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Saturday 17 March 2018

Racing salary not approved by board

HRI chief's reappointment and contract was not discussed at meetings

Third term: Brian Kavanagh Photo: Patrick McCann
Third term: Brian Kavanagh Photo: Patrick McCann
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The controversial salary earned by Horse Racing Ireland's (HRI) chief executive Brian Kavanagh was not approved by the State body's board prior to his reappointment in July.

A business case submitted to Government, that formed part of the Departments of Agriculture and Public Expenditure and Reform's rational for sanctioning the reappointment, has also not been seen by HRI's board.

This is despite Minister Paschal Donohoe telling the Dail "a business case was submitted to my Department by the Board of Horse Racing Ireland that was strongly supported by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine".

Now, the Sunday Independent understands that this business plan has never been seen by the board and has only been alluded to at board meetings.

The issue of Mr Kavanagh's salary has not been addressed at meetings or put on the agenda for discussion.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's code of practice for the governance of State bodies says matters relating to the terms and conditions of a new CEO or sitting CEOs should be subject to discussion by the board of each State body.

However, HRI sources said board members were never consulted about the reappointment or business plan.

HRI said it was unable to comment when contacted last week.

Mr Kavanagh was appointed to the role in July for the third time on a five-year deal. He has served as CEO since the HRI was established in 2001.

Under government guidelines, the CEO of a commercial state body can only serve a single term of seven years.

An internal memo at the Department of Agriculture said Mr Kavanagh's first term as CEO ended in December 2008, and he was subsequently selected as CEO again in 2009. However, his contract was not signed until 2011.

"He did not agree to the inclusion of a provision in his contract of employment, required by government policy, that precluded the CEO from re-entry to the position of CEO or any other position in HRI or any of its subsidiaries," said the memo.

It also states the Department of Finance regarded the term served by Mr Kavanagh as "unprecedented".

The HRI board was also informed the Department of Finance insisted that nothing in the CEO's 2011 contract should allow Mr Kavanagh to retain his position after it was due to expire.

However, Mr Kavanagh was reappointed after lobbying by HRI chairman Joe Keeling. He has been writing to the Department of Agriculture since 2014 seeking Mr Kavanagh's reappointment.

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said Mr Kavanagh's reappointment this year was made on an exceptional basis.

However, they too said that the business case submitted to support the CEO's reappointment was sent to them by HRI's board.

"The case for exception made indicated that the extension was required because of the substantial importance of the role played by the CEO HRI in the thoroughbred horse industry," they said.

Sunday Independent

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