A report by Department of Health Secretary General Watt Report into the abandoned appointment of Dr Tony Holohan to a post at Trinity College Dublin says the Minister for Health was not informed of the details or that it was even a secondment, RTÉ News has learned.

Mr Watt has argued that it was his area of delegated responsibility under the law, so the minister did not need to be informed.

It says there are many secondments, perhaps 50/60 between the department, HSE, and other bodies and that it is not a matter for the minister, but a staffing and personnel issue.

It indicates that the CMO may have initiated the contact with Trinity College Dublin and it developed from there.

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The report acknowledges that more information sooner would have been better, but that the appointment leaked and the department had to put out statements.

It says the funding had not been agreed fully at that stage, but it may have been done through the Health Research Board.

Department Secretary General Robert Watt

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has confirmed that the appointment of Dr Tony Holohan to the position in Trinity College Dublin would have cost the Department of Health €2 million over ten years.

"People know the respect that I have for Dr Holohan which goes back over a long number of years, Mr Martin told reporters. "I find the entire situation that we are in regrettable. There should have been more transparency about this from the outset," he said.

The Taoiseach said he would look at the report in greater detail and talk to his cabinet colleagues about it.

"It is clear that the funding was to come from the Department of Health, through the Health Research Board, out of which the salary (of €187,000 per annum) would have been paid," he said.

Mr Martin also confirmed that Dr Holohan will chair the recently established successor group to NPHET until his retirement in July.

The Opposition has strongly criticised both Minister Donnelly and Mr Watt for their roles in the controversy.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (Photo: RollingNews.ie)

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said it was "shocking" that Minister Donnelly was not aware of the full details of the appointment.

"The idea that the Secretary General of the department takes the view that the minister didn’t need to be told really is shocking. Why did he take it on himself to take that position?," Deputy Shortall asked on RTÉ’s Drivetime.

"You’d have to ask, has Stephen Donnelly lost authority within the department? Has he lost control of what’s going on there? Certainly, the Taoiseach’s intervention in my view raises questions about his confidence in the minister.

"You would imagine the minister would have been told by his Secretary General about the detail of it but secondly if he wasn’t, that he would have asked a question about it.

"Is he being seconded, is he being paid his normal salary? Was there no questioning of that all, especially in light of the government’s mishandling of the Katherine Zappone affair during the summer?

At that time, we were told that lessons had been learned. You’d have to ask were any lessons learned and we hear the same line now coming from the Taoiseach," Deputy Shorthall added.

She also criticised the apparent leaking of the report, which has yet to be formally published.

'I wish to avoid any further unnecessary distraction'

Dr Holohan has said he will retire as Chief Medical Officer from 1 July.

In a statement released on Saturday, Dr Holohan said he did not wish to see the controversy continue.

"In particular, I wish to avoid any further unnecessary distraction that this has caused to our senior politicians and civil servants," he said.

He added: "My strong belief is that this was a significant opportunity to work with the university sector to develop much-needed public health capacity and leadership for the future.

"In this regard, I would like to thank Trinity College and the Provost for their foresight and support in establishing this role.

"Following my departure, I look forward to sharing my knowledge and expertise outside of the public service."

Trinity College Dublin

Open-ended secondment

Last month, it had been announced that Dr Holohan would stand down as Chief Medical Officer to take up the position of Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership at the college.

Controversy developed when it emerged that it was an open-ended secondment, which the Department of Health would fund at the outgoing CMO's annual salary.

It has emerged the board of Trinity College was informed last month about the creation of a new role of Professor of Public Health Strategy, but not that advanced negotiations were under way with Dr Holohan.

The board meeting took place on 23 March and members were told about the creation of a new interdisciplinary chair, the logic behind the position, but not who was being lined up for the job.

A TCD spokesperson said the board does not approve individual appointments. "It is the role of the interview committee to select the candidate and the Academic Council to approve that selection," they said.

They confirmed that the approval process for Dr Holohan was finalised within 48 hours of the board's March meeting.

It is understood that the Secretary General of the Department of Taoiseach, Martin Fraser, had a number of confidential conversations with Dr Holohan on his future plans, and was aware he was considering a move to the university sector.

However, Mr Fraser was not aware of the details of the arrangement.

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform is to investigate the procedures around the abandoned planned secondment of Dr Holohan.

Committee Chairman John McGuinness said that all correspondence relating to the process will now be sought.

He said the Committee was best placed to examine the secondment given its oversight role of public expenditure.

The Committee will ask the Secretary General at the Department Health, Robert Watt, along with the outgoing Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach, Martin Fraser, to appear before it on 21 April.

The Committee will then make a decision as to whether it wants to hear from the Health Minister, the Public Expenditure Minister and the Taoiseach on the matter.

Additional reporting Sandra Hurley, Mary Regan and Micheál Lehane