Deputy John Deasy: I refer to the note we received in regard to a different issue. Does the Chairman want to bring it up now or will he wait?
Chairman (Deputy John McGuinness): I will bring it up in the context of this issue. The documents were released yesterday. They could have been released in error or for any reason but the history of the HSE and the Committee of Public Accounts has been that we have often had hearings and while people from the HSE have been with us, documents would be released to the newspapers.
There is more than one example of that. Now that this issue is in the public domain, we need to understand why it happened. Some Senators and other people had this document yesterday but we still have not been provided with it out of courtesy in order that we would know what is in it. Luckily enough, we were meeting today and the Comptroller and Auditor General explained it.
I want to tie what has happened into a note members received this morning. Members received the note this morning simply because a big document was presented to me and I gave it to the clerk, about which I informed the committee a number of weeks ago. This document shows where contracts were awarded without any tender.
They were awarded to former employees of the HSE who are now acting outside of the HSE in an independent business. In more than one instance, these contracts were awarded without a competitive tender and in one case at least a report was prepared at a cost of €98,374.23. That report was reviewed by another company at a cost of €58,216.41 to date. This is all happening between HSE and companies outside of the HSE which happen to employ former employees of the HSE.
It is alleged in the document that in one instance the Health Service Executive is recommending former staff to section 39 bodies where investigations are needed, at a cost of €1,000 per day. In light of the information that emerged in the public domain yesterday and the allegations made in the note circulated by the clerk to the committee, which is a summary of the information in the larger document, we should have representatives of the HSE come before the committee sooner rather than later.
Deputy John Deasy: The most worrying element of this information is the potential conflict of interest that arises. Having recently dealt with two or three cases involving sexual or physical abuse of people in care, I find it very worrying that someone who may be contracted by the HSE could potentially have a conflict of interest.
One of the tasks of the committee will be to ascertain how widespread is the practice of not tendering contracts and employing former HSE staff to do various jobs and carry out investigations.
Chairman: On the basis of members’ comments, I will ask the representatives of the HSE to appear before the committee sooner rather than later. The clerk will contact the HSE to arrange a meeting. It may be necessary to arrange it outside the dates set out in our work programme.
Deputy John Deasy: How many of the contracts awarded by the HSE in the past ten years went to former staff? That is the simple question we should put to the HSE in the meantime. We could then take the matter from there. That is an easy question that can be answered immediately.
Chairman: We will proceed on the basis that the sooner we can have representatives of the HSE before us, the better.
Deputy John Deasy: We need to find out if certain contracts were tendered.