Wednesday 25 April 2018

Third top civil servant eligible for massive golden handshake

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

A third secretary general is eligible to retire in the coming months on a lucrative golden handshake similar to that of the country's former top civil servant Dermot McCarthy.

The retired Department of the Taoiseach secretary general left his top post in Government Buildings as part of a retirement package worth €713,000. The Government denied again last night that it had any option but to pay Mr McCarthy's package amid accusations from Sinn Fein that the coalition could have reduced his payments.

After previously revealing that Sean Gorman, secretary general at the Department of Enterprise, is to retire with a €634,000 deal, the Irish Independent has learned a third secretary general is expected to depart the civil service.

Department of Education secretary general Brigid McManus's seven-year term of office finishes at the end of January. But it is not yet clear if she will retire. Speculation is rife about her replacement, but her department says no decision has been made.

"A decision will be taken on her position in advance of that date and in accordance with the terms of the appointment," a spokesperson said. Ms McManus was appointed under the same terms. If she does retire, she would be entitled to a lump sum, special severance payment and pension.

As she only has 33 years of service, if she did retire, the package she is eligible for would be smaller than that of Mr Gorman, although they are both currently on the same salary.

Under the terms of her contract, Ms McManus is entitled to stay on the same salary if she does not retire. Ms McManus's gross salary prior to public sector pay cuts was €253,635. Her gross salary is €215,590 but she took a voluntary waiver to reduce her pay to €200,000.

However, departure packages are based on the pre-pay cut salary. Based on her years of service, pension experts estimated last night that Ms McManus would be eligible to leave with a lump sum of about €314,000, a special severance payment of €127,000 and an annual pension of €105,000. That means her combined package would be €546,000 if she chooses to retire.

The Government would also have the discretion to round up her number of years of service, closer to the maximum of 40 years.

The packages for Mr Gorman and Ms McManus are lower than Mr McCarthy's because they are on a slightly lower pay scale. The two secretary generals are among 55 senior civil servants who can depart with six-figure deals before February. From that deadline onwards, reduced pension entitlements come into effect.

A minister hinted this week that the Government was looking at a punitive tax on senior civil servant retirement deals.

Fine Gael TD Derek Keating called for such a tax in the Dail and at his party meeting this week. But Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave no indication a tax on lump sums was among the measures being considered.

"The Minister for Public Expenditure is reviewing all of those matters. The Government haven't had any specific proposals from the minister. But when they do, Government will make decisions," he said.

Sinn Fein's Mary-Lou McDonald says the existing legislation does allow the Government to reduce departure packages. Responding to a question from the Sinn Fein vice-president, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said this week that Mr McCarthy's departure package was agreed by the previous government but admitted the new Government considered Mr McCarthy's package when it extended his term by another month.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News