I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise the issue of salary top-ups to senior staff in various areas of the health service. I am very pleased the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, is present to respond. He will know that the public was shocked by the coverage in recent days of the secret top-up payments to staff in very well paid jobs in some major hospitals. Recent newspaper reports, probably based on the internal audit report produced for the HSE on this exact topic, which was finalised on 15 March 2013, list hospitals such as Holles Street, the Rotunda, the Coombe, Crumlin and the Mater in respect of top-ups for individual members of staff in addition to their basic salaries, which are already paid for and financed by the taxpayer. There was a top-up in the order of €45,000 in one case, €20,000 in another, €53,000 in another, €30,000 in another and €26,000 in yet another. I will not mention any individuals as I am not in the business of carrying out a witch-hunt of individuals. The issues have been well publicised and the people are shocked that staff on salaries in the order of €200,000 are receiving these types of top-ups. All the hospitals in question are substantially funded by the taxpayer. Some extra funds from fund-raising and other sources are received by them. Income from initiatives such as car parks and shops may have been used to pay some of the allowances. It is disconcerting to know that some people who have been involved in fund-raising activities on behalf of the hospitals have been paid an allowance to engage in some of the activities.
The Minister has known about this issue for a long time, yet he concealed it. I am looking at the report he would have seen last March. It is clear from page 16 that, in March 2012, The Irish Times reported that three senior executives in a HSE-funded organisation were being paid for private work on top of their public commitments.
In May 2012 HIQA published a report on Tallaght hospital which found a lack of clarity around decisions to pay substantial additional remuneration to individual postholders for taking on additional roles, to the tune of more than €150,000 in one instance. In June 2012, almost a year and a half ago, the Sunday Business Post reported on the remuneration packages of the CEOs of four of the section 38 funded organisations. A memo from the Department of Health in June last year stated it knew that some of the salaries of the CEOs were being topped up from other funds. This was all well known to the Minister and his Department. When did he decide to take action? I am very concerned that during the negotiations on public service pay he presided over the talks on the health services area and set out to reduce weekend pay rates for nurses, emergency medical technicians and others. When the Haddington Road agreement was being negotiated before the summer recess, he insisted on cuts being made to increments for some front-line staff. He is part of a Government that forced the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act through this House in July, yet many of the 44 agencies had not replied at the time and were not in compliance with the basic rules. He was aware of this while he was asking nurses to take pay cuts and various other health service workers to forgo their increments. He knew this was going on and in the light of the sacrifices people were being asked to make, it was most unfair that he sat on this information, did not bring it to light and did not have the issue dealt with as part of the Haddington Road agreement earlier this year.