The Department of Health has said that comments made during high-level discussions published in the media during the past week were not recorded, despite knowing the participants.
The Department has said that the subsequent release of meeting details “is an explicit violation of privacy rights for individuals” and “will only limit dialog and constructive debate within the civil service and harms people’s interests.”
In a statement issued today, the Department said that the audio recordings hadn’t been made accessible for department officials. Department and “this creates a challenge to confirm or respond constructively.”
This comes after the Sunday Business Post reported comments that were said to have been made by officials from the Department of Health at a meeting held on January 27 to discuss the oversight of the health budget group.
The news reported that officials had raised concerns about adjusting to prior years in the budget for 2020. They said it might be within “hundreds of millions” of euros.
The report also stated that officials had made remarks concerning “dysfunction” and a lack of trust in the health field.
The officials also claimed that the target of attracting 10,000 employees in the coming year was not likely to be achieved. The updated number would be 5,500.
Today, to the allegations, the Department of Health said it is “aware of the possibility of recordings of internal meetings that occurred between 2020 and 2022” being distributed. Notes purporting to be a record of remarks made by officials seem to have been distributed.
“No official from the Department of Health has given permission to be recorded when performing their duties in deliberation.
“Publishing the details of meetings held with officials from the government in the routine of their duties that were recorded without approval or permission of those involved is a clear violation of the privacy of individuals.
“Work done by Department and its staff together with the HSE to improve transparency in financial matters is evidently in the general public’s best interests.”
“However, however, the Department is convinced that quoting simple statements of people will hinder dialog and constructive debate between civil servants and that this will be detrimental to the public’s interest.
“Currently, none of the recordings upon which the allegations have been released to the Department, which is why it’s not clear what discussions they relate to or if they’ve been altered. This makes it difficult to confirm or even respond constructively.
“It is generally accepted that there are a lot of legacy issues in the health system that needs to address. The Department of Health and the HSE collaborate closely to oversee the health system and, via Slaintecare, Implement the desperately needed reforms that will provide an improved health care service to people in the community. This partnership, characterized by respect for each other and professionalism, is constructive and professional,” the statement added.
The Sunday Business Post has published a different story this morning using new tapes that details allegations of money spent without proper assessment and a further breach of trust within the Department, and further concerns about the recruitment process in the HSE.