Saturday 25 November 2017

Coillte chief's package hits €417k despite profit plunge

shane ross

THE politically appointed board of Coillte, the troubled state forestry agency, agreed not to reduce the chief executive's basic pay last year.

Coillte boss David Gunning is still receiving his basic €297,000 salary despite the recession. Last year he took away a package of €417,000.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Gunning said that instead of a voluntary basic pay cut the directors had decided to "park" the usual performance-related pay for top executives.

Performance at Coillte in the last year has been dismal. Figures announced last week revealed that underlying profits of €8.7m in 2008 turned into an underlying trading loss of €14.3m in 2009. The board managed to declare an overall surplus of €4.2m in 2009, but only by including an exceptional profit of €18.2m.

Last year Coillte, which is the beneficiary of massive state aid, did not pay any dividend to the State following a €2.6m return in 2008. Mr Gunning responded that the public received constant intangible dividends like free access to recreational space owned by Coillte. He insisted that the Coillte numbers had tanked because demand for timber was down by two thirds, hard hit by the collapse in the construction industry.

Coillte continues to employ top-dollar auditors PwC, but they charge more to Coillte for their non-audit work than for the audit itself. Last year PwC was paid €552,000 by the semi-state agency. Only €191,000 was for the audit while €152,000 was for "advisory services". The balance was made up of €216,000, mostly for taxation advice.

Sunday Independent

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