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Saturday 16 December 2017

Top civil servant shrugs off suggestions he should resign over €3.6bn accounts blunder

Brian Hutton

A TOP civil servant has refused to give assurances that a €3.6bn national accounts blunder will be cleared up before he steps down next year.

Kevin Cardiff, secretary-general of the Department of Finance, shrugged off suggestions he should resign over the hugely embarrassing mistake which went unnoticed despite repeated warnings for more than a year.

The €200,000 public finances chief came under fire at a parliamentary public accounts watchdog over his role in the affair, while he switched the spotlight to two middle-ranking managers at his department.

Independent TD Shane Ross demanded Mr Cardiff give a vow to sort out the "shambles" before leaving "with his saddle bags full" to a new government-appointed job in the European Court of Auditors next March.

But Mr Cardiff insisted he could not give that guarantee.

Responding to accusations from Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald that he had utterly failed in his duties and refused to be made accountable, he launched into a defence of his time at the head of the Department of Finance.

Mr Cardiff, who was appointed to the role in January 2010 and who played a key role in banking policy and the state banking guarantee, said he had done his best for the country.

He claimed that a helmsman charged with steering a ship during a storm should not be blamed for the storm before adding that his new job in Luxembourg would be a "doddle" compared with his present position.

Mr Cardiff also told Ms McDonald that it was the government's job, and not hers, to judge him.

The senior civil servant later apologised to the Dail's Public Account Committee for what he branded his "rant" and vowed to leave the department in the best possible shape he could.

Committee chairman John McGuinness, Fianna Fail, said the watchdog was doing its job in scrutinising Mr Cardiff and added there was no doubt the Department of Finance had been attempting to keep the accounting error a secret.

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