Friday 24 November 2017

No extra pay for public servants on State boards

Those who seek additional paid work must now ask for permission


Public servants who sit on boards as part of their job must not be paid any additional salary or fees, and those seeking additional paid work must now ask permission, a confidential government letter has revealed.

Senior government figures said last night this letter is part of the process of "dragging the public service into the 21st century" and bringing a sense of reality, which has been absent to date.

The letter, sent by Mr Robert Watt, secretary general at Brendan Howlin's Department of Public Expenditure, to other secretaries general last month, said payments to public servants are no longer tolerable.

"It will now be a requirement that public servants who sit on State boards or who may be nominated to such boards independently of their public service employment should not be paid remuneration in the form of board fees," the letter states.

In the letter dated October 17, Mr Watt said no fees should be paid to any public servant sitting on a board from the beginning of this month.

"Public servants currently serving in such board-related positions and in receipt of a fee for this purpose should cease to be paid such remuneration from November 1, 2011," Mr Watt wrote.

The letter is an acknowledgement that the 2006 "one person, one salary" rule has been largely ignored to date. But given the €3.8bn Budget adjustment next month, the policy is now only being enforced fully.

"Criteria previously used to determine the eligibility of public servants to receive board fee payments will no longer apply in any such cases," Mr Watt added.

He also called on departments to ensure that agencies and organisations under their control comply with the new regime.

"Where it is proposed that public servants undertake other forms of paid remuneration anywhere in the public service, the consent of this department will be required," Mr Watt warned.

The letter goes on to state that the payment of board fees to public servants who sit on their own organisation's board or that of a linked semi-state agency should also be reviewed in the "context of any contractual obligations".

"Where contractual obligations may prevent the proposed discontinuance of such board fee payments, the necessary arrangements should be immediately put in place by the State body concerned in order to end such payment practices at the earliest possible date," he concluded.

Mr Watt, aged 41, who has been referred to as a "cuts hawk", is one of the youngest ever secretaries general and is seen as one of the main drivers of the reform agenda.

"This is part of the process of dragging the public service in to the 21st century. No one said reform was easy and it will be slow, but this letter is trying to bring some reality to those who are reluctant to change," one senior government figure said yesterday.

Mr Watt was appointed by Mr Howlin during the summer. He is an economist and has broad experience in both the public and private sector.

Sunday Independent

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