Wednesday 28 June 2017

'I'm not being pushed' says €1.6m official

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter and NICK WEBB EXCLUSIVE ,

The outgoing Secretary General of the Department of Finance, Kevin Cardiff, will get a package worth up to €1.6m, over his six-year term as a member of the European Court of Auditors, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Yesterday, a furious Mr Cardiff hit out at media speculation that he had been given the job by the Government because it was anxious to be rid of all top officials who had worked under the previous Fianna Fail-led administration.

Mr Cardiff said these reports were "deeply damaging" to his reputation.

And Dr Alan Ahearne, former adviser to the late Brian Lenihan, added to the controversy over the salaries of top civil and public servants when he described their remuneration as "ridiculous" and "out of whack" with reality.

Mr Cardiff is the latest top senior civil servant to leave his post since the Fine Gael/Labour coalition took office on March 9, and this follows in the wake of former Government Secretary General Dermot McCarthy's €713,000 golden handshake.

Interviewed in today's Sunday Independent, Dr Ahearne said progress in reducing the pay bill has not gone far enough and that further cuts are needed to those at the top.

"The overall bill for the public sector does have to come down. Some of the pay rates were and are ridiculous. They have come down a bit but some at the top are still out of whack," he said.

Mr Cardiff, who will next year take up his post as Ireland's member on the board of the European Court of Auditors on a salary of €240,000 a year, is incensed at suggestions that members of the cabinet, particularly on the Labour side, want him gone.

He cited a previous Sunday Independent story, published in April, which said the new Fine Gael and Labour Government would try and remove anyone connected with the "failure of the previous administration", as the basis for the speculation.

He said: "It is because of you and all this about me going a few months ago. It caused a ruckus and that now that I am going, people refer to that and say that's why I am going."

An irate Mr Cardiff said that such insinuations were highly damaging to his reputation.

"I mean you guys do that and think it has no impact, but that damages my reputation. Now a few months on it becomes a thing, and people go back to that. It's difficult when your family are worried about you and their position," he added.

Mr Cardiff said no politicians in the Coalition had said they wanted him to go.

Labour Minister Pat Rabbitte strenuously denied yesterday that he and his party colleagues had sought to have Mr Cardiff replaced.

"There is no truth in it. A vacancy came in the Court of Auditors and the Minister for Finance has made the appointment. It is the first time the question has been put to me. The mistakes of the past are made, we have had to contend with those mistakes, but that is not true," he said.

Figures provided to the Sunday Independent by the European Court of Auditors show that Mr Cardiff's basic salary will be "104 per cent" of a Grade A1 official -- up to €203,000 per year.

This works out at €1.22m over the six-year term.

The documents show that he could earn around €27,000 per year in a "housing allowance" worth €162,000 over the six-year term. Mr Cardiff is also entitled to a "family allowance" made up of about €5,400 per year to run a house. European Commission officials also get up to €6,564 per year for school-age children to cover education and other bills.

The Irish civil servant is also in line for a €30,000 "installation allowance" on taking up the job. Europe will also cover travel expenses for Mr Cardiff and his family as well as removal bills for his furniture and personal items. Insurance will also be provided.

When his six-year term ends -- assuming he is ratified -- Mr Cardiff will make mega bucks. The gravy starts pouring with an upfront €15,000 payment in a "resettlement allowance" as soon as his term ends. Departing members of the European Court of Auditors can claims special "transitional payments" on leaving their posts.

If Mr Cardiff serves between five to 10 years on the Court of Auditors' board, he will be entitled to a payment of 50 per cent of his salary for three years after his departure. That could be worth €270,000 over the period subject to his not getting another European job.

Mr Cardiff may also get a bumper pension from Europe, worth up to 70 per cent of his final salary at the Court of Auditors.

This could give him a pension of up to €126,000 per year. The civil servant may also decide to take his pension early and could pick up a stipend of 70 per cent of the final payment at just 60.

Sunday Independent

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