Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Meat lobby group under fire over appointment of top civil servant

New role at MII for former Department of Agriculture assistant secretary

Philip Carroll. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography.
Philip Carroll. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Concerns have emerged over the appointment of a former Department of Agriculture assistant secretary to chair a lobby group for meat processors.

Despite retiring from his senior civil servant position less than five months ago, Philip Carroll will be heading up a strengthened lobby team for Meat Industry Ireland (MII) which represents such meat companies as the Larry Goodman controlled ABP, Dawn Meats, Kepak, Irish Country Meats and Slaney Foods.

During a long career in the public service, Mr Carroll was responsible for the management of the now disbanded Special Investigation Unit (SIU), which was the subject of a closed Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing just last week.

"It's shocking that such an appointment would be made when we are about to commence hearings in relation to the failed prosecutions carried out by the SIU that cost the State millions," said PAC chairman John McGuinness.

"At the very least, this is poor practice, and shows poor judgement by both Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and Philip Carroll," he said.

Fianna Fail's agriculture spokesman, Éamon Ó Cuív also expressed his concern that the protocols for retiring civil servants were not adhered to during the appointment of Mr Carroll.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour states that retiring civil servants should sit out a 'cooling off' period of at least a year before accepting jobs that "could lead to a conflict of interest".

Legislation has already been passed on making cooling-off periods mandatory for senior public servants, but this will not become law until September.

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There is provision within the code to allow assistant secretaries in government departments take up new roles within a year of retirement if they are first approved by the Outside Appointments Board.

A statement from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said that applications made to the Outside Appointments Board were treated on a strictly confidential basis. However, it added that the Board had received no applications to date in 2015.

A spokesman for MII said that this type of legislation should not apply in Mr Carroll's case, since MII was "not a company or business".

"Mr Carroll is fully aware of, and is compliant with, all relevant responsibilities and obligations on him as a former civil servant, in the context of his new role," he added in a statement.

Mr Carroll could not be contacted yesterday, and the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, declined to respond to queries from the Farming Independent. The Department of Agriculture stated that "this is a question for Mr Carroll and not for the Department."

Mr Carroll's appointment is the first step by the beef processors - who have racked up impressive profits over the last number of years - to improve their public relations profile.

While all the beef processors are privately owned, and do not publish public accounts, recent media reports on one of Mr Goodman's companies - the Luxembourg-based Parlesse Investments Sarl - showed that it paid just 0.4pc tax on profits of over €53m in 2013.

A Beef Round Table Forum was established by Minister Coveney last year following blockades by frustrated farmers at the beef plants.

Despite the forum's commitment to examine the grid system that governs the prices farmers get paid for their stock, Minister Coveney has refused to initiate this review.

A public PAC hearing on the operation of the SIU will be heard on June 16.

Indo Farming