Mount Carmel Hospital staff carried out work for “third parties” during their regular working hours at the mental health facility, an audit has found.

A report by the auditor general detailed a lack of internal staff controls at the hospital.

In one case, the audit found a consultant was paid for services given to the commissioner for mental health, a separate entity, during working hours at Mount Carmel.

Documents reviewed by the auditor found that, on at least four occasions, the consultant was providing services to the mental health commissioner at a time when he should have been performing duties at Mount Carmel.

The same consultant was also found to be carrying out work for the Court Services Agency and the Malta Foundation School.

In another example, the audit found that a principal psychologist received an allowance of €44,000 for work carried out for the courts in 2022.

Approval to carry out this additional work was only sought in October 2022, leading the auditor general to conclude that the services rendered throughout the majority of that year were not authorised by Mount Carmel.

Furthermore, the auditor noted how the approval given to the psychologist did not include a condition barring this additional job being carried out during Mount Carmel working hours.

An individual clocked €38,000 worth of overtime in 2022 alone

Mount Carmel said in the audit report that it will be issuing a circular stating that any fee-paying work with third parties must be performed outside the contracted working hours.

Vacation leave must be used for any additional work that must be carried out during the contracted hours, Mount Carmel said.

Flaws were also found in Mount Carmel’s handling of payroll, which, in one case, led to “substantial overpayments” of allowances.

The auditor general warned that since the calculations in this one particular case could have been used as the basis for other payroll workings, these errors could also have impacted allowances paid to other officers not falling within the audit sample.

Mount Carmel said it has for a “considerable time” been submitting requests to strengthen its payroll section, however recruitment issues have prevented this from happening.

€38,000 worth of overtime in 2022 alone

In another example of potential abuse, the auditor general noted how a senior health carer regularly took time off in lieu when on the day shift.

This allowed the carer to pick up extra shifts outside of regular hours after taking the time off in lieu and then claim these shifts as overtime. This led the individual to clock €38,000 worth of overtime in 2022 alone.

The auditor general said the “trend” of Mount Carmel employees using their time off in lieu to avoid working their shift duty and then opting to work overtime in a different shift period had already been flagged in a 2014 audit report.

Mount Carmel told the auditor general that the practice has now been addressed by prohibiting employees from accumulating more than 50 hours of time off in lieu.

Abuses of overtime and allowances at Mount Carmel have been under the spotlight recently as nurses’ union boss Paul Pace faces two separate financial probes over potential overtime abuse at the facility.

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