Allegations that the Government is trying to get rid of the top civil servant by sending him to one of the most pivotal bodies in the EU is likely to infuriate MEPs who must approve his appointment.
Last night, the Government stood behind their nominee, with Finance Minister Michael Noonan reiterating he “fully supports Mr Cardiff’s nomination”.
Mr Cardiff shot into the public eye last Thursday after a disastrous performance at the Public Accounts Committee over the failure to see that a debt of €3.6bn was entered twice into the public accounts, adding 2.3% of GDP to the country’s debt.
One of the most forth-right members of the committee, former European Commission chief accountant Marta Andreasen, said she will raise “these obvious questions marks as to his suitability for the post” at Mr Cardiff’s hearing later this year.
She also plans to raise the matter with the president of the Court of Auditors when he presents the annual report on the EU’s accounts to the Parliament on Thursday — something likely to embarrass the Government.
Ms Andreasen said she will today request further information about Mr Cardiff and his role in Ireland’s economy over the past few years so the Budget Control Committee will be fully informed when he comes before them later this year.
“Members of the Court should be whiter than white — he would come with a big handicap that he has been involved in the actual crisis. This is something I will question him about when he comes before the committee,” she said.
Mr Cardiff’s description of the Luxembourg-based job as “a dawdle” will not have helped either when he comes before the 29-member Budget Control Committee with nominees from Sweden and Finland for the six-year post. None of the 12 Irish MEPs sit on this committee.
They will have been fully informed about last week’s hearing and will compare it to the questionnaire Mr Cardiff filled out for the committee last month, especially where he said that “transparency and accountability of managers is key” to a sound financial management culture in any public service.
Mr Cardiff was appointed head of the Department of Finance’s banking, finance and pensions division in December 2006 and as secretary general in January 2010.
He was mentioned in reports from the US Embassy in Dublin to Washington within days of guaranteeing all Irish bank deposits.
WikiLeaks revealed he told the US officials they were confident the government would not be forced to bailout the banks, and that auditors reported a “favourable impression of the loan books” of at least two of the banks under pressure.
The US adviser suggested in his report the Irish authorities were too optimistic about the situation.
Eoin O’Shea, a chartered accountant and barrister, is Ireland’s current member of the Court of Auditors. The position is for six years and carries a salary of €180,000 per year plus a pension.