Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 13 July 2023

Public Accounts Committee

Appropriation and Expenditure of Public Moneys by RTÉ (Resumed): RTÉ

9:30 am

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome the witnesses. I remind all those in attendance to make sure their mobile phones are switched off or on silent mode. Before we start, I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege, and the practice of the Houses as regards references witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected, pursuant to both the Constitution and statute, by absolute privilege. This means that the witnesses have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they say at the meeting. However, witnesses are expected not to abuse this privilege and it is my duty as Cathaoirleach to ensure it is not abused. Therefore, if the witnesses' statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction.

A number of witnesses today are giving their evidence remotely from a place outside the parliamentary precincts. As such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as witnesses who are physically present. Those witnesses have already been advised of this and may think it appropriate to take legal advice on the matter.

Witnesses participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State will have already been advised that they should be mindful of their domestic law and how it may apply to the evidence they give. Their decision on whether they take legal advice on the evidence they propose to give should also be informed by this.

Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not comment on, criticise, or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable, or otherwise to engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of a person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply.

Members are reminded of the provisions within Standing Order 218 that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government, or a Minister of the Government, or the merits of the objectives of such policies. Members are also reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Furthermore, it is not the role of this committee to make findings of fact about a person who is not a member of the Oireachtas that could impinge their good name or reputation. I ask committee members to be mindful of this in their examination of the issues, and in their questions this morning.

Today we are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, who is a permanent witness to the committee. This morning we will once more engage with Raidió Teilifís Éireann to examine the following: matters relating to the appropriation of public moneys to RTÉ, and the expenditure by RTÉ of such public moneys; and the commercial arrangements entered into by RTÉ and its presenters, including those underwritten by RTÉ which have impacted on and relate to the expenditure of public moneys. The committee intends to seek clarification on relevant matters including, but not limited to matters included in the previous letter of invitation issued on 27 June 2023 and arising from a meeting on 29 Jun 2023; matters arising from documentation received from RTÉ; and matters arising from the committee's meeting with Mr. Ryan Tubridy and Mr. Noel Kelly on Tuesday 11 July 2023.

We are joined by the following RTÉ representatives: Ms Siún Ní Raghallaigh, chairperson of the board, ar ais arís; and Mr. Kevin Bakhurst, director general. It is his first meeting with the committee and he is very welcome. I wish him the best of luck in the job.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I will need it.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Tá a lán obair agat. We are also joined by Mr. Adrian Lynch, director of audiences, channels, and marketing; Ms Paula Mullooly, director of legal affairs; Mr. Richard Collins, former chief financial officer, CFO; Mr. Declan McBennett, group head of sport; Mr. Conor Mullen, head of strategy and commercial compliance; and Mr. Robert Shortt, staff representative on the board. They are all very welcome. Mr. Noel Curran, former director general of RTÉ, who is joining us remotely via MS Teams.

Before we move to the opening statements I would like to note that the committee has received a response from Ms Breda O'Keefe, former CFO, declining to attend today's meeting. We also received a response from Ms Moya Doherty, former chairperson of the board, stating that she is not in a position to attend today. We will begin with Ms Ní Raghallaigh's opening statement.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

A Chathaoirleach, Teachtaí Dalaí and Seanadóirí, gabhaim buíochas leis na baill as an deis labhairt leo arís inniu. Tuigim go bhfuil clár oibre gnóthach ag an gcoiste agus déanfaidh mé iarracht mo ráiteas a bheith gairid.

At the outset, I wish to reiterate the support of the board of RTÉ for the actions of the new director general, Mr. Kevin Bakhurst. It is fair to say that in a few short days he is steadying the ship of RTÉ by taking swift action on a range of important matters, from leadership reform, to the introduction of a register, and more. I particularly welcome his commitment to ongoing staff engagement. Yes, Mr. Bakhurst is facing up to the issues of the past and the lamentable failures that have emerged, but he is also setting out an ambitious agenda for the secure future of the organisation. On behalf of the board, I welcome this.

At this point in what has been a distressing saga, not least of all for the staff of RTÉ, it is useful to remind ourselves of how these issues first emerged into the public domain. Following the uncovering of financial discrepancies, the audit and risk committee commissioned Grant Thornton to urgently carry out a fact-finding exercise. It is the facts that matter here. Individuals relevant to the fact-finding exercise were interviewed by Grant Thornton and, as stated in the Grant Thornton report, fair procedures applied to everyone in the production of that report. The Grant Thornton report was subsequently furnished to the audit and risk committee and to the broader RTÉ board. It was evident that there was a pressing need and indeed a duty to correct the record regarding payments that had come into the public domain.

The core purpose of the statement of 22 June was to share the facts with the public and to publicly correct false and misleading figures. The facts uncovered by the first Grant Thornton report led, in turn, to the commissioning of the second Grant Thornton process. Yesterday evening, the audit and risk committee and the wider board considered the first instalment of the second Grant Thornton report, namely to independently validate that the remuneration figures for RTÉ's ten highest-paid on-air presenters had been correctly stated publicly, and properly accounted for during the period 2008 to 2022, inclusive. Grant Thornton's review confirms that RTÉ had correctly stated and properly accounted for these figures for the period 2010 to 2022, with the obvious exception of what had already been misstated. Work is ongoing for 2008 to 2009, given the historical nature of those records, and the second instalment, namely a review of the misstatement of 2017 to 2019 figures for Mr. Tubridy.

As chair, I am committed to being as open and transparent as possible and to placing facts in the public domain at the earliest opportunity. That is what I am doing here today. In conclusion, Cathaoirleach, public service media matters, and journalism matters. Monday's "RTÉ Investigates" was a timely reminder of what we mean by this - iImpeccable public service broadcasting that shines the light on an important matter of public interest. This is the RTÉ I believe in, this is the RTÉ that the board and the new director general are dedicated to. Go raibh maith agaibh.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I thank Ms Ní Raghallaigh and call on Mr. Bakhurst to make his opening statement.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I thank the Chair, Deputies and Senators for their engagement with RTÉ on this issue. It is regrettable that my first meeting with the committee is under these circumstances but I look forward to working with it over the term of my appointment. The matters relating to the contractual arrangements for Mr. Tubridy, the public misstatements of his remuneration, and other subsequent discoveries have created one of the most shameful and damaging episodes in the organisation's history. It remains a source of frustration to the public, to the RTÉ board, to the elected representatives who engaged on this issue, and to the staff within RTÉ that there are gaps in evidence and missing personal testimonies that could irrefutably evidence all aspects of the chain of events, what informed or influenced those events, and why this occurred.

Mr. Adrian Lynch, interim deputy director general, Mr. Richard Collins, chief financial officer, and Mr. Conor Mullen, head of strategy and commercial compliance, will try to address any further queries on these issues that members may have this morning. Anything that remains outstanding we will try to address.

As the Cathaoirleach has just said, Grant Thornton has now validated the published figures for the highest earners going back to 2010. As members will know, Grant Thornton is also investigating the understating of Ryan Tubridy’s earnings from 2017 to 2019, along with a separate review relating to the Toy Show The Musical. As members are aware, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, has also appointed a forensic accountant to examine relevant accounts as it determines. I have instructed all divisions to give the fullest co-operation possible with these investigations and any committee queries. It is of the utmost importance that RTÉ works to create as much clarity as possible to the sequence of decisions and actions and by whom they were authorised or enacted.

Irrespective of what those investigations ultimately conclude, a number of things are beyond dispute. RTÉ should not be brokering or facilitating commercial arrangements with its contractors. The level of fees in contracts of this nature is too high. We should have co-operated with greater transparency and should have applied much higher standards of honesty and integrity in terms of our public statements. The public was misled, as were public representatives. That is completely unacceptable. I assure the committee that lessons have already been learned and actions are already being taken.

I welcome the formal review of governance at RTÉ, as announced by the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin. I hope it will help to inform important decisions that lie ahead as to how the organisation can rebuild and restore public confidence and trust. Moreover, the culture in RTÉ needs to change. RTÉ is full of talented and hardworking people who remain committed to delivering a vital public service to our audiences. The current crisis is in no way a reflection on their work or the high levels of integrity with which they operate but the way information is shared and how decisions are made need to change.

Members will have seen already that I put in train action on a number of priority issues. The former executive board has been stepped down and replaced by an interim leadership team. In due course, there will be a permanent leadership team informed by considerations as to strengthening our governance and strategic ambitions. While RTÉ has robust processes and rigorous oversight of finances in many parts of the organisation, negotiations with agents and the processes around certain decisions have highlighted gaps in our processes and procedures which have caused us considerable harm. From today, all significant decisions will be agreed by the whole team of the interim leadership and a record of discussions leading to these decisions will be compiled. The pay of the permanent leadership team will be published annually, along with the pay of the top ten presenters. These will be published in the annual report. We are expediting the establishment of a register of interest for staff and contractors in consultation with the trade union group, TUG.I have asked RTÉ's freedom of information, FOI, officer to take a lead in scoping out this important process and to look at RTÉ’s legal obligations, as well as the operation of registers and declarations of interest in the Civil Service and in some broadcasters internationally.

Over and above the processes already under way and the reviews announced by the Minister, we will be undertaking a review of roles, grades, pay and gender equality. We will also be developing a staff consultation group to meet regularly with me and other members of the leadership team. More decisions and commitments will be announced over the months ahead. I hope these measures convey that I am determined to take action and to take it swiftly. I am determined to implement the change and reform that will help us draw a line under this shameful period in RTÉ’s history and to rebuild trust in public service broadcasting.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Thank you, Mr. Bakhurst.

Mr. Richard Collins:

If I may make a clarification in relation to the Cathaoirleach’s opening remarks, I am the chief financial officer. The Cathaoirleach said I was the former CFO. I am and remain the CFO.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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That is okay, Mr. Collins. I had you down as the director of finance. We can change that. I assure you it was not intentional. Thanks for the clarification.

Mr. Lynch has asked to make an opening statement. He may proceed.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

As interim deputy director general, I thank the Cathaoirleach and members of the committee for the opportunity to appear again before them today. The misstatement of fees paid to Ryan Tubridy by RTÉ has precipitated the single biggest crisis in the history of RTÉ. RTÉ takes full responsibility for these misstatements and the events that led to them.

In relation to 2017, 2018 and 2019, how or why these inaccuracies occurred is the subject of Grant Thornton's current review. We await the findings and are committed to taking appropriate action in response and to update this committee again. Again, to be clear, RTÉ takes full responsibility for these misstatements. In relation to the misstatements for 2020 and 2021, for which RTÉ takes full responsibility, a number of comments were made in this chamber on Tuesday which we feel bear clarification. First, regarding the e-mail that was sent by the former CFO of RTÉ to NK Management on 20 February 2020, RTÉ does not accept that a contractual commitment was given to underwrite the commercial agreement in this e-mail. Second, regarding the proposal to underwrite Mr. Tubridy's payments, RTÉ again states that the request was known within RTÉ. However, the commitment to do so was not widely known. RTÉ’s position is that until the verbal commitment was given by the former director general during the call of 7 May 2020, it had not agreed to underwrite the €75,000 payment per contract year. Third, in relation to some of the commentary made here last Tuesday, RTÉ must clarify that the proposal to underwrite these payments was central to the contractual negotiations between RTÉ and Mr. Tubridy. We believe that the substantive contract would not have been signed without the additional commercial agreement or the underwriting. Moreover, we contend that the payments of €75,000 per year for the second and third year of the commercial contract were pursued by NK Management despite it knowing that the Renault contract was no longer in place.

Having addressed those issues, it is crucial that the newly constituted interim leadership team, under the leadership of the newly appointed director general, Mr. Kevin Bakhurst, is fully focused on understanding how failures in culture, transparency and governance allowed these circumstances to come about, including by participating in the Government’s announced reviews and responding to the requests and queries of this committee.

I assure the committee that, arising from the regrettable events of recent weeks, clear and transformative lessons have already been learned. First, on governance, we have learned that silent structures at executive board level meant that RTÉ was particularly vulnerable to single points of failure in respect of key decisions and financial oversight. That will change with a review of general governance and a detailed review of procedures on approving payments. This will involve changes on the financial limits relating to approvals, and new checks and balances will apply in financial systems across the organisation at all levels. Second, on separation, RTÉ will never again act as an intermediary or broker between a presenter and a third party. All contractual arrangements will be captured in writing in a single contract without side letters. Third, on transparency, RTÉ will be transparent and consistent around the disclosures of top earnings. We are determined to change the culture around how we deal with agents and third parties with a view to conclusively bringing down the fees to top earners and placing them within a clear framework for deciding what those fees should be. Moreover, the register of interests will be a vital tool in the march towards greater transparency.

One aspect that has garnered attention here and in the media is the barter account. The barter account is a useful commercial trading tool. It generates income that is reinvested in public service media. It will continue to do this but purchases by RTÉ against the account ceased in April and will no longer return. Surpluses from the account will simply be cashed out, returned to group revenue and reinvested. Where client representation is required, this will be from a separate budget line, which is to be agreed with central finance oversight.

We must now focus on RTÉ’s future, one that is worthy of our talented hardworking staff, restores the trust and confidence of the Irish public and befits the fundamental role of public service media to our community and democracy. We are committed to emerging as an RTÉ with the structures, attitudes, culture and operations to make that future happen.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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In relation to Mr. Lynch's statement of clarification, are we not dancing on the head of a pin here?

I want you to clarify this for me briefly. Mr. Kelly, in his email to RTÉ on 16 January 2020, wrote: "Lovely to see you all yesterday evening. I thought it was a very productive meeting..." The email from Breda O'Keeffe on 20 February 2020 reads: "We can agree to a fee of €435,000 per contract year for 38 Late Late Shows and 205 radio shows, with a sign off fee of €75,000 at the end of the 5 year contract in a side letter agreement." The email continues: "As discussed the fee for the commercial agreement would be €75,000 per contract year to cover three Late Late Show host style appearances (one Dublin and two outside of Dublin) we would also need a side letter agreement from RTÉ to guarantee and underwrite this fee for the duration of this contract and beyond into the next contract." Legally speaking, I know what you are saying, but in that email Breda O'Keeffe states clearly: "Thank you for your prompt follow up from Tuesday's meeting. We thought the meeting was very helpful and we note your updated position below which we have discussed internally and the response below is our final position." She signs off the email herself. I am not going to take up time reading the rest of the email. Are we not dancing on the head of a pin here?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

In relation to that, I would say the following to clarify. The first thing is it is a single email in a process of negotiations.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I understand that.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

If you give me a little time to explain this-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Go on.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I have something quite material to add here, referencing other emails. First, looking at the terms, €435,000 was not the final agreed fee and there was no exit fee of €75,000. This was a negotiation that was ongoing and was not completed because the agent was insistent that there should be a side letter that was written by RTÉ, underwriting the agreement. That went on through March and April. That letter was not forthcoming. When RTÉ provided the five-year contract for Ryan Tubridy it had drafted, the agent drafted a letter saying that RTÉ would underwrite the fee and supplied that back. That letter was never signed. In March of this year, after Deloitte had raised serious issues around payments to Ryan Tubridy which should have been declared, RTÉ wrote to the agent on two occasions - and we have the emails here - to ask what the invoices were in relation to. On both occasions, NK Management wrote back to say that the invoices - and I can read the emails if necessary - related to a verbal agreement on 7 May 2020 between Noel Kelly and Dee Forbes. I concur with a lot of Mr. Kelly's evidence from Tuesday. I did go back to check one key point, which I would like to clarify, which is significant in terms of-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Briefly.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Very briefly. Mr. Kelly said he never met Dee Forbes alone at any point without legal and finance in attendance. I went back and looked to see whether any meetings had been held between Mr. Kelly and Dee Forbes alone at any point, without legal and finance in attendance. There was a Microsoft Teams call meeting on Monday, 25 April 2022 at 12.45 p.m., and the attendees were Noel Kelly and Dee Forbes. Members will recall, from the chronology that we have supplied, that in January, February and March 2022, Mr. Kelly came looking for the money that RTÉ was obligated to provide to his client, because of the underwriting. The key thing that struck me when I saw the Renault agreement for the first time two weeks ago was that it was for a year and a quarter. Ms Geraldine O'Leary, in her testimony, has been very clear about the fact that there was no Renault deal after the first year. There were no other six events. In that situation, Mr. Kelly then wrote, that day-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Sorry-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I am just going to make one final point. At 16:18 on 25 April 2022, an email was sent from Mr. Kelly to Ms Forbes, copied to nobody, saying:

Hi Dee

I hope you are well.

It was good to catch up today.

If you could please get Ger [Geraldine O'Leary] to send me on the invoicing details.

We have taken full responsibility for the fact that RTÉ issued a credit note. At that point in time, Ryan Tubridy was being paid and it should have been declared. I even spoke to the ex-CFO who was here giving testimony last week. She said the dogs in the street would have known that that should have been declared. The two payments, which were at great and extravagant expense to the public purse, should have been declared. At that point in time in April, who did Mr. Kelly think he was sending the invoices to, given the fact that Geraldine O'Leary has clearly said that the Renault deal was for one year and she was too embarrassed to go back to the client because we had not delivered the events? There were no other events.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Thank you. The contract mentioned one year as well. I read it very carefully.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Thank you, Chair.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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The email does state "...we have discussed [it] internally and the response below is our final position." I think that is significant. That is all I am going to say. Deputy Colm Burke has 15 minutes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Chair, with respect, references have been made to two emails here. I think it would be appropriate for us to get copies of them.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

We will supply them. We have them here.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

The two emails-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I will let you in in a minute. It would be useful if the chronology of events to which Mr. Lynch referred could be outlined in a document and provided to the committee, if possible.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I think the two emails of April and May, to which Mr. Lynch referred, are included in the papers provided to the committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

They are actually under No. 15. I am happy to read any of the emails. It is quite clear that Mr. Kelly is not relying on the email of 20 February. It is all about the verbal agreement with Dee Forbes.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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A significant statement was made though in the email of 20 February, that "this represents our final position." Deputy Colm Burke has 15 minutes.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Chair, have we received apologies from those who are not here?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I do not have apologies from the secretariat. Hold on for one minute.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Do we have a letter from Ms Breda O'Keeffe?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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We do have one for the correspondence meeting. Sorry, before we move on, we have received a response from Ms Breda O'Keeffe. I thought I read that out. Yes, I did. Ms Breda O'Keeffe, former CFO, declined to attend the meeting and Ms Moya Doherty has stated that they are not in a position to attend the meeting. I read that out. That was it. No other apologies have been received. Moving on to Deputy Colm Burke,-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Was there not a request for Ms Geraldine O'Leary to attend also?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Pardon?

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Was there not a request for Ms O'Leary to attend?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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No.

Members:

There was.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Sorry, the Clerk has clarified that there was.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Could we address that issue?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Very briefly.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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No, I was asking if the witnesses from RTÉ can address why Ms O'Leary is not here.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I will allow it. Very briefly, please. Mr. Bakhurst, do you wish to address that?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Ms O'Leary has now taken early retirement and has resigned from RTÉ. As the committee is aware, I have urged everyone to attend where possible, but she is no longer employed by RTÉ.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Was Ms O'Leary asked to attend today, or was that request not passed on by RTÉ?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I do not know. I have not dealt with the requests myself. We normally make sure that people are aware of any requests that come in.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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They are key witnesses because they put items on the record here that were plainly not true. The record needs to be corrected. It is significant.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I have to proceed with the meeting. We are finishing at 2 p.m.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Not to labour the point, but I think it would be useful if we could get a copy of the content of Ms O'Leary's exit package, since she has taken early retirement.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Deputy Burke has 15 minutes. We will break at 11.30 a.m. for 15 minutes. The meeting will conclude at 2 p.m.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I welcome our guests and wish Mr. Bakhurst every success in his new role. I want to move on to the famous agreement between Mr. Tubridy, RTÉ and Renault. The agreement is with Ryan Tubridy. The main agreement with RTÉ is with Tuttle Productions Limited. The second thing is that there all sorts of side letters with this agreement. Third,, there is no mention of the fee in the agreement.

For a contract, is it not the case that there must be consideration? Here we have an agreement without the consideration even in it. Does Ms Mullooly not accept that this matter was handled sloppily? We have an agreement without even the consideration in it.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

If the Deputy looks at it, the tripartite agreement was not drafted by RTÉ. It was drafted-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Mr. Noel Kelly said on Tuesday that it was sent to him by RTÉ.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

He is wrong on that.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Is Ms Mullooly saying he is lying?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I am not saying anybody is lying; I am saying he is mistaken on that.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Does Ms Mullooly not accept that the way it was done was sloppy?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

If the Deputy lets me answer the first question, the agreement was sent to RTÉ by NK Management. If the Deputy looks at the logo and all of that in the agreement, it is clear that it is coming from NK Management.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Was RTÉ aware of the agreement? Was the legal department aware of the agreement?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes. The agreement was sent to us.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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So RTÉ was aware of it.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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That agreement does not even mention the consideration.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

No. The consideration was agreed previously during the contract negotiations.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I know the new director general has said this morning that RTÉ will not have all these side letters in the future. I have never seen anything like this scenario where we had more side letters than we had pages in the agreement.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I would not disagree with the Deputy on that.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Ms Mullooly was in the legal department and she was the person in charge.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I would not disagree that it is better to have everything incorporated in the one agreement. In this particular instance, the commercial arrangement was separate to the original agreement and the commercial agreement was drafted by Noel Kelly and provided to RTÉ.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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On page 24 of the document we received from Noel Kelly, he refers to NK Management getting advice from the legal department about the invoice.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes. So that is-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Therefore, the legal department was aware of what was to go into that invoice.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

In relation to the Renault invoice, the very first invoice, at that stage the commercial agreement was not in place so-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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But the legal department wrote to Noel Kelly setting out what should be in the invoice.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

If the Deputy will let me finish, the written agreement was not in place so in those circumstances Noel Kelly asked what they should put in the invoice. The request was made to Renault and Renault said it was €75,000 for three events, which is what they were agreeing to, and that was relayed back.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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RTÉ's legal department wrote looking for an invoice for €75,000, and no agreement had been signed by RTÉ.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

The legal department looked for instructions from its client on what was to take place in respect of this commercial agreement and how the invoice-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Did RTÉ not ask how an invoice can be issued when there is no agreement signed?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I am not going to go into the legal advice for obvious reasons and for reasons which I have stated.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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If Ms Mullooly comes to me to buy a house and I come along and say I want her to pay out €75,000 to the builder, even though the builder has not signed the contract, would she be concerned about that?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

In the circumstances that existed at that point in time, Renault and Ryan Tubridy had agreed to Ryan Tubridy providing three-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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But RTÉ was the principle player in this agreement.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

RTÉ was brokering and facilitating this. Yes, it was.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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It was a tripartite agreement and we had the legal department of RTÉ giving instructions about an invoice to be raised, even though there was no signed agreement.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

RTÉ's legal office was not giving instructions about the invoice.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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But it sent out the email-----

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Please let me finish.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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-----about what should be in the invoice.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Please let me finish. A query was raised as to what should be in the invoice and instructions were taken from the client, who contacted Renault and got the details. What was in the invoice was €75,000 for three events. That was passed on to Noel Kelly. The legal department does not give instructions; it takes advice in regards-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Does Ms Mullooly not accept that with all of these side letters relating to other agreements as well, that we are in the mess we are in because not everything was set out in the agreements and because there are people going around not knowing exactly what is defined in the agreement? It is not just about this agreement; it is about other agreements as well.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Everything should have been included in writing, yes.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We have identified this as a significant issue and that is why I am saying-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Does Mr. Bakhurst accept that it was sloppy practice?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

That is why I said it will not happen again. We will not have side letters and side agreements. We will have simple contracts.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to move on to the issue of Dee Forbes and the issue of her leaving. I want to ask Ms Ní Raghallaigh about the duty of care that all employers have to their employees and to everyone who has left. What structure is in place for RTÉ to give support to employees who are leaving in this scenario? Dee Forbes only had six weeks to go so why ask someone to resign? Would it not have been just as easy to ask the person to take a leave of absence for that six weeks?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

That is what the decision was on foot of the Grant Thornton fact-finding report.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Paragraph 2.2(g)of the Grant Thornton report at states: "The Director General was not involved in the drafting, signing or implementation of this agreement (being the Tri-partite)." I asked during our previous hearing for the list of all of the people who were involved in that agreement and I have not received it.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I am telling the Deputy what the process was.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I asked for the list of people who were involved in the making of that agreement and I have not received it.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

Which agreement?

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The tripartite agreement. I specifically asked for that the last day because the Grant Thornton report states at paragraph 2.2(g): "The Director General was not involved in the drafting, signing or implementation of this agreement (being the Tri-partite)."

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

That was established.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I asked for a list of who was involved and I have not received it.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

That was part of what was set out by the executive.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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No. I have not seen the list of people who were involved in those negotiations.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Perhaps I could clarify that. As I said, the agreement was sent to RTÉ's legal department by NK Management and then it was forwarded to Geraldine O'Leary, who was the director of commercial, and Jim Jennings, the director of content.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Jim Jennings was the other person who-----

Ms Paula Mullooly:

He was forwarded the agreement.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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It would have been helpful if we had got the list of everyone who was involved in it because this seemed to give the impression-----

Ms Paula Mullooly:

To be clear, they were sent a copy of the agreement; they were not involved in the drafting-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I asked for the list so that we could get clarification. We were given the impression that Dee Forbes was the only person who knew everything about this. That is exactly why I looked for that list.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I apologise. That is-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I would like to clarify one other thing about that which is important. When I went through the emails, I could see that Jim Jennings, who is director of content, had received it. Jim Jennings had written back to say this was a commercial agreement and it had nothing to do with him because he is editorial. Our initial statement of 27 June stated that in the totality of all of this, we completely recognised how fragmented it was. It comes back to the underwriting on 7 May of the agreement. Once you do that, in effect RTÉ is paying Ryan Tubridy.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to move on. I understand that but I asked for the list so that we could have details of everybody who was involved. That list was not given to me.

On the statement that was issued, Ryan Tubridy referred to the fact that he is mentioned 15 times in the statement and he was advised of it 30 minutes before it was issued. Is that not putting the cart before the horse? Should more work have been done before going into the public domain on the issues? Was RTÉ not left very exposed in the way this was managed?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

As I said in my opening statement, this was an independent report.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I accept that but there is a thing called fair procedure, which everyone is entitled to. Allegations were made so surely the people who had allegations made against them had the right to have some kind of audience before it came out in the public domain in the way it was put out.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

It was an independent report commissioned by the audit and risk committee. It was a fact-finding report. That is what I have said. It was about correcting the record on the misstatement of figures that were in the public domain.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to move on to one other issue, the issue of Breda O'Keeffe.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

May I finish? The Deputy has asked me a question.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Sorry. Hold on there for a second. Anybody who wants to come in, be it a committee member or a witness, please indicate to the Chair. Ms Ní Raghallaigh, do you wish to continue?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

May I finish?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Continue.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

As the Deputy will read in the Grant Thornton report, they did interview several people, including Mr. Kelly.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I know, but there is a right of audience. There was talk about fair procedure. I am saying RTÉ has now been left very exposed in relation to both Dee Forbes and Ryan Tubridy in the way this was managed.

Anyway, may I move on to another issue?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I am sorry. The board has a duty. We are independent of the executive-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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There is also a duty of fair procedure.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

The fair procedure happened in the Grant Thornton report, and Mr. Kelly would have been shown the excerpts of the report relevant to him before-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I do not accept that there was fair procedure. May I move on-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch is indicating that he wishes to come in briefly.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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No, I want to move on to one other issue. Mr. Lynch might deal with this issue as well. It is about Breda O'Keeffe and her retirement package. May I have clarification on that package? An impression has been given that it was under a redundancy package. It is important that we clarify this.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will clarify two points there. First, the RTÉ board is independent of the executive board. My job, as interim deputy director general, was to compile a statement of facts as I saw them. In terms of that and what we issued on 27 June, we were quite clear in our statement that the Grant Thornton review makes no finding of wrongdoing on the part of Ryan Tubridy in relation to any payments made by RTÉ and that Ryan Tubridy was not aware of the credit note provided by RTÉ to the commercial partner, nor, may I add, would Noel Kelly have been aware of the credit note. That was absolutely internal to RTÉ.

Second, just to clarify, the first time I became aware that Ms O'Keeffe had exited as part of a voluntary exit package, VEP, was when she made the statement last week.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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May I get clarification on how the exit package was delivered?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

We are looking into that following her statement. There were two VEPs. One was 2017 and one was 2021. I am very happy to provide to the committee any information it wants there on the terms of those.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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That matter is still under review.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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To go back to the director general, he will have heard Ryan Tubridy say here this week that he would like to go back on the radio. On the basis of what has occurred here and the way RTÉ is, in my view, now very exposed, is there an opportunity now to involve some kind of mediation process if there was a decision taken to review the way in which Mr. Tubridy is now not in RTÉ?

I want to ask Mr. Bakhurst a second question. What salary is Ryan Tubridy currently on from RTÉ?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I heard some excerpts afterwards. I was able unable to watch the committee meeting because I was going around the building talking to staff, so I am sorry but I did not see the full meeting. I have obviously read some of the excerpts of what Mr. Tubridy said. I have been asked about Mr. Tubridy's return a lot by the media. Obviously, there is a lot of interest in that, and rightly so. I need to deal with that properly. I need to have discussions with some of my colleagues and staff and then, potentially, with Mr. Tubridy, but there will be a fair process around that.

Sorry, what was the second question?

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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My second question was the salary Mr. Tubridy is currently on. He is not providing service to RTÉ now. Are RTÉ and the taxpayer still paying his salary?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I can answer that. Mr. Lynch can come to that, but we were in discussions and we will have to continue discussions with Mr. Tubridy's agent about that because, clearly, he is not doing his TV programme any more. He should be available for radio. We have not settled on exactly what he should be paid at the moment, but we will be paying him the appropriate amount once we have finished those discussions.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Is Mr. Bakhurst saying there is no salary being currently paid?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

As of this week, no, because we need to agree what the level of that is.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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That is as and from this week only.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

As I understand it, the latest invoice came in this week, and my advice is that we need to decide exactly what we are paying him because he is not doing his past duties any more. That process is ongoing.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Just to make the meeting aware, the secretariat has checked and it seems that we have not received the emails to which you referred, Mr. Lynch, or from which you read. No. 15 contains different emails.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I have No. 15 here.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I will tell you what we will do rather than holding up the meeting. Maybe we could clarify that between the secretariat and Mr. Lynch during the break.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is no problem.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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There is a lot of documentation. A lot is happening quickly. It is an evolving situation, and we know it is-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Anyway, we have them with us so we are happy to-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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You want to come in briefly, Mr. Bakhurst.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I was just going to say sorry, Chair. We have been providing a lot of documentation-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I know.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

-----and if there are things missing, we apologise for that. We will certainly bring them to the committee. As regards those inquiries we have not followed up to the committee's satisfaction, we will follow them up in due course.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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There have been a lot of meetings. I accept that. It is about preparation.

Deputy Devlin, you have ten minutes.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Mr. Bakhurst's colleagues are very welcome back. I welcome Mr. Bakhurst here for the first time. Everyone is very excited to come before the Committee of Public Accounts. The witnesses will know that when they come back to us in a couple of months' time.

I will stick with the tripartite agreement because the information Mr. Lynch has provided is new. Certainly from my perspective, the last engagement we had in this very room was to the effect that the only person who seemed to know about this agreement was Dee Forbes. I am not finished. Then we engaged with Mr. Tubridy and Mr. Kelly. I do not mind whom the suggestion around this agreement came from. The fact is that there are emails between Ms Forbes, Ms O'Keeffe, Mr. Jennings and possibly others. When I asked Mr. Kelly on Tuesday who was on that call on 7 May, I believe - and Ms Mullooly may confirm this - he said there were two members from the RTÉ solicitor's office. What I am wondering is how the witnesses left this committee room a week ago giving the impression, certainly to me and possibly to others, that only one person knew about this. That is why the illusion around a secret payment and a secret deal came about. It was almost like a rogue director general, DG, went and negotiated a deal and told people, "Here is an invoice - pay it." Can Mr. Lynch clarify how that impression has now been created?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Just to clarify, when I was here last week I never said that the DG was the only person who knew about the tripartite agreement. It is obvious from Grant Thornton that the DG said she had no hand, act or part in the implementation of that. My main point, which was issued on 27 June, and which I still stand behind, is that the DG was the one member of the executive board who gave the verbal undertaking to underwrite the agreement. It was a commercial decision that came with risks, and I do not think it was done with malintent. As to what then happened, it has to be remembered also that this was given in the context of a country locked down in a pandemic, which was a unique set of circumstances. When, as Ms O'Leary has said, Renault was not going to renew for years 2 and 3 and Mr. Kelly came looking for payment, it is at that point there were the exchanges which I outlined today in terms of these two invoices which were then-----

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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In terms of that actual process, I am not saying Mr. Lynch said this, but there was an impression clearly given that it was almost all Dee Forbes. That is the impression that was given here two weeks ago.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Just to clarify, I think at my very first Oireachtas joint committee meeting - I would need to check that - I was very clear about the fact that people were aware that negotiations were ongoing. I have said it repeatedly. I knew there was some Renault deal being done.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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But the finalised element of it-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

The contract is not finalised and binding until 7 May, when that undertaking was given.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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There were two representatives on that call.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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That was what we were told. Ms Mullooly is indicating.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I think I can clarify that. There were four people on that call. There was Mr. Kelly-----

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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No. We have all that-----

Ms Paula Mullooly:

There seems to be an impression that there two. The two people from RTÉ were the director general and the solicitor, and then there were two people from Noel Kelly's office, namely, Noel Kelly and one of his advisers or assistants.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I ask Ms Ní Raghallaigh about the initial scoping exercise by Grant Thornton, the first report. Was an opportunity given to Mr. Tubridy to see that report before it was basically made public?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

When the scoping exercise was undertaken, nobody knew who the beneficiary of the payments was.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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When it became known who they were going to, was that information given, or did Mr. Tubridy find out, like everybody else in the country, through the press?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

The process was that when we got the report from Grant Thornton, on the Friday it was presented to the audit and risk committee and on the Monday we had the board meeting. It was at that point we understood what was going on here. We did not know all the details at that point.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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But he was not given an opportunity to see the report before it became public.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

His agent would have been aware of the inquiries that were being made because he partook in the interviews. Grant Thornton, as is due process, would have shared the excerpts of the report relating to his interviews with him and he agreed that they were accurate.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I will turn to Mr. Bakhurst. Regarding his opening remarks on the reforms, I welcome some of the reforms he has already announced and I am sure many more are to come. Mr. Lynch referred to some of the correspondence we have not seen, such as the Mazars forensic examination of the internal workings of RTÉ. I presume all correspondence, including emails to former employees at senior and other levels will be available, even if the employees are no longer with the organisation. Is that the case?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I will have to take legal advice on exactly what we can or cannot, but my approach is that I want the maximum material to be made available wherever it is possible within legal constraints.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome our guests, many of whom have been here before. Mr. Bakhurst has not. I welcome him to the committee and wish him well in his future endeavours. I would like this meeting to be about the future of RTÉ, about re-instilling public confidence in the national broadcaster and about the culture, governance and oversight. Unfortunately, to get there, we need to deal with these issues to start the process of re-instilling public confidence in RTÉ. The information we are given to help us in our important work on the expenditure of public funds is central to that. Unfortunately, that information continues to be drip-fed right up until today. That is disappointing and unfortunate.

On the correspondence that was furnished on Tuesday by Mr. Kelly and Mr. Tubridy, such as the new emails that emerged, why were those emails not furnished to the committee previously? There was critical information in the emails, such as those dated 19 December 2019 and 20 February 2020 about the guarantee or side letter that would be issued. The language is strong. Why were those emails not furnished to the committee?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will refer the Deputy to our director of legal affairs to explain the process and our conversations.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Please be brief.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I will be quick. At the last meeting, there was a discussion about the legal file and legal professional privilege. After that meeting, based on comments by the Chair and Deputy Kelly, I have sent the legal file out for external review. We are taking advice on legal professional privilege. A number of other legal issues have also arisen. We will come back to the committee when we have that advice, with the additional documents we can share. At this point, I need advice on that.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Were those emails shared with Grant Thornton when it initiated its review?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes, they were.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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They were.

There was a lot of talk in those emails about different meetings that took place with different individuals. Is there a full record of who attended all the meetings referred to?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

No. For example, the email of 20 February refers to a meeting but there is no note of that meeting and I do not have clarity as to who was at it.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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We do not know who was at it. No minutes were taken that we know of.

Was Ms Mullooly or anyone from legal affairs at any of those meetings?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I was not. Someone from legal affairs was at certain meetings. There are notes of those meetings, but other meetings are referred to and there are no notes.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Will the notes from the meetings the person from legal affairs attended be furnished to the committee?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Notes drafted by a solicitor in the context of giving advice would be legally privileged and we are going to assert privilege. However, if there are other documents I can give that will provide the same information, we will do that.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Okay.

I refer to the testimony given by the ex-chief financial officer, Ms O'Keeffe, where she said there was major kickback from RTÉ in terms of avoiding the guarantee. She was very strong on that up until the end of March 2020. I think that view was shared by the current chief financial officer, Mr. Collins, that there was no desire and there was absolute kickback in relation to that. The emails clearly show that there was intent to issue a side letter underwriting and guaranteeing these payments. It was stated that this issue was raised with RTÉ four days before the testimony given by Ms O'Keeffe. There was detailed correspondence showing a clear intent by RTÉ to underwrite the payments. The email was sent. Who received that email? Did Mr. Lynch see the email Mr. Kelly referred to on Tuesday?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

That email came to me. It was circulated and I took advice on it. I will give some clarity about it. The email of 20 February has been characterised in a way that-----

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Ms Mullooly said the email was circulated. Who was it circulated to?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I think it would have been circulated to the deputy director general when it came in.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch said that he did not see it.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I do not think he received it. It was sent to him by me.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Is the Deputy talking about when Mr. Kelly sent it with legal correspondence last week?

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Yes, four days before the testimony given by Ms O'Keeffe.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, I did see it, 100%.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch sat in the meeting while Ms O'Keeffe gave very convincing testimony that there was absolutely no desire by RTÉ to give guarantees or to give a side letter. He knew that narrative was being challenged by Mr. Tubridy and Mr. Kelly and he did not feel it was necessary to give the information that the narrative being portrayed by Ms O'Keeffe was being challenged.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

The Deputy might remember, when Ms O'Keeffe said that, I referred on the record to the fact that I had received something and I began to explain it. Ms O'Keeffe clarified that she had not seen any correspondence. I referred to it, but again it was a point in a negotiation. It was not a contractually binding agreement in terms of showing an intent to underwrite this. That is why I keep referring to the meeting on 7 May 2020-----

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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It is clear now from the revelation of these emails. The people who are copied, including Dee Forbes, Jim Jennings and Breda O'Keeffe, referred to the meetings and we have no knowledge who attended those meetings. There was an attempt to portray this as some sort of situation where people were operating in silos, that nobody, bar one person, had all the information. That was certainly not the case. Am I correct?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No. I am afraid I do not agree with the Deputy. I do think people were operating in silos. Some people knew some information. I am not convinced anyone else knew all the information. However, this is one of the things I am addressing - these kinds of ad hocprocesses, the issuing of side letters, things that are not clear to everyone, these important agreements are not surfaced to the full leadership team-----

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The critical information with respect to the commercial agreement of €75,000 is the notion and assurances given, that contained in those emails, that RTÉ - "we" - would issue a side letter and the number of people who were copied in on that critical information shows there was not a situation of people operating in silos.

Key people in key roles at the top of the organisation knew that this mechanism was contrived to deceive and to conceal payments. It shows that those key people were not operating in silo. They were operating in collaboration on this deal. Am I correct?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am not sure. I am afraid I still do not agree with that.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Okay.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Sorry, can I just finish my answer, if I may? Clearly, a number of people who knew parts of this should have spoken up against what was going on, in my view. This is part of the problem. It was fragmented. Discussions were going on and they were not properly recorded. This is what I have to deal with and sort out. There will not be any of these kind of various discussions going on in future.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I will move on because I am conscious of time. I will talk about the two payments of €75,000 that were paid out by RTÉ. It has now been stated, and we know factually, there was no contract for years two and three. We know invoices were issued using the terminology "consultancy fee". We know from the Grant Thornton report that no consultancy was provided by either the agent or Mr. Tubridy. We know that Mr. Tubridy and his agent, at the committee on Tuesday, made reference to the six outstanding gigs that are due, which have been paid for. On those gigs, has there been any communication with Renault in terms of-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

To clarify that, first, I want to apologise to Renault because Renault has been dragged into this. It is outrageous, in a way, in terms of that. I say that straight off the bat. Second, if you look at Grant Thornton report and the testimony of Geraldine O'Leary to the committee, it is completely obvious, even from the Grant Thornton report, that she said, when Noel Kelly came looking for his client's two €75,000 payments, it was not her problem, she was not going back to Renault and it was a one-year agreement.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Sorry, Mr. Lynch. Can I just get to the crux of it here?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, sorry.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Mr. Tubridy and his agent were paid out for services that were not provided, essentially. Mr. Tubridy said that, if asked, he will pay back that €150,000 to RTÉ. When previously challenged on why RTÉ paid out those payments, it said it was based on legal advice. What is now the position of RTÉ? Has RTÉ asked Mr. Tubridy and his agent to repay that €150,000 paid out for these notional gigs that were not provided? Mr. Tubridy said he will pay that money back, if asked. Has he been asked to pay that money back?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

No, we have not and the reason-----

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Why not?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Thank you.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Can I explain?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Briefly.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

The reason we have not is a verbal agreement was given to the agent that RTÉ would pay the money if there was no sponsorship in place. To be clear, that is acknowledged by the agent in the Grant Thornton report, even though I note the day before yesterday the agent said if there was no sponsorship agreement, and I have the quote, no money would be paid. It is completely obvious to me, from reading the Grant Thornton report and the correspondence, that the agent knew RTÉ would be paying. RTÉ should never have paid the two invoices. We should have declared it.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The Deputy made a very valid point. There are two things here for me. There is a legal agreement and RTÉ has a liability, as Mr. Lynch just explained, but there is then a moral question about what is the right thing to do. When we come to have any discussions with Mr. Tubridy going forward, and I welcomed his offer the other day, we will wait to see what he does about it.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Deputy Devlin-----

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

On a point of order-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

-----has the floor. Sorry, I will let Deputy Kelly back in.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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It is about the documents we are looking for. Are they being issued to us? Were they issued to the media before they were sent to us? It looks like they have been.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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It appears the media has them. It does not appear we have them. That is the point.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

If the Chair allows me to leave, I can go out to make a phone call.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Have the documents gone to the media already?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I do not know.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

They are part of the pack that was printed out today for me. It is item 15. That was given and that is what was uploaded to the SharePoint folder.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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We have not seen them.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I do not understand why they have not been delivered.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Could Mr. Lynch clarify the date on the email for the benefit of staff?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

This is for the April-May emails. There is one on Friday, 5 May, one on Thursday, 4 May, and then there is one on 3 May. I think the other one is in my timeline; I do not see it here. I think it is 29 April. Excuse me, it is 19 April.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Mr. Lynch also referenced 25 April.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

25 April was the email not supplied, which I read out today, from Noel Kelly to Dee Forbes. That was also the day they met as individuals.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Okay, thank you for that. Deputy Devlin wanted to come back in.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank the Chair. There was no clock.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is correct, yes.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I will stick with that email of 25 April. It is interesting that it arises this morning. I do not know why it was not furnished to us previously.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I went and checked the director general's emails. I asked for them. It was certainly correspondence between himself and Noel Kelly because I became aware that this meeting had happened, but anything could have happened at that meeting.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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From our last engagement, given the seriousness, all the information that was out in the public domain and the questions that were there, does Mr. Lynch not think that RTÉ should have done a trawl before its first appearance before the committee?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Grant Thornton did a forensic trawl of all the emails. I did not see that email before and that is why I brought it today. I apologise to the Deputy.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Mr. Lynch now has access to Ms Forbes's email.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct. There is very little else of substance or materiality in the other emails.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Relating to these payments.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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On the register of interests, Mr. Bakhurst has announced some changes. As I said, some of them are very welcome and needed. He referenced international best practice around the register of interests and looking at other organisations abroad and elsewhere. Will he expand a little more on who will be included in that register of interests? What will be the level of staff and what will they be required to declare, broadly, as I know he has not settled on it yet?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am afraid it will be broadly. I asked Richard Dowling, the head of our transparency and freedom of information unit, to do the work and lead on this. I want it to be as widely encompassing as possible but, of course, I have committed to the unions that we will have discussions with them about what is appropriate and fair. We also want to look at what is best practice in some of the organisations that already do this. That work started last week. I said to Mr. Dowling to progress it as a matter of urgency. We will be very happy to come back to the committee and give details as we go along, if that would be useful, as to the decisions we have taken and why we have taken them.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Mr. Bakhurst thinks the register of interests will extend to all RTÉ staff. Is that right?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I think it needs to, yes.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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We heard a lot about revenue on Tuesday. Mr. Kelly said €100 million was brought into RTÉ commercially as a result of Mr. Tubridy's appearances. On the revenue for RTÉ as it stands right now, given all the revelations that have come out, the past couple of weeks have not been a good look or good fit for RTÉ. On the impact that is currently having on revenue, and there could be a knock-on effect, although there should not be, for licence fee payers, where does that stand right now for the organisation? How big an impact has this whole saga had on RTÉ's revenue?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I can give the Deputy the latest I have, which is from yesterday. I may bring my colleague, Mr. Mullen, in on this, if the Deputy would like more detail, but we have had conversations with the agencies and commercial partners. The feedback from them is that they think we are dealing with this, they see the commercial side as business as usual and RTÉ remains a valued customer and brand for them. On the licence fee side, the latest full figures I have are for June, but clearly we want to see what has happened in the past couple of weeks. There is no point looking at one week or another-----

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Did June reflect it?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

-----but the June figures show that licence fee revenue has remained pretty much in line with last year so far. To pick up on the Deputy's point, I expect this to be a little bumpy because I understand the anger out there. My job is to address that and to demonstrate to audiences they should pay the licence fee and can have trust in future RTÉ-----

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Mr. Bakhurst will appreciate why people would not want to increase the licence fee. There is no appetite for that.

From what they have seen, until that trust is rebuilt and there are better procedures internally, there is no appetite there.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I spent the summer before I started the job having some conversations with some politicians who were kind enough to meet about my vision – the chair came with me – for RTÉ. Part of that clearly rested on public funding. I have no intention of restarting those discussions or trying to do so. Clearly, it is not all in my hands but I would not attempt to start those until we can show real progress and demonstrate real change in the organisation, which I hope to do rapidly.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Does Mr. Mullen wish to add anything regarding the current state of play for RTÉ revenue?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

It is very early yet. The simple answer is that it is holding up. I echo Mr. Lynch’s comments with regard to an apology to Renault because it has been dragged into this. It is a significant advertiser of ours. The vast majority of our business will come through from September onwards and we will see where that is when that starts to happen.

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I have a funny feeling there will be a few more apologies by the time the month is out. I thank the witnesses.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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I welcome Mr. Bakhurst. This is his first appearance.

Frankly, I think it is disgraceful that Mr. Lynch would come in and introduce emails that we have not received as a committee. I would like that on the record. It was bad enough the other day that we exclaimed about having received 40 pages at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. Total disregard was shown to our committee secretariat. That this could happen today does not bode well for the future.

I turn to Mr. Bakhurst. He did a roadshow while the committee sat on Tuesday with Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly. Mr. Bakhurst was giving interviews. During those interviews, Mr. Kelly’s evidence to this committee was that he knew nothing about the scheme to deceive, as Ms NÍ Raghallaigh previously termed it. He knew nothing about that scheme. Does Mr. Bakhurst stand over his comments? He stands over those comments.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Which comments in particular?

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Let me read it to Mr. Bakhurst because it was a Newstalk interview that was later documented, or I should say written, by a journalist in Irish Independent. It states:

Mr. Bakhurst made it clear that he held Kelly, along with some RTÉ manages who have behaved shamefully, responsible for the whole affair. “Whether RTÉ is fully to blame, I am not sure ... I accept that," he said. "There was more than one party to the agreement.”

I listened to the interview. The interviewer asked Mr. Bakhurst if he was talking about Noel Kelly and he said “Yes”. Mr. Bakhurst stands over those comments.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I stand over those comments 100%. There were two sides to this agreement. One of them was RTÉ and we have held our hands up and-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is fine. Mr. Bakhurst said "Yes", but is he then telling me that in his view, Mr. Kelly lied to this committee?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No, I am not. All I am simply saying is that there were two sides to this agreement and I think we have seen that from the evidence-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Mr. Bakhurst cannot have it both ways. This needs to be clarified. He is stating clearly that Noel Kelly knew of the scheme to deceive in its entirety.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

That is not what I said. I said there were two sides to this agreement.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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There are three parties. Let me tell Mr. Bakhurst why his side does not appear to be credible. We have documentary evidence in a 40-page document that gives credibility to Noel Kelly's and Ryan Tubridy's version. I am afraid I have not seen, nor has anyone in this committee seen, any documentary evidence to support Mr. Bakhurst's claim. How does he stand over comments that Noel Kelly was fully aware of the scheme to deceive and that has been put out by Mr. Lynch and others and their evidence is all in the blacks?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The Deputy is putting words in my mouth. I said there were two sides to this agreement. I did not say Mr. Kelly was aware of some of the issues the Deputy just touched on. All I was asked was-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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This morning, Mr. Lynch said that Mr. Kelly was aware that Renault - I will come to Mr. Lynch - was no longer sponsoring this deal. Is Renault the current sponsor of RTÉ's "The Late Late Show"? I would have thought that is a very simple "Yes" or "No".

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Renault has been a sponsor of "The Late Late Show".

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Okay, so up to now-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Can I actually finish the answer? The Deputy is asking me questions.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is just a "Yes" or "No" question. Is Renault-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No, it is not just a "Yes" or "No" question.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I ask Mr. Bakhurst to answer it concisely.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I can answer it concisely but it takes more than one word.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

No, I am afraid I do not want to run down the clock. I am simply asking, to be fair-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I want to be fair to the witness.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am being fair because we are hearing oral evidence. We have 40 pages of documented evidence that supports witnesses who appeared here. I am asking a very simple question. Is Renault currently or has it in the past been the sponsor of RTÉ's "The Late Late Show"?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I have to allow Mr. Bakhurst to answer concisely.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is a "Yes" or "No" answer.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

He has been fairly concise in his answers, in fairness.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Thank you, Chair. I will try to be concise. Renault has been the sponsor of "The Late Late Show", as I understand it. Mr. Mullen may add more to this. I think the contract for the next series is up for renewal.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is fine. At no stage did its contract as sponsor of "The Late Late Show" lapse.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I do not think it has lapsed. I think it stuck to what it agreed.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It is up for renewal.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is fine.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Sorry. Is that correct, Mr. Lynch?

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is all I need to know. I have to go back on the basis that there is no documentary evidence to support what has been put forward by RTÉ. Can Mr. Bakhurst tell me where the evidence is that documented, as he said, that Noel Kelly knew of how this scheme operated?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I would like to say again that I did not say that. I said there were two sides to this agreement. We have seen copious emails between RTÉ and Noel Kelly Management, which demonstrates there were two sides to this agreement.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Why were they not provided to the committee? Why could Mr. Bakhurst not support the committee in understanding what his claim was?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am sorry. The Deputy asked me about what I said. I am saying that I stand by what I said - there were two sides to this agreement. I am not saying that Mr. Kelly was in any way to blame. I have said-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Actually-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

-----that RTÉ accepts the blame-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I will just quote this for Mr. Bakhurst again. "Whether RTÉ is fully to blame, I am not sure I ... accept that." He said there was more than one party. Therefore, he is blaming Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am saying we should accept the vast majority of the blame but there were two sides to this agreement.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I will put it this way. There were certainly a number of parties. We have only supporting documents that support in evidence what witnesses have said here.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am sorry. You do not. You have supporting documents that show there were two sides involved in negotiation.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

No, I am sorry. We have not seen the email that Mr. Lynch disgracefully read into the record that we are-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Deputy, I will allow Mr. Lynch to answer this concisely.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I think it is important to clarify a number of things. “The Late Late Show” programme sponsorship is absolutely separate from the sponsorship of the three events.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am aware of that. I do not need that clarified and I do not think anybody else does.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I want to make one other point. In terms of the language the Deputy is using around Noel Kelly, this is very simple. What I have explained, which is based on the evidence in front of me, is that Noel Kelly has a contract with RTÉ, underwritten by a verbal agreement which is a completely legal agreement, and-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Sorry, Chair. I do not need to hear this. I just asked one question. If Mr. Lynch wants to answer a question, here is one. Where has he documented an email where Noel Kelly was told that Renault is no longer paying this €75,000?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It is in the Grant Thornton report in terms of Geraldine O'Leary's-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Hold on. The Grant Thornton report was only done, whereas Mr. Lynch, at the last meeting, said that Noel Kelly was fully aware that Renault was no longer paying. He mentioned an email. Where have we seen an email to Noel Kelly that states that RTÉ made him aware?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I ask the Deputy to move her mic a little bit to the left. It is causing a problem carrying the sound apparently.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

To the left.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

No, the Deputy is grand. As I am looking it, to the left.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Sorry.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is all right.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Have we documentary evidence that RTÉ informed Noel Kelly that Renault was no longer going to be paying?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

When Grant Thornton began to investigate the two invoices, it spoke to all the relevant people. Geraldine O’Leary was very clear about the fact the documentary evidence that has been provided is the tripartite agreement.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Sorry. That is not-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

There is a contract with two dates in it.

It starts on 20 October and it ends on 31 December. It was completely evident from the testimony from Ms Geraldine O'Leary that there were no further six events. There was no conversation had with Renault.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

We have not seen any evidence for this. That is what you are telling me. I have seen no email that says that the assertion up to now by RTÉ----- Who conceived the scheme?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Is the Deputy talking about the tripartite agreement?

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Yes, I am.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I think the first document on file is from December 2019. There is an offer from Ms Breda O'Keeffe copied to the lawyer which has €420,000, which was not the deal in the end, plus €75,000. I do not know about the genesis of the scheme. Ms O'Keeffe was unsure about it

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

There is one thing we do know now, not to interrupt Mr. Lynch but what we do know-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Can I finish, Chair?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Yes, but please be brief.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

The agent has said that these are two separate agreements, yet we know the agent came back and insisted continually that the sponsorship agreement would be underwritten for the duration of the contract thereby conjoining both, so the idea that there are two separate agreements-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Excuse me, to be fair I did not get a fair hearing there. Mr. lynch has run down the clock and I need to ask another question.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Your time is up but if you want to ask a question briefly, go ahead.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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The reality here is that Mr. Lynch has made a statement but we know from the tone of the emails that we have seen documented by the previous witnesses. Ms Breda O'Keefe came in and gave the impression that absolutely everybody in RTÉ was opposed to underwriting the agreement. However that is not the evidence that we have on record and RTÉ has not counteracted that and neither does Mr. Bakhurst.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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There will be a report and recommendations from the committee and you will have-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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It should be on the record that there is not an ounce of credibility to back up what either of these witnesses is saying.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I accept a lot of what you are saying.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the witnesses and thank them for joining us today. I wish Mr. Bakhurst the very best in his new role. In his opening statement, Mr. Bakhurst mentioned the presence of conflicting evidence in the absence of certain personal testimonies. Will he elaborate on who he feels is required to shed light on the current issues based on the evidence that is being presented to date?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Clearly, it would be very useful if the former director general, when she is well enough, could come to give evidence to try to shed some light on matters. This would particularly apply to some of the verbal conversations that we have no records of.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Is there anyone else?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I have spoken to Mr. Jim Jennings who is also very unwell at the moment. I know that as soon as he has recovered, in due course, he would be open to doing so.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Has Mr. Bakhurst sought any legal advice in relation to affidavits, in order to establish the facts around the decision-making process and the events that subsequently led to this commercial arrangements?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I have not done so as of yet but it is certainly something we will consider. I want to get to the facts of this. We have established the facts as best we can and we have put things in the public domain as quickly as possible. I want to pick up on the email that Mr. Lynch introduced. When we discover things late in the evening we want to bring them out into the public domain as soon as possible. We brought it here to the committee today. I apologise for not giving it to the committee in advance, but some things are discovered in the work in the evening. That is certainly an avenue we should pursue if we cannot hear it in another way.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Mr. Lynch, was this suite of emails and documentation released to "Prime Time" before they were released to this committee?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

No. They were sent to the committee, absolutely.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No one else had any visibility of that document pack that Mr. Lynch has in front of him, before today's committee?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

They were sent to this committee first and uploaded. I do not know if those two emails are missing or not.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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So none of those emails appeared on "Prime Time" earlier this week?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did not watch the programme and I am not aware that they did.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I want to add a bit on that. We are very rigorous about trying to make sure that we give all the information to the committee before it goes to anyone else. However I would also say that our communications department, as you will understand, has, rightfully, been deluged with inquiries. We also try to answer those as transparently as we can. Sometimes the two things will cover different areas or different times

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I thank Mr. Bakhurst for the clarification. Mr. Bakhurst takes €250,000 per year. Should anyone else in RTÉ be paid more than the director general?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

If they have a value to RTÉ that is worth more than I am then I think we should consider that. I do not think that I should always have the top salary in the organisation

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Is that a real issue regarding the top earners and the runaway train that we have seen for those who are chasing the best deals?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I have said publicly before and I said it in my statement today, that we need to keep downward pressure on the most highly paid presenters' pay. That is what I intend to do during my tenure. However, we also need to attract the very best talent because that is what the audiences deserve.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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To what extent did Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly leverage Tubridy's status as the highest profile presenter on the RTÉ flagship show to personally benefit from a venture that was fully facilitated and underwritten by RTÉ and a commercial partner?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Noel Kelly is an extremely good negotiator and is meticulous about detail. He represent his clients extremely well and he is also very loyal to them. Over the seven years I have worked in RTÉ, my experience with Ryan Tubridy is that he is an utterly decent person. I want to put that on the record. Regarding the negotiation and the ability to leverage that, undoubtedly Ryan Tubridy and the "Late Late Show" are commercially important to RTÉ. I am not sure where the figure of €100 million comes from. I would be aware of our commercial revenues and that seems high. However, I am not sure and there may be a valid methodology to that.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I ask Mr. Lynch give me a yes or no answer to this question. Is it plausible that Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly genuinely believed that the payments were from Renault?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I cannot speak for Ryan Tubridy. From the evidence provided yesterday there is a strong Chinese wall there. This is conjecture because I do not know the conversations that are had between the two. From Mr. Kelly's evidence, it certainly seems to be separate. In terms of the evidence I have produced here today, I cannot see if Mr. Kelly was asked to invoice us in the context of it being a one-year Renault deal. I have not seen any evidence and Mr. Kelly may be able to produce some, to Deputy Smith's point, that actually there were conversations had where it looked like Renault. I can categorically say there was no conversation with Renault. The commercial director was never going back to them for another six events and another solution had to be found. At that moment in time, as Mr. Kelly recognises in the Grant Thornton report, this legal contract was underwritten by RTÉ. As a result, the wheels came off the bus and then he was paid through this barter account. A credit note was issued. Mr. Kelly and Mr. Tubridy knew nothing about the credit note. I cannot comment on the payments. That is up to Mr. Kelly.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Is his explanation credible?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I am not going to comment on that. That is Mr. Kelly's explanation and interpretation of events. I do not think it would be fair to comment on it. I have presented the evidence that I see to the House.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Mr. Bakhurst, will Mr. Tubridy's and Mr. Kelly's criticism of RTÉ during the hearing impact the possibility of repairing any relationships?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I think some party has laid itself open to criticism. I am quite thick skinned and I think some of the criticism they made was justified. I am now starting to get a feel for how it has played with staff in RTÉ

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Will there be consequences?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I do not want to say there will be consequences. This is not about punishment. It is about doing the right and fair thing for the future of RTÉ and the future of Ryan Tubridy. I do not want to rush into that in the next hours or a couple of days.

We need to take that time to get that properly done and to be fair to Mr. Tubridy, but also do the right thing for RTÉ.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I want to put this question to Mr. Lynch. How credible is Mr. Tubridy's comparison of the Renault deal to a book publishing agreement?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I think it is valid to say that on-air presenters can have approved relationships or other commercial arrangements. That is valid. I do not know the details of the arrangement-----

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Does it hold up, considering the circumstances of the payment to the barter account for consultancy services and the involvement of RTÉ?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

From the evidence that I have provided, they would seem to be different things. I assume, in the case of the BBC, an invoice was sent to the BBC for services provided. I understand from Mr. Kelly's evidence, and it is a different interpretation, that his understanding was when he sent the invoice - which was different from the first invoice, the second two - to the UK company called Astus, in his mind, he was very clear that it was for Renault.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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On Mr. Bakhurst's investigation of what we now know are the fraudulent invoices, has that been reported to An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I will refer to my legal colleague here. One of the early questions asked was whether this was fraudulent or not, and we were given legal advice. Ms Mullooly might want to come in on that.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I said before that one of the questions from the board, once the Grant Thornton report was issued to the external legal advisers, was whether this amounted to fraud or illegality. The advice was that it did not. The money was accounted for, and there was no personal gain, but it was misleading, and it ultimately led to RTÉ misstating the proper amounts.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Mr. Kelly stated that he followed instruction by RTÉ, and that he was instructed not to put Ryan Tubridy's name on the invoices and instead outline that they were for consultancy fees. Was there not collusion in operation between Noel Kelly and RTÉ to conceal where these payments were going? It has been confirmed that €150,000 is now in Ryan Tubridy's account.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I accept what the Deputy is saying about collusion, but that does not necessarily mean that it amounts to a criminal offence. There was definitely a misleading, or a lack of transparency. Absolutely.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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First of all, I want to acknowledge Ms Ní Raghallaigh's statement in that it is entirely correct that the internal audit procedure is what brought this to light, and the actions of the board following the internal audit is what brought it to further attention. I appreciate that, and I think those measures were taken in good faith. Additionally, all of the information which the board has provided has been provided voluntarily to us. Over the last three weeks, via Oireachtas committees, we have established the facts in a way that has not cost the taxpayer additional money, and which has not involved a significant number of barristers. That, in some part, was because of the co-operation that RTÉ provided, and the manner in which it provided the information. I should note that.

I have no doubt that Mr. Bakhurst wants to come in and talk to us about the future of broadcasting, and so on. Unfortunately, that is a matter for the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media. Our remit is essentially around the facts and figures, and so we will have to continue to go back to the past before he can move on to the future.

I would appreciate Mr. Lynch's assistance, because he might be more familiar with the events at the time and it might help us establish what has happened to date. Would he accept that the tripartite agreement was an attempt to facilitate additional income for Mr. Tubridy as part of his overall contract negotiations?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I was not involved in those early negotiations. I think if the Deputy looks at Ms Breda O'Keeffe's testimony, she talks about adding it in.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Would Mr. Lynch accept that they were part of his overall contractual negotiations?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It appears so, yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Would he accept that it was an attempt to provide additional income to Mr. Tubridy?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, in my-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Would Mr. Lynch accept that it is not additional, independent work but actually that it was facilitated by RTÉ; that RTÉ introduced Mr. Kelly to its sponsor, Renault; that RTÉ paid for the staging and the catering; and that an RTÉ staff member was present at the events? Is that fair?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Although it was only agreed for year one, would Mr. Lynch accept that if Renault had continued to make the payment of the €75,000 for years two and three, there is actually a likelihood that we would never have found out about this?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Would Mr. Lynch accept that in making it cost-neutral to the sponsor, it meant that RTÉ was effectively funding the tripartite agreement?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Does Mr. Lynch agree that the method of making it cost-neutral was raising the credit note?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Ms Geraldine O'Leary said that she was aware of the tripartite agreement, and that she was aware of the cost-neutral nature, and that the credit note was raised on the instruction of Ms Forbes. Is that consistent with Mr. Lynch's knowledge of what has happened to date?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Mr. Collins said that he was not aware of the details of the tripartite agreement, and that while he was aware there was an attempt to facilitate additional commercial arrangements, he was not aware of the cost-neutral nature. I think that is Mr. Collins' evidence. Could Mr. Lynch say if that is consistent with what RTÉ knows on having carried out a trawl of all of the information?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, and I also asked Mr. Collins if he knew about cost neutrality, and he said that he absolutely did not.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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In the documents put forward by Mr. Kelly on Tuesday, there was an email which Mr. Kelly delivered to us, with a reference that said, "Do not put any person's name on the invoice". He said that was issued by a staff member who worked with Ms O'Leary in RTÉ. Is that correct?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is correct. That is that email, yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Who was that person?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Out of respect, as a result of the testimonies of Mr. Kelly, Ms O'Leary and Mr. Tubridy, not only has there been a significant breach of trust with the public, but there has also been significant personal and human collateral damage out of this-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Of course, yes.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

-----and I think that pulling junior members of staff, who would really have no context on anything, is absolutely unfair. On that basis, I will not divulge that name.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I accept Mr. Lynch has a duty of care to his staff, and that there are different levels of responsibility within the organisation but, in phrasing it in a way that says "Do not put any person's name on the invoice", it shows an intent to deceive.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I would agree with that, and that instruction would have come from elsewhere.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Okay. Ms O'Leary is not here and it was a key question I wished to ask her. If that person worked for Ms O'Leary and they communicated information that said, "Do not put any person's name on the invoice" - and we have accepted that was an attempt to not provide the full information - it can only be assumed that the instruction came from Ms O'Leary.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Ms O'Leary's evidence on the record before the House, her interview with Grant Thornton with regard to their exploration of her emails and my interactions with Ms O'Leary suggest to me that she has always told the truth all the way through this. She said that she processed invoices that were paying Ryan Tubridy, and that was a wrong thing to do. She has admitted that.

I asked Ms O'Leary where the instruction came from around consultancy, and she said "Genuinely, Adrian, I cannot remember". That is what is on the record, and I believe that because otherwise-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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The junior member of staff that we have not identified-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It did not come from her, that is for sure.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I think the committee reserves the right to consider the idea of the junior level of staff. Regardless of where somebody is in an organisation, they have a responsibility as part of their contract to their employer, and there is an overall responsibility to the taxpayer, regardless of how junior one is in an organisation. If one communicates something that says, "Do not put any person's name on the invoice", one must accept some culpability in the overall result of what happens or be able to apportion it to one's boss.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

We need to be cognisant that there is a duty of care to junior members of staff. Undoubtedly, if someone is providing a credit note to Renault and if RTÉ is paying for Renault events, more people know about that than Geraldine O'Leary, but they have no context to understand what that is about.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate that. I will put the following question to Ms Mullooly. Mr. Kelly stated that the RTÉ solicitor referenced in the 7 May meeting was Ms Trish Whelan, is that correct?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Again, for the same reasons that Mr. Lynch has provided, it is unfair to have people's names before this committee who are not here to defend themselves. I will answer any questions on it but I would rather that other people's names were left out of it.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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The difficulty for the committee is that in the absence of anybody contesting Mr. Kelly's evidence, it is now the evidence before the committee that Ms Whelan was at the 7 May meeting.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

There was an RTÉ solicitor present at the 7 May meeting.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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At that meeting the verbal agreement was given to underwrite the agreement.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Okay. Therefore an RTÉ solicitor was present on 7 May 2020 when the decision to underwrite was given.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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So the RTÉ legal department knew from as early as 2020 that RTÉ had agreed to underwrite the agreement.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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So it is not fair to say the issue of underwriting was contested consistently throughout because it had been agreed in the meeting, witnessed by RTÉ legal.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

It was contested until such time as that undertaking was given by the director general. On that undertaking - again, I am sorry the committee does not have the documents in relation to no. 15 - those emails make it clear that that was resolved at that meeting as far as Noel Kelly was concerned.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I will allow my other colleagues to follow up on that point. On the underwriting, Mr. Lynch said it was not a final negotiation. Would he accept that while it was not a final negotiation, that as early as Ms O'Keeffe's first email, the point was conceded by RTÉ in the negotiations?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I would not. I would say that I talked to Ms O'Keeffe, and again, Ms O'Keeffe is not here to give evidence-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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But her written evidence is.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

By memory she said absolutely there was no underwriting of this. She said there might have been something for year one. I do not know. I know we are dancing on the head of a pin here. From Mr. Kelly's email, it is for this contract and the next. Was he talking about two years or five-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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To be fair to Mr. Lynch, Ms O'Keeffe has decided not to be here today.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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The only written evidence is her own words that say "we can provide you with a side letter to underwrite this fee for the duration of the contract". That is the only evidence the committee has before it. That would appear to be contradictory to what Mr. Lynch is saying. It would appear to be for the entire duration and it would appear that Ms O'Keeffe conceded that point on behalf of RTÉ in the negotiations as early as the date of that email.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I think I can provide clarity on this because there is repeated confusion around it. There is the email of 20 February. After that email, Noel Kelly Management sent in a draft letter which was in effect an underwriting agreement. That letter was not signed. It was never signed. Why was it not signed? It was not signed because there was pushback in respect of the underwriting of this agreement.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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That is contrary to the email with the words of Ms O'Keeffe in red - we cannot contest them here because she is not here - where she says RTÉ will underwrite the agreement.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

But the reality is that it is not underwritten at that point. It was two and a half more months.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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That is not my question. My question was whether Ms Mullooly agrees that it was conceded on behalf of RTÉ by Ms O'Keeffe.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

No, I do not agree.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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She said she conceded in negotiations. It was not a final legal position but it was conceded.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Well, I am a lawyer and I tend to take legal positions so from my perspective-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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But we concede points lots of times during a negotiation.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I do not accept it was conceded at that point.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I call Deputy Kelly.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I think many of us are more confused than we ever were. Seriously, the public are looking in. We are trying to do a job. It feels like as committee members, we are nearly living together given that we have been at this for so long. It is actually more confusing now than it ever was. I have gone through every piece of documentation, up and down and in and out. Six or seven members of the media have been on to me in the last 20 minutes to say they have had these new documents, which we have not even seen, for a good while. I still have not seen them. They have been sent to me via WhatsApp by journalists-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I have asked the staff to go back through this. The emails -----

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Will the Chair pause my clock, please?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The emails of 19 April and of 3, 4 and 5 May were received and circulated on Monday. The email of 25 April has not been received.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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That is the one I am on about. It is kind of a critical one.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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That is just to clarify that. It is the critical one.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

This is the email of 25 April which I read out today.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Yes.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I apologise. That is being brought today.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Okay. It is like saying that you provided a car but you forgot the engine. It is a pretty critical component. If a freedom of information officer did this in a state organisation, it would be a big issue. This is not good enough because it is a critical component in the evidence. We are trying to build on evidence we have seen across multiple committees. I am looking at the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media because the issues cut across us over here all the time. This critical document would change the narrative of one's thinking but RTÉ did not provide it, yet half the Irish media had it before it was inside in this committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

The email from Noel Kelly to Dee Forbes has not been circulated to the media.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Whoever circulated it, the email from 25 April that is now coming in here is out there and it was not in here. I need to move on because I am on a clock.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I did not-----

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Well, I do not know how it is possible.

I usually look for a whole pile of information so I will list off a whole pile of things I want and then I have a few questions. The witnesses can take these down. First, based on today, and I only decided this a few minutes ago, for the next committee meeting - we do not know when that will be - I want Mr. Bakhurst to write out a chronology of what has happened from 2017 until now, with documents backing it up, according to his view as director general. Based on the messing that is going on here today, I want him to set it out chronologically and to sign it.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The Deputy wants this from me personally.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Mr. Bakhurst as DG.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am DG.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Mr. Bakhurst as representative of the organisation.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am DG, yes.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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That is the first thing. Second, I want to Mr. Bakhurst to go back through the Friday and Saturday night shows back to when Gay Byrne was in place. Were there any other deals on Friday or Saturday night flagship shows with anyone else ever?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Can I just clarify "deals"? What deals?

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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In other words, anything that would in any way resemble this deal, or would be in any way equivalent to it, where side deals were done with advertisers who were sponsoring a show.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The Deputy is talking about any side commercial deals.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Yes, along with details of whether RTÉ management agreed that they would be allowed to happen.

Third, 13 people have pension top-ups. We want to know who they are. We want it broken down by executive versus presenters, etc. We do not have that information.

Fourth, with regard to the barter account and credit cards, we want to know who had credit cards and who was making payments off the credit cards, etc., going back through the barter account details that have already been provided.

Fifth, with regard to talent agent lists, RTÉ has provided us with lists but we cannot correlate who is with whom. Which talent is with which agent? In fairness, Mr. Kelly gave us evidence about the number he has and it is only appropriate that we find out who is representing whom. From a transparency point of view, I would like to know and I think we all would like to know.

I disagree with the decision not to provide the name of the person who sent the email saying not to put a name on that. I think RTÉ has to give that information. I am sorry, but it is too critical to everything else.

I will go back to the advertising of roles. When Mr. Lynch joined RTÉ, was the role he joined RTÉ for advertised? I am looking for a yes-no answer.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

No, because I was appointed by the director general.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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So it was not advertised. There seems to be a tradition of this with a lot of senior positions. In the case of every person who has been appointed as a senior manager or to an executive role, going back to 2000, was the appointment advertised or not? If it was not advertised, who made the appointment? I want a full chronology on that.

Many of use have received correspondence on Breda O'Keeffe's exit package. Who of those who are in this room was on the executive board at the time when that package was done? Was Mr. Collins?

Mr. Richard Collins:

When it was paid, I was on the executive.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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When it was agreed-----

Mr. Richard Collins:

No, not when it was agreed. Can I clarify? I knew nothing about that package. Breda O'Keeffe never explained anything about it.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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That is fine. I accept Mr. Collins's evidence. No problem. Mr. Lynch was on it.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I was.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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So Mr. Lynch agreed it.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Excuse me, sorry. As I said earlier, the first time I found out that Ms O'Keeffe had exited through the voluntary exit package was when she stated it last week.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Then there is an awful big problem because according to the actual scheme, which I have read, on page 6 it provides that all members of the executive team have to sign off on it and Mr. Lynch was on the executive team.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct. That is absolutely factually correct.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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So how did Mr. Lynch not sign off on it?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It never came to us for sign-off.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I put it to Mr. Bakhurst that this needs to be investigated. I am running out of time.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Can I just say this is an issue that I take very seriously? It is exactly about bringing significant decisions to the executive, which I believe we should do.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I know. Okay. Remember, I want one of my minutes back because I got a minute taken earlier.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Sorry.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I want Mr. Bakhurst to investigate that. I also want him to go back and see if anyone else who finished up in RTÉ got a similar package where the post was not suppressed. Remember, it is part of the voluntary redundancy scheme as read that the post has to be suppressed.

In the case of Ms O’Keeffe it was not suppressed. Therefore, other people left with significant packages. Were their posts suppressed? I just want that detail and no more information.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Give me 20 seconds.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Okay. Five seconds.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am sorry, Deputy, I was going to say that we are already working on that because it was drawn to our attention. It was something we did not know about, and we are going back to look at this.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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That is good. There is a list of questions on which the representatives might come back to us.

One thing I want to get off my chest relates to an RTÉ presenter who is actually represented by Noel Kelly. Last night, he stated that to take the minds of the public off “that nonsensical Oireachtas Nuremberg trial" he would play some Rory Gallagher. I love Rory Gallagher. He is one of my favourite artists. I met him when I was young, he is amazing. His music would take my mind off a lot of things. How is that appropriate? This is a person who is being paid by the taxpayer, granted through an agent, effectively saying on RTÉ that what the Committee of Public Accounts was doing here the other day was “that nonsensical Oireachtas Nuremberg trial”.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I would like to answer that, if that is all right.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Yes, as long as you are quick, because I am conscious of time.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am conscious of the clock. I do not know the context of this.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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He tweeted it.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I do not know the context of it. All I would say is that it is not appropriate from my point of view for an RTÉ employee or contractor to express that view, because the work of this committee has been incredibly important in trying to cleanse this.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Okay. I wanted to raise it because I thought it was very insulting. If any of us as politicians were to say something similar, we know what would happen.

I want to go back to the evidence that was given. This question is for Mr. Bakhurst. The evidence has been contradictory. I cannot see how some of the people who have been involved and who have been appearing before the two committees can work together again. I just cannot see how it could happen in real life. Mr. Tubridy said there were seven mistruths. Does Mr. Bakhurst accept his evidence that there were seven mistruths?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I might turn to-----

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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No, I am asking you.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

You are asking me. No, I do not.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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You do not accept that.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Okay, that is the first thing. I thank Mr. Bakhurst for being so direct. I appreciate it. Second, Mr. Tubridy said he took a 20% pay cut. Does Mr. Bakhurst accept that that is accurate? I do not.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I think you can use figures in whichever way you want to use them. When do you say you have taken the 20% pay cut from? What does it include?

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Let us talk about real money and real taxpayers. Who is paying what? In totality, does Mr. Bakhurst think it is true that he took the 20% pay cut?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I do not want to say he is not telling the truth. All I am saying is that you can use figures the way you want.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Let me put it to Mr. Bakhurst this way: does he think it is accurate that a 20% pay cut was taken by that presenter?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

He took a significant pay cut. That is undoubtedly true.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I am not saying that.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I would not want to say “Yes” or “No” to 20% because I do not have my calculator.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Okay. I want to turn to the whole payment process, which is the bit that the general public finds a complete laugh. There was this whole situation where there was an accountancy process whereby RTÉ colluded. In fairness to the chairperson, she used the term “colluded to deceive" in relation to the payment through Astus etc. Does Mr. Bakhurst think it is appropriate for RTÉ to work with people whereby that is the arrangement that is put in place to pay a presenter?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am sorry, which piece are you talking about?

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I am talking about the second payment of €75,000, which went through a British company nobody had ever heard of.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I think I have been clear on this. When I heard about those payments I found it appalling and disgusting. I had no idea why anyone involved ever thought that was appropriate.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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On either side?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

On any side.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Perfect.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

And there is more than one side to it-----

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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In fairness, I lost-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Time is up.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I lost a minute. Come on. One last question.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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You may have one last question.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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I first raised the topic of Ryan Tubridy’s current contractual status. Obviously we all know that it has gone into abeyance, based on the evidence that I think was given to Deputy Burke or Devlin, although I cannot remember because I am mithered at this stage. There are people watching out there who have small businesses, large businesses or anything. Basically now RTÉ has to negotiate with him, even though he is not working. RTÉ has to negotiate with him to pay him something even though he does not work for RTÉ and we do not know whether he will or not into the future. How do you even start to do that negotiation? How was it that when you knew he was retiring that the contract was not looked at - forgetting before all of this crisis happened - that this was where RTÉ was going? No other organisation, company or business can act like that. This is taxpayers’ money. How did this happen? How can you go forward? How can you even negotiate?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I will allow Mr. Bakhurst to answer that.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The honest answer is that I do not know how we got into that position. It was before my time and that is what I have inherited. I do not think it is satisfactory. I have no idea why we got into his position-----

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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How are you going to solve it?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We are going to have to reach a proper deal through discussion and negotiation.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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This is only a temporary deal.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

It is only a temporary deal until we decide what is happening, but we need to be fair to Mr. Tubridy for the work he is doing.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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Or not doing.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Well, more than that, we need to do what is right for RTÉ and licence fee payers. We will find a way through that but it is not satisfactory, I totally agree.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I call Deputy Catherine Murphy.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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The witnesses are very welcome. I want to clarifying something again. Mr. Lynch said in his opening statement: “We believe that the substantive contract would not have been signed without the additional commercial agreement or the underwriting.” A sum of €75,000 of that was with Renault with convoluted methods and the other two were direct payments to RTÉ. Does Mr. Lynch accept in that context that Mr. Tubridy’s contract was not €440,000, but €440,000, plus €75,000, plus €75,000 and plus €75,000?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

In the contract as it stands, even though there is a substantive five-year contract and a commercial deal, I do accept that we have a contractual obligation to pay those sums to Ryan Tubridy.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Then, we can ourselves calculate what the reduction was.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes. Also, that is why when the board discovered these invoices, his actual earnings were restated for what he actually earned.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Okay. I just want to get that on the record. The second thing relates to Mr. Lynch. Regarding the rules for RTÉ’s scheme for redundancy etc., he would have been on the executive board. The executive board reviewed all of those-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

-----exit packages. He would have been involved with Breda O’Keeffe’s exit package. My understanding of the word “redundancy” is that the job is redundant rather than the person being redundant. We know that Mr. Collins is in the position that Breda O’Keeffe had been in. We therefore know that the job was not made redundant. Was this an early retirement?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will not comment on the individual elements of Breda O’Keeffe’s package. I will comment on the two voluntary exit programme, VEP, schemes, the one in 2017 versus the one in 2021. In 2021, it was a strict condition that the roles had to be suppressed. In 2017, the key objective was cost savings. One of the major tools in that was the suppression of roles. I want to be clear.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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I understand that quite a lot of staff were refused-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is right, yes.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

-----that they had applied and they were refused because it was oversubscribed.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I think there is a high level of concern among the staff because there was a very large exit package for one person when multiples of people were refused. That is something that RTÉ most definitely has to address with its staff.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Deputy-----

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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I must say that I am not satisfied. We are talking about a job being made redundant here-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Can I clarify some of the numbers with the Deputy?

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Very quickly.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, very quickly, I will just say that in terms of the annualised saving out of the 2017 VEP, the figure was €12.7 million and there were 182 exits.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Right. Okay. I will stop Mr. Lynch there, because there are lots of things I want to ask about.

Breda O’Keeffe sent in her apologies today. In her statement she said “I have nothing further to add to that statement with respect to the matters addressed therein”. That was her statement on 5 July. Since 5 July, Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly were before the committee. The email of 20 February completely blows out of the water what she had said in that opening statement in some considerable detail.

What Ms O'Keeffe outlined is remarkably similar to what was finalised, despite the fact that she said there was considerable resistance. As far as I am concerned, we can talk about legal agreements and all the rest but the reality is that that ended up being the agreement. It may not have been signed and sealed and all the rest of it but that ended up being what was finalised.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I would not agree with that from a contractual point of view.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Was it what ended up being finally agreed to?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

The fee that Ryan Tubridy was going to be paid was not his final fee. In that one, it says €435,000. That was not in the final contract.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It went to €440,000.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That is the only thing that is different.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

The exit of €75,000 was not there. There is also some reference to the idea of a revenue share on "The Late Late Show" live events or something like that. Again, I would say that a negotiation was under way. We also need to stand back and look at the context. After 17 March, the country was in lockdown. A lot of things were changing at that point.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It was a remarkably similar agreement. There is a €5,000 difference despite the fact that we were in an awful situation with the country in lockdown. I will leave that there because people can make up their own minds on it.

Mr. Lynch talked about Ms Geraldine O'Leary being truthful. She could not remember who gave instructions or whose idea it was for all of this. We got a document on Tuesday. We were referred to page 25. A synopsis of page 25 is that it includes an email to RTÉ's then commercial director, Geraldine O'Leary, dated 29 April 2022. It passes on instructions on how invoices 2 and 3 are to be raised. Geraldine O'Leary's email instructed Noel Kelly on the company name, Astus, the address, and the VAT reference to be included on the invoice. It provides instructions not to put the person's name on it. For somebody who could not remember any of that, there is quite a lot of instruction, backed up by documentation that goes along with that. Mr. Lynch is telling us that Ms O'Leary was truthful.

The second thing I questioned Ms O'Leary on followed from somebody saying to me that she had been told a year before that there was an issue with this within RTÉ. She categorically refuted that that was the case. Then I read in The Sunday Timesthat there was evidence that this was raised with her in 2022.

The reality, going back to what Deputy Kelly said, is that we are going around in circles. If I have been told stuff, where there is clear evidence of it not being true, by Breda O'Keeffe and Geraldine O'Leary, I find it difficult to believe anything they say. They were asked to categorically state things. We have been given the runaround on this. I am putting that on the record. The committee has been misled and, by extension, the public has been misled.

I want to go on to something else. According to the documentation we have, RTÉ has 20 accounts. Five of those accounts are dormant accounts but they are all reconciled monthly. There is a central fund. I am raising this in the context of Toy Show The Musical. We were told the other day that the loss of €2.2 million was paid from the central fund but in a freedom of information document, we were told the musical was being funded through RTÉ Commercial Enterprises Limited, CEL, which is one of three companies that I can see RTÉ has, with another being RTÉ Transmission Network. Is it a separate legal entity? There are different directors.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will ask the CFO to answer that with regard to the bank account and CEL.

Mr. Richard Collins:

The Deputy is correct that it is a separate legal entity.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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It has different directors who would have made a decision. Did it fund that from its fund or from RTÉ's central fund?

Mr. Richard Collins:

It was funded from CEL's fund.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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It is not the RTÉ fund.

Mr. Richard Collins:

No. The losses on Toy Show The Musicalwould be recorded in the CEL accounts. They consolidate into the overall RTÉ account but they are in the CEL accounts.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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There is still a surplus in that.

Mr. Richard Collins:

Yes. CEL is a profitable company.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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For how long has Deloitte been the auditor? Did it audit all of these accounts? We now know there are three entities to the barter accounts. Did Deloitte audit all of them and how long has it been the auditor?

Mr. Richard Collins:

It has been the auditor since 2018 and it audits everything.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

This was not picked up until 2022.

Mr. Richard Collins:

Sorry, which-----

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The circular arrangement in relation to Renault and Ryan Tubridy was not picked up until 2022.

Mr. Richard Collins:

It was picked up in 2023 as part of the 2022 audit.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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We were told the other day that the €120,000 that is being investigated was not paid to Ryan Tubridy. RTÉ and Grant Thornton are looking for that €120,000 but there seems to have been some convoluted way of apportioning that. I do not know why it would be apportioned if it was not paid. Did Deloitte pick up anything on any of that?

Mr. Richard Collins:

Before I joined RTÉ, that accounting treatment was worked out and a case was made for allocating that €120,000 back across Ryan Tubridy's earnings from 2017 to 2019. That was presented to the auditors and the auditors agreed with that.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

When was that presented?

Mr. Richard Collins:

It would have been presented as part of the 2019 audit, which would have been in February or March.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Was there a note in the audit about it?

Mr. Richard Collins:

It is separate. It is not part of the main RTÉ audit. It is not actually called an audit. Deloitte issues a reassurance on the figures.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I would have thought, if something was a little unusual, that attention would be drawn to it in the audit.

Mr. Richard Collins:

At the time, Deloitte did not think it was unusual. It signed off on it. When I joined RTÉ, these figures had been prepared for publication. Deloitte had signed off on them. As far as I was concerned, if Deloitte was happy with it-----

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

If the Comptroller and Auditor General was auditing this, would he have drawn attention to that kind of thing?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

One would want to understand why any particular transaction was being treated in the way it was. I have not examined this particular issue so I do not understand the implied accounting treatment there.

Mr. Richard Collins:

To finish on that, the second Grant Thornton report will deal with that. Grant Thornton will report shortly on that issue and explain all the facts behind it.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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We will suspend for a short break.

Sitting suspended at 11.38 a.m. and resumed at 11.53 a.m.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The first question I would like to ask is to Mr. Lynch. It is about the total staff count in RTÉ. How many are permanent employees of the organisation?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I think it is 1,800. I will get the exact figure for the Deputy.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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There is approximately 1,800, and they are employed by RTÉ on a direct, non-contractor basis, is that correct?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is correct.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

How many people then within RTÉ are contractors?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

We have been through and are obviously engaged in a process with Scope at the moment, so we are now employment first. It should just be some on-air contractors.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Can Mr. Lynch give us an approximate figure?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will have to get that for the Deputy. I would be very happy to supply full detail of those figures to the committee.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Could I ask how many members of staff, from a percentage perspective, are working in management in RTÉ? It is normally around 15% in an organisation that would be working in management.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It is approximately that. My understanding is that there are around 120 managers, or staff that have the grade of a manager.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Okay. I want to note that I was not expecting, nor were many people, to realise that there are more than 100 people in RTÉ who are on in excess of €100,000.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is right.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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That is very substantial.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, it is.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Obviously it was going to increase at an incremental level to the higher salaries up to the top-paid members. That is something of concern. Does Mr. Lynch think it has an organisational issue when it comes to wages at the top level of management within RTÉ?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

All of the grades in RTÉ are currently being benchmarked against other public service broadcasters and commercial entities.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I want to immediately move on to ask questions about the audit and risk committee in RTÉ. It is important to ask how many staff are working within the internal audit department of RTÉ. I want to try to get that answer from the witnesses please, if that is okay.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will give that one to Ms Ní Raghallaigh, who can speak on audit and risk.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

Sorry, how many staff are in the internal-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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How many staff is employed within the internal audit department of RTÉ?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I think there are two. Could Mr. Collins confirm?

Mr. Richard Collins:

There are two members of staff.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Just two people. May I ask, of the two people, how many are qualified accountants? It is probably both of them in that case.

Mr. Richard Collins:

I believe so. They do not report to me. They reported to the director general, I believe. At least one of them is qualified.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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They would obviously give a brief of matters to the audit and risk committee of RTÉ, would that be correct?

Mr. Richard Collins:

That is correct.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Is it correct to say that its findings would ultimately end up back with Mr. Collins?

Mr. Richard Collins:

It depends on the area. It has a broad role. It looks at different areas in the organisation. Some audits do. I see the results of some of the audits, yes.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Does the audit and risk committee ever hire any external experts throughout the years for special reports, or anything of that kind?

Mr. Richard Collins:

Grant Thornton, yes.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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That would be an example, but what about the annual internal audits within the organisation?

Mr. Richard Collins:

Deloitte does the annual audit and any additional work that might come up.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I want to note that I asked the last day and a commitment was given at a meeting at which Mr. Collins was present - I think it was the meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media - for the internal audit reports to be released, and got a very firm commitment that day that they would be. Does RTÉ intend to provide those internal audit reports?

Mr. Richard Collins:

I believe we do.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I can help with that question. The chair of the audit and risk committee gave that commitment, and she has passed that on to RTÉ, which is dealing with that and collating the documents. It is just taking some time.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Okay. From a reputational perspective, it is key that it happens. I listened to Deputy Alan Kelly's contribution, and he was really on note with regard to just how fed up everybody is. I think the public is at this point as well. Everybody wants to find a way for us all to move on in some degree or fashion, and part of that process is transparency. Unfortunately, until such a time that those documents are put in the public domain where we can analyse and scrutinise them, unfortunately this is going to keep rolling on. It is absolutely key that this should happen.

On charities, could Mr. Lynch say if there a set list of charities to which RTÉ gives?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

A set list of charities that-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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A set list of charities that RTÉ would support within the organisation.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

On charities, the only one I am aware of is Community Foundation Ireland, which is an umbrella charity. It is responsible for "The Late Late Toy Show" appeal that raised money through "The Late Late Show".

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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"The Late Late Toy Show" appeal would be the only major charity that RTÉ would work in conjunction with, and that would partner with the organisation?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

As RTÉ is a big organisation, I will have to come back to the Deputy with a definitive list of any charitable engagements.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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There is extraordinary generosity shown by the public in that process. A really fundamental part of the work that RTÉ has done is to support them. I have to ask - does RTÉ take an administrative fee for that work?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I am not aware of that.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Is Mr. Collins aware?

Mr. Richard Collins:

I am not aware of that either.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Okay. On compliance with the Charities Regulator guidelines, is RTÉ fully compliant to the witnesses' knowledge?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I can help slightly with that, although there may be somebody who is more qualified. As I understand it, the reason RTÉ partners with Community Foundation Ireland is because it is a registered charity, and all of that governance structure is in place. We can come back to the Deputy with a more definitive report on that.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Is RTÉ compliant as an organisation? Are there any issues around compliance?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I do not believe so but I can come back and clarify. That is my understanding.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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It would be great to clarify that.

The next line of questioning I want to move on to is on Mr. Tubridy. Unfortunately, during Mr. Tubridy's committee appearance on Tuesday, it was very difficult for us to have a full understanding of the situation, and this was primarily to do with the documentation that was released at very short notice. Some of the documentation in that actually vindicated, in some degree or fashion, Mr. Tubridy's position in terms of him being scapegoated. There were obviously more people within the executive board who were aware than what was originally provided here in the original line of questioning.

I want to say to Mr. Lynch today that I am a little bit bothered by the lack ... of how unforthcoming he and his colleagues were at the first Committee of Public Accounts meeting, when these questions were put. Now we see that there are members of the executive board who were actually tagged in emails. Did Mr. Lynch see those emails before the first meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes I did. I reviewed the file. In the statement that we released on 27 June, we never said that nobody else from the executive board knew negotiations were going on. That was never stated. What was-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Mr. Lynch had sight of those emails before the first Committee of Public Accounts appearance.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, that is correct.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I want to say that from what came from that, there was not that much transparency. It is highly disappointing, and it is highly damaging for RTÉ as well.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I have behaved appropriately at all times with regard to presenting information to the Oireachtas.

I would also say that I gave an explanation this morning that clearly outlines RTÉ’s view of the email of 20 February and the underwriting of 7 May 2020 and why that is the most significant event with regard to making this a contractually binding agreement.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I have to take you up on that. I completely disagree. The email chain that was given to us by Noel Kelly Management and Mr. Tubridy clearly shows a huge paper trail. I am at the point now where I do not know what to believe anymore, but what we do know is that there are files of information that are on paper and there is an email trail. Everything needs to be released – everything.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

In fairness, a review is going on at present. Of those documents, we will release the ones that can be released.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Why were they not released earlier? Mr. Tubridy did so when he was coming into the committee.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

We have obligations in terms of legal professional privilege and we have separate issues in terms of legal actions. We need to look at that. We are reviewing the file in that context. I have given an undertaking that we will come back and release what documents we can.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I want to be clear. Ryan Tubridy made enormous mistakes, in my opinion, and I challenged him on that. However, I am conscious that there were two presenters within RTÉ whose reputations took a very significant battering during the week because of what Ms Mullooly just said regarding the releasing of information. Responsibility is important and, from a legal perspective, I know Ms Mullooly has a job to do. However, when you create a chasm where no information is being brought forward and we have a drip-feed, which has been happening for the past three weeks, it is causing continuous damage that is unfair to the individuals involved. I do not want this to become a witch hunt - I genuinely do not. However, as a collective organisation, the information that has been provided to this committee has been less than helpful. The manner in which and the pace at which it has been provided is highly disappointing. Unfortunately, the consequences of this will last a very long time.

Does Mr. Bakhurst have confidence in his assistant director general?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I have absolute confidence in him. I have seen he has done an incredibly diligent job. He has told the truth throughout. In fairness to him and to the team - I have heard this "drip-feed" soundbite used a number of times - the information-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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It is not a soundbite; it is the truth.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

It is a soundbite.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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It is not a soundbite.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Okay - a description.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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It is very clear to any person who has been any way honest that what we have received for the past number of weeks has been a significant drip-feed - unfortunately, it has.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

If I can finish, the information has been put out, to my knowledge, as quickly as we have discovered it. The team has been has been working many hours and many people have been involved in trying to provide information. I made it clear in my opening statement that I expect maximum transparency. We will put out the information as quickly as can. As quickly as we can make sure that it is legally okay to do so, we will put it out. The Deputy has my assurance on that. I am sorry if it has appeared like drip-feed but, genuinely, the team has been working very hard to put that information out and they will continue to do so. I have made my views clear on that.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I just want to finish up because my time is out. I refer to the internal audit reports. We were given commitments last week that they would be done. It sounded as if it was going to be done overnight. I cannot understand what the blockages for us getting our hands on those are.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

It is a relatively small team in RTÉ who are working around the clock. The committee, rightly, has asked for a number of documents. We tried to supply as many as we can.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The internal audit report is-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We will try to provide those.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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It is a finished, finalised report. It looks something like this if it is printed in a book.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We will try to provide those-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Can we just not get a copy of it?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We will try to provide it as soon as we can.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I will start with Mr. Lynch. He previously said he knew nothing about the underwriting of the Renault deal with RTÉ. However, as others have said, Noel Kelly showed us the emails from Breda O'Keeffe. It is clear from what we have seen that he actually knew, but he told the committee that he did not. I will quote from his previous appearance at the committee. He said "I also asked each individual executive board member to give me a guarantee that they knew nothing about the underwriting, which was given to [you]". He told us that he and the executive board knew nothing about the underwriting, so he misled the committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did not. With respect, I was completely truthful in everything I said. I was referring specifically to 7 May 2020, which is the verbal agreement between Dee Forbes and Noel Kelly to underwrite, which is-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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No. That is too much of a comfort blanket for Mr. Lynch to cling to. He knew exactly about the deal that was done to underwrite the Renault deal and the payments involved. The tripartite agreement was not just about the Renault deal in year one; it was about the three top-up payments. Mr. Lynch distinctly told our committee that he "asked each individual executive board member to give me a guarantee that they knew nothing about the underwriting, which was given to me".

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is correct. Again, I was referring to 7 May 2020. Regarding the three payments, let us remember, the substantial issue here is that payments were made directly to Ryan Tubridy and they were not declared by RTÉ.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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In that email-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Let me answer-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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No. I do not actually give Mr. Lynch's answers any credence, to be honest.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Deputy, I will let you back in. You clarify that.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Can I just come back in?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Just one second.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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On 20 February, in the correspondence it states:

We made good progress on what the commercial agreement would be and we agree to one in Dublin ... and ... with a side letter to underwrite this fee for the duration of the contract.

That contract was covering the three payments of €75,000.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I think the question is whether that reference to covering to three payments, which would imply it is one year, or as per Mr. Kelly's note - we have to note the fact that Mr. Kelly was looking for the underwriting - it is actually referring to the five years. In terms of the letter supplied by Mr. Kelly, it refers to the five years.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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That is what the response was to.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct. That would not be signed. You would not sign the other elements of this agreement until you had that side letter. There was deep unease about the fact that we had not seen the commercial arrangement with Renault, what will-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Whether it was signed or not, you went ahead and paid those three payments.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct. RTÉ paid them.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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So whether it was signed or not is totally irrelevant. You agreed. As in the copy of this correspondence, it was agreed to underwrite the contract in its entirety - all three payments.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I have to clarify that.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch told us that "I also asked each individual executive board member to give me a guarantee that they knew nothing about the underwriting"-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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-----and they did. However, they did know and Mr. Lynch had to know-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did not know.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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With all due respect to Mr. Bakhurst-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Deputy Munster, can I have an opportunity-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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-----just two minutes ago he said he had confidence.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Deputy Munster, can I have an opportunity to reply?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Allow Mr. Lynch to come back in for a moment.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Thank you. I stand over exactly what I said. I was referring-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch misled the committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did not.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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No wonder there is frustration here.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Chair, if possible, could my colleague have an opportunity to respond? These are very serious allegations.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Listen to more waffle. That is all it is.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No it is not; it is the response to the Deputy's question.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Hold everything for a second. Try to answer concisely.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I also want the Deputy to give him the opportunity to answer. Just continue for a moment.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

There are three simple things here. First, I was referring specifically to what underpins this entire agreement, which is the agreement on 7 May 2020. Second, RTÉ made three payments to Ryan Tubridy, which was absolutely incorrect. Those payments should have been declared. One was the credit note and two came from a barter account. RTÉ should have declared those payments. I have been completely consistent in that.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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That is not the point. Mr. Lynch knew about the three payments. He knew that the agreement was underwritten by RTÉ. He told us that he spoke to his senior executives and asked them to give a guarantee that they did not know about it.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch accepted that.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch knew about it, his senior executives knew about it and he misled this committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I asked each of the senior executives whether they knew that this deal was underwritten by a verbal agreement between Noel Kelly and Dee Forbes.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Lynch knew and he misled this committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did not mislead this committee.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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You did mislead this committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I did not mislead this committee.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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It is the opinion of the majority of members and we sat through it all.

Mr. Bakhurst said a few minutes ago that he had confidence in his assistant director general.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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With respect, I do not think the committee has made a decision on any issue because we should not do that. I think we should be careful-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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From what we have been given us, we have had to extract information.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Just continue with the question.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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This shows that Mr. Lynch knew about it, the senior executives knew about it because of the email sent on 20 February, and Mr. Lynch told this committee last week that he did not and his senior executives did not.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Again, as outlined in the statement we released, it was quite obvious that negotiations were ongoing. Things were going in and out of this deal. This deal was contractually underwritten on 7 May 2020 and that is the clarification I sought from each member of the executive board.

Regarding the payments, three payments were made to Ryan Tubridy - one based on the credit note, and two from the barter account. When these payments were made, because it was a legal obligation on RTÉ to make the payments, we should have declared them. We have put our hands up in terms of that and how we compiled the figures and published them. RTÉ published inaccurate information about its top earner.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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We were given inaccurate information relating to who knew and who did not know and that is clear as mud.

Mr. Bakhurst said a few minutes ago that he has confidence, and I am sure he will not retract that instantly, but what I am talking about is instilling confidence in the public. Based on a lot of what we have witnessed over the past number of weeks, I would not be very confident moving forward unless there are serious changes because transparency and accountability are what the public wants. Even from this conversation, I do not see that we have accountability. I have just shown emails, repeated what was said at the previous meeting, and the response is as weak as bedamned.

I want to discuss consequences. If the people of Ireland hear about a scandal and lack of corporate governance and that lessons have been learned once more, we will hear them scream in unison with frustration. What people want to see is what the consequences will be. Regarding the executive board members who have either resigned, jumped ship or who have been stepped aside, what we have heard over the past number of weeks is that they will head into the sunset with their exit packages. Would there be a case where in many of those cases a bonus could be due that has not yet been paid?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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What consequences will those people face? I am talking about people who raised false invoices, who engaged in a separate commercial deal and underwrote that deal, which they had absolutely no business doing and which cost the public purse a substantial amount, and who concealed those payments through a barter account that went to Astus, and then to the CMS Marketing account? The whole thing was, as the Chair said, designed to deceive. What consequences will there be, other than those people being told that they need to step aside and go off with their pensions? Where are the consequences because people are sick of the lack of accountability in corporate governance in this State? Once and for all, they want to see consequences, not a slap on the wrist and go off with a pension.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

There have been consequences. Half of the executive team have been stood down or left the organisation. That is a consequence and that is accountability.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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That have stepped down. Does Mr. Bakhurst not mean they have stepped down and moved aside?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

They have resigned or left the organisation.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Right. Are other members of the executive board who have been taken off the board still employed?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am sorry. To whom is the Deputy referring?

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Collins, for example.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes, Mr. Collins is here today. I am very pleased he has come along today and he is working with us very closely.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Collins, in fairness knew absolutely nothing and was oblivious to all of this going on. When we look back-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Time is up, Deputy.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Yes. Previously, when we questioned him about the payments, he had said that he would not have known about them, and the reason he would not have known was because it was either concealed or hidden. When I said that the person who processed those invoices and raised those false invoices was sitting beside him, which was the commercial director, Mr. Collins responded and said that she was not obliged to report to him. Where is the oversight between the commercial, and the barter accounts, and the public funds?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The Deputy is 100%-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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It is madness.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

It is madness. The Deputy is 100% correct about this. We have already taken action about the barter account, and we will take further action about it to make sure there is absolute transparency and accountability every year on that. We are making structural changes on that.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Thank you.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

There are changes going ahead. They are happening right now and some of them have happened already. People have paid a high price for a marginal involvement in some of these things, to be honest with the Deputy.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I call Deputy Ó Cathasaigh.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I would like a quick observation to Mr. Bakhurst. It is fair to say he will be judged on delivery and on the speed of that delivery and change and that goes right across-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I will judge myself on delivery, and I am happy to be judged on delivery.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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I thank the witnesses. I want to make a general point first. In terms of the opening statements we received, Mr. Bakhurst's was relatively straightforward and Ms Ní Raghallaigh's was similarly so. We received those last night in good time to be able to read and review them. Mr. Lynch's opening statement blew the door off the hinges. I thought I was coming here to actually talk about the future of RTÉ and we are still talking about the past. I received that this morning physically in the room. I know everybody on this committee takes the role given to it by the public very seriously and I would have expected that information in a more timely manner. Deputy Alan Kelly has raised issues about people in the press having access to documents before we did.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

In terms of what Deputy Alan Kelly referred to earlier, my assumption is that he was referring to the two emails, one of which was delivered as part of a pack last night, the other one which is being circulated now, just to be clear.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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I thank Mr. Lynch.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

They came to the Committee of Public Accounts first. They were not released to the press.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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I thank Mr. Lynch.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Can I just clarify, just to get the latest update on it? We still do not have the email of 25 April; that is the one we are missing.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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That is the key one.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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And the opening statement, as I said. It was the third opening statement that contained new information and changed the whole context of this meeting. I received that as I walked in today. I do not want to waste any more of my time on it. Somebody very close to me is often heard to say, "There are three sides to every story - your side, my side and the truth." I think that rings very true today, and particularly around this issue of the underwriting. We have a particular set of events set out by Noel Kelly, which is supported, in my opinion, by the email chain that has been referenced by previous contributors. Then there is Mr. Lynch's side of events around underwriting. I find it very difficult to accept, when we see this email chain. Yes, absolutely it becomes legally binding when the verbal agreement is written into it, but it has formed a part of the contract negotiations from the very start. I think that needs to be reflected upon.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Deputy-----

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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No. On the two €75,000 invoices, Mr. Lynch said that RTÉ should never have paid those out. The taxpayer should never have been on the hook. I agree with that but the taxpayer was on the hook for it. The crux of this matter for me is that somebody, somewhere had a conversation. They said, "Flip it, lads, we have to pay out these invoices. Where will we get this money from?". There was a conversation that the witnesses have referenced, that there is a junior person within the organisation whose name they do not want to divulge, right. I do not for a minute believe that junior person made the decision that Astus was the place the money was going to derive from. Somebody, somewhere within the organisation said, "We have to find €150,000. We have to keep it on the QT." I very much agree with what Ms Ní Raghallaigh said that this was something designed to deceive. Someone, somewhere said, "Where can we get a quiet €150,000?", and somebody else said, "Do you know where? Down the back of the couch, barter fund." Who had that conversation because for me, that is the absolute crux of the matter? Who was involved in that discussion?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I totally agree with the Deputy that it is the crux of the matter. The only evidence we have of the credit note and the two payments, and who had the conversation - because there is no email evidence - in terms of this barter account is that there was an instruction from the director general to the director of commercial to have these invoices raised. That happened in the period of time which was, if the Deputy remembers, when NK Management came looking for what was rightfully theirs in January, February, March of 2022. They were looking to be paid, rightfully, for year 2 and year 3. We know because of the evidence we have supplied that the Renault agreement had expired, Renault were not doing six more events-----

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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Is Mr. Lynch making the contention that Dee Forbes had a conversation with Geraldine O'Leary, and that is the conversation about the back of the couch money?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is according to Ms O'Leary's testimony, yes.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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This email from a junior person who will not be named says on it that there are to be no names on the invoices, etc. Ms O'Leary forwarded that to Noel Kelly. The only thing that the body of her email says, as she forwarded these instructions to Noel Kelly, are two words, "As discussed".

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is correct.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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Where and how was this discussed and in what format?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I do not have it. There is no evidence on this file to allow me to say what was discussed or whether there was a conversation between the two of them. However, I agree with the Deputy that the e-mail clearly says "As discussed".

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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I have so many questions, but I am going to have to cut to this one. The last time the witnesses appeared before this committee I asked about cards attached to the barter account. I was told that there were no cards attached to the barter account in any way, shape or form. I understand how payments could be made by way of invoice. We have seen that. We have seen the invoices exchanged. We have seen loads of salacious detail emerge about what was paid for on barter accounts and what was not. One of them jumps out at me, involving a small amount of money at Marco Pierre White's restaurant. They say they were not invoiced. They were not invoiced. I do not see any electronic funds transfer. How was the restaurant paid for if this was paid for out of the barter account and there are no cards attached to that account?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I have also seen the full list of barter transactions. To clarify that one, I will hand over to the head of advertising compliance, Mr. Conor Mullen. He might be able to shed some light or bring the detail to the Deputy.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

My understanding of how barter works is that the individual to be paid raises an invoice.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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It did not apply in this case. Marco Pierre White's restaurant has clarified that it did not raise an invoice.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I will have to come back to the Deputy on that because my understanding is that the party to be paid raises an invoice to Astus and Astus makes the payment.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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We have been told here that it is a barter account and it is not a slush fund. The more we hear about it, the more it sounds like money down the back of the couch, and the more it sounds like a slush fund.

At the last meeting Ms Mullooly attended, she clarified that she was the secretary for the remuneration committee. It did not meet in 2020 at all.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

That is correct.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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It says in the terms of reference that, where necessary, "Meetings may be held by telephone or other suitable electronic means whereby all the members of the committee can hear and be heard". We were told that it was a Covid year. It was a Covid year; we were all online. It says specifically within the terms of reference that they could do it online. Why was this not convened in 2020?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

It was a lapse. There had been a meeting scheduled for early March which did not happen because of the way lockdown panned out. It did not happen after that. I accept that I did not pursue it vigorously enough. That is with me.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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It only met once in 2021. It is supposed to meet twice a year under the terms of reference. I have an additional worry. I went looking for the terms of reference today. It is dated 1 June 2017 but when one looks at the address bar to look for the uploads on the RTÉ website, the address bar dates it as July 2023. Why was that only uploaded in July 2023 and were there any changes made to the terms of reference before it was uploaded?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I think there was an old version on the site and the terms of reference had been updated. That is as I understand it.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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Tá an oiread sin ceisteanna agam ach ba mhaith liom casadh go dtí ceist na Gaeilge agus ceist todhchaí na Gaeilge maidir leis an gcraoltóireacht. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an cathaoirleach tiomanta don Ghaeilge. Cuirfidh mé ceist faoin athbhreithniú a rinne Willis Towers Watson. Mr. Bakhurst, there is a review in place to consider the remuneration of Irish-language workers at Raidió na Gaeltachta in comparison to their colleagues. I think there is also an open question about the funding of programming in Irish. Just because we have TG4 in place and it operates entirely independently does not absolve RTÉ, as a public service broadcaster, of the responsibility for producing high-quality Irish-language programming. I direct this question to both Ms Ní Raghallaigh and to Mr. Bakhurst, as the incoming director general. Where do we stand in terms of the current status of the Willis Tower Watson review in relation to remuneration, particularly of the Raidió na Gaeltachta presenters? What commitments can the witnesses give us in terms of future funding into high-quality Irish-language programming?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I will answer this to start and the chair may want to come in. Regarding the review, I was speaking to the head of HR about that. I think this has been too long in the making and we want to expedite the outcome of it. That has been part of the top-to-bottom review that I have announced of how the organisation is run: the culture, the promotion opportunities, the terms and conditions and so on. We want to get that published as soon as possible. One of the things I have been told at staff meetings is that they have been told for a couple of years that this is coming and they want to know about it. Frankly, we need to communicate with staff about when this is coming because it has been long-awaited. I can update the committee when I have more news on that.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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Céard é dearcadh an chathaoirligh ar an gceist chéanna, is í sin, ceist maoinithe do chláir Ghaeilge agus do láithreoirí?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

Is í mo thuiscint ó thaobh an tuairisc seo, a bhfuilimid ag fanacht uirthi, ná go mbeidh ceist Raidió na Gaeltachta pléite inti. Is í sin mo thuiscint. Tá dualgas ar RTÉ ó thaobh cláir Ghaeilge de. De réir mo thuiscint, ag an bpointe seo tá RTÉ ag comhlíonadh an dualgas atá air. Tá níos mó oibre le déanamh air sin. Má labhraíonn tú le daoine i saol na Gaeilge, deireann siad é sin leat. Is féidir níos mó comhoibrithe a bheith ann idir muid féin agus TG4 ar an gceist sin. I know Mr. Bakhurst feels the same in relation to the Irish language and how the content is-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

In my previous role when I was here in news and current affairs I used to make frequent visits to my "Nuacht" and Raidió na Gaeltachta colleagues in the west and I intend to do that again in this role. In fact I was due to go there tomorrow, but we have a board meeting. I will be going as soon as possible to see colleagues there. That is a priority for me. I have already engaged with some Raidió na Gaeltachta colleagues in some of the staff meetings in Donnybrook and I will continue to do so. It is a very important issue.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Bakhurst, where do you see the future of RTÉ? What type of organisation do you see? Do you see it as commercial or dual-funded as it is? Do you see it as a bigger or smaller organisation? Do you see it as fully State-funded? What is your vision for the broadcaster?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We need to continue and accelerate change in the organisation, both the culture of it and also the way we deliver to audiences. During my interview process, I presented a strategy about what we wanted to do with the organisation. This was particularly about reaching all audiences, continuing to invest in our digital products and maintaining investment in high-quality content.

Regarding the size of the organisation, I think a lot of that is contingent on the way we change it. We are committed to spending more in the independent sector over time. A lot of it is also contingent on funding going forward, which is an issue that has already been touched on here

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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What funding model will you be putting to the Minister and the Government? What will you be suggesting?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

As the Chair may know, we had a number of discussions over the summer before all of this happened about the future of funding.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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At this point, perhaps you have something in your mind's eye.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes. I need to deliver visible change to the organisation. Then I want to take up the discussions on funding. In my mind's eye, what is really critical to the organisation is that we have a long-term solution to public funding and we modernise the way we drive commercial funding

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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We have raised it here before in that context. The day this story broke, we had the Secretary General of the Department, Ms Katherine Licken, in here. My questions were around this issue of funding. Does revenue to RTÉ from online platforms figure in your thoughts in relation to this? Significant amounts of this activity takes place online now. Do you see that as being part of the plan?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

It has not been a proposal that I have discussed here. In my previous role at Ofcom, we looked at the future of public service broadcasting as a whole. One of the options that has been used in a number of countries around Europe is some way of raising funding from some of the significant global players who are in the market there, so it is certainly being done

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Is it a direction that you would be actively considering?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I think any source of funds that helps us to fund public service content would be welcome.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Would you want to see the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff auditing the accounts of RTÉ?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

In the end, that is a matter for the board but if it gives added reassurance, we will take any added reassurance we can get. Our accounts are audited anyway by an outside auditor.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Agus an chathaoirleach, "Tá" nó "Níl"?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

Luaigh mé i mo ráiteas ag an gcruinniú deireanach gur sin an rud a bhí á mholadh agam. I stated in my opening statement previously that I was recommending that.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I just wanted to clarify that while we have the two senior people here. That is what I wanted to hear.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

In terms of my understanding of the legislation, it would require a change in the legislation rather than being a matter for the board to determine. It lies here in the Houses.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Of course. I know that but we do need to get the views of Mr. Bakhurst and the chair.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

In the legislation as it stands-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I could ask the Comptroller and Auditor General whether he wants it or not.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

That is another question. If the Oireachtas decides it is for me, it is something we will undertake. The legislation as it stands allows the board to appoint the auditor but that to me would not be a satisfactory basis for me to undertake the audit.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I think the discussions over the last fortnight have shown that it does need legal and legislative changes. I thank Mr. McCarthy.

To clarify, the final email has arrived. It is dated 25 April 2023 and is to Dee Forbes from Noel Kelly, Noel@cmsmarketing.com. "Hi Dee, I hope you are well. It was good to catch up with you today. If you could please get Ger [I presume that is Geraldine O'Leary] to send me on the invoicing details...". We subsequently saw those. That was the piece of correspondence we were looking for.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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If I can make one point, Mr. Lynch said of this email that it was evidence that they met alone. He supplied additional information about who was at a Teams meeting.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I will deal with that.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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No, but he supplied additional information on who was at a Teams meeting.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I am going to deal with that.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

In terms of the Teams meeting-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Hold on a second. I am asking the questions. On the email, Mr. Lynch raised this and spoke to it. Will he outline for the meeting the significance of what he is saying about this matter? Will he repeat that?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

A statement was made, which is broadly true, that any time Noel Kelly met Dee Forbes - it is important to say they were not friendly, they did not meet that often and it was purely business - in 99% of the cases legal and finance, or at least legal, would be present at the meeting. That is from everything I have seen. In this instance, there was a meeting on Teams with Dee Forbes and Noel Kelly. It could have been about anything but I went and had a look at the email correspondence and found an email from later that day, which is precisely the email the Chair has just read out, which refers to talking to Geraldine O'Leary to get these invoices issued. The only material point I was making in relation to that is we now know the Renault deal had expired, Geraldine O'Leary had made it absolutely clear in all her evidence that she was not going back to Renault and there would not be another six events. That is the point I am making.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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To whom did Geraldine O'Leary make it clear? That is the question.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Sorry, no. Everyone gets their turn for questioning. There will be a second round. The email refers to the online discussion. Who is she referring to there?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Who is who referring to?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Who is Geraldine O'Leary referring to? Were there other people on that call who Mr. Lynch can identify or is it just the unnamed member of staff?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Noel Kelly can clarify that. Certainly, there were no other RTÉ staff. The only two names on the Teams record are Dee Forbes and Noel Kelly.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. Thank you. On the invoices, why were they listed as for consultancy when Mr. Kelly knew that was not the case? Will the CFO provide a brief answer, please?

Mr. Richard Collins:

I have no idea. I was not involved in raising those invoices or advising on how they should be raised.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Page 15 of the Grant Thornton report states: "The Talent’s Agent has also advised me that they have identified a substantial number of invoices on behalf of various other clients where the term 'Consultancy Fees' is used". Was Mr. Kelly talking about other invoices regarding his clients with RTÉ? What does Mr. Collins think he is referring to there? That is what Mr. Kelly told Grant Thornton and he is quoted here. Was he talking about other invoices for other of his clients with RTÉ? What we are talking about regarding this substantial number of other invoices? This is what Mr. Collins said and Grant Thornton has it in black and white on page 15 of its report.

Mr. Richard Collins:

I have not seen these invoices so I cannot comment on what he is talking about there. There may be invoices with consultancy on them but hundreds of thousands of invoices come into RTÉ every year and I do not see them. I see a fraction of that.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Can Mr. Lynch shed any light on this? It refers to a substantial number of invoices.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

All I can say is that in the evidence I have seen in terms of when RTÉ contacted NK Management this year in relation to these two invoices, in both emails that we provided to the committee, NK Management was clear that these invoices related to a verbal agreement between Dee Forbes-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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We are given to believe that this was the only time. Noel Kelly, in fairness to him, came before us voluntarily. He co-operated with the Grant Thornton report. He said he advised Grant Thornton that he "identified a substantial number of invoices on behalf of various other clients where the term 'Consultancy Fees' is used particularly in the context of commercial dealings with non-broadcaster or third parties."

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I would really welcome Mr. Kelly clearing up what he means by that. Were they invoices to RTÉ or invoices to other organisations? If he has other invoices to RTÉ-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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This is in regard to the Grant Thornton investigation into RTÉ's accounts. It is item No. 234 in the report. That is what Mr. Kelly said. It is here in black and white.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Does he mean invoices to RTÉ or invoices to other organisations on behalf of clients? That is what I am not clear about.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Does Mr. Lynch want to shed any light on this?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I think it was really clear from Mr. Kelly's testimony, when I watched it, that he was fully convinced when he raised these two invoices for the UK company, from CMS, that they were for Renault.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. Mr. Bakhurst has come in and a new broom sweeps clean. He has made some significant changes in the early days. I acknowledge that. All these processes are going on and there are committee hearings and everything else. I understand that he is literally hitting the ground racing, never mind running. I understand that. In relation to this matter, however, can he confirm that RTÉ will investigate all of Noel Kelly's clients and their contracts and invoices? Will it examine these invoices? There is obviously a record of copies of invoices there.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Can they now be looked at and will Mr. Bakhurst report back to the committee on it?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes, I would like to satisfy myself as well about that. We will certainly do that.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. Can RTÉ confirm whether Noel Kelly had previously used Astus? That is the London-based company.

Mr. Richard Collins:

As we heard on Tuesday, a charity associated with Noel Kelly had received a donation via Astus.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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So he has used it once.

Mr. Richard Collins:

To the best of my knowledge.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Noel Kelly and Mr. Tubridy stated on Tuesday that they did not know until this week that the €275,000 payments for 2021 and 2022 were from RTÉ. They said that until this week they believed that Renault paid them. Would that have been the case that they would not have known until this week? What do you think?

Mr. Richard Collins:

Is the Chair addressing that to me?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Yes.

Mr. Richard Collins:

The evidence would seem to point towards them knowing they were from RTÉ.

I do not know and I cannot speculate on this. Conversations were going on there but I was not involved in those conversations so it would not be right for me to speculate on that.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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They believed Renault paid him. That is what they said. I do not want to quote them exactly but that is the gist of what they said. They said they believed that was the case until this week.

Mr. Richard Collins:

If that is what they said, then they believed there was a contract in place but I cannot comment on that. That was their belief.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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We would like clarification and to see receipts of what Mr. Kelly is referring to. If Mr. Kelly is looking in I suggest that it would be helpful if correspondence could be sent to him by RTÉ asking him which invoices and which presenters or talent he was referring to there because a substantial number are referred to in the Grant Thornton report. That would be helpful.

We are going to have a second round of questions and I ask members to co-operate as we have to finish at 2 p.m. I invite Deputy Colm Burke to begin. We will run with five minutes each and we will see how we go.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to go back to the issue of the invoice that was raised back on 24 July 2020. I mention the email that was sent from the legal department to Noel Kelly. Mr. Collins was copied in that email. Did it not raise a concern with Mr. Collins at that time that here was the legal department of RTÉ setting out the terms of an invoice to be raised by someone else and that Noel Kelly, Ryan Tubridy and RTÉ were involved in the agreement? Did that not raise concerns with Mr. Collins about the way this matter was being dealt with, from an accounting point of view?

Mr. Richard Collins:

Let me explain what happened here. On guarantees or indemnities being given, in my handover with the previous CFO I was not briefed on anything. The previous director general did not brief me on anything about this. I first became aware-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I fully accept that.

Mr. Richard Collins:

-----of it in emails where Noel Kelly was looking for this indemnity to be given but as far as I was concerned we had a meeting on 30 April. It was discussed at that meeting and the director general confirmed that no guarantee would be given. This email the Deputy is referring to came through in July. Looking at that email, there is nothing in it that would indicate to me that any guarantee is being given there. I read that email and it looked to me that RTÉ had incorrectly invoiced Renault and was crediting that invoice and asking Renault to do the invoice.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Did Mr. Collins not raise any questions as to how-----

Mr. Richard Collins:

No.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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-----his legal department was setting out the terms of how an invoice should be raised-----

Mr. Richard Collins:

No.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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-----for a third party?

Mr. Richard Collins:

To be honest, at that stage and as I said in previous meetings, my number one priority was the survival of RTÉ, the rescue plan and leading that. I saw in the email that the director general involved in it. She was handling this process, as far as I was concerned. That was-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to move on to the barter account. It was nothing to do with RTÉ but we had the national lottery before the committee in the last seven or eight months, which used moneys for prizes that were not collected and more than €120 million was used up in advertising. My understanding is that RTÉ benefited substantially from that funding. Did those people in the national lottery and other people who had major advertising expenditure with RTÉ benefit from that barter account?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

My understanding would be that they did not. I would have to go through it and confirm.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Would Mr. Mullen accept that the national lottery increased its expenditure substantially with RTÉ as a result of moneys that were not collected by people who were entitled to collect it but did not do so for one reason or another? This amount was more than €120 million so RTÉ benefited quite substantially from that money.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I do not have the exact details on a specific client. The client would go to its agency and the agency will deliver a media plan. The media plan will involve multiple media agencies, including press, online, radio and television.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I am asking if major advertising groups benefited from that barter account, which was technically not going through the RTÉ system?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

It is going through the RTÉ system.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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It is now.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

No. It has always gone through the RTÉ system.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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It was not going through in the sense that RTÉ's CFO was not aware of the barter account. The previous chair of the board was not aware of the existence of the barter account.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

Finance would be aware of what was going through the barter account. The way barter works is that 50% of-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I know the way it works but I am raising a question about the decision-making in the use of that money. Were there people who benefited within their companies by putting major advertising in the way of RTÉ and then getting benefits from that barter account?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I do not know what the Deputy means by "benefits".

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I am saying that in the use of the barter account, did people, say from the national lottery, benefit from that barter account in real terms, without it being fully accountable within finance in RTÉ?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

All bookings that would come through via a barter account are fully accountable-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Can I move on to-----

Mr. Conor Mullen:

-----so there is no additional benefit. It is essentially a means of trading air time.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to move on to the issue of Breda O'Keeffe. Who made the final decision about the package she got? Who signed off on it? The cheque had to be paid out and someone had to sign the cheque so someone had to sign off on it.

Mr. Richard Collins:

I did not sign off on it. The first I knew of it was when we were doing the March accounts in the middle of-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Someone signed the cheque.

Mr. Richard Collins:

It would have been put through payroll. It was an instruction.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Someone gave the instruction.

Mr. Richard Collins:

An instruction came from HR.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I have seen some emails on this because I made inquiries after the last committee meeting. It was agreed between the then director general and the then CFO.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The then-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

It was agreed between Dee Forbes and Breda O'Keeffe.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Was any other third party involved?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

There was in the processing but not in the agreement.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Would people involved in the processing not raise a question as regards what-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes. They may well do.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Were questions raised?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We are looking at the process and we are having a wider look at exit packages.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I invite Mr. Lynch to come in briefly.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I was just checking the Astus account because the Deputy was asking about the Noel Kelly invoice. It is in tiny writing. What appears to be the final invoice for the three seems to arrive in May 2022. We must also remember the other two invoices were in May and July for the next payments, but correct me if I am wrong. The final payments for road shows are identified in the Astus account in May but the other two come as well. I wanted to clarify that.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Can we ask the Comptroller and Auditor General to clarify that information?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

I could not possibly do so. I have not examined it.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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I want to ask a question about the payments from 2017 to 2019 and the €120,000, and I know there is an ongoing process on that. RTÉ might give us an update on where that is because it appears that payment was not made to Ryan Tubridy. Would I be correct in saying that?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

In my opening statement on 28 June I set it out. I confirmed that he did not receive the exit fee. I set out how this came about in relation to the question about the €120,000.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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It appears there were some sort of weird accounting practices in RTÉ.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

It was clear that it was not right.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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It was not right.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

So we corrected the record.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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That information was put out there and in the public's mind Ryan Tubridy was guilty of receiving this payment when he did not.

Would it be right to say that?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

No, what was put out was that there was an understatement of the figure and that it was the fault of the RTÉ. That is what was put out there.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. In relation to a comment that Mr. Tubridy made when he was before the committee on Tuesday, he said that he felt his reputation was desperately sullied. In his opening statement, he set out the "seven untruths", as he put them forward. We know that those "untruths" have been challenged by Mr. Bakhurst. Have any legal papers have been served on RTÉ by Ryan Tubridy, Noel Kelly or legal agents representing them in relation to this?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

No.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Nothing?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

As a matter of principle, RTÉ does not comment on legal matters.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Okay, well Mr. Lynch has said "No". Mr. Bakhurst has said "No". The legal representative is saying that RTE does not comment, so I will take it that no papers have been served.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

No.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. I want to ask about the barter account. It has been stated that no credit card was attached to that account. Am I correct in saying that?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I will take that point. It is my understanding, as I said to a Deputy previously, that an invoice is raised to the assets department, and the assets departments makes the payment. That is my understanding.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. So there is no credit card.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

That is my understanding.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Is there a debit card attached to that account?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I understand the only manner is that an invoice was raised and it was paid by the third party.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. Have we asked a question as to whether there was one?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I will confirm that for the Deputy.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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That will be important to establish how those transactions were made, such as whether they were done through an electronic fund transfer or whether a debit card was attached to that. If they could confirm that and come back to us, it would be really useful.

I want to look to the future a little bit. The critical piece here is trying to establish the facts. I am not sure if we are any clearer in establishing the facts and re-instilling public confidence in the national broadcaster. Mr. Bakhurst was asked a question regarding the future of RTÉ, Donnybrook and Montrose. Can he shed any light on what the future holds for Donnybrook and RTÉ? Is a piece of work ongoing there with a potential to sell off the remainder of that site?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes. I did actually spend some weeks of my gardening leave over the summer looking at the future strategy with the executive. I spoke with the chair about it as well. We were doing a lot of work on future options for RTÉ, the future shape of the organisation and future locations of the organisation. It is fair to say we looked a number of options. All the options have advantages or disadvantages. They also all have price tags attached to them, which is-----

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Okay. I am just conscious of time here.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Sorry, yes.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Is it the case that that is an open piece of work? Is it ongoing?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

It is an open piece of work at the moment and a lot of it hinges on future funding, to be brutally honest.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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There has been a lot of backwards and forwards here. There has been finger pointing and "he said, she said" in terms of the evidence that was provided by Ryan Tubridy and Mr. Kelly and this is the case for the information we are getting here as well. From my perspective, it would be very useful to have everyone in the room at the same time. Is that something you would be open to in a future hearing of the Committee of Public Accounts because I think Mr. Tubridy said he would be open to coming back in.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Far be it for me to volunteer to come here again, but yes, of course. We would be open to anything that would shed more light on this. Absolutely, of course we are open to that. Can I just make one point though? The Deputy is right, and some of the other Deputies have made this point that there is a lot of "he said, she said" in trying to get to the bottom of it. There are some key players who are missing from this discussion at the moment. I would welcome their being in the room as well, by the way, if we come back.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Absolutely.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

All I would like to say is that we know fundamentally what went wrong here. These payments were made. They were sanctioned by individuals in RTÉ. They should never have been made. In the end, we will try to get to the bottom of who said what, and so on. We have been trying very hard to do that, but we know what the problem is-----

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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We know what the problem is.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

What I am trying to do is absolutely make sure that will never happen again.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Absolutely. I will conclude with this comment and pick up on the point that Deputy Munster made earlier, which is that mistakes were made, mistakes were allowed to happen, and not in silos. It is important that people are not sidelined and they are not allowed to walk off into the sunset with golden handshakes. There has to be recourse.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I thank Deputy Brady.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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There has to be accountability. Golden handshakes should not be allowed to be part of that exit strategy.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I have to say that would be a very interesting meeting to try to chair. I call Deputy Verona Murphy.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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I will ask Mr. Lynch to revert to something he said earlier. He said that it was belief from watching Noel Kelly's evidence that he believed that Renault was paying the invoices.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes. He was absolutely sure about that.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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But that is not your belief, is it?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Well, I do not know because, again-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Let me just read what Mr. Lynch said in his opening statement this morning. He said: "Moreover, we contend...". This is Mr. Lynch's statement, but he said "we". By "we", he means RTÉ. Is that correct?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Okay. So it states "we contend that the payments of €75,000 per year for the second and third year of the commercial contract were pursued by NK Management despite it knowing that the Renault contract was no longer in place."

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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So which is correct?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

What is stated. The Renault contract was for one year. It was-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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No, what you have stated is that he knew. What you stated here is "despite it knowing that the Renault contract was no longer in place". Yet, Mr. Lynch states that from watching Mr. Kelly's evidence he firmly believed that Renault paid it.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is exactly what he said in his evidence.

Deputy Verona Murphy:Right. Yet, we still do not have any evidence to support what Mr. Lynch says in his statement. He wants both of those statements to be accepted.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Let me just ask then in relation to what Mr. Lynch said about Ms O'Leary. The email that we have received in documented evidence of 29 April has been read into the record. It is to Geraldine O'Leary and it has been signed by a "J". Is that from Jim Jennings to Ms O'Leary?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It is not. That is from a junior member of staff.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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It is a junior member of staff. Does Mr. Lynch not have any email to show who asked that question? Was it the case that Geraldine O'Leary wrote to the junior member and asked and then forwarded that information? It just says, as Deputy Ó Cathasaigh pointed out, "As discussed. G".

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, this had nothing to do with the junior member of staff-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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It is a junior member of staff. I just want to get this right because I find this difficult. The junior member of staff is actually given an instruction. Is Mr. Lynch saying that they are junior to the commercial director?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Right. So the junior member of staff gives information in an email to the commercial director that states: "Hi Geraldine, ... invoice addressed as follows: and in Euro". She gives the name and address of ASTUS. It states "this is for Noel" and it quotes the VAT number. It further states "Do not put any person's name on the invoice. If he sends It back to me I will then sort everything else out". Was that an instruction that Noel Kelly was supposed to send the invoice back to that junior member?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is how I would read that.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Okay.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Also sorry, to clarify, there have obviously been some conversations around this in terms of what is prompting the junior member of staff to say that. I do not know what those conversations were or with whom.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Right.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

But obviously, as the commercial director has said before, she gave this instruction.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

She got this from someone who was obviously in a senior position, other than Ms O'Leary.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Correct, so I think we can read between the lines that that had to be the other person who was contained. Is there a reason why we do not know who she got the information from or why you are not revealing that?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It is not that I am hiding anything. They are the emails that I have.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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But we got these emails from Mr. Tubridy and Mr. Kelly, not from you. These emails are-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Correct.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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So you have no other email that gives us any other information?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I do not.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Right. Okay. Well, I find that really difficult. I really do. Is there an inference from what you are saying about the agreement not being signed up to May that there was no contractual obligation until that was signed?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is exactly what I am saying, yes.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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That is what Mr. Lynch is saying. So had there been no performance of the contract prior to May?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is correct.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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So as far as Mr. Lynch is concerned, even though it was contained within the other contract that-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

It was not contained in the other contract. In the drafts that were sent out - if the Deputy remembers, there were three parts to this: there is the five-year contract, the side letter of fees guaranteed, the termination letter and then a commercial agreement, which as we all know did not surface until the spring of 2021.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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The spring of 2021. Right. Again, we do not have evidence that supports anything, from the emails that end when Ms O'Keeffe goes away and retires, until April again. We have no contemporaneous note of any description. Is that right?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I am sorry - to do with specifically what?

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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As to where it landed in between. From the time it was in almost a contract form – where the last email we have says that the contracts are prepared to be drawn up – is there nothing in between?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

If the Deputy looks at the email that has been circulated from NK Management in 2023 of this year, they are very clear that the need to have a side letter was overridden - I cannot remember the exact language used – by this verbal guarantee that was given by Dee Forbes to Noel Kelly.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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It was already contained in the email of 20 August.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes. Effectively on 7 May-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Which as Deputy Catherine Murphy pointed out, was almost - I just want to ask Mr. Bakhurst again if he has confidence in Mr. Lynch.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

100%.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Regarding the current pay agreement between RTÉ and Ryan Tubridy, considering that the negotiations for a new radio contract have been put on hold, what is Mr. Tubridy getting paid for now and how much?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

He is not getting paid at the moment, as of the last invoice, because we have to agree the level of that. As I said earlier, it is a highly unsatisfactory place to be in but we need to resume discussions about that so that he is paid fairly.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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When exactly did RTÉ receive the invoice from Ryan Tubridy this week?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I got an email a couple of days ago from the finance department saying that we had the invoice. I have not seen the invoice. The question is whether it should be paid. I took advice and the advice was that we cannot pay because we have not agreed what we should pay yet, so we need to agree what we are paying.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What date was it received?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I can only tell Deputy Dillon that I got the email. I have only been here four days. It was a couple of days ago that I got the email saying: "Should we pay it?"

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Will RTÉ seek to recoup the €150,000 in secret payments to Mr. Tubridy or is RTÉ honouring the outstanding six roadshow appearances?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Will we seek to recoup it? I think we have said that the payment is RTÉ's responsibility. We approved that payment, so there is a legal basis. Can we recoup it on a legal basis? I think the answer is probably "No". Should Mr. Tubridy and Mr. Kelly decide to pay it back because they think it is the right thing to do, we would welcome that.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Mr. Tubridy has indicated a willingness, if not called upon, that he would return the money already paid to him for work with Renault. I presume Mr. Bakhurst would enter negotiations with Mr. Tubridy in relation to that. It is taxpayers' money.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We need to talk to Mr. Tubridy in due course. I think I have made myself clear on that. I think in the end it is money from the licence fee payers. RTÉ made a mistake. Mr. Tubridy has done nothing wrong in taking that money, but-----

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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So Mr. Bakhurst will look to recoup it.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Yes.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Was Ms O'Keeffe invited to contribute to the Grant Thornton report?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I am sorry. Was she invited to?

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Was she invited to contribute to the Grant Thornton report?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

In relation to Grant Thornton 1, which was the payments, "No", but Grant Thornton 2, which was dealing with the €120,000 "Yes", and I believe she has met them.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Did she not deserve to contribute to the first report that was issued following a statement by the board?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

The first report related to those two particular invoices, which were raised and paid in 2022, so that is why I understand Grant Thornton made the decisions about who to interview.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Ms Mullooly has confirmed that she has contributed to the second Grant Thornton report about the understatement of €120,000 in earnings in 2017 to 2019.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes, I believe so.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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How is this issue still remaining under review? Why has RTÉ not published the findings of this report and made them available to the Committee of Public Accounts today?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

Because it is not finished yet.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The question is, how much time does RTÉ need to get this report furnished, or even a draft indication of what is contained within it?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

As I understand it, Grant Thornton is interviewing people in relation to this and it is dependent on people being available, but we hope to have the final report soon.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The reality is that RTÉ is crumbling at the moment. There is urgency in regard to the report. It was on the basis of the €120,000 understatement that we started this investigation. Is that correct?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

Yes.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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So we are none the wiser, as a committee, in relation to what was uncovered by the board issuing a statement to that degree.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

As I have said, what we do understand is that it was an error; that the figures were understated and that has been confirmed.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Mr. Tubridy rejects the understatement and RTÉ still cannot present the argument or the evidence to the contrary.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I do not think he has rejected the understatement.

Mr. Robert Shortt:

If I could just add my insight into this. The Deputy can correct me if I am wrong, but I think what Mr. Tubridy was taking issue with was his perception that the €120,000 bullet payment or termination bonus for his previous contract was not paid. We acknowledged that it was not paid. I accept that these things are kind of difficult to understand, but that is a separate although maybe related issue to the understatement of his earnings over the years from 2017 to 2019. We were very clear, and the chair's statement last week made very clear, that the €120,000 was not paid, and that the €120,000, as related to the earnings, was a mistake on RTÉ's behalf, which we then corrected.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I would also like to say that the interim report that we sent the committee yesterday evening is part of that work. The interim report has been made available and the remainder, which is looking into the facts around the €120,000, is in process.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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When will we have delivery and visibility of the report? The Dáil is in recess next week. When does RTÉ expect to publish the report?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

In the coming weeks.

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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But that is not-----

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

It is dependent on Grant Thornton, which is doing this independently I might add, so I have to respect its processes. It is dependent on them being able to meet people in order to interview them and make the facts known after that.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I will just go back to the tripartite agreement. When did RTÉ become aware that the tripartite agreement from Mr. Kelly existed in its written format? What is the earliest date for knowledge of that agreement?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

In terms of the written agreement, I think it was furnished in April 2021.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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The invoice to Renault was issued in 2020, and the contract was signed by Renault in 2021.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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It seems unbelievable to me that Renault would pay an invoice a year before it would sign a contract. I think Mr. Lynch has indicated.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I can clarify that one, based on the testimony from Geraldine O'Leary. It is that in order for Renault to pay the invoice, it wanted the contract in place outlining what the commitments were. That is my understanding.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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So it was not paid until 2021, despite the invoice being raised in 2020.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is correct.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Despite all the other parts of the five-year agreement being signed, sealed and finalised, the tripartite agreement was not actually in written format until 2021 for anybody involved in it.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is right.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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When the tripartite agreement was finalised, we were well into Covid. We knew well what the restrictions were. We knew well there were limitations.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is right. Yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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That is new information. It is breathtaking to think that was the case; and the document was not signed by RTÉ.

Was the document ever presented to RTÉ for signature?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

The document was sent, as I said, in April 2021. It had one signature, which I think was the Renault signature. We only got the copy with the NK Management signature when we asked for it this year. I have not located a copy with an RTÉ signature.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Was there no request for RTÉ to sign the tripartite agreement?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I do not know. It seems to have been transmitted via DocuSign. As I said, I have done the searching that I can and I have not found it.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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We then jump to the payment of the two invoices. There seems to be a gap in what we know here. Mr. Kelly talked about his side. He asked RTÉ to pay those two invoices. At that point, we know the Renault agreement was there. Who was Mr. Kelly asking?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Mr. Kelly asked the commercial director, as per Grant Thornton.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Were all the dealings around the two invoices dealt with between Mr. Kelly and Ms O'Leary?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

He was also writing to the solicitor's office looking for payment.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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He was seeking payment at that point. He asked RTÉ to make payment on two invoices. He was aware he was asking RTÉ to pay those invoices or to arrange for Renault to pay those invoices. Is that right?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I think the phrasing used was "looking to get paid for years two and three".

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Was he looking for it from RTÉ?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Mr. Kelly's statement is that he had no idea what Astus was, no reason to believe Astus was linked to RTÉ and no reason to believe Astus was making the payment on behalf of RTÉ. That is how he put it.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I want to make an important clarification. From one email I have seen, he was looking for a "solution" to years two and three.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Is it credible for Mr. Kelly to say he did not know RTÉ was paying those two invoices?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is up to Mr. Kelly to answer.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I am asking Mr. Lynch. Mr. Kelly came to RTÉ looking for a payment. Does Mr. Lynch think there was an honest belief by Mr. Kelly that it was Renault making those payments?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Based on the evidence I see in front of me, the Renault deal had basically expired on the 21st of the month, even though the events were still being delivered. The commercial director was not asking for Renault to deliver another six events. On that basis, I am not quite sure what Mr. Kelly was thinking.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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To whom does Mr. Tubridy owe the six events?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

He does not owe six events to anybody because Renault never signed up for another six events.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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There seems to have been a misunderstanding by Mr. Kelly on the day of the difference between what "underwritten" meant and what "guaranteed payments" meant. He seemed to argue it meant RTÉ would continue to facilitate it with another sponsor. For RTÉ to pay the fee, RTÉ must have taken the legitimate interpretation that it was responsible for paying it in the absence of Renault paying it.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

In the context of the discussion and even in terms of what Mr. Kelly said on yesterday, the reason they wanted it underwritten was if the sponsor became unavailable, they needed guarantees in respect of the fees.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Mr. Kelly knew the sponsor was unavailable at that point.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

That is my understanding.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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If the sponsor was unavailable, the only one paying here was RTÉ.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes, unless he thought there was going to be some other-----

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I have a final question. Mr. Kelly said in regard to the other Astus charge against a lunch to which his name is attached and he may not have been involved in, that the charity in the case may have been instructed by RTÉ to charge Astus. Will the witnesses check whether there is any documentation within RTÉ that relates to that lunch in aid of Chernobyl and how it should be invoiced? That would be interesting to the committee.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

If I may, I will give a clarification. I have received a text from the former CFO to say she would dispute the idea that nobody on the executive board knew-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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A Chathaoirligh, there is something wrong with introducing text messages from somebody into this discussion. My God.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Yes, we cannot receive second-hand evidence. The next speaker is Deputy Catherine Murphy.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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I want to go back to the legal document over which the witnesses are claiming privilege. The person was not being advised on rights or entitlements. Was it not the case this was around the consideration of a contract? Would that not be legal assistance rather than anything else?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

For that reason, and lest there be any criticism of RTÉ in regard to this, we have sent out the file for external review. If the reviewer forms the view it is legal assistance rather than legal advice, we will make what we can available. That is the commitment I have given.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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When is Ms Mullooly likely to have that review?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I am waiting to hear back. I have not got it back yet.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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It would have been helpful to have that matter resolved by now.

Going back to the redundancy issue, we were told there were two sets of redundancies, which were in the public domain. There were the redundancies in 2017. We were told Breda O'Keeffe was party to the 2017 redundancy package. Is that right?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

My understanding is that she exited in 2019.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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I had understood she was still there in 2020.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I apologise. She exited in March 2020.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Then there was a 2019 exit package. Is that right?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

There were two packages, in 2017 and 2021. In regard to Ms O'Keeffe, I cannot comment on individual cases but we are going to look into this and then report back.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Was she the most senior person who exited, as Mr. Lynch recalls? He would have been involved or would have had a responsibility, as would the director general and the HR person, to sign off on this. Is it right to say he would have considered this?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

All the voluntary exit package, VEPs, applications came to the executive board. I joined the executive board in September 2017. I think this was happening in October or November. I remember the process.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Was Ms O'Keeffe the most senior person involved?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

As I said earlier, the first time I understood Breda O'Keeffe exited on a VEP was last week, when she announced it.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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The whole idea of this was that there would be a cost saving. I have already highlighted that the role was still there. Was there a cost saving in this?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Again, we need to investigate the detail. Overall, the cost saving was €12.7 million, but we need to look specifically into that situation.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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If the role is not redundant, I imagine there is a revenue issue there. That will have to be clarified.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

If I may, I will comment on this in general terms. Sometimes, one role goes and the argument is that another role within the team is suppressed as a cost saving. It is not directly one role for the exact same role. That is what we need to look into.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Several people have made a point about the seventh untruth. Ryan Tubridy said in his statement:

[B]ecause of how RTÉ reported that decision in its accounts, the narrative of the last three weeks has been that not only did I take this payment but that I somehow contrived to hide it. Let me reiterate: I actually waived my entitlement to this payment...

We have heard from Ms Ní Raghallaigh and Mr. Shortt. Everybody now knows this was not paid. With regard to the €120,000 and how it was reported, I can understand why Mr. Tubridy feels there was reputational damage.

I am struggling with all these reviews. They are costing a lot of money. We have Grant Thornton and Mazars. We know Eversheds Sutherland was involved over the years. There is a whole industry of reviews in RTÉ. Is there any idea of how much this is costing?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Not as yet because we do not know the scope of all the reviews. The Deputy is absolutely right that there is going to be a significant price tag for this. However, we need to get to the bottom of it and we need independent verification of it. We are absolutely committed to working with the Government reviews but the Deputy is absolutely right that there will be a price tag, and it will be a significant one.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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It is accepted that the sum was not paid. Grant Thornton is chasing after an amount that was not paid. Am I right on that?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

As I understand it, Grant Thornton wants to look at why it was accounted for in that way. Even those of us who have asked questions about it do not yet understand it. We hope Grant Thornton can give us the answers. I do not understand why it was accounted for in that way and I have asked the question a number of times.

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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On a point of order, we need to address the fact Ms O'Keeffe has said she has nothing further to add to this committee and has not come before us today. I am at a loss to know exactly how seriously Mr. Lynch is taking this, when he thought it was appropriate to correspond though text message in the middle of our committee meeting and was going to deliver a message from someone who has refused to appear in front of the committee.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Does he have an update for the committee?

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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On a point of order, I am at a loss to know how we can do business like that and how Mr. Bakhurst can have confidence in him. That is so serious. I am not sure Mr. Lynch understands the seriousness of what is actually happening here.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Can I respond to that, please?

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Please do.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I will be really brief. I received a text 20 minutes ago or whatever it was. Therefore, I thought it was very important, having made a statement in front of the House, that it should be correct with that information. I felt it was material, otherwise I would have walked out of here today-----

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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Unfortunately, the member that he-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Ms O'Keeffe has the opportunity to come back and appear before the committee again.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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She cannot come back. She has never been here before.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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She has never appeared before this committee. She appeared before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media but not the Committee of Public Accounts.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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She has appeared before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, but we would like her to appear. Are we agreed that we would like to see her at the Committee of Public Accounts in the future?

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
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No, Chair, I am not agreeing to that. What I am saying is we need to address the fact we are being corresponded with by an outside person via text message.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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That is not going to happen. That has been clarified.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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Chair, I would like to-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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We might agree to ask Ms O'Keeffe to appear before this committee. She has appeared before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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I will finish off the point with regard to the redundancy. Mr. Lynch was on that executive board - he told us that - yet he told us that the first time he heard about this exit package was two weeks ago. How could that be? If he was on that board, how would he not know?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

I never saw paperwork with regard to Ms O'Keeffe.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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How does he sign off on a very big amount-----

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

In terms of the process, it will literally come from the people in operations, content and channels who deal with that. For what is happening in terms of the backfill and cost savings, that documentation would have been provided.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I will add to that if I may. This is one of the issues here. Some of these major decisions did not come to the full executive to the best of my knowledge. One of the things I am trying to address is that all significant decisions across the organisation come to the full leadership team now.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I thank Mr. Bakhurst. I call Deputy O'Connor.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The first point I want to take up is with regard to what was said last Thursday in relation to the internal audit department. I will address this to Mr. Collins and Mr. Lynch. Am I right in saying there were two people? That is extraordinary for an organisation with 1,600 people. I wish I was putting this point to Ms Dee Forbes but she is not here for obvious reasons. Two people are not a committee. I do not know what to call it. I even checked other large organisations. I checked our local UCC. It has a minimal requirement to have five to seven people, and our national broadcaster had two people. We are all trying to establish why we are looking at a burning mess in front of us today and the staff in RTÉ-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I am not finished. The staff in RTÉ are trying to figure that out as well. It has to have come from some type of structure that was totally and utterly inadequate, inappropriate and negligent in the highest order. I have to come back to Mr. Bakhurst again. He was assistant director general of RTÉ at one point. How can anyone stand over this?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

Stand over what?

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The fact the audit and risk committee only had two people on it. Was only one of them a qualified accountant?

Mr. Richard Collins:

I can confirm that one is definitely a qualified accountant-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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What is their-----

Mr. Richard Collins:

-----and maybe two are.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I do not want names, but what does the other person do?

Mr. Richard Collins:

The other person assists the senior auditor.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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What does that mean?

Mr. Richard Collins:

That person sits on audits with them.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Is that person in the accounting department? Is it Dustin the Turkey?

Mr. Richard Collins:

The audit department sits outside the accounting department. It has nothing to do with finance.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

They report to the audit and risk committee.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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What did they report? Did they identify anything?

Mr. Robert Shortt:

They identified a number of issues over the years, such as business continuity and what happens if RTÉ goes down technically. They identified uses of credit cards for purchasing. There are a whole range of issues they have worked on.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I will ask Mr. Shortt because he seems to have some information on it. Would they have done a report per se?

Mr. Robert Shortt:

Yes, they have done reports and the reports have been submitted to the audit and risk committee.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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On foot of that information from Mr. Shortt, which was very helpful and for which I thank him, will Mr. Bakhurst publish them? Will he show us what they say?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The internal audit?

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Yes, and the special reports on individual items, not just the internal audit report.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We will certainly look at what we can publish. I would need to go away and take advice-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I need a commitment from Mr. Bakhurst on this.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I cannot give the Deputy a commitment without taking proper legal advice and knowing what the content of it is. However, my bias would be to absolutely publish them if we can, and if we cannot, we will come back and explain why. However, I would hope we can publish them.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The first day these issues were identified, and I do not think Mr. Bakhurst is in a position to answer this so I will come back to Mr. Lynch, it was a whistleblower who originally brought these issues to the attention of RTÉ, was it not? It was not the first Grant Thornton report.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

That is not my understanding. The chair of the RTÉ board can bring the Deputy through the sequence of events from March.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Please, if that is okay with the chairperson.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I am sorry; what are we talking about?

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The original issues that were brought to light. We had the €345,000 and the Renault payments.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

Yes.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Was it a whistleblower within the organisation who brought these issues to public light rather than the Grant Thornton report?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

No. What happened was that, in the course of an audit, the two payments of €75,000 in the barter account were questioned.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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No, they were hidden payments. Am I right in saying the first Grant Thornton report did not identify that? RTÉ issued a statement, and I stand to be corrected, that Mr. Tubridy's salary was undervalued by €75,000. Is that not correct?

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

No.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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This is just to be careful here. I actually have that.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I am sorry; if I can just bring the Deputy through the sequence of events-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I do not mean to interrupt Ms Ní Raghallaigh but on 22 June, RTÉ issued the following statement:

In addition ... [to the] following the furnishing of the findings of the Grant Thornton review, RTÉ carried out a review of Mr. Tubridy’s previously stated remunerations. Through this review, it was identified that Mr. Tubridy’s remuneration had been ... [underestimated] by RTÉ by a figure of €120,000 over the contract period of 2017-2019. The circumstances that led to this understatement by RTÉ are currently under examination.

[...]

Grant Thornton will also review the understatement by RTÉ of Mr. Tubridy’s published remuneration by €120,000 ... [during] the period 2017-2019.

There was an internal review that discovered the €120,000 issue that was not published. This was between the first Grant Thornton report and the second, which I understand is ongoing.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

When the first report came out-----

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Where did that information come from? That is what I want to get at.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

I am trying to explain. When the first Grant Thornton report came out, we had to validate that there were no other issues with regard to understatement or otherwise of published information regarding the top ten earners. In that process, we looked at the period in question, which was 2020 to 2022, and it was verified that there was nothing other than the anomaly with the two €75,000 payments. The board then requested that we look at the previous set of published numbers as well as a precaution. It was in that process, which was after the first Grant Thornton report and in the validations internally by RTÉ when it requested the numbers from the board, that we discovered there was an understatement of €120,000 in the period from 2017 to 2019.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I thank Ms Ní Raghallaigh. I call Deputy Munster.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Bakhurst said in his opening statement that RTÉ would not be brokering or facilitating separate commercial deals into the future. That is welcome. He also spoke about the barter accounts and how the fees were too high at 35%. We questioned it at committee, although I do not know which hearing it was. The fee was 35% and the normal rate would have been approximately 15%. From speaking to others since, however, it is a lot less than 15%. We could be paying 30% or 25% over and above. I am curious as to how Mr. Bakhurst will be able to bring this down. He said he was going to keep the barter accounts. Astus, for example, charges the 35% fee. How does Mr. Bakhurst bring the fee down if he is keeping that particular account? Is that possible to do?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

I might bring in Mr. Mullen in a minute because he is the expert on this. The two issues are that we need the barter account to trade airtime and that is in the commercial negotiation.

What we pay is probably broadly in line with industry norms. Mr. Mullen might be able to say a bit more about that. The other payments that came out of the barter account attracted similar charges. That is a reason not to pay them out of the barter account. If Mr. Mullen wants to talk about what we pay them-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The fees are over and above what is standard. I do not know who negotiated or agreed to it but it is costing-----

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

We need to look at that. We need to have a barter account for airtime. On whether it is competitive, Mr. Mullen can probably give his experience.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

We need to look at the contracts and when they run to and then we can discuss negotiations. My understanding is that it is a common cost because you have to amalgamate the money that comes in straight to the line and the cash out, which is the 35% fee. You aggregate them together and it comes out at about 82.5% or 83%. Is there something we can do better in that regard? It is down to us to renegotiate that.

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

The Deputy is right. It does not make sense to make any payments that do not relate to airtime out of the barter account because you are paying 15% to 35% on them.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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It is over a third. When I asked the commercial director about the 35%, she said that approximately 15% is the standard.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

Yes. That is for a standard agency booking like I outlined to Deputy Colm Burke. Agencies representing multiple clients will make bookings. They will devise media plans across different media. The agency receives a commission, which is generally 15%.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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It just seems foolish to fork out that amount of money because it is RTÉ that is losing the money. If it is something that can be addressed, it must be. We are all exhausted with all of this but I am still curious about the emails Noel Kelly sent to us. Both the Committee of Public Accounts and the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media requested the whole shooting gallery including the agreement, the payments, the invoices and the deal. We asked for the whole lot. Noel Kelly came in and furnished us with those invoices and they showed the correspondence with Breda O'Keeffe, the email saying not to attempt to put a name on this and to put it under consultancy fees. When we requested all information pertaining to all of this from RTÉ, why did we not get it?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

As I have stated before, we have a legal file that contains these documents. I have sent it externally and asked for it to be reviewed. What we can supply, we will. With regard to-----

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Again asking out of my own curiosity, what would preclude RTÉ from furnishing us with the email that said not to put a name on the invoice?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

My understanding is that the email was given to Grant Thornton, which dealt with it in its report.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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No, but what stopped RTÉ furnishing us with that when we requested all the information, however?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

It is dealt with. The issue with the instruction is set out quite clearly in the Grant Thornton report. It spoke to all the relevant people involved and it has all the documentation.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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We had sought copies of all correspondence, however. That is my point. We were not furnished with that.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I was not aware that the committee had sought copies of that particular document.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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For the public, when you sit back and look at how the executive board entered into a separate commercial deal to underwrite payments to its top-paid presenter, it is hard to credit that the Renault deal ran for one year with RTÉ covering that €75,000 for Renault - it would not have to worry because it would all look good on paper - and the other two €75,000 payments for the other two years. The executive board went to all that bother to top up payments for its highest-paid presenter. We have been going back and forward for three weeks but will someone at some stage - we may have to wait for the forensic accountant or one of the reviews - just put their hands up and say that members of the executive board took it upon themselves to arrange to underwrite a deal so that its top-paid presenter would be subsidised for a pay cut with a top-up, that the deal was to be run through the barter account and that the public purse was going to pay? At this stage, people would have far more respect for RTÉ if it was to put its hands up because this makes no logical sense. We can go over the Renault deal and the whole lot but nothing makes sense other than that members of the RTÉ executive board took it upon themselves to make a deal with the top presenter's agent to sort out the cut in salary and to make it up by orchestrating this arrangement to be paid out of the public purse and stashed through the barter account. If someone said that, that could at least be respected.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I will take that as a statement and call on Deputy Ó Cathasaigh.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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One of the frustrations here is that there were structures that should have caught this but that, as Deputy O'Connor drew attention to, they were under-resourced. There was a risk committee comprising two members over an organisation of such size generating such revenues. There was also the remuneration and management development committee. If these were properly resourced, they would have caught these issues.

I will focus on that remuneration committee, RemCo. It did not meet in 2020. Do I understand correctly that it met once in 2021?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

I believe that is correct.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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How many times did it meet in 2022?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

It did not meet in 2022.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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Has it met in 2023?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Yes.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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How many times?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

Once.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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There is supposed to be a minimum of three people on RemCo. How many people are on it?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

There are three people on RemCo.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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It is at least populated to the minimum level. On the business of exit packages, I am looking at the duties of RemCo and section 4(b) of its terms of reference say that one such duty is "Consulting with the Director-General in relation to the remuneration package of executive management". Should this have caught the voluntary exit package issue?

Ms Paula Mullooly:

This is something the chairperson and I have just been discussing. It does not seem to cover this. It covers remuneration packages. There is a board meeting tomorrow. The terms of reference for the remuneration committee are on the agenda for that meeting. That is part of the discussion.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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I will direct my next question to the director general and the chairperson. Can we please, for the love of God, make sure that RemCo meets twice a year at a minimum and that it is properly resourced? Can we please also have a look at the size of the audit and risk committee? In fairness to Anne O'Leary, she came across these two problematic invoices on St. Patrick's Day and reported up the chain. Even though there were only two people on the committee at the time, they at least caught the thing.

Ms Paula Mullooly:

There is a slight misinformation there. There is an internal audit function in RTÉ, which comprises two people, and there is the internal audit committee of the board, which has four members.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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The point still stands with regard to an organisation of this size. Will RTÉ give a commitment here and now that these structures, which should have caught all of this carry-on, will be properly resourced from here on out?

Mr. Kevin Bakhurst:

As I said earlier on, we will definitely do that. This is going to be part of the review. We need proper governance in place. If that means putting in more resources, while I have never been one to volunteer to spend more money on accountants, we will do it.

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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With regard to future governance, I had hoped there would be a future focus today. I will go back to the issue of the register of interests, which is something Mr. Bakhurst has committed to. As I have said before, there is clear blue water between the programmes and ad breaks. People understand that ads are paid for. That is quite different from commercial sponsorship and very different from product placement, which is a much more opaque way of selling material. In December of last year, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action heard about the role of advertising, specifically with regard to climate coverage. Something the committee heard is that members of the editorial staff sit on the internal sponsorship committee. The Chinese wall is quite clear between advertising revenue and content. One does not talk to the other, nor should it. However, there is no doubt but that money buys influence. We have to be straight and honest about that. Is it appropriate for editorial staff to sit on an internal sponsorship committee? While I am only giving Mr. Bakhurst 60 seconds, which is not much, I am giving him the opportunity to lay out his plans regarding the establishment of a register of interest because it should be clear if presenters or senior executives are getting money from someplace else, just as it is and should be for politicians.

What are RTÉ's plans to make clear to the public what influence money is buying?

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I will answer the points with regard to advertising sponsorship and product placement first. There are very clear guidelines from what was formerly BAI, now Coimisiún na Meán, in terms of the general commercial communications code. They stipulate very strictly to what you have to adhere, but-----

Photo of Marc Ó CathasaighMarc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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But people sell porridge and car ads as well.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

Please hear me out. In advertising, we have two people who clear all of the advertising that goes across radio and television. Every single commercial message that goes out across RTÉ radio and RTÉ television has to go through the clearance committee. We have to make sure the ads that are there are legal, decent, truthful and honest and protect our audience.

In terms of the Deputy’s question regarding the sponsorship committee, it is absolutely essential that there are editorial people there because they have a say in terms of saying, “Is this suitable?” We have listed very clear sponsorship guidelines on our website as to what is suitable and what is not. Similarly, with regard to product placement, and Coimisiún na Meán measures us in this way, the measurement and the bar in terms of adherence to code is raised each time, so as you get closer to the content sponsorship, the bar is higher, and as you get into the content, product placement is higher again. Product placement is very heavily restricted. Product placement has to go through an approval process as well. It is very clear and I am at pains outlining this to people. It is really important that it is clear and transparent to our audience with regard to any kind of messaging like that. I am constantly telling people they must avoid thematic placement.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Thank you.

Mr. Conor Mullen:

I am sorry, I just wanted to make it clear.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Thank you. Mr. McBennett wishes to comment.

Mr. Declan McBennett:

With regard to the register of interest, as a manager within RTÉ, I cannot tell the Deputy how much that would be welcomed by the managers within RTÉ in terms of levelling the playing field across the staff. You do not want staff at different levels, and you certainly not do not want staff who are looking across the fence at somebody who is getting something, or who may be getting something, or there is an innuendo or a sense, so the register of interest will be welcomed broadly across RTÉ.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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I want to ask Mr. Collins in regard to earnings and published earnings for the 2017 period. There are still questions around Mr. Tubridy's earnings for 2017. There is still a difference of €34,000 between his contract and his published earnings. Mr. Collins might help me with this. There has been a lot of talk about €120,000. Can we accept that his earnings in that period were understated by €120,000, that is, €20,000 in 2017, €50,000 in 2018 and €50,000 in 2019? Yes or no? Were they understated by that amount?

Mr. Richard Collins:

The disclosure overstated them by that.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Mr. Noel Kelly, his agent, acted on his behalf and we have had explanations around this, but Mr. Tubridy received €120,000 more than the published earnings, so we will put that to bed. The updated figures from RTÉ on 22 June were €511,000 in 2017, €544,000 in 2018 and €545,000 in 2019. Mr. Collins is still certain those figures are correct.

Mr. Richard Collins:

That is what he actually earned in those three years.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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That is fine. With regard to 2017, there is one matter that we noticed, which is that the presenter’s contract was €544,000 just for 2017. To recap on those figures, the original one published by RTÉ was €491,000. It turned out it was €20,000 more than that and was €511,000, but the presenter's contract was €544,000 - I am not counting the pennies and I will round off the euros. Will Mr. Collins explain that to me? There is a difference of €34,000 between the contract and the published earnings. Why is that?

Mr. Richard Collins:

I would need to go away and check that. I cannot see the figures.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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It jumps out, does it not?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

I might be able to cast some light on that. It looks like the contract was actually a September to August contract and, therefore, year one or year two would not necessarily correspond to a calendar year. I think once you blend the figure for 2017, that might be part of the-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Would that be a possible explanation?

Mr. Richard Collins:

I would need to double-check that.

Ms Si?n N? Raghallaigh:

That is the basis of the interim report - that they have done it on the accounting practice.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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We look forward to seeing that. What was actually received was €120,000 more than what was originally published. That is what I want to clarify. The Comptroller and Auditor General has suggested an explanation. Mr. Collins can come back and definitively clarify this with regard to the €34,000 gap.

I will move on to the classification of contractors. There was a €1.2 million settlement. It took us a number of pieces of correspondence and a long committee hearing to try to get to the bottom of this. There was a settlement, and while we did not actually get the figure that day, as I recall, we did conclude. I suggested a figure of more than €1 million and I think we got an indication that it was €1.2 million. We note from the previous engagements with RTÉ that discussions are ongoing with the Department of Social Protection and that was undertaken on the back of the Eversheds report and the €1.2 million settlement with the Revenue Commissioners. What is the current status of the Department of Social Protection audit? If the witnesses do not have the answer, I understand that, because they might not have it just three or four days into this. Perhaps Mr. Lynch could answer briefly. What is the current status of that?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

In terms of the scope, I think it was at the joint Oireachtas committee that I brought and read out the numbers. There were 500 cases. I am very happy to furnish the template to the committee.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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There were 500 cases.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes, 500 cases. I think it was-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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They are under active examination at the moment.

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

Yes. I think 147 have been resolved, so each of them is on the record, but I am very happy to furnish an explanation to the committee.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Has RTÉ been informed of the potential liability accruing as a result of this Department of Social Protection audit?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

In terms of that, we have obviously made a provision ourselves-----

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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How much?

Mr. Adrian Lynch:

We are not saying what the provision is because we do not want to prejudice the ongoing cases.

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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Is it substantial?