Thursday 24 May 2018

Racing body questioned over CEO's €190k pay

Horse Racing chief retained on a higher than specified salary

Bonus question: CEO Brian Kavanagh
Bonus question: CEO Brian Kavanagh
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Concerns have been raised in government about Horse Racing Ireland's (HRI) decision to reappoint CEO Brian Kavanagh for a third term.

Documents seen by the Sunday Independent show the Department of Agriculture wrote to HRI prior to the reappointment, questioning Mr Kavanagh's salary, entitlements and terms of employment.

A letter sent to the HRI in March this year said: "Mr Kavanagh's current salary is €190,773 while the specified salary range for the position of HRI CEO, post 2011, is €137,356 to €164,231".

HRI has confirmed Mr Kavanagh will be retained on the same salary under the terms of his new contract despite the concerns raised by the Department of Agriculture.

Mr Kavanagh has served as CEO since HRI was established in 2001. He was re-appointed to the position in July for a further five years.

However, under Government guidelines, CEOs of commercial State bodies can only serve a single term of seven years.

Officials at the department also questioned the term of Mr Kavanagh's contract, as well as the potential for additional bonus payments. They also sought reassurance "that an extension to the CEO's contract would not have implications for pension entitlements."

"The current contract provides for a performance-related bonus which, per Government policy, is not included in CEO contracts," said a letter to HRI.

"Concerns have been raised that an extension to the existing contract may have the potential for a contract of indefinite duration under the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act."

HRI said Mr Kavanagh was not seeking an indefinite contract and insist his terms will not lead to additional pension entitlements.

"The re-appointment of the CEO was based on a combination of HRI's short and medium-term challenges and Brian Kavanagh's particular expertise and skill set as well as his ongoing membership of various international racing bodies," said a spokesperson.

"Mr Kavanagh waived his contractual right to a performance-related bonus in 2010 and has not been in receipt of a bonus since then. The new contract has no provision for bonus payments."

However, Mr Kavanagh was ordered in 2011 to pay back bonuses awarded to him by his board.

The then Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the bonuses, relating to 2008 and 2009 totalling €37,550, were to be paid back "immediately" and that no further bonuses were to be paid out.

HRI said the development of the Curragh Racecourse and the implementation of a new strategic plan for the industry were issues Mr Kavanagh can assist with in his role.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, who ratified the appointment with the Department of Agriculture, said HRI's business case plan was submitted to it by HRI's board and was strongly supported by the Minister for Agriculture before Mr Kavanagh's reappointment.

"The extension was required because of the substantial importance of the role played by the HRI CEO."

Sunday Independent

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