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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Revealed: €74,000 special pay-offs to county chiefs

Dermot McCarthy, former Secretary General to the Government
Sean Gorman, the Secretary General of the Department of Enterprise

Anne-Marie Walsh and Paul Melia

A CONTROVERSIAL 'special' payment given to the country's top civil servant is also paid to county managers.

The Irish Independent can reveal that the country's 34 county managers get a severance lump sum when they retire -- and it's worth an average €74,000.

The revelation comes in the wake of an outcry over the same type of payment given to former secretary general Dermot McCarthy as part of a retirement package worth €713,000.

As well as this 'special' sweetener when they retire -- worth half their annual salary -- they also get added years of service which they have not actually worked, to further boost their pensions.

County managers stand to get packages from around €340,000 to more than €500,000 that include this special payment -- and one of them is due to retire within months.

They have been getting the special severance sum for 13 years but the Government refuses to provide proof it is forced to pay out the controversial sums.

It is hiding behind the "secret" nature of a decision to award the payments to secretary generals, made by the government of more than 20 years ago.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted the Cabinet has no choice but to give the extra payments that substantially boost the pension pots of the most senior public servants.

These special payments are not available to other state employees.

Significantly, documents on the Department of Finance's own website say the minister "may" rather than "must" award them.

The special severance sum is worth an average €74,000 to each county manager and they get it on top of six-figure pension lump sums and annual pensions.

If all the local authority managers were to retire now, the "special" payments alone would cost €2.5m.

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government said it could not reveal the identity of the local authority manager due to retire before major cuts come into force next year.

Public service pensions will be slashed by up to 15pc after February.

This is because they will -- for the first time -- be based on salaries after the pay cuts that reduced public sector wages last year. Until February, public servants can retire on a pension which is higher, as it is calculated on their pre-pay-cut salary.

The county managers are among an elite group of senior civil servants who are entitled to the special payments when they retire.

Earlier this month, the Irish Independent revealed that Sean Gorman, secretary general at the Department of Enterprise, was set to retire with a €634,000 deal boosted by the 'special' payment.

His package is lower than Mr McCarthy's because he is on a slightly lower pay scale.

Mr Gorman is among 55 senior civil servants who can walk away with six-figure deals before February.

Although only the most senior officials would get the 'special' bonus, all 55 would enjoy packages worth around €300,000 -- or €16.5m in total.

Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes has described the public servants' deals as "gold-plated" and has promised reforms in the Budget.

County managers also get the special severance payment but appear to be subject to certain restrictions. These restrictions mean they have to give up the payment if they do not finish their seven-year contract or extend their contract and do not serve the full period.

The Department of Environment said a Local Government Superannuation Consolidation Scheme of 1998 set out the local authority managers' entitlements.

County managers' basic yearly pay prior to the pay cut varied from €136,581 to €202,461, depending on the county.

Department figures show the Dublin City manager is the only one on the top pay rate.

The full exit package for county managers, including lump sum and the special severance payments, is equal to two-and-a-half times their annual salary.

Irish Independent

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