What has been unearthed in the Central Remedial Clinic is symptomatic of what was wrong with this country for the previous 14 years, Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan told the Dáil.
He said the Minister for Health should be complimented for initiating the study which unearthed the type of cronyism and nepotism that had destroyed the country this in the first place.
“It strikes at the heart of the culture in these organisations,” he said. “I am confident that this is not the only organisation in this position. I am also sure that this Department is not the only Department in this position either. What has been unearthed here is symptomatic of what was probably going on with a nod and a wink type culture which existed primarily under the previous Government.”
One of the issues he said he wanted the Minister to address is the governance in many of the organisations.
“I refer to the holding of AGMs, the allowing of persons to become members of them, the accountability of board members and the suitability of board members,” he said.
“Also, there is a need for public-interest board members who can articulate the public’s concerns but, more importantly, to be the eyes and ears for the Department in how its funding allocation has been spent.”
“I ask him to examine issues within these section 38 and 39 organisations such as cars, bonuses and the pension arrangements in place for these people,” he said.
“Some people leading these so-called organisations are earning multiples of the Minister’s salary. There is a morality issue here for the service users, the parents of these children in many cases and the people who go out collecting the money. Those people are annoyed and distraught by what has been unearthed and to restore confidence and ensure that the charitable donations are not affected, this issue must be addressed head-on.”
In reply Health Minister James Reilly said in the light of the 2012 HIQA report on Tallaght Hospital, at his request the Secretary General of my Department wrote to the then CEO of the HSE in May 2012, asking him to take steps to ensure that senior managers in other section 38 agencies were not in receipt of remuneration in addition to the approved rates.
Pension schemes facing a crisis – O’Dea
Pension schemes in this country are facing a considerable crisis and it is long past time for a mature, national debate on the subject, Deputy Willie O’Dea told the Dáil.
Speaking during a debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, he said there are six people of working age for every person over the age of 65 years. By 2060 there will be just two people of working age for every person over the age of 65 years.
“In recent years we have had a plethora of reports, studies, recommendations and suggestions on how to establish a sustainable pension retirement scheme,” he said.
“However, to date, all that is lacking is appropriate action. The Bill changes the priority order in the event that a pension scheme gets into difficulty and winds up for one particular type of private pension scheme, namely, a defined benefit pension scheme.
“Therefore, it is dealing with a very tiny part of the overall pensions jigsaw. Nevertheless, it does improve on the situation which preceded it.”
The first question he said he must ask is why it has taken so long. “I wish to ask the Minister about people who have lost some or all of their pension since she took office when the problem was already manifest and a variant of her solution had already been proposed in a report to the Government,” he said. “Overall since the Minister came to office, 50,000 to 60,000 people have lost either all or part of their pension because of the previously unfair priority system.”
Deputy O’Dea said the position is now that the Government will be putting the shovel into people’s private savings for an indefinite period and an indefinite amount.
“The pensions levy is an expropriation of private citizens’ savings,” he said. “It is similar in principle to the expropriation of bank deposits recently in Cyprus. It takes money directly from people’s savings, including from defined contribution pensioners, who have no relationship whatsoever with those in the Waterford Glass circumstances. The irony is that the new regulations announced in the Bill by the Government will drive many defined benefit schemes to be converted into defined contribution schemes, whose members will then have the privilege of getting lower benefits in order to guarantee the position of those who are able to remain in defined benefit schemes and are, thereby, better off.”