.

It also said the hospice had not followed tendering rules when engaging a contractor between December 2006 and February 2007.

The HSE internal audit also said there were weaknesses in the certification, retention of supporting documents and method of payment of expenses to the former chief executive of the hospice.

It also highlighted credit card spending of about €35,000, some of which involved expenditure on entertainment and hospitality.

The report shows that over five years €4,061 had been spent on wine, €3,015 on restaurants, €1,216 in a pub and €680 on the theatre.

The former chief executive Mo Flynn said in a submission to the auditors that the wine involved was gift boxes given to voluntary hospice directors at Christmas while the expenditure in the pub involved a “gesture” for volunteer staff after the annual “Light up a Life” event.

She said spending on restaurants involved a retirement dinner for a long-serving volunteer and meals for external advisers involved in a new educational institute concerning palliative care. She said the reference to the theatre referred to a trip to a Christmas pantomime for staff and their children on a one-off basis in 2011.

Hospice management said over the period 2010-2014, credit card expenditure of €25,000 related to direct operational costs and the remaining €10,000 was spent on volunteer support and business entertainment.