Misconduct action launched against care home whistleblowing civil servant 

The Department of Health has launched disciplinary proceedings against a senior civil servant who went public with details of secret dossiers.

Shane Corr, who is currently suspended on full pay by the Department, was responsible for a number of protected disclosures which made headlines in national media in the last few months.

Whistleblowing, more formally known as making a ‘protected disclosure’ is protected in Irish law. The law protects those who raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in a workplace you currently or previously worked in. People are also protected if they are dismissed or penalised for reporting possible wrongdoing.

Revelations made by Mr Corr triggered the ongoing controversy regarding the legal strategy adopted by the State against those charged nursing home fees in recent decades, even when it was known that the State would likely lose in court.

In August, via a letter to the In an August letter to Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Michael McGrath, Mr Corr claimed that since January of 2020, he had “witnessed extraordinary breaches of public financial procedures and the public spending code” amounting to “the tens, to hundreds of millions of euros”. 

In September, Mr Corr made headlines when he claimed that staff within his department were instructed that discussions about alleged financial irregularities were not to be recorded in any way that would make it accessible under a Freedom of Information request.

Disciplinary proceedings 

Now it has been revealed that the Department of Health have launched disciplinary proceedings against the civil servant just one day after the publication of his protected disclosure that laid bare the government’s secret litigation strategy to put a cap on payments to families who were illegally overcharged for nursing home payments.

Mr Corr revealed to The Irish Mail on Sunday that on Monday 30 January, the department wrote to him to confirm a disciplinary hearing was to take place. Mr Corr blasted the development on social media, tweeting: “[This is] what happens when you tell the truth in Ireland”.

The correspondence came just one day after his protected disclosure was published in the Irish Mail on Sunday exposing the widely condemned strategy adopted by successive governments to conceal the true scale of the State’s €12 billion liability for illegal nursing home fees.

It was just one of a set of revelations Mr Corr made public after he attempted to raise his concerns internally. He says an internal protected disclosure he made within the Department of Health was stonewalled, prompting him to go to the media.

Irish Mail on Sunday revelations

The Irish Mail on Sunday, who were provided with the documents by Mr Corr, detailed a range of scandals, including a secret legal strategy to block nursing home fee refunds to those who paid for private beds when no beds were available. The revelations have exerted pressure on the Coalition and have been a source of humiliation. 

Details revealed by Mr Corr led to the revelation that the Department went against its own economist’s warnings to spend €25 million for Covid accommodation which went largely unused during Covid. 

He also revealed how Taoiseach Leo Varadkar brought a memo before Cabinet that proposed to secretly slash the entitlements of those affected by the Hep C scandal. As a whistleblower, he also gave information which revealed that nobody in the Department of Health was held responsible for overseeing the A&E crisis in Irish hospitals for significant periods of time over recent years as overcrowding numbers broke records.

Mental Health Drug Scheme

Last month, confidential documents provided by Mr Corr revealed that teenagers over the age of 16, along with adults with mental illnesses, were being denied free medication because the State has “refused” to correct flawed legislation. 

The leaked documents revealed that the government knew that legislation – which means only those under 16 with a mental illness are entitled to free medication — is discriminatory and legally defective for more than a decade.

Mr Corr was also behind the revelation that €50 million within the Department of Health was improperly accounted for due to what was described by senior civil servants as “Arthur Daley-style accounting”.

The senior civil servant also revealed that the department did not notice for almost a decade that Parkrun Ireland was in breach of grant rules relating to State Funds provided by the Department. He also made it public that the State’s residential disability sector is in the midst of “systematic breakdown,” putting services to thousands of vulnerable users at risk. 

In 2021, the whistleblower made protected disclosures to media organisations in the public interest, leading to these revelations being covered on RTE’s Prime Time. The watershed programme covered how the Department of Health compiled legal dossiers on families with autistic children who were suing the State.

Last year, Mr Corr also provided recordings from internal finance meetings at the Department, sharing these with The Business Post. The recordings were described as being “in the public interest” by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Last month, Mr Corr also received backing from Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who said that the Department of Health whistleblower was “performing a very valuable public service” in the issues he is raising.

Addressing the Oireachtas finance committee in February, Mr Donohoe pointed to the role of whistleblowers: 

“Mr Corr is performing a very valuable public service and the issues that he’s raising, and whistleblowers have in general,” the Minister said.

After The Business Post published the stories, Mr Corr was suspended on full pay in May 2021 pending an investigation to be conducted under the Service Disciplinary Code.

The investigation, carried out by barrister Mary Paula Guiness, set out to establish whether or not the senior civil servant had made recordings of internal meetings without the knowledge of participants, and later passed them onto journalists. This is something Mr Corr acknowledged.  

One day after the story about care home charges was unveiled, the Department of Health wrote to Mr Corr to initiate proceedings against him. The Mail on Sunday reports that:

“In a registered letter sent on January 30, Mr Corr was told the department was convening a disciplinary hearing. The correspondence included a copy of the investigative report compiled by Ms Guiness which concluded he had recorded internal meetings”.

The paper goes on to detail how the letter states: “The conclusions of the investigator give rise to serious concerns that you may have engaged in misconduct and/or serious misconduct within the meaning of the disciplinary code”.

The alleged misconduct referred to in the letter is in reference to possible breaches of IT rules relating to the privacy and safety of others. The correspondence also refers to the Civil Service Code of Standards which obligates staff to “show due respect for their colleagues”.

However, under whistleblowing laws, those who are aware of wrongdoing can legally make public interest disclosures to journalists if their concerns are not treated appropriately when they are raised internally.

People who raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in the workplace are protected by the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. 

Employees can make a protected disclosure if they are a worker and disclose relevant information in a particular way. Information is relevant if it came to the individual’s attention in a work-related context and if the person reasonably believes that it tends to show wrongdoing. Wrongdoing can include criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, and misuse of public funds.

Mr Corr is now facing a disciplinary hearing on 20 March, with a formal outcome set to be announced on 25 March. The letter also informed him that the outcome may come with a “recommendation for disciplinary action as provided in the Disciplinary Code, up to and including dismissal”.

Responding to the Department in a written statement, Mr Corr made the argument that he is being punished unfairly – as he decried the charges as “unwarranted”.

“Given that the Minister for Health, Mr Donnelly, has publicly declared that my protected disclosures are in the public interest, I believe that any disciplinary process is unfair, unsound, and unwarranted,” he said.

He added that: “Any such process while I am actively making protected disclosures will penalise me”.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are closed

Was the Dail right to vote confidence in the Government and avoid a General Election?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...