€700k for ‘growth strategy’ consultants

The Department of Finance is putting aside €700,00 for economic consultants to implement the Government’s ‘medium term growth strategy’ announced before Christmas, the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Oireachtas Finance Committee yesterday.

Two sums of €350,000 will be spread across two divisions of the Department of Finance to retain consultants over the next year to work on this strategy document, said the minister.

The full allocation of money may not be used, but it was important it was available, otherwise there would have to be a request for extra spending during the year in case it was needed, he added

Overall, the department was setting aside €6.5m for consultants across all divisions within finance for the next 12 months, the minister told the committee. This prompted an outcry from a number of opposition TDs.

United Left Alliance TD, Richard Boyd Barratt wanted to know why Mr Noonan could not use the internal economic expertise in the department to implement the growth strategy. There are 67 people in finance with competencies in economics ranging from certificates to PhDs, said the minister. “But these are not professional economists. They don’t have the expertise we need in specialist areas.”

Mr Noonan said it would be much more expensive to hire specialists on a full-time basis in the department. He cited lawyers and accountants working in areas like corporate tax and agri tax.

The €6.5m budget will be used to hire consultants in these areas over the next year. “But because of the public sector pay cap, these people would not walk through the front door for a job in finance. They earn much more in the private sector.”

The current review of Nama is expected to be completed over the next few months. Mr Noonan did not expect the rule preventing Nama debtors buying back their loans to change during the review. Moreover, Nama is one of the most accountable agencies in the State, he added.

Much of the recent controversy to hit the agency stemmed from developers with agendas that often conflicted with Nama, he said. He expected about half of the €12.5bn IBRC loanbook to be transferred to Nama once the sales process had been finalised.

He said the National strategic investment fund will be established in the current Dáil term.


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