The Department of Public Expenditure has told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that it cannot stop the recruitment process for the new Secretary General of the Department of Health.
The committee had asked that a procedure for salaries in excess of pay caps for senior civil servants be formally codified before the competition is re-opened. The proposed salary for the new full-time holder of the role is €292,000, €81,000 more than top-tier secretaries-general are paid.
The job is being done on an interim basis by Robert Watt, the former Secretary-General at the Department of Expenditure, who is not on the higher wage currently. PAC has also sought answers as to Mr Watt's role in deciding the salary.
In a letter to the PAC chairman Brian Stanley, seen by thethe Acting Secretary General of the Department David Moloney reiterates his previous correspondence, reminding TDs that the appointment is a decision for the Top-Level Appointments Committee (TLAC).
"The Government has a policy of open recruitment and the role of the TLAC, as an independent body, is to support that and ensure that the recruitment and selection process for senior Civil Service posts is accessible to the widest pool of qualified candidates."
The letter goes on to say that the post "is a highly complex one" with a "very challenging brief, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic". It says that the recruitment process has been underway since January and that it is "essential" that it be allowed finish due to the role's "strategic importance".
Mr Moloney goes on to say that "commentary on this matter should be cognisant of the fact that this recruitment process is ongoing" and says that any public comments should not prejudice the outcome.