Tuesday, February 18th 2014
- Health Committee has requested meeting with the HSE to receive an update on its review of Section 38 and 39 organisations.
- HSE review is another move towards greater transparency, which is critical to restore public trust and confidence in such bodies.
At a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children it was agreed that we would ask to meet with the HSE to receive an update on its review of Section 38 and 39 bodies. Bodies or groups that receive significant public funds have an ethical and moral obligation to be transparent in how they use that money. The recent controversy over pay scales has undermined the reputation of these bodies and the absence of transparency is continuing to erode public trust. The review being conducted by the HSE and the involvement of the Health Committee will assist in achieving greater accountability.
Over many years a system has developed where the State relies on private bodies to deliver essential elements of health and social care. These services are provided under either Section 38 or 39 of the Health Act 2004. Section 38 bodies have a legal obligation to adhere to public sector pay scales, but Section 39 bodies do not have such an obligation as they operate under a system where they provide certain services under contract.
While Section 39 bodies do not have an explicit legal obligation to disclose how much they pay staff, they do have a duty of social responsibility to be transparent in how they use public funds. The excellent services that these bodies provide are of critical importance to the people who rely on their services.
In the interest of service users every effort must be made to bring this current controversy to an end; something which is within the control of each Section 39 body. Drip feeding the public minimal increases in transparency will only further undermine the reputation of all bodies.
On the wider issue of charitable status, this benefit is granted by the State to organisations that perform certain functions and promote activities of social importance and of public value. This status can have very significant tax benefits which assist in the work done by such bodies, but it also bestows obligations and responsibilities, both legal and moral.
Regulation and transparency around the use of charitable status is essential. Having a robust regulatory system in place will help to restore public trust and confidence in the delivery of the important services provided by the thousands of charitable bodies. It is important therefore that a charity regulator is operational as soon as possible.