Eighty retiring HSE consultants and staff qualified for lump sum pension payments of at least €160,000 over past three years – seven got more than €300,000

SEVEN former HSE consultants and staff have received lump sum retirement pay-outs of more than €300,000 over the past three years.

The enormous golden handshakes are part of close to €19 million in lump sums paid to high-earning former consultants and senior officials from the health service since 2016.

Altogether, 80 former HSE staff qualified for payoffs worth at least €160,000 during the last three years, with the average payment working out at €237,000.

Forty six of them got lump sums worth between €200,000 and €300,000, according to figures obtained following an FOI request.

The single highest earning pensioner – who retired in 2017 – was given €357,738 in a lump sum payment and is now in receipt of an annual pension worth €119,246, according to the figures.

The information was released by the HSE in heavily anonymised format, listing how much is being paid but not the identity or job title of those who received the money.

A second person who retired earlier this year was given a €356,981 lump sum payment and their annual pension is worth €118,993.

The third highest earner got a payoff of just over €350,000 and will get €116,823 each year for the rest of their lives.

Altogether, six retired HSE staff will be entitled to life-time pensions worth at least €100,000 annually after finishing work with the health service since the beginning of 2016.

The current cost of yearly pensions for the eighty recently-retired pensioners is just over €6 million, assuming none have died in the meantime.

Some of those listed with comparatively smaller annual pensions still managed to get very hefty lump sums.

In one instance, a former staff member was given €195,372 in a payoff even though their pension entitlement is listed as €47,047-a-year.

The cost of paying pensions for ex-health service staff was around €880 million last year from an overall budget of around €14 billion. It is expected the pension bill could rise to €1 billion by 2020.

Finance expert Catriona Ceitin, who was the first to reveal the extent of pension payments for former FÁS boss Roddy Molloy, said: “As these pensions are based on final salary, often the amount paid during retirement can exceed the salaries received during the entire working life, this is even more prevalent where large salary increases have been granted close to retirement.

“The personal contributions paid during the working life do not represent the value of the pensions and lump sums received,” she said.

The level of lump sum pay-out in the HSE has at least fallen in recent years with one retired employee from 2011 receiving €414,910 and an annual pension of €138,303.

The lump sums in the HSE are far higher than those paid out to ordinary civil servants working in government departments and other public bodies.

In a list of the highest pensions from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform released under FOI, the single largest lump sum paid was €298,708.

That was paid to a senior retiring civil servant in 2017, along with an annual pension for life of €107,795, according to the records.

The Department said their figures covered almost all civil servants, except those employed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and a handful of other public bodies.

Altogether, €11 million in golden handshakes were shared by 75 different ex-civil servants, with each receiving an average of just over €146,000 each.

Thirty six of them got at least €200,000 each while nine are in receipt of annual pensions worth in excess of €90,000 every year.

The Department said that the figures provided did not however, reflect “abatement” where former civil servants were taken on again to work in the public sector.

When that happens, the combined pension and pay for the new role cannot exceed what the person was earning prior to retirement.

In a statement, the HSE said these final salary pensions were calculated based on years of service, the final salary, and the best three years of consecutive pensionable allowances.

“In general, these schemes cover employees who were employed on or before [1 January 2013],” they said. Those employed since then are part of the far less generous single public service pension scheme.

The HSE said: “The introduction of the [single scheme] … is a step towards managing the public service pensions bill since it is a career average scheme rather than a final salary scheme which will ultimately lead to a reduction in benefits payable.”

Additional contributions and increased pension ages will also help cut the annual pension bill, they said.