Dozens of public service officials get big bonuses
Lenihan blow as 100 of his staff share in payout
DOZENS of civil servants and State officials have been paid bonuses -- including one totalling €200,000 -- over the past 12 months, the Irish Independent has learned.
The sums included almost 100 extra payments made to officials within the Department of Finance, while additional payments were also made to staff linked to four other Government departments.
The disclosure will come as a major embarrassment to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who just two days ago forced taxpayer-supported AIB to back down on plans to pay €40m in staff bonuses.
It also came as Mr Lenihan last night clashed with union leaders as he blamed social partnership for damaging the economy.
The largest bonus was paid to former National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) chief executive Dr Michael Somers.
He was paid €200,000 earlier this year as a performance-related bonus for 2009.
Figures released following parliamentary questions from Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd also revealed how other staff at the NTMA got performance-related bonuses this year for 2009. However, officials last night refused to disclose the amounts involved.
Other bonuses paid in the past 12 months included:
- €31,395 paid to Patricia Byron, chief executive of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) as a reward for performance in 2009;
- €40,539 paid to the chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, Brian Kavanagh, in respect of 2009;
- €9,628 paid to John Martin, chief executive of Waterways Ireland, for performance in 2007.
The payment to Ms Byron was not referred to Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe for approval and was approved solely by the PIAB board.
However, the payments to Mr Kavanagh and Mr Martin were sanctioned by the departments of Agriculture and Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs respectively.
The Department of Finance also admitted a series of extra payments were made to some of its staff in the past year.
These included "special service payments" to 19 staff at principal and assistant principal grades totalling €53,394 in respect of 2008.
Some 27 staff in the same grades received similar payments totalling €55,670 for 2009, while another 52 department staff received "seniority allowances" above their basic pay during 2010 totalling €115,395.
A small bonus of €500 was paid to another staff member under a "staff suggestion scheme", while ex-gratia payments of €1,000 and €500 were also made to other officials in recognition of extra work.
The Department of Defence also made an "exceptional performance award" of €1,500 to one employee for work on two projects, while the Department of Foreign Affairs said it made once off payments of €500 each to 29 retiring staff.
The opposition reacted with fury to the revelations last night.
"There must be a complete end to the bonus culture across the public service," said Mr O'Dowd, a Fine Gael frontbencher.
"It is astounding to learn these bonuses are being paid out, sometimes without the knowledge of ministers, when the country is in the state it is."
The Department of Finance last night defended the additional payments to its staff.
It said the payments dated back to agreements reached in 1994 and reflected staff members' contribution, the special demands of their jobs and their level of experience.
Meanwhile, Mr Lenihan was in a war of words with union officials after blaming social partnership for damaging the economy.
Citing the findings of a report on the role of the Department of Finance in the economic crisis, Mr Lenihan said the document was highly critical of social partnership deals and "uncosted undertakings which are financially unsustainable being made". The minister said the political programmes introduced by parties on forming a government after a general election also "did enormous damage to the financial system".
"There is no doubt the Department of Finance lost its influence in the administrative machine," he said.
But the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the country's largest union, SIPTU, hit back.
ICTU general secretary David Begg said all finance ministers until Mr Lenihan were "well disposed" to social partnership.
SIPTU president Jack O'Connor said Mr Lenihan was attempting to divert attention "from the responsibility he bears for the present mess".