Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming TD has called on the Government to ensure a prompt and timely investigation is carried out into allegations of impropriety with procurement practices at the publicly funded St. Vincent’s Hospital Dublin.

Deputy Fleming made the comments following the Prime Time report by the RTÉ Investigations Unit which showed that senior staff at the hospital had received ‘kickbacks’ for arranging lucrative procurement orders for a major medical supplier.

“The information uncovered by the RTÉ Investigations Unit is truly shocking. It suggests that senior staff in a number of Irish hospitals, including the publicly funded St. Vincent’s Hospital, received extravagant gifts in exchange for the awarding of lucrative purchase orders. It is the Irish taxpayer that is at a loss as a result of this inexcusable behaviour” said Deputy Fleming.

“This is a matter for An Garda Síochána to investigate without delay. There must be a prompt and tight investigation into these allegations. Public confidence in the way the procurement system works in our public sector has suffered a serious setback as a result of this. Suppliers that are attempting to engage with the procurement system in an open and transparent manner also need reassurance that these practices have come to an end, and that steps have been taken to ensure such a situation does not arise in the future.

“Once again the taxpayer is being caught for bad management practices. In the case of St. Vincent’s the HSE funds the hospital for all its public patients. Any financial impropriety is a direct loss to the Irish taxpayer. Such losses must be repaid to the HSE. In the case of the Beacon Hospital, which is a private institution, it is funded by people’s private health insurance policies. In this case the public is again carrying the can for mismanagement of purchasing. I am calling on the private health insurance companies to summon management at the Beacon Hospital to explain and resolve this situation and to reimburse all losses to them.

“Just this week the HSE published its annual financial report for 2014 which was signed off on by the Comptroller and Auditor General. This report confirmed that €56.5m of contracts were awarded by the HSE without a competitive tendering process. Shockingly, this figure is up by €38.7m from the 2013 figure of €17.8m. This indicates a deterioration and systemic problem with procurement and tendering in the HSE that needs to be fixed. The HSE will have to answer for this major lapse before the Public Accounts Committee.

One has to wonder what is happening within the HSE to allow this situation go from bad to worse. The question people will want answers to is; Has Minister Varadkar studied the HSE 2014 annual report and can he explain how he can stand over this unacceptable practice?”