IMO sanctions major internal probes

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

An extraordinary general meeting of the doctor's union, the IMO, agreed today to carry out a major retrospective probe into how it was run and into its current governance structures in the wake of the continuing controversy over the remuneration of its former CEO.

The retrospective probe may seek to interview, among others, current Health Minister Dr James Reilly, who was a senior figure in the IMO up to around 2005.

The meeting was convened to discuss the crisis in the organisation over the remuneration and settlement package for the IMO's former Chief Executive, George McNeice, who stepped down before Christmas with a settlement totalling nearly €10 million.

This package had been negotiated downwards from an original value of around €25 million. Mr McNeice's annual remuneration prior to his retirement had been around €500,000.

The meeting heard new revelations relating to Mr McNeice's settlement. He is seeking the payment of almost €10,000 for his VHI subscription for the next year, which he says he is entitled to under the terms of his settlement package, and has also claimed ownership of a painting at the IMO headquarters in Dublin 2.

IMO President Dr Paul McKeown told reporters today there was a 'legal exchange' continuing about these two issues at the moment, but the IMO had rejected the initial claims from Mr McNeice on the matter.

He said the retrospective review would look at every aspect of the CEO's contract and terms and conditions of employment. He said everything in which the CEO was involved would be examined.

Today's EGM, attended by around 150 members, agreed that the retrospective review of the IMO would include reviewing all matters relating to Mr McNeice's employment contract, payment and pension arrangements in respect of any role held by him in the IMO and any companies associated with the IMO from 1993 to the end of 2012.

The probe will, according to a motion passed at the EGM, look at the operation of a number of subsidiary companies run by the IMO, including the appointment of directors and governance arrangements between such companies and the IMO, and arrangements pertaining to the awarding of contracts and third party consultancy arrangements, and salary and expense payments.

Dr McKeown said there were subsidiary companies set up, in which the Chief Executive was involved, and these would be considered by the review. These companies include a company providing financial services for members, a medical negligence indemnity company and a training company.

The IMO says the review, in addition to looking at the CEO contract issues, will look at the general financial management of the organisation over the past 20 years.

The inquiry will look into any possible breaches of IMO governance arrangements, or rules or control procedures.

The retrospective review will be carried out by an independent third party, following a public tendering process.

The review of current structures will be carried out by an internal IMO committee.

The meeting, in addition to agreeing to carry out probes into its past an current governance structures and procedures, sanctioned interim management arrangements put in place by the IMO following Mr McNeice's recent retirement.

These arrangements will continue until new governance and management structures are set up following the internal review.

Members attending the meeting, which was held in private, described it as being generally constructive. The motions on the agenda were passed by overwhelming majorities, according to the IMO.

The IMO says there has only been a relatively small fall-off in membership as a result of the current controversy.

Dr McKeown admitted there had been some fall-off in membership, but generally membership had held up in a way he found very reassuring.

Asked if Minister Reilly, who in the past served on the remuneration committee of the IMO, would be sought for interview as part of the probe, Dr McKeown said he would imagine that all individuals who were in any way involved at a senior level in the Organisation during the period in question would be invited to take part.

Dr McKeown said in the past, proposed IMO AGM motions which sought information on the CEO's remuneration package had been deemed illegal. He said there were other issues built into these motions in relation to competition law and other State laws which led to the entire motions being deemed illegal.

He admitted that as a result, the IMO's membership had not been given the chance to examine the CEO's payment, salary or pension arrangements. Dr McKeown said the motions issue would be dealt with as part of the two reviews of the IMO's governance.

A campaigning group of doctors called Save Our IMO collected the requisite number of signatures to convene the EGM, but claimed the the IMO's leadership had effectively 'hijacked' their petition for an EGM by putting forward its own specific motions on the IMO's internal crisis.

The Save Our IMO group claimed today's meeting was being run by the council of the IMO.

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