Seanad debates

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages


11:30 am

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I am happy to clarify that. There was provision for six because there were six directors.

It was felt very appropriate that one should be able to have one's chief operations officer and one's chief financial officer at director level. There are no cost implications on this. It was merely felt it was appropriate to have those people on the directorate.

Amendments Nos. 6 to 17, inclusive, deal with the removal and disqualification from the directorate because of being adjudicated bankrupt or having a composition with creditors. On Committee Stage in the Dáil, my attention was drawn to the provisions in the Bill that disqualified a person from being an appointed director or director general where he or she has made a composition or arrangement with creditors. A query was put as to what exactly this meant and whether it was in keeping with the Government's stated position on how arrangements under the Personal Insolvency Act should not impinge unnecessarily on a person's life or activities. I undertook to give the issue closer examination.

The legal advice I received is that a composition or arrangement with creditors as used in the Bill means something done under legislation. This has traditionally been the Bankruptcy Acts and would now encompass the Personal Insolvency Act. Having consulted the Minister for Justice and Equality, who has responsibility for that legislation, and having considered the matter carefully, particularly in the context of the Government's policy on personal insolvency, I tabled amendments on Report Stage in the Dáil to delete references in the Bill to disqualification from being an appointed director in the HSE or being director general in the HSE where the person involved has been adjudicated bankrupt or has made a composition or arrangement with his or her creditors.

Regarding amendments Nos. 18 and 19, the Bill needs to provide for all absences of the director general or vacancies in the office of the director general. Consequently, I introduced in the Dáil amendment No. 19 to deal with absences or a vacancy of any duration. Another change was to allow the director general rather than the Minister to designate the appointed director to cover absences. This seemed to be the most effective and efficient operational arrangement. However, the designation would require the consent of the Minister. The Minister will also be involved to address those situations where a director general is absent but had not made such a designation and is unable to do so owing to ill health or an accident, as I mentioned earlier.

The situation is different if the office of the director general is vacant. In those circumstances the situation remains that the Minister can designate an appointed director to fill the gap pending the recruitment of a new director general. The Bill makes it clear that the Minister must take steps to fill the vacancy as soon as may be. This is in section 16L. The changes made in the Dáil reflect the reality that with an organisation of national importance, such as the HSE, it is essential there is always someone with clear authority to perform the functions of the director general.

Amendment No. 19 is consequential and provides that when the director general is not present or the office is vacant the appointed director designated by the director general for the purpose of his or her absence or, in the case of a vacancy, the appointed director designated by the Minister, if any has been so designated, will, if present, chair the meetings of the directorate.