McWilliams says 'a monkey could run NTMA'
IRISH debt could have been managed by "a monkey" but we paid Michael Somers around €1m to do it, a top economist has claimed.
David McWilliams has hit out at the former boss of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) who he believes was overpaid for a simple job. Mr Somers left the top post last December after being in charge of the State body since 1990.
It was one of the very few State positions funded by taxpayers' money that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
As a result there was always an air of secrecy around the CEO's pay until earlier this year when it was revealed that he earned nearly €1m, consisting of a salary of €565,000 and a bonus of €403,000.
Speaking during a debate on public pay and pensions the economist also questioned why Mr Somers left the NTMA with a lump-sum payment of €842,000 and a pension worth €265,000 a year. "There's no reason for somebody who actually raises money in the monetary union (to) get paid more than €80,000," he argued.
According to the Irish Examiner, he went on to say: "The fact that Michael Somers walks away with nearly €1m ... he does what junior analysts do in banks.
"He picks a spot in the yield curve, says: 'That could be borrowed there.' It's a job a monkey could do."
The attack during the Leviathan Political Cabaret event at the National Concert Hall is likely to spark fresh controversy about the workings of the NTMA. It is charged with borrowing money for the exchequer and managing the national debt on behalf of the Minister for Finance.
Since Mr Somers' retirement the role of chief executive has been taken over by John Corrigan who earns a salary of €490,000, with the potential for a bonus.
Upon appointment Mr Corrigan decided to change the policy of keeping the CEO's salary confidential and it will now be published in the agency's annual report each year. However, the comments by Mr McWilliams that the job could be done for €80,000 could draw fresh attention to the payments.
However, Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe disagreed with an €80,000 cap.
He argued that while the pay of the Taoiseach, TDs and senators should be cut, he said it would be difficult to attract high-calibre people to run major State agencies for €80k a year.