Digital Desk Staff
A Department of Health whistleblower has cast doubt on €515m of additional funding given to the HSE during the first year of the pandemic, saying it is unclear if the money was ever needed.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the whistleblower, a Department of Health employee, has claimed there are gaping holes in the financial reporting in respect of hundreds of millions of euros poured into the health service.
They have documented an internal Department meeting in June of last year — to scrutinise the 2020 supplementary budget for the health service — describing it as “extraordinary” that the Department of Health was unsure if the additional €514.5m had been necessary.
The whistleblower alleges the Department had neither asked the HSE to account for what the €514.5m was needed for, nor whether the money had actually been used for that purpose.
A transcript of an internal meeting alleges that a Department resources manager said: “At some point, DPER (the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) will ask us, and say you wanted €560m - or whatever it was - so much for Winter Plan, so much for Covid, so much for this - and now you’re saying you didn’t need it, so why did you take it?”
“What did you do with the money?” the manager allegedly added.
Asked for comment, the HSE said it is “unaware of these claims and has no comment to make on them”.
A second disclosure from the whistleblower concerns allegations that the €73 million Temporary Assistance Payments Scheme (TAPS) was being used to purchase ‘One for All’ vouchers for frontline workers in nursing homes, with a potential liability of €12m.
The TAPS was devised in May 2020 to aid private nursing homes with additional costs incurred due to the pandemic.
The whistleblower alleged that a divisional manager in the Department, when asked about the inappropriate use of the scheme to acquire vouchers “was like, just let it go”, and the same manager “got annoyed” because his words had been documented in writing.
A second divisional manager also said it shouldn’t be put in writing because “that’s FOI-able”, meaning it would be subject to freedom of information requests.
It follows a report in the Business Post on Sunday detailing whistleblower allegations of “sloppiness” in the HSE’s financial reporting.
Further whistleblower disclosures allege the HSE’s chief financial officer said they would “just close Beaumont (hospital) for the week” following a suggestion the executive’s weekly cash drawdown might be stopped, and that the HSE’s recruitment targets for 2021 had been “batshit”.