Saturday 22 October 2016

Central Bank defends payments to non-staff

Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30

The Central Bank headquarters in Dublin
The Central Bank headquarters in Dublin

The Central Bank has defended controversial severance payments - including two made to individuals who weren't staff members - saying the alternatives would have been "far more costly".

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Chief Operations Manager Gerry Quinn told the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the bank accepts that there were "deficiencies" in its procedures on such payments - as identified by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG).

Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Tony Gavin

He said a range of improvements to have been implemented since the six cases highlighted by the C&AG including the introduction of a formal discretionary severance policy.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald expressed surprise that this hadn't been in place earlier telling the officials present: "You're the Central Bank. You're not the corner shop . . . You're a central pillar to the entire system of the State."

The C&AG examiner looked at severance payments at a number of State agencies between 2011 and 2013. The Central Bank having the highest number of such arrangements - amounting to a combined €384,000 - of those agencies examined.

Mr Quinn told TDs that these payments occurred at a time when the Central Bank was greatly expanding staff numbers and that they represented just 0.11pc of its total payroll expenditure in the period.

He said that the cases where non-staff members received payments both came about as a result of court action. One case related to a long-standing contract-worker who was based in the banks offices and claimed to be an employee when told the role was no longer needed.

Mr Quinn said as a result of this case measures have been brought in to distinguish between independent contractors and employees. This includes special badges and they now "pay more for their coffee in the canteen".

In the other case a candidate for a job was awarded a role in the bank and resigned an existing position. However, the individual alleged that the bank's pre-employment process did not make sufficiently clear the conditions of employment prior to the resignation. They refused the job on that basis and took a court case against the bank. Mr Quinn said a settlement of €32,000 plus legal costs of €25,000 was agreed following legal advice.

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming asked how much the bank has spent in retention payments to hold on to staff in recent years.

He was told that 29 individuals have been paid a combined €500,000 in a retention scheme started in 2014.

Irish Independent

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