FF signed off on huge semi-state pay hikes

MASSIVE pay increases awarded to bosses of semi-state companies were signed off on by the Fianna Fáil-led government as pay cuts were imposed on ordinary workers across the public and private sector.

Chief executives in companies such as the ESB, Bord Gáis, Coillte and An Post saw their remuneration soar by up to 26% despite claims by the government it was tackling huge pay packages in the sector.

A report on state assets published by economist Colm McCarthy this week says that bosses were “more than compensated” for publicly announced cuts in their basic pay with awards of other financial perks.

The highest paid executive, Padraig McManus of the ESB, saw his core salary cut from €458,000 to €432,000. But payments under the heading “other” increased from €121,000 to €248,000. This meant his total package went from €654,000 to €752,000 in 2009.

John Mullins of Bord Gáis took a basic salary cut from €288,000 to €270,000. But “other” payments rose from €73,000 to €124,000 — leaving him with a €33,000 pay rise.

It has since emerged that payments would have been sanctioned by the Department of Finance and bonuses would have been agreed to by the company’s remuneration committees which included representatives of the department.

Former finance minister, Brian Lenihan, announced in last December’s budget that he would examine ways of reducing these salaries to €250,000. But the department has admitted that it is powerless to cut them because contractual arrangements are in place.

Meanwhile, a leading management consultant has said it is “unsettling” that key positions in the public service are being appointed very quickly by the new government.

Eddie Molloy said there was a “deep malaise” in the ethos of the public service and the culture had to be changed.

It was announced last week that three secretaries general will be appointed internally to the Department of the Taoiseach, Department of Public Sector Reform and the cabinet group looking at economic policy.

“The new government is making the right sounds,” said Mr Molloy.

“But the latest reports that key positions are being appointed very quickly and internally if that’s true, it’s very unsettling,” he said.

“I’m not going to personalise it with any one individual, there are some wonderful people in there,” he said.

But he added that the one question that should be asked of the internal appointees is whether they “questioned the prevailing culture and showed the character and the independence of thought to challenge what was going on”.

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