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Thursday 18 January 2018

New spending watchdog's pay packet cut by 21pc to €190,000

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE man appointed to head the new state spending watchdog is taking a €51,000 pay cut due to the new public sector pay cap.

Seamus McCarthy has been appointed as the new Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on a salary of €190,000.

This represents a substantial drop on the €241,000 paid to his predecessor, John Buckley (63), who took early retirement last February after four years in the job.

Mr McCarthy, from Youghal in Cork, will be responsible for ensuring that value for money is obtained by 350 public sector bodies -- with his office already having played a key role in exposing spending scandals at the state training agency FAS.

He declined to comment on his appointment yesterday, citing the tradition of his predecessors in not giving interviews. The Government reduced the pay for the position to bring it under the new public sector pay cap of €200,000.

Mr McCarthy was selected after an interview process involving 15 candidates and consultation with opposition party leaders.

He began his career in 1980 as the administrator of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe -- the Irish language theatre in Galway city. He joined the Department of Finance the following year and worked there as a policy analyst until 1994. He then moved to the CAG's office, where he has been the deputy director of audit and then the director of audit for the past 18 years.

Value

During that period, he carried out value-for-money reports on drug treatment services, telephone use in the civil service, and hospital waste disposal.

He has a degree in economics and political science from NUI Galway and a masters in public sector analysis from Trinity College.

Independent Dublin South TD Shane Ross complained that the interview board for the CAG post had been "stuffed with insiders". "Given that insiders were interviewing insiders, it is not surprising that an insider was chosen. That is what happened on the last three occasions," he said.

However, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the interview board included Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan, the North's Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly, and the "highly professional and effective" former CAG John Buckley.

"The selection process was quite good. I do not doubt that the best candidate was recommended for the job," he said.

Despite the complaints, there was cross-party agreement for Mr McCarthy's nomination in the Dail yesterday. He will be formally appointed by President Michael D Higgins.

The CAG has no power to inspect the €5bn spent annually by councils -- but Mr Noonan said that bringing the 40 staff in the local government audit service into the CAG's office was being considered.

Irish Independent

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