Saturday 20 December 2014

Bank spent €115,000 on party as economy collapsed

Fiach Kelly and Grainne Cunningham

Published 01/10/2011 | 05:00

AS the country went into economic meltdown, the Central Bank threw a €115,000 party for its employees, the Irish Independent has learned.

Ironically, it was celebrating the anniversary of the euro and the setting up of the Financial Regulator's office.

In April 2008, at the same time as the Central Bank was issuing gloomy forecasts about the downturn which was about to hit, it organised the celebratory bash in the RDS for 1,000 guests.

The cost of the party meant that the Central Bank's spend on entertainment that year rose to €155,000, over six times higher than it had been the previous year.

The figures were revealed following a parliamentary question from Labour's Kevin Humphreys.

"The Central Bank spent €150,000 on entertainment in 2008 while the banking system was going down in flames," said Mr Humphreys.

"It's clear that our regulatory system wasn't focused on the job at hand," the Dublin South-East deputy said last night.

In response to queries on the nature of the costly party, a spokeswoman from the Central Bank confirmed that "there was a one-off staff function in April 2008 that contributed to the costs in that year".

"The function was held in the RDS for all staff (approximately 1,000) to mark the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Financial Regulator and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the euro.

"The costs for the function were approximately €115,000," she added.

In response to Mr Humphreys' parliamentary question, Finance Minister Michael Noonan confirmed that the Central Bank did not have a specific entertainment budget but based its figures on "expenses not directly related to business operations".

The estimated costs "include a range of staff events such as subsidised staff retirement functions (some 60) and special events".

Over the past five years, the Central Bank has spent over €320,000 on such events, with almost half of that figure going towards the festivities in April 2008.

Spending on entertainment over the past five years was: 2007, €20,000; 2008, €155,000; 2009, €35,000; 2010, €65,000; 2011, €45,000.

Over the same period, the Central Bank has also spent €185,000 on taxis.

Rising

Figures revealed to Mr Humphreys show that the bill for taxis has been steadily rising since 2007, and that the bank has already spent €45,000 this year, with three months to go until the end of the year.

The figures released by the bank in relation to its spend on taxis are: 2007, €20,000; 2008, €30,000; 2009, €40,000; 2010, €50,000; 2011, €45,000.

In a written answer, Mr Noonan confirmed: "In respect of the taxi-related costs incurred by the Central Bank, it is important to note that the period 2007-2011 saw a corresponding increase in the level of prudential on-site and review meetings with regulated entities, a significant increase in the number of staff and additional Central Bank accommodation in terms of new buildings (specifically at Spencer Dock and Harcourt Street)."

In responding to Mr Humphreys' questions, Mr Noonan noted that he did not have responsibility for expenditure by the Central Bank.

Irish Independent

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