Cowen moves as financial watchdog's expenses soar
Finance Minister Brian Cowen has reacted swiftly to a request from the Financial Regulator (IFSRA) for a greatly increased subsidy this year.
Following a submission for further State funding from the watchdog, the minister has demanded it submit early proposals for charging the banks bigger fees, as opposed to burdening the taxpayer.
Costs at the Financial Regulator are due to rocket over the coming year. Figures seen by the Sunday Independent confirm that the self-proclaimed consumers' watchdog, which is responsible for the regulation of banks and other financial institutions, is set to cost Irish consumers a fortune.
Among the items budgeted for by IFSRA for 2008 is a figure of €973,000 for "business travel expenses". This amounts to a cost of €20,000 a week, representing a 46 per cent increase on 2006.
A spokesman for the regulator described the travel figures as due to a number of items, including attendance at meetings, conferences and training abroad, but was unable to give full details of the destinations due to be visited by management and staff. Last year, trips included Paris, Calgary, London and Brussels.
The consumers' watchdog has submitted estimates for 2008, which show that it is seeking a record state subsidy of nearly €30m, compared with just over €24m in 2006 -- a 25 per cent increase.
The heavy spend by the regulator comes as a surprise, especially as the financial watchdog had an arrangement with the finance minister that funding from the taxpayer should not exceed the total it takes from the financial industry.
In 2008, the watchdog's own submission estimates that it will only levy €26m from the industry against the nearly €30m it is suddenly seeking from Mr Cowen.
Other costs notched up by the regulator include a budget of €606,000 for "training and conferences".
The subsidy to the regulator from the ordinary taxpayer is in sharp contrast to the practice in Britain. The UK's Financial Services Authority is totally funded by the financial industry.