Thursday 14 December 2017

Semi-state director to repay €40,000 bill for travel expenses

Paul Melia

A DIRECTOR of a semi-state company has agreed to repay a €40,000 expenses bill he ran up flying home from the Middle East to attend board meetings.

Gerry Nagle from the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company received an annual travel allowance worth up to €10,700 to compensate him for the cost of flying to Dublin from his home in Dubai, the Irish Independent has learned.

The payments came despite the profitable commercial semi-state company not paying a dividend to the State in four years, which is usual practice.

And yesterday, it emerged that Mr Nagle only agreed to repay the cost of his flights after Transport Minister Leo Varadkar questioned earlier this week why the allowances were being paid.

The extra travel allowance was approved by the 12-person board in 2008 after Mr Nagle moved from Dublin -- first to Cork and then to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The arrangement allowed him to claim a total of €42,221 over four years to offset his travel expenses. The money was paid in addition to directors' fees totalling more than €50,000 in the same period.

Flights from Abu Dhabi to Dublin cost just over €1,000 flying economy class, but can be as much as €5,000 first class.

The Harbour Company was not able to say last night how many meetings he attended.

Mr Nagle, a public relations consultant first appointed to the board by Fianna Fail in 2002, was an adviser to former Dublin Lord Mayor Royston Brady in his bid to become an MEP in 2004.


Calls to Mr Nagle's businesses in the UAE were not returned yesterday, but the Harbour Company said he had agreed to repay the cost of his flights because of the "potential for unfair criticism and unfair reputational damage".

"The company agreed to cap a travel budget at a maximum of €10,700 per annum to enable Mr Nagle to attend board meetings and meetings of the remuneration committee," it said.

"Mr Nagle also made himself available for teleconference calls, phone calls and exchange of emails in dealing with the complex issues around the company's restructuring. All of these historical figures were fully disclosed in the company's annual accounts."

Mr Nagle was given a travel budget of €10,700 for 2011, €10,250 in 2010 and €10,833 and €10,438 for 2009 and 2008 respectively -- a total of €42,221.

The money was paid to cover vouched mileage from his home in Cork and vouched flights to/from his business in Dubai.

Local TD Mary Mitchell-O'Connor (FG) learned of the payments last week and immediately informed Mr Varadkar.

"I was concerned that the taxpayer would be at a loss," she said. "I really don't think it's acceptable. We really need to get rid of this old world of mercs and perks, it's just not on. This is not acceptable."

Serious questions arise as to why the Department of Transport allowed the payments to be made. Last night, it said it had queried the payments in 2009, but was told the rules on travel expenses were being adhered to.

"The department was only recently alerted to the fact that the individual concerned had been travelling from overseas to attend board meetings. Immediate action has been taken and the money in question is being repaid," it said.

The Harbour Company is a stand-alone commercial company which is owed by the State. It runs Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and has amassed profits of €12m since 2007.

But it has not made any payments to the State in that period, without stating why. Notes in the accounts in each year say: "The directors of the company do not propose a payment of a dividend for the year."

Irish Independent

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