Report: Bring in law on RTÉ payments to top presenters

The Government should draft new laws to block RTÉ top presenters being paid through private companies instead of as staff members, amid repeated claims the purpose is to “reduce their exposure to income tax”.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will today make the controversial demand in its latest quarterly review report, advising the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has an obligation to taxpayers to tackle the situation.

In a final draft copy of the 73-page report, seen by the Irish Examiner and to be published this morning, PAC members will say that despite long-term concerns over the issue, presenters are stilling being paid significant sums through technically external companies.

And, noting recent RTÉ confirmation to the PAC that 81 workers are set up as private limited companies — including four earning more than €300,000 a year and 10 more than €100,000 — the report will insist action should be taken to clarify the issue.

“The Eversheds Sutherland report into the use of contracts for services by RTÉ has recommended RTÉ introduce a clear policy and guidelines regarding the use of contracts for services, and that it reviews 157 of the 433 contracts examined,” the report suggests.

“On the basis of the evidence presented to the committee, the creation of limited companies by RTÉ’s top earners is used primarily for the purpose of reducing their exposure to income tax, which comes at a cost to the exchequer. The committee recommends that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform brings forward proposals to address this practice,” the final draft of the PAC report reads.

The PAC’s latest quarterly review report has also raised a number of other concerns over the use of taxpayers money that the committee examined in public meetings between April and May.

The issues do not include the cervical cancer scandal as the PAC meetings were convened after May,

The report is understood to also say that:

  • The number refusing to pay their TV licence “is contributing to RTÉ’s difficulties in delivering on its obligations as a public service broadcaster” and “endangering the development of creative Irish talent”;
  • “Administrative failures” in the dormant accounts fund are causing a “serious decline in the effectiveness” of the fund, with just €29m of the €149m earmarked for vulnerable people and services being provided between 2012 and 2016;
  • The “collapse” of road maintenance funding since 2010 has led to “a significant deterioration in the quality of local and national roads”, costing both the taxpayer due to expensive repairs and the safety of road users forced to endure the sub-standard conditions;
  • The Department of Transport must conduct an immediate review of the motor tax system as the current system ‘penalises’ people who cannot afford to pay;
  • A major increase in inspections of properties owned by HAP-funded landlords is needed immediately due to concerns over their State-funded quality;
  • And that a review of local property tax systems is needed due to fears some areas are paying more than should.

The PAC report will also criticise Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s now-scrapped strategic communications unit and accuse the chief State solicitor’s office of costing the taxpayer at least €4m due to a botched probation service building deal.

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