It was revealed that Frank McClintock, the head of the national ambulance service, resigned over expenses irregularities last week. The Health Service Executive forwarded its file on the irregularities to gardai to investigate further.
There is still a good deal to emerge on this and I won't be closing my file on it yet.
We did our first story about Mr McClintock last January after hearing complaints about him and his close relationship with some suppliers.
What cost him his job though was his personal travel expenses.
Despite working the majority of the week in the service's head office in Naas, Co Kildare, McClintock designated Buncrana, in Donegal, where he used to work, as his base. This was done with HSE approval but increased the amount he could claim on expenses for working in Naas.
As detailed in another story Freedom of Information (FOI) documents showed McClintock was paid €27,140 in travel and subsistence in 2006, €37,502 in 2007 and €12,013 in 2008. These expense claims were amongst the highest claimed by any HSE staff in 2006 and 2007.
McClintock’s salary scale was between ¤100,000 and ¤120,000.
What the HSE audit in the north west is alleged to have found is that, as well as normal travel claims, McClintock used his HSE "fuel card" to claim for €10,000 worth of petrol to which he was not entitled.
The HSE have now passed on its audit of fuel costs in its north west region to gardai.
McClintock did not return calls seeking comment last week.
Several HSE ambulance staff have contacted The Sunday Times over the last year to express their concern about McClintock’s close relationship with some suppliers.
After we discovered he and his wife had accepted a trip to Las Vegas from Ferno, the HSE defended McClintock and denied there was any conflict of interest. The Vegas trip was ok because it was won in a competition at an ambulance exhibition, it said
Documents showed that McClintock later personally signed off on HSE payments of ¤70,459 to Patron, Ferno’s Irish distributors.
Following that story the former ambulance service manager became central to a wide-ranging audit carried out by Michael Flynn, HSE head of internal audit. This inquiry, initiated in May last year, is examining the 2005 procurement of a fleet of ambulances and their fit-out. According to the HSE it is also looking at the procurement process surrounding the use of private ambulance services by the national ambulance service.
Several private ambulance firms have made allegations that the national ambulance office under McClintock showed preferential treatment to Lifeline Ambulance Services. Lifeline, in turn, has complained that the HSE has not honoured its service agreements by giving work to firms where Lifeline was supposed to be offered the jobs first.
More developments on this front in tomorrow's paper.
In an interview with the Sunday Journal last year McClintock spoke about his rise to his position in the HSE being “an inspiration for those who feel they have no prospects”.
“By achieving the possible... then soon the impossible becomes possible,” he said.