Monday 11 December 2017

Ministers backed semi-state pay 'madness'

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

GOVERNMENT ministers were responsible for "monitoring the madness" of the massive salary rises given to semi-state company bosses, the Dail spending watchdog chief said yesterday.

The Public Accounts committee (PAC) heard ministers and the Minister for Finance were required to sign off on salaries for semi-state chief executives such as the ESB's Padraig McManus (€432,688) and An Post chief executive Donal Connell (€386,000).

The Government has now introduced a €250,000 salary cap -- but it cannot force semi-state bosses to abide by it because they have already signed legally binding contracts.

Committee chairman Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen questioned whether anyone was responsible for "monitoring the madness" of semi-state bosses getting over €500,000.

"Was there anybody saying this was going out of control?" he asked.

Department of Communications secretary general Aidan Dunning confirmed all salaries for semi-state bosses were subject to the approval of the relevant minister and the Minister for Finance.

The Department of Finance confirmed to the committee the most recent pay rises for semi-state bosses were based on the recommendations of a secret report by the Hay consultancy firm in 2007.

It was commissioned by then Finance Minister Brian Cowen to compare their pay and bonuses against comparable jobs in the private sector, but it was never published.

Mr Dunning was unable to tell the committee if the €250,000 salary cap would have an effect on future contracts given to presenters by RTE, which is the responsibility of his department.

Fianna Fail TD Brendan Kenneally questioned whether the "self-employed" status of RTE presenters (such as Pat Kenny and Ryan Tubridy) would allow them to escape the salary cap in their next contract.

"So you're saying that even if the minister decides there is a €250,000 cap, RTE can get around it?" he asked.

In a letter to the committee, NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh said all salaries were confidential -- and disclosing them would seriously compromise its ability to attract the "key specialists" it needed.

Mr Allen complained NAMA had effectively told the committee to "get stuffed" and warned that it would be taking legal advice on the matter.

Irish Independent

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