Health Minister says he can’t say if top up payments at St. John of God’s were an isolated incident

Sinn Fein's Deputy Leader calls for more transparency in charity sector

Updated: 16.50

The Health Minister says he can’t say if top up payments at St. John of God’s were an isolated incident.

It was reported yesterday that managers at the mental health group received top ups worth around €2 million in 2013.

The revelations come at a time of increased scrutiny of questionable practices at Console.

Minister Simon Harris is to meet with the HSE to discuss Console this evening.

He says for now, he doesn’t know for certain if St. John of God’s is alone in topping up salaries;

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Deputy Leader says it is unacceptable if any charity organisations in receipt of public funding continue to break the rules on public pay.

As a section 38 charity, in receipt of €130 million from the HSE a year, St John of God authorities signed a service level agreement which states it “shall not pay nor subsidise salaries, expenses or other prerequisites which exceed those normally paid within the public sector.”

Yesterday a HSE spokesperson said "they were informed specifically about these payments last weekend and their National Director for HR will now conduct a full review as a further phase of the work already commenced in 2013".

There investigation will confirm whether St John of God is in compliance with Section 38.

The HSE is also set to be called before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer questions about how public funds are overseen when they are paid to charities.

The concerns over St John of God follow reports of financial irregularities at the suicide prevention charity Console - which the Health Minister Simon Harris will discuss with the HSE today.

Mary Lou McDonald says more transparency is required in this sector.

"Investigations were carried out a number of years ago into a number of organisations when it became clear that some were just ignoring public pay policy," she said.

"At that time, having carried out those investigations, we were given assurances that everything was in order," she added.