Date Released: 29 April 2013
SIPTU has welcomed today’s publication of the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) into the administration of the National Health and Local Authority Levy Fund (Fund). The report is consistent with the findings of an internal investigation into the operation of the HSE/Skills Programme and the Fund by the union’s Trustees in March 2011. It also reveals additional details which were not available to the Trustees prior to the completion of their report.
SIPTU proposed that the C&AG investigate the Skills Programme and its funding on 26th January 2012 and has co-operated fully with its inquiry and provided it with all relevant information in the union’s possession. The union is satisfied that the C&AG with its statutory powers was the appropriate body to undertake this investigation and acknowledges its professionalism in securing and presenting all the relevant facts.
The report has highlighted a number of foreign trips organised by the administrator of the Fund, details of which were not made available to the SIPTU Trustees in advance of their report in 2011. When details of these financial transactions and trips emerged, in February 2012, as the result of new information provided by the bank in which the Fund was held, they were immediately forwarded by SIPTU to the office of the C&AG.
The union accepts the finding of the C&AG inspector that foreign travel arrangements paid for by the fund were, as the report states, “inappropriate as they bypassed internal controls over the charging of, and accountability for, foreign travel incurred by public employees.”
In its report, the C&AG found that approval for the Fund was never sought from the national officers of SIPTU or from the National Executive Council of the union. The C&AG report has also confirmed the finding of the SIPTU Trustees that the monies in the fund were not processed through the union’s accounting system.
The union accepts the findings of the C&AG inspector that there was a failure of corporate governance on the part of the agencies which contributed to the fund including the Department of Health, the HSE and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Clearly, the absence of a service level agreement between the State agencies and the Fund administrator was a significant factor in the lack of oversight of the public funds which were expended.
SIPTU acknowledges that there was also a lack of sufficient oversight within the union in relation to the administration of the Fund. This has led to a change in the rules of the union and a complete review of its corporate governance structures to prevent any recurrence of such failure in the future.
SIPTU has requested to be given the opportunity to appear before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee in order to further clarify the union’s position and to assist the Committee on matters that arise from the C&AG report.