A health board paid a private consultant almost £2,000-a-day to cut costs while he worked from his home in Marbella.
Trouble-shooting management expert Philip Burns cost Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board £370,000 over nine months as it tried to make savings.
Mr Burns’ contract was terminated early because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Adrian Crompton, Auditor General for Wales, found that the daily rate paid to Mr Burns was “above most of the benchmark comparators”.
The health board spent £370,000 on “interim recovery director” Mr Burns after agreeing for him to work from home one day per week from his holiday villa in Marbella, Spain.
Mr Burns was appointed in 2019 by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board which has been in special measures for more than four years.
He earned more than the health board’s own chief executive and even the Welsh Government’s own health minister during his nine-month tenure.
Mr Crompton said: “My work found that whilst the health board asserts that competitive rates were negotiated for the appointment, I found that the £1,890 daily rate being paid by the health board for the interim recovery director post is higher than most of the benchmark comparators that were used by officials during the appointment process.”
Plaid Cymru’s Welsh Parliament member Llyr Gruffydd called for a full investigation into the findings that the health board paid over the market rate.
Mr Gruffydd said: “Audit Wales has now completed its annual report into the health board’s finances and states quite clearly that the daily rate paid to the interim recovery director was higher than most of the benchmark comparators that were used by officials during the appointment process.
“So why did a health board in financial difficulties make such a generous offer – especially at a time when it was trying to force nurses to work an extra shift per month without pay?”
One proposed saving under Mr Burns’ leadership is for nurses to have unpaid 30-minute breaks during twelve-and-a-half hour shifts. But that was scrapped after huge protests.
Mr Gruffydd said he was “extremely concerned” at the “astronomical wages” being paid and the arrangement which allowed Mr Burns to work from Marbella.
Mr Burns’ contract ended two months early in April last year.
He was supposed to earn around £361,000 for his nine-month stint and save the board cash, by identifying “efficiencies”.
The health board ended the year £40 million in deficit. Mr Burns received £353,450 in total, plus expenses of £16,888.
Sue Green, the health board’s executive director of workforce, said: “The due diligence conducted by the health board at the time of the appointment showed that the rate paid was not materially above the market rate and the Recovery Director provided the Health Board with an experienced senior expert in financial recovery, which supported the delivery of the savings programme in 2019/20.
“The health board has revised the process for appointing interim agency workers, requiring agreement from executive directors of finance and workforce, as well as expertise from procurement services, before engaging agencies as part of a national framework.”