Directors at cash-strapped semi- state company the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) and their predecessors have defended an expenses regime which, in one case, saw a political appointee claim €1,000 a week for travel costs.
The seven-member board have together claimed an average of €91,588 in tax-free expenses every year since 2007. In that same year, three non-executive directors received over €25,000 each.
One of these recouped €51,000 in mileage and meals on top of his €14,000 board fee. This person was former Fianna Fáil senator Tony McKenna, who left the board in 2011, having claimed €175,000 throughout the previous five years in expenses, while earning €67,000 in fees during that time.
Mr McKenna was appointed by the then minister John O’Donoghue and claimed €51,252 in 2007 and €47,294 in 2008. He is no longer a director. Yesterday, he said he had to travel, as he sat on the board of a number of tracks and was chairman of the audit committee.
Mr O’Donoghue also appointed Dick O’Sullivan as chair in 2006 and Frank O’Connell as director in 2005. Mr O’Sullivan received €29,995 in 2007 and an average of €18,077 in the four years before he retired. He said he only claimed what he was entitled to.
Mr O’Connell, who died in 2009, got €27,524 in 2007 and €22,402 in 2008.
During the last five years, the IGB has had to undertake a major redundancy and cost-cutting scheme, while development problems have seen its debt levels soar.
It has admitted it breached public procurement guidelines and will appear before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday.
In a statement, the company said new protocols had been introduced and since 2007, claims had fallen by 58%. However, travel was still necessary to supervise geographically spread tracks. The expenses claims for all current and recent directors were published after the Information Commissioner ordered the release of the returns of the current chairman, Phil Meaney. This followed Freedom of Information request by the Irish Examiner which was first refused on the grounds the data was commercially sensitive.
Mr Meaney’s itemised sheets showed he had claimed €25,799 in his first 21 months in the job and they gave a detailed breakdown of the nature of his work.
In a statement, Mr Meaney said his expenses were subject to internal and external audits and events he attended were in his capacity as company chairman.
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