RTÉ still has questions to answer on bogus self-employment, PAC chair says 

RTÉ still has questions to answer on bogus self-employment, PAC chair says 

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said RTÉ will be recalled to a hearing in the autumn to discuss its ongoing audit on bogus self-employment.

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said RTÉ will be recalled to a hearing in the autumn to discuss its ongoing audit on bogus self-employment.

The State broadcaster recently admitted to the Dáil Committee that a payment of €1.22m had been made to the Revenue Commissioners following a review that found 157 RTÉ freelance workers had “attributes akin to employment”.

RTÉ has said an audit of the employment status is now completed, and that Revenue has accepted the payment as being the end of the matter from its point of view.

However, a further audit by the SCOPE Section of the Department of Social Protection, which evaluates a worker’s employment status, remains ongoing.

Brain Stanley, chair of PAC, said that the broadcaster “isn’t doing itself any favours” with how it has approached the issue.

“PAC has made it clear that the hearing with RTÉ in April was unsatisfactory, and that there was a reticence there in terms of fronting up regarding its dealings with Revenue,” Mr Stanley said.

At the broadcaster’s appearance before PAC on April 27 its financial controller Fiona O’Shea was asked on three occasions by Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster about the possibility that such a payment had been made and replied that she was “not aware of an indication of a bill in respect of moneys due to them”.

Payment

Later in that same hearing, Ms O’Shea acknowledged to Mr Stanley that the broadcaster “has made an initial payment to the Revenue Commissioners”, but said she did not have the size of that payment to hand.

RTÉ divulged the nature of the €1.22m payment in a letter to PAC on July 12, after Revenue stated that whether or not the payment should remain secret is “wholly” a matter for RTÉ itself.

“We would be interested in talking to them again in the Autumn,” Mr Stanley said. 

“This is a very important matter. This is a semi-state body. We rely on RTÉ to expose wrongdoing, they have a very important role, but we need to know that they can do that with credibility. It is better to be upfront about this, to hold their hands up.” 

“There is a reticence there, I had to drag the answers out of them regarding bogus self-employment,” he added.

Ms Munster said that in her opinion it is “hard to believe” that further payments will not need to be made by RTÉ with respect to unpaid social insurance contributions.

“I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t be more. We knew that Revenue was after them, but it’s impossible to quantify the amount with such a lack of transparency going on. I would be very surprised if there is not a substantial amount of money still due to be paid,” she said.

In its letter to PAC, RTÉ said it would “again refute the allegations” made by the committee “that RTÉ has been operating as a ‘bogus employer’”.

"The audit being conducted by the Department of Social Protection is ongoing,” an RTÉ spokesperson said.

“RTÉ is unable to provide more detail on this issue until the audit has concluded. However, no equivalent voluntary interim payment has been made to DSP.” 

The issue regarding the external contractors who were effectively doing the work of direct RTÉ employees but without holidays, sick pay and social insurance benefits was first quantified following a review by consultants Evershed Sutherland in 2018 and 2019. 

On foot of that review, 82 contractors were offered direct contracts with the broadcaster, with 80 of those offers being accepted.

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