Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Outsider to head up new IFA audit committee

IFA president Eddie Downey.
IFA president Eddie Downey.
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The continuing controversy over the resignation of Con Lucey as chairman of the IFA's audit committee looks set to dominate today's national council meeting in Bluebell.

The IFA leadership is likely to face questions from county chairman over why exactly Mr Lucey resigned and what led to his decision. In his letter of resignation to the IFA president Eddie Downey, Mr Lucey alleged there was "unacceptable interference" in the committee by IFA general secretary Pat Smith.

Both the IFA and Mr Smith were asked by the Farming Independent to respond to Mr Lucey's assertion. A statement received from the farm body claimed that poor communication between Mr Smith and Mr Lucey led to "misunderstandings". No reply was received from Mr Smith personally as we went to press.

"The IFA president Eddie Downey said that he has carefully looked into this matter and that the general secretary's [Pat Smith's] request to defer a meeting of the new audit committee was solely for procedural reasons," the IFA statement said.

"The general secretary accepts that a lack of direct communications between Con Lucey and himself did lead to misunderstandings which were unhelpful," it added.

The IFA statement went on to point out that Mr Smith, along with the former president, John Bryan, and national treasurer, JJ Kavanagh, was instrumental in setting up this new audit committee last year.

However, Mr Lucey's decision to resign as chairman of the three-man audit committee has sparked serious unease among the upper echelons of the IFA.

A stalwart of the association, Mr Lucey served as chief economist of the IFA for 29 years and worked with the farmer body for close to 35 years.

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Subsequent to his resignation, Mr Lucey recommended in a letter to Mr Downey and the association's powerful executive board that an external person with auditing/accounting experience should chair the audit committee.

The IFA has accepted this recommendation. In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Downey confirmed that the "new audit committee will now be chaired by an external person with relevant auditing/accounting experience, and will include the former and current national treasurer of the association."

In correspondence with IFA Mr Lucey also highlighted the need to establish an independent remuneration committee to establish the pay and benefits package for the general secretary of the association and to set the financial compensation the IFA president receives during his four-year term.

He pointed out that important changes to the accountancy standards in Ireland, which come into force next January, will require the annual accounts of organisations such as the IFA to set out the remuneration of key management.

In his correspondence, Mr Lucey was critical of what he claimed was a lack of accountability in setting the remuneration of the president and the general secretary.

He said an independent remuneration committee would bring greater transparency to the process.

However, the IFA pointed out the pay package for the IFA general secretary was reviewed annually by a remuneration committee made up of the association president and national treasurer.

Indo Farming