Wednesday 17 January 2018

Finance mandarin on way to plum job in Manhattan

New York
New York

ONE of the top mandarins in the Department of Finance is on his way to New York as Ireland's representative at the IMF during the summer. Assistant secretary Michael McGrath will be packing his bags.

He played a starring role in one of the department's most embarrassing cock-ups. In November 2011, TV3 revealed what Michael Noonan later described as "a humiliating schoolboy error".

While Ireland was desperately trying to claw its way back on to the bond markets, the Department of Finance had made a complete hash of national debt figures by double counting €3.6bn associated with the National Housing Agency.

Cringe. What was worse was the fact that the department had been told at least six times about a change in procedures that would lead to this double counting. It didn't twig.

Michael McGrath was landed front and centre of the scandal, appearing with his boss, the hapless Kevin Cardiff, in front of the PAC. It emerged that Mr McGrath had been told of the howler but that his minister didn't find out until five days later. A note had been prepared for Minister Noonan but Mr McGrath had been away so the giant snafu remained unactioned.

Joining the IMF as a representative from Ireland is a well-trodden track for those who were at the wheel as the country went mad. McGrath is replacing Mary O'Dea who served as acting head of the Financial Regulator from January 2009 until the arrival of Matthew Elderfield in 2010. She had been in charge of protecting consumers from doing stupid things like being ripped off during the boom. Er...

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