Monday 22 January 2018

Donohoe in U-turn over HRI boss's work terms

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tom Burke
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tom Burke

Wayne O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe did not agree with the terms offered to Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) chief Brian Kavanagh before his reappointment last month, new records show.

Internal correspondence at the Department of Public Expenditure, seen by the Irish Independent, shows Mr Donohoe voiced concerns about the unprecedented reappointment in June. The minister then performed a U-turn three weeks later and sanctioned Mr Kavanagh's appointment after seeking the views of Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.

It came after concerns were raised about Mr Kavanagh's pay and the length of time he had served as CEO. His €190,773 annual salary is more than €26,000 above the specified range for his position. He has served as CEO since 2001, despite government guidelines stating CEOs of commercial state bodies can only serve a single term of seven years.

Mr Donohoe was made aware of issues around Mr Kavanagh's contract when he got a letter from senior department officials, asking if eh wanted to sanction the reappointment.

"I do not agree with this," said Mr Donohoe in an internal email on June 1.

"I note the opinion of the SG (secretary general) of the Department of Agriculture is noted. What is the opinion of the Minister for Agriculture?"

Mr Donohoe sanctioned the reappointment despite correspondence between department officials expressing concern about the CEO's contract.

Read more: 'Like North Korea' - Brian Kavanagh gets 'unprecedented' 19 years in €191k job because contract details weren't finalised

They said a contract should be offered if concerns are addressed but Mr Kavanagh (below left) is still earning the same salary and will have served as CEO for 20 years by the time he steps down in 2021.

The Irish Independent asked the Department of Public Expenditure why Mr Donohoe initially disagreed with the reappointment.

A spokesman did not directly address this question or another on what changed Mr Donohoe's mind.

He said Mr Donohoe sent the initial submission regarding Mr Kavanagh's reappointment back to officials "for rework".

This included seeking the opinion of the Agriculture Minister on the proposal.

"Following this, the submission was re-submitted for further consideration by the minister [Mr Donohoe], who subsequently approved the proposal," added the spokesman.

It came as Independent TD Clare Daly called on Agriculture Minister Mr Creed to carry out an independent inquiry into corporate governance at HRI.

HRI said no-one was available for comment last night.

Irish Independent

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