Saturday 10 December 2016

Axed ministerial secretaries could get €1.7m in 'parachute payments'

Published 06/10/2015 | 02:30

Private secretaries to Cabinet and junior ministers get a €20,685 allowance on top of their basic salary, which can range from €27,500 to €52,000
Private secretaries to Cabinet and junior ministers get a €20,685 allowance on top of their basic salary, which can range from €27,500 to €52,000

Civil servants working as private secretaries to Government ministers are in line for top-up payments of up to €58,000 each when their position ceases, or they are replaced.

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As many as 30 officials could be in line for the payments over a four-year period, should there be a change in Government after the next General Election.

Were this to happen, the additional payments could cost the State up to €1.7m.

It comes after a decision by the Civil Service Arbitration Board to partially reinstate parachute allowance payments previously done away with by the Government in 2012.

Private secretaries to Cabinet and junior ministers get a €20,685 allowance on top of their basic salary, which can range from €27,500 to €52,000.

The secretaries are usually picked by ministers from the ranks of executive officers, higher executive officers and administrative officers within departments.

The allowance they receive is paid in recognition of additional responsibilities, such as attending on ministers during evenings, weekends and holidays.

Under the system, which was in place until February 2012, former private secretaries were allowed to keep up to half of the allowance annually when they left the position.

However, this was done away with for newly appointed private secretaries following a Government review.

A challenge by staff to the decision was taken to arbitration board, which, having considered the issue, notified Government departments of its ruling on September 28.

The board ruled that former private secretaries with at least one year's experience should be allowed to keep all of their allowance for a further year after departing the role.

A payment worth 80pc of the allowance (€16,548) is to be made in the second year. This is to be followed by a payment of 60pc (€12,411) in the third year and 40pc (€8,274) in the fourth year, with payments being discontinued thereafter.

A submission from staff argued it was unfair for former secretaries not to be compensated, as they could be removed without notice.

It said "in the absence of a protection of earnings mechanism, they would suffer a considerable drop in income, literally, overnight".

The submission argued that it was unreasonable for this to happen and that there should be step-down arrangements.

Irish Independent

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