The board of Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has embarked on a significant governance compliance project amid concerns that appropriate board oversight of hospital activities is not in place.
In a statement on internal control to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) dated October 2022, the board referred to an assessment it conducted of compliance with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies that identified “gaps in the risk management system and the absence of clear direction in the allocation of oversight responsibility and reporting responsibilities to board committees”. The board had commenced a process in 2022 to “revisit the terms of reference for each board committee to address these internal control issues”.
However, “realistically” the board expected that full compliance “may not be achievable until December 2023”.
At a meeting in July 2022, the board discussed potentially appointing a firm to lead and assist management and the board on the necessary steps to be taken to achieve full compliance. During the meeting, the then CEO Mr Ian Carter cautioned board members to have “reasonable expectations on time scales given the scale of the project and the likely budgeting challenge”.
The C&AG report on the board’s 2020 financial statements, dated 21 October 2022, noted a number of governance issues, including “considerable delays” in preparation by the board of a final set of annual financial statements and the statement on internal control. The C&AG had not received evidence that the board had carried out the required review of internal controls for 2020 and the board had explained the steps it was taking.
The board also outlined that a significant number of changes in board composition occurred in 2020 and 2021. Due to the changes, the previous Chair had sought to ensure a comprehensive induction programme for new and existing members. Consequently, board members had a “better understanding” of the full requirements of a review of effectiveness of the systems of internal control, including that it extended not just to controls over financial reporting activities, but controls over all activities.
Meanwhile, the board’s statement also disclosed that an internal audit in 2021 identified salary payments to four former employees continuing for significant periods. The employees ceased employment in 2019 (one case), 2020 (two cases), and 2021 (one case).
A spokesperson for Beaumont commented: “Ongoing requirements pertaining to the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies continues to be prioritised by Beaumont Hospital. The hospital has successfully completed annual audits of associated controls in this area through audits by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.”
They added: “Beaumont Hospital identified salary overpayments through its internal audit process and has reinforced necessary controls to mitigate the risk of recurrence pending implementation of an integrated HR/payroll system, which will go live from quarter 2, 2023. Repayment plans have been put in place to recoup associated costs and are being actively managed in consultation with affected individuals.”