State executives take fees for second role

Members of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee have criticised two state agency executives who take fees for sitting on the board of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy said it was “outrageous” that the head of the National Roads Authority Fred Barry, and the head of the National Consumer Agency Ann Fitzgerald had both taken fees of €12,500 each for the past year for sitting on the board of the NDFA.

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said Mr Barry and Ms Fitzgerald were both highly paid executives with states agencies and should not be paid fees to sit on the board of another state agency.

Representatives from the NDFA and officials from the Department of Public Expenditure went before the PAC yesterday for an update of the agency’s work.

NDFA chief executive Brian Murphy fielded a number of questions about the role of public private partnerships (PPPs) in the development of national infrastructure projects.

Mr Murphy said any companies that secure work through a PPP must be fully tax compliant. However, Mr Fleming said that by way of a parliamentary question (PQ) he had uncovered evidence that the National Employments Rights Authority (NERA) had found high levels of non-compliance among sub-contractors carrying out work on PPP projects.

Mr Fleming cited a state contract in Portlaoise that involved the building of a school, “where a bus came every Thursday morning to bring the workers up north to collect social welfare”.

Mr Murphy said there was a high level of due diligence with the private sector firms that enter into the PPP agreement. But he admitted that there could be non-compliance among the subcontractors who carry out the work on the ground.

Steven Burgess, head of project management at the NDFA, said his agency does carry out independent site inspections. “There is a higher level of oversight in PPPs. Could it be higher? Yes, but that brings with it a certain level of costs.”

Private sector firms have so far lost €60m on PPP projects that have been abandoned, whereas state agencies have so far lost €219m.

PAC chairman John McGuinness wanted to know how much of this €219m is lost and how much could be recouped if some of these projects are developed at a later state. “This is taxpayers’ money,” said Mr McGuinness.

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