Monday 18 December 2017

Cardiff still in line for EU job despite €3.6bn debt error

Coalition stands by finance chief

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE Government is still planning to nominate the head of the Department of Finance to a plum EU post, despite the fallout from the discovery of a €3.6bn debt.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore are standing over the Coalition's decision to appoint the department's secretary general, Kevin Cardiff, to Ireland's position on the European Court of Auditors.

Mr Cardiff is under fire over a €3.6bn accounting error, which saw the double counting of money borrowed by a state agency resulting in the national debt being overstated.

His role as head of the department has resulted in calls for him not to nominated as the country's representative in the Luxembourg-based institution.

Mr Cardiff told the Dail Public Accounts Committee last week that the Court of Auditors, which is the EU taxpayers' watchdog, will be "a doddle compared to this job".

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte gave a far from ringing endorsement of Mr Cardiff yesterday -- but he still conceded the nomination was not being withdrawn. "That decision has been made," he said.

Mr Rabbitte said the €3.6bn error was "boggling" for the man and woman in the street to understand.

"Of course, we all make mistakes. The system ought to have picked it up earlier," he said.

The Labour Party minister said the "buck stops with the secretary general of the Department of Finance".

But Mr Rabbitte said the error did not reflect upon his ability to do the job in the European Court of Auditors.

Mr Kenny's and Mr Gilmore's spokesmen also backed Finance Minister Michael Noonan's stance of there being "no question" of the Government withdrawing the nomination. Mr Noonan said Mr Cardiff was "not personally responsible" for the accounting error.

"The nomination has been made, he will have to go before a committee and we will be asking for his nomination to be ratified," he told the 'Sunday Independent'.

Coalition sources said Mr Rabbitte was simply trying to separate the accounting error from the nomination. "He was less than emphatic. He does that sometimes," a source said.

Role

The Government asked Mr Cardiff to take the EU role in Luxembourg after less than two years in the job as secretary general.

He was appointed secretary general in January 2010 by the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan. He had played a key role in banking policy and in the controversial state banking guarantee.

The Department of Finance confirmed Mr Cardiff had not asked for the move himself. The Government had asked him to accept the nomination and he had accepted.

His salary as a member of the European Court of Auditors will range from €191,000 to €203,000.

Irish Independent

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