James Reilly’s well paid advisors
James Reilly, Minister for Health is over his quota of ministerial advisors and without any specific expertise in his priority area of health reform – universal health insurance…Martin Connor is the Minister for Health, James Reilly’s most senior special advisor who was appointed last June for six months and then in December got a 3 year contract worth €480,000. He is paid €160,000 a year for just 80% of his time and also that he spends ‘on average’ half of his time in California as he is a research fellow in Stanford University in California. See previous blog for more detail.
Martin Connor is the most senior advisor in the Minister’s Special Delivery Unit which James Reilly set up as his ‘hands-on’, ‘nerve centre’ and has charged with achieving his own targets of reducing wait times for public patients in Emergency Departments and for hospital treatment.
And as well as being this senior special advisor to the minister and the Special Delivery Unit, the minister also appointed Martin Connor to the HSE board. A quick scan through the HSE board minutes show that meetings are generally well attended by the 10 strong board members but that of the 13 meetings held since last June when he was first appointed Connor has attended just 4 of them – not surprising given his base in the USA.
So how many advisors are there in the Department of Health and what are they paid?
According to the Department, James Reilly has two special advisors – Mark Cositgan who is his press advisor, Costigan previously worked for Mary Harney as Deputy government press secretary – a PD appointment so there was some surprise when Reilly appointed him. His job is to manage media enquiries. He is on the top level allowed at €92,672.
And according to the Department of Health, the other advisor up to this week is Sean Faughnan, Faughnan worked in Fine Gael as Enda Kenny’s advisor in opposition and is considered ‘chief architect of their Fair Care health policy’, he has been a full time advisor with James Reilly for a year, he is on the minimum of the ministerial advisor scale set at €80,000.
The Department of Health seems to be denying that Martin Connor is a special advisor saying now in communications to me he is there to provide ‘expert advice’, an ‘international expert’. Although I have emails from them from September and October clearly stating Martin Connor as a special advisor to the minister and the SDU. No wonder they are denying it given how much he is beyond the advisors’ recommended pay scale.
There are guidelines that government departments are meant to operate under when it comes to advisors. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform personnel circular dated 24 march 2011 entitled ‘Ministerial appointments to the 31st Dail’ clearly specifies how special advisors are appointed – they require the approval of government under section 11 of the 1997 Public Service Management Act, they require the sanction of the minister for finance and if people are being appointed from outside civil service they require the sanction of the Taoiseach. Also this circular states that a minister may have ‘a maximum of two special advisors’ and only in ‘exceptional circumstances where a specific need is identified can one be appointed to the minister of State’.
The circular clearly states that pay is at the Principal Officer grade which ranges between €80,000 to €92,000 and that sanction for pay must come from Minister for Finance with approval of Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform.
But on 23 February 2012, the Department of Health confirmed that Sean Faughnan is moving to the Dept of the Taoiseach for 2/3’s of his time but will remain 1/3 time in health and that ‘Minister Reilly plans to appoint Maureen Windle’ to the remaining 2/3s as a new special advisor to the minister, James Reilly.
Maureen Windle was CEO of the old northern area health board, having worked her way up the Eastern Health Board (EHB) structure, an accountant by profession then a health board programme manager in EHB. And Windle along with the other nine other health boards CEOs got hefty pay offs when health boards were abolished and merged in to the HSE.
No specific figures have been released but on average the old health CEO’s were paid €400,000 as a hand shake to leave the position. Also she was CEO of NAHB when Reilly was a local GP/med rep was on the board. So they have that connection and are thought to trust eachother.
I was told that she will be paid in line with the PO scale however what will be interesting is if this on top of her pension she already gets as an ex health board CEO.
She has been doing a variety of things since 2005. She has worked as a management consultant, is a director of Fold Ireland and the Irish Medicines Board and chairs their audit committees. She is also a director of Sodexo Zehnacker Healthcare Ireland, a private company which provides food, catering, cleaning and security services for hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities in Ireland, according to their website, they employ 2000 staff in 200 different sites.
On 23 February, the Department of Health said she will be work sharing with Sean Faughnan and they will ‘both work on strategic health reform aspects of the Programme for Government’.
One other bit of information I got is in relation to Tony O’Brien, chief operating officer in the Dept’s Special Delivery Unit, he is paid €165,965. O’Brien was head of Breastcheck since 2002, then Chief Executive of the National Cancer Screening until 2007, after he was acting head of cancer control, he was appointed to oversee implementation of clinical care programmes in the HSE. But he was not a HSE national director yet his salary is high up national director scale, so I don’t understand why his salary is at that scale and neither do I understand the appointments process as he was appointed COO of SDU and also on to the management team of DoH without any public advertisement process.
So, Minister Reilly has three special advisors one of whom is paid twice the rate for advisors as stipulated by their own government and there seems to me to be transparency issues in terms of appointments to advisor and senior departmental posts.
Yet what’s most extraordinary given the government’s commitment to introduce universal health insurance is that none of his advisors are experts in this area…