Two probes led to Robert Watt’s pledge of €2 million a year in funding for Tony Holohan’s job

head of the Ministry of Health Robert Watts‘s pledge of €2 million in funding per year Tony HolohanThe Trinity College post is at the center of two investigations.

Additionally, claims that TCD’s board of directors were unlikely to have known that Dr. Holohan would go to the university when they approved his new professorship last month would be under scrutiny.

It comes after it emerged that public funding had been allocated to support the role more than a week earlier.

The college said the board “never confirms appointments, only the creation of posts”. A separate “interview panel and an academic council confirm the suitability of the people for the job,” said a university spokeswoman.

dr Holohan was interviewed prior to the Trinity board meeting for the position being created for him and no other candidates were invited to apply.

The board met on March 23 and approved the new academic position of Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership. Two days later, the Department of Health announced that Dr. Holohan would transfer to Trinity in July when he took over the new professorship. But it didn’t say he was seconded.

In recent days, however, it emerged that the Secretary-General of the Department of Health, Robert Watt, had written a letter of intent to Trinity Provost Linda Doyle a week earlier, detailing the €2 million-a-year funding package to support Dr. Holohan’s teaching and research role was signed with a focus on public health threats.

dr Holohan has since announced that he will not proceed with the move and will retire in July, possibly in search of a private sector role. A week of controversy followed after it was revealed he was on an indefinite secondment and would keep his salary, while remaining in the Department of Health’s employment at the same rank of chief medical officer.

This led to Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s decision to adjourn the process until he received a report on the matter.

The failure to clarify earlier that it was a secondment and involved earmarked funding of €2m per year until retirement is said to form an important part of the external scrutiny of the matter.

Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly is expected to appoint an expert from outside the civil service early next week to study the transparency, funding and accountability issues that have been raised.

This should take about three to four weeks.

The financial position of TCD – which meant that Dr. Holohan could not be paid for directly – and the resulting consequences are expected to be dealt with at the next Trinity board meeting on Wednesday.

However, the two investigations – the external review and an audit by the Oireachtas Committee on Public Expenditure – appear to be in question
Mr Watt on the source of the €2 million annual funding. While he said in his briefing note to the minister this week that it would not come from the Department of Health, there is no other obvious source as the Health Research Board has publicly said it was not involved.

Mr Watt and the Secretary General of the Government Martin Fraser, Dr. Holohan announced in February that he was seeking a secondment were asked to appear before the committee on Wednesday.

The committee’s chairman, John McGuinness, said he expected the two senior officials – along with David Moloney, general secretary of the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform – to appear before members on the day.

The terms of the delegation of Dr. Holohan would have meant he would have kept his current salary and any pay increases associated with the grade, as well as the freedom to work for the private sector.

There is now a vacancy for a new chief physician with a salary in the grade of deputy secretary.

dr Holohan will chair the new Covid-19 Surveillance Group until July. Two probes led to Robert Watt’s pledge of €2 million a year in funding for Tony Holohan’s job

Fry Electronics Team

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