herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

€2.3m HSE fund for victims spent on gifts, alcohol

Manicures, angel healing and 'dancing the spiral' were some of the courses and therapies innappropriately paid for by a HSE-funded organisation, an audit has found.

There are calls for the directors of Hepatitis C support group Positive Action to be called before the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) to explain its spending.

In total, some €2.3m was allocated between 2009 and 2013 to Positive Action, which was set up in 1994 to support women infected with Hepatitis C by contaminated blood products administered to them after they gave birth.

An internal audit discovered that €19,450 was spent on supermarket bills, gifts worth €2,223, a courier to transport dry cleaning at a cost of €202 and dog kennels costing €185.

Angel card readings, angel healing, crystal reading, spiritual healing, aromatherapy and reflexology therapies amounted to over €100,000.

And in one instance €550 was allocated to a member who attended a 'Dancing the Spiral' course.

More than €600 was also spent on alcohol at a conference on liver disease and an incredible €104,000 was spent on travel to conferences over four years, with some spouses accompanying directors.

INappropriate

The internal Health Service Executive audit found there were serious breaches of corporate governance and inappropriate expenditure at the group.

Some of the directors responded to the report and were published in the audit. They said they were disappointed at its tone and said it focussed on the most "insignificant of items" and the most "immaterial of expenditure".

Independent TD Shane Ross has called for directors to be brought before PAC to face answers on their spending.

Mr Ross, who is a member of the committee, said that the report "has echoes of FAS".

"It's a very, very serious situation when small organisations like this seem to be able to go walk about and spend money, particularly in the health sector," he said on RTE's Morning Ireland.

"There are a lot of questions to be answered and it would be right that we should not only talk to the HSE about it, who obviously have a huge amount of knowledge about it, but we should ask for the directors and the top people in Positive Action to come in as well."

"What we are finding increasingly is a kind of ugly pattern going on in this sector where there has been a looseness and unacceptable spending," he added.

hnews@herald.ie

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