I earned my bonus, says ex-NTMA chief
THE former chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency has insisted he will not give up his €200,000 bonus.
Amid uproar over a raft of controversial extra payments to senior state officials and civil servants, Dr Michael Somers said he had no intention of surrendering the huge bonus he received earlier this year.
A defiant Dr Somers told the Irish Independent he had earned the bonus payment and would not be relinquishing it.
The payment was one of several made to a number of senior officials and civil servants on top of their salaries over the past 12 months.
The bonuses have outraged many public servants, who have suffered savage wage cuts.
"My bonus was no different from other people's. I had to meet certain targets and that was decided by an independent group," Dr Somers said.
"It was then signed off by the Minister for Finance. He always knew what my salary and bonus was."
Dr Somers added: "I reckon I did a good job. I left the NTMA in good shape. We came out well compared with the Department of Finance or the Central Bank, never mind the banks.
"We raised all the borrowings for this year, and had €5bn over for next year, plus €20bn in cash. There was another €20bn in the National Pension Fund. I'm not sure where we'd be now without the work of the NTMA."
Other officials who got bonuses, including the chief executives of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and Waterways Ireland, refused to say if they would surrender them.
Details of the payments, revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent, have caused acute embarrassment for the Government, coming just days after it forced AIB to back down on plans to pay €40m in bonuses.
The bonuses were paid despite instructions by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan that performance-related payments for chief executives or other senior staff of non-commercial bodies should be suspended.
Payments included undisclosed bonuses given to NTMA staff and around 98 "special service" and "seniority allowance" payments made to Department of Finance staff totalling €224,500.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen attempted to play down the controversy in the Dail yesterday, rejecting comparisons between the bonuses for Department of Finance officials and the banking bonuses.
However, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called for the "bonus culture" in the public sector to end.
HRI said its chief executive Brian Kavanagh was contractually entitled to a €40,539 bonus payment he received earlier this year for work done in 2009.
The chief executive of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, Patricia Byron, refused to be drawn on whether she would return a bonus of €31,395.
Meanwhile, John Martin, chief executive of Waterways Ireland, also refused to comment on whether or not he would return a €9,628 bonus received earlier this year in respect of 2007.
Mr Cowen claimed the money was not a bonus but rather sums owed under a wage deal. "It's not a bonus actually, it's part of the overall pay bill," the Taoiseach said.
He said that the officials were entitled to the extra payments as an additional 1pc of pay under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, the national pay deal from 1994 to 1996. He said the bonuses were part of the normal pay scales of some senior civil servants and the average payment was between €2,000 and €2,500.
But Mr Kenny said the payments gave the impression that a "bonus culture" was "apparently alive and well" for some officials.