Stud says it ‘got good value in staff deals’

THE Irish National Stud has tried to explain away the origins of €719,000 worth of un-tendered business deals between it and its key personnel.

In a lengthy statement, which listed the nature of the in-house arrangements, the INS said it adhered to the public procurement rules.

“The strict procurement procedures follow best practice and the guidelines and the best value alternative is always sought. This does not always mean the lowest price, but when the lowest price is not taken, the reasoning must be clear,” it said.

The INS said it had received good value from the accountancy firm run by its company secretary, John McStay, and he had also supplied many unbilled hours. He holds the honorary title but his company, McStay Luby, was paid €488,000 for its services over an eight year period.

The INS also claimed a horse box it bought off a garage owned by non-executive director Mick Leavy resulted in a profit of €2,000.

It said it got quotes for the €73,187 vehicle and Burke Brothers were successful.

In the case of trainer Dermot Weld, who was paid €159,945 in training fees, it said he was one of the most successful trainers in the world and absented himself from meetings which discussed the management of horses.

In response, the head of the Public Accounts Committee, Bernard Allen, said the INS was entitled to make a statement but there were still many unanswered question he would like address.

The PAC had been very critical of the INS and Mr Allen invited the company to explain itself before the committee. The INS’s public explanation came as Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith refused to openly back the board.

A statement said he had written to and met with the chairman of the INS, Chryss O’Reilly, and she gave assurances on its adherence to the code of practice.

However, like his secretary general Tom Moran on Thursday, he would not say if he accepted this.

Earlier Ms O’Reilly refused to restate those assurances saying: “Lady O’Reilly has no further comment to make.”

The INS confirmed four out of five remaining board members are soon to be at the mercy of the minister.

Trevor Stewart and Mr Leavy resigned last year but are awaiting a decision on if they will re-appointed. Ex-civil servant, Jim Beecher, will resign shortly. And the INS said the last resignation will either be Ms O’Reilly or Mr Weld. This will be decided at the upcoming AGM.

An earlier INS statement said it had no comment on the intentions of individual directors to seek additional terms of office.

The commercial semi-state company has been under fire after it emerged its ex-chief executive had a €700,000 expenses bill over eight years and lived in a company house which cost €134,300 over 10 years to heat and decorate it.

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