Monday 19 August 2019

Makhlouf to explain NZ budget furore before he takes up Central Bank job

Gabriel Makhlouf. Photo: Bloomberg
Gabriel Makhlouf. Photo: Bloomberg
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Incoming Central Bank of Ireland governor Gabriel Makhlouf will make a statement about his controversial handling of a New Zealand budget leak before he takes up his new role in September, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said.

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he expected Mr Makhlouf to make a statement about his role in the controversy before starting his job at the Central Bank here.

Mr Makhlouf was New Zealand's treasury secretary, the top civil servant in the country's Department of Finance, until last week. His long planned exit from the job was marred by the findings of a government inquiry there into how he'd failed to take responsibility for a budget leak or to meet expectations about how it should be handled.

He is facing calls to accept he acted unreasonably by initially claiming the leak was a result of the Treasury department's website being "deliberately and systematically hacked", when in fact the budget documents had been inadvertently posted online.

Mr Donohoe has backed Mr Makhlouf to take the job here despite the controversy which blew up just weeks after the Irish appointment was made. He is due to begin work on September 1.

Mr Donohoe did not say when or in what form the statement from Mr Makhlouf will be made.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Donohoe said he has been in contact with Mr Makhlouf, who is aware the controversy has spread to Ireland.

"As we approach his taking over as governor, a statement to respond back to the report will happen," Mr Donohoe said.

"I know he is aware of the debate that has ignited here in Ireland and he wants to ensure he can spend the early part of his tenure focusing on his work as governor.

"It goes without saying, I wish this issue had not occurred in the way it did.From engaging directly with Mr Makhlouf both during the recruitment process and in the aftermath of it, it continues to be evident to me that he is a public servant of the highest calibre who I think will provide excellent leadership," the minister said.

The New Zealand investigation last week stopped short of formally reprimanding Mr Makhlouf.

It found he had acted in good faith and without political bias, but concluded that his actions were not reasonable and he should have taken more personal responsibility.

Irish Independent

Also in Business