Two weeks ago we published details of a secret €600,000 settlement the HSE agreed with Lifeline Ambulance in 2008.
The settlement figure was released 14 months after a Freedom of Information request was made and required an order by Emily O'Reilly to the HSE to release the information. O'Reilly said she encountered "misleading and incomplete" responses from the HSE in her investigation. And that assessment doesn't include an analysis of the HSE's actions of the last two weeks.
I believe the HSE's handling of the release of the settlement figure demonstrates its blatant disregard for being held to account for its handling of public funds.
Initially, on Wednesday, May 12, Donall King, from the HSE's legal services office, issued me a document which hid the legal settlement figure in the annual payments the HSE made to Lifeline. Needless to say I complained that wasn't good enough.
On Thursday, May 13, I received a phone call from King to confirm the settlement amount paid to Lifeline would be released by the HSE.
King was offered an email address to send the details to but said he'd prefer to employ a courier to transport the three-page document across Dublin. This document contained the settlement figure of €600,000 which we went on to publish. The HSE press office was offered a chance to comment on the €600,000 figure on that Thursday before publication but declined.
Last Wednesday, May 19, following publication of the €600,000 figure, I was tipped off that the figure supplied by the HSE was incorrect. It was actually €800,000 that the HSE paid to Lifeline.
The HSE didn't volunteer this correction but when asked about it King, eventually, confirmed it was wrong. "A typo," he explained.
Of course, there wouldn't have been any danger of "a typo" occurring if the HSE had released a copy of the Lifeline settlement agreement as ordered by Emily O'Reilly. Instead I got a freshly compiled document complete with inaccurate figures.
Did we get an apology from the HSE for its mistake? To borrow a phrase from Michael Bailey, "Did we f***."