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Officials "cannot investigate" waste of HSE training funds

Reps from the HSE can’t investigate details of trips abroad, because SIPTU has the document it needs.

Image: jaqian via Flickr

OFFICIALS FROM THE Health Service Executive (HSE) have told the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee that the executive cannot investigate the 31 overseas trips paid for out of a staff training fund – because SIPTU itself possesses the records of such trips.

The executives were appearing before the Public Accounts Committee as they officially presented the results of an audit into the spending of the €60m SKILL training fund.

The document – details of which were leaked on Tuesday – showed that 31 foreign trips were taken out of the fund, by officials from SIPTU, the HSE itself, and the Departments of Finance and Health.

HSE officials said they could not identify the purpose of some of the trips; they had previously denied that any spouses had joined officials on the trip, a claim apparently undermined by the report.

Aside from paying for the cost of the trips, €7,000 in funding was spent on subsistence by officials travelling overseas.

The HSE’s chief executive Cathal Magee told the committee that the breach of the regulations in the spending was totally unacceptable, and has requested that SIPTU reimburse some of the expenses claimed under the programme.

The steering committee of the SKILL programme had been stood down, Magee said. A senior official from the Department of Health that the terms under which SKILL had been funded were ‘not clear’.

The spending was described by Fine Gael TD Jim O’Keeffe as a “slush fund”.

The hearing came after SIPTU yesterday lodged €348,000 with a commissioner for oaths as a sign of good faith in order to cover any potential liabilities arising from the investigation of the misspending.

The HSE had provided the funding to SIPTU to be spent on training lower-grade staff.

In numbers: How SKILL spent its funds >

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Gavan Reilly

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