POLITICAL concern is growing over the terms and conditions enjoyed by CEOs and staff of the State's 51 Leader companies.
As local-government services are pared to the bone, one minister has pointedly referred to the "astonishing administrative architecture where these companies appear to be spending more money on staff than grants''.
The total cost in salaries for CEOs alone was €4,301,092 in 2012 – with the average salaries of CEOs now at €84,335.
This figure, however, masks large disparities between lower paid CEOs, who can earn as little as €48,000, and a higher caste of CEOs, 15 of whom earn more than €90,000 per annum.
Leader consists of small not-for-profit companies who provide small grants to small rural enterprises, community projects and rural development.
"These salaries are only the tip of the iceberg, the sums are scandalous for companies whose role is essentially to give out small grants to communities for playgrounds and the likes'' said the minister.
Significantly a review group set up by Environment Minister Phil Hogan has expressed concern that the "significant administration costs of local development companies can divert resources away from frontline services''.
However, it is believed that the chief executives of the Leader programmes are resisting attempts by the Department of the Environment to bring them under the control of the local authorities.
Though the Leader groups have been fighting a rearguard action, it is expected that local authorities, as the democratically elected unit of government closest to people, will be given a greater role in the planning, oversight and governance of the millions of euro that are spent every year in local communities on local development initiatives.
One minister said: "One of the key issues of the last election was getting rid of all the quangos.
"People were up in arms about that."