Thursday 26 April 2018

Ministers face grilling over racing chief's reappointment

Donohoe and Creed must explain why HRI CEO returned three times

Chief: HRI’s Brian Kavanagh
Chief: HRI’s Brian Kavanagh
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Public Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe have been asked to explain their role in the unprecedented reappointment of Horse Racing Ireland's (HRI) chief executive after calls were made for them to appear before an Oireachtas Committee.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh was reinstated as the head of the organisation this year after chairman Joe Keeling lobbied Government without notifying HRI's board.

Mr Kavanagh has held the role since 2001. Under government guidelines, the CEO of a commercial State body should only serve a single term of seven years.

Controversy has also surrounded Mr Kavanagh's €190,000 annual salary after it was revealed to be €26,000 above the specified range outlined by the Department of Agriculture.

Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said it is vital Mr Creed and Mr Donohoe explain their roles in the reappointment.

Both ministers told the Dáil they endorsed Mr Kavanagh after seeing a business case submitted to them by HRI's board. However, the board has never seen this document and it was actually submitted by HRI chairman Joe Keeling.

Minister Creed addressed the issue in a series of parliamentary questions last week.

"The chairman of HRI made a case for an exceptional extension to the term of appointment of the CEO, based on a number of business imperatives," said Mr Creed.

"The necessary ministerial consents were provided based on the case made and I understand the board approved the appointment on July 21 for a period of five years."

However, Mr McConalogue said further clarity is needed.

"It is my view that it is in the public interest that Ministers Creed and Donohoe along with HRI board representatives attend an urgent meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to account on all phases of the reappointment in question.

"I have contacted the committee Chair to request this. It is imperative that all State guidelines that apply to bodies under the aegis of government departments pertaining to board appointments and related remuneration packages are complied with.

"It is vital that absolute clarity is brought to all aspects surrounding the reappointment of HRI's CEO for a third term."

Since news of the controversy broke, Mr Kavanagh has been told he will not be reappointed when the five-year contract extension he signed in July ends. By then he will have served 20 years at the helm of the organisation.

The chairman apologised to the HRI board that the reappointment process had given rise to concerns because they did not have sight of the documents submitted to Government.

New protocols will now be put in place at HRI.

Sunday Independent

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