By Anthony Sheridan
Department of Health secretary general Robert Watt recently committed several millions of taxpayer’s money to fund the secondment of Dr. Tony Holohan to Trinity College Dublin.
Mr. Watt had no authority to commit such public funds without the knowledge and permission of the Minister of Health.
I have submitted the following formal complaint to the Standards in Office Commission [SIPO] in response to Mr. Watt’s actions.
To Whom It May Concern:
Please find a formal complaint against the Secretary General of the Department of Health, Robert Watt, submitted under the Civil Service Code [The Code] of Standards and Behaviour.
I believe Mr. Watt is in breach of several sections of the above standards and requirements as set out in the Code.
This complaint is based on evidence taken from Mr. Watt’s Briefing Note and his letter of intent to Professor Linda Doyle of Trinity College Dublin.
This complaint is divided into two parts.
Complaint – Part One
The drafting and sending of the letter of intent by Mr. Watt to Professor Linda Doyle of TCD. Mr. Watt was in breach of his duties and responsibilities on two counts regarding this letter.
One: He did not possess the authority to write such a letter without the knowledge and permission of the minister.
Two: He did not possess the authority to offer a contract to TCD that involved a potential cost to the state of several millions. In his briefing note Mr. Watt defends his actions by claiming that the final details regarding Mr. Holohan’s secondment were not finalised.
This defence does not stand up. Whether or not the final details were agreed is irrelevant.
It is the act itself of drawing up the letter and sending it to Professor Doyle for signature that constitutes Mr. Watts breach of the code under section 11. Regard for state resources [11.1] [11.2]
11.1 Civil servants should endeavour to ensure the proper, effective, and efficient use of public money.
11.2 Civil servants are required to: • take proper and reasonable care of public funds and departmental property and not to use them, or permit their use, for unauthorised purposes; • incur no liability on the part of their employer without proper authorisation and • ensure that expenses, such as travel and subsistence payments, are not unnecessarily incurred either by themselves or by staff reporting to them.
Complaint – Part Two
In his Briefing Note Mr. Watt, in an obvious attempt to spread responsibility for his own decisions and actions, dishonestly implicates other agencies and individuals in those decisions.
 He promised an allocation of €2 million for the duration of Mr. Holohan’s secondment to be administered through the Health Research Board [HRB]. The HRB have made it absolutely clear that they were neither informed nor consulted in regard to this decision. Whether or not the HRB would have administered Dr. Holohan’s salary is irrelevant in the context of this complaint.
What is relevant is that Mr. Watt failed in his responsibility to inform or consult with the HRB on a decision that would have had a serious impact on the obligations and resources of that organisation.
Furthermore, Mr. Watt’s failure to inform or consult with the management of the HRB regarding his decision demonstrates a serious lack of respect and consideration for his civil service colleagues.
 Mr. Watt strongly suggests that the Secretary to the Government, Martin Fraser, the Taoiseach and other members of the Government were aware of the proposed secondment.
Mr. Watt writes:
The Secretary to the Government was aware of the proposed secondment move (but not of course the precise details) and I understood that the fact of discussions regarding the CMO’s future plans were known in the Department of An Taoiseach. I assumed that key decision-makers were aware of the proposal but of course not the precise details. [Source: Robert Watt’s Briefing Note: Other Matters .
The facts are: The Taoiseach has made it crystal clear that he had ‘no hand, act or part’ in the plans surrounding Dr. Holohan’s secondment.
Similarly, no other government minister had any knowledge whatsoever of the details as drawn up by Mr. Watt and Dr. Holohan and agreed to by the provost of TCD, Linda Doyle. Mr. Fraser and Mr. Watt’s boss, the Minister for Health, were given only the vaguest details of what was planned.
Mr. Watt’s use of terms such as ’I understood that’ and ‘I assumed that’, in mitigation of his actions are not credible coming from a public official of his rank, power and responsibilities.
I believe that Mr. Watts’ decisions and actions in respect of the above are in breach of Part 2  [Impartiality] [paragraphs [a] [b] and [c] of the Code.
Civil servants in the performance of their official duties:
(a) must conscientiously serve the duly elected Government of the day, the other institutions of State and the public;
(b) must advise and implement policy impartially and, in particular, be conscious of the need to maintain the independence necessary to give any future Minister or Government confidence in their integrity and
(c) should not display partiality whether as a result of personal or family ties or otherwise.