Monday 11 December 2017

Coillte continues to keep its acting chief's pay a secret

Coillte's acting chief executive Gerry Britchfield and Chairman John Moloney. The company's pre-tax profits more than doubled to €28.7m last year
Coillte's acting chief executive Gerry Britchfield and Chairman John Moloney. The company's pre-tax profits more than doubled to €28.7m last year
Gerry Britchfield Acting CEO, Coillte

Shane Phelan

State forestry company 
Coillte is refusing to divulge the salary of the executive who has headed it up for more than a year.

The company, which has been at loggerheads with the Government over new salary caps for chief executives in the commercial semi-State sector, says it has no plans to publish the pay of its acting boss Gerry Britchfield.

Had Mr Britchfield been appointed chief executive on a permanent basis, his salary would have to be published in the company's annual report and be subject to a cap of €191,000.

But his designation as acting chief executive since March last year means he is exempt from disclosure and salary cap rules.

The company confirmed it did not advertise or carry out a candidate search following the departure of its last chief executive, David Gunning, 17 months ago.

Mr Gunning's annual package, which included performance bonuses and other benefits, varied each year, peaking at €489,000 in 2008.

He voluntarily took a 15pc cut in his basic salary of €295,000 in 2011 following pressure from the Government.

After the Government moved to impose mandatory salary caps across the commercial semi-State sector that year, then Coillte chairman Brendan McKenna expressed concern that it would not be able to attract "high calibre candidates" in future.

Prior to the salary cap being introduced, the salary range for Coillte chief executive was between €249,692 and €312,061.

New appointees to the role have a starting salary of €191,014. This can be increased to a maximum of €250,000 with ministerial approval.

A spokesman for Coillte denied the failure to appoint a chief executive was in any way related to salary issues.

He said the company had decided not to advertise for a permanent successor to Mr Gunning as the Government had been assessing whether or not to fully merge Coillte and Bord na Mona.

After the Government decided on June 24 not to proceed with a full merger, but to establish a joint venture between the two commercial semi-States, Coillte decided to move towards appointing a chief executive, the spokesman said.

"The board of Coillte will advertise to fill this position in due course. Once appointed, the salary of the new chief executive of Coillte will be published in the annual report for the relevant year," the spokesman said.

Coillte would not clarify the level of Mr Britchfield's salary while he holds the role of acting chief executive. "Gerry Britchfield has not been appointed as chief executive of Coillte and is not a director of Coillte. Accordingly, his salary is not disclosed in the annual report," the spokesman said.

As well as being acting chief executive, Mr Britchfield is also managing director of a Coillte division, Coillte Panel Products.

This division does not publish its own set of accounts or disclose its senior staff remuneration. Instead its figures are included in Coillte's overall annual accounts.

Accounts showed the average salary paid by the semi-State company in 2013 was €52,675.

Despite the salary cap, Mr Gunning was recorded as earning €372,000 in 2012 and €195,000 in the first three months of 2013.

The later sum included €88,000 in salary earned that year, €34,000 in salary from between 2008 and 2012 which had previously been deferred and €20,000 in respect of accrued leave.

Irish Independent

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