Thursday 22 March 2018

Coalition told: Pull the plug on fatcats

Majority want bonuses and pensions reined in as ex-TDs get €14 million


An angry public is demanding that the Government gets to grips with fatcat bankers and semi-state bosses who are still living it up on a culture of massive salaries, bonuses and pensions.

As the public braces itself for a turning of the austerity screw, a perception has firmly taken hold that bankers continue to lie about the extent of their perks and privileges and that semi-state executives are thumbing their noses in the face of widespread disquiet.

A new Sunday Independent/Quantum Research poll finds that a massive 84 per cent want the Government to get tougher on senior employees in the semi-states.

Last April, it was revealed that 28 people in the public service, commercial and non-commercial state sector earned more than €250,000 per year -- or €50,000 a year more than the Taoiseach.

It also emerged last week that 14 staff at the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which encompasses the 'bad bank' Nama, are paid more than €250,000,

Full details page 20

a further three are paid between €200,000 and €250,000 and another 27 are paid between €150,000 and €200,000.

Spurred on by these disclosures, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has called on the executives at the NTMA to volunteer a 15 per cent pay cut.

The Sunday Independent has learned that Mr Howlin has written to the NTMA for "full transparency" in relation to salaries and bonuses for its management and senior staff.

But while one arm of the Department of Finance seeks to persuade NTMA officials to take a pay cut, the irony will not be lost on the public that another arm of the department has asked those same officials to investigate and report back on bonus payments in the banks.

Nor will the irony be lost that the political class now trying to get answers from the banks and semi-states itself continues to enjoy extravagant pay-offs on retirement.

The Sunday Independent can today reveal that the 70 politicians who retired or lost their seats at the last election are to benefit to the tune of €14m.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is known to be furious after officials in his department discovered that Anglo Irish Bank had provided inaccurate information over the payment of bonuses to senior staff last year.

In December, the then Finance Minister, the late Brian Lenihan, disclosed that just five executives at Anglo had shared more than €273,000 in bonus payments in 2010.

Now it has emerged that that information was not accurate.

A spokesman for the zombie bank yesterday said: "There was no intent, in any way, to mislead the Department of Finance."

Mr Noonan has said he is "concerned" that wrong information was provided which may have led Mr Lenihan to unwittingly mislead the Dail.

Yesterday, he told the Sunday Independent that he wanted to ensure that the Government did not "fall down the trap" of not having the full information on bankers' remuneration.

He has, therefore, asked the NTMA to conduct a review of remuneration policies by the covered banks. The review is intended to encompass all aspects of compensation and is not limited to salary.

Depending on the outcome of the review, it may emerge executives within the banks have been pocketing considerable sums without disclosing that information to the department.

Mr Noonan told the Sunday Independent: "Often if you ask the question were bonuses paid you'd get the answer 'No'. But you'd subsequently find other forms of top-up payments were made. What I want is a total picture, of everything, so there is nothing left out."

Yesterday, a spokesman for Anglo said: "The bank is preparing an urgent report for the department. This report will contain comprehensive, accurate and complete information... the bank is also participating in a review undertaken by the NTMA of all the covered banks encompassing all aspects of compensation."

As the Government struggles to get to grips with the culture of perks and privilege in the semi-states and the banks, today it can also be revealed that politicians themselves are still on the gravy train, with TDs and senators who lost their seats or who retired at the last election sharing a pay-off and pension pot of more than €14m.

The golden handshake retirement package, details of which were released by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, reveal the true extent of the extravagant system of "easing out" of former politicians.

No fewer than 40 former Oireachtas members will receive settlements of €200,000 or more.

Yesterday, Friends First Chief Economist Jim Power said the disclosure would only strengthen the sense of disillusionment around the country, which he said was "imploding before our eyes".

Mr Power added: "If these people had any moral fibre they should return some portion of their packages as a gesture of solidarity."

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News