Friday, 10 December 2010
Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)
Fergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
That is fine and if Deputy Hayes arrives, I will be happy to share.
One of the key issues is the credibility of the public service process when significant pensions, gratuities or bonuses over and above what are normal amounts are awarded to people, amounts more than are usual even in the private sector. When I was party spokesperson on transport I was aware of the pay package of the chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority which amounted in total to €750,000. This is a significant sum for one person to earn. The scandal in the public sector is that in some cases the Minister's political control has not been evident. I know attempts are now being made to bring this control into play. There must be control over the bonuses, credibility and accountability of chief executives of certain State commercial firms. It is a national shame that this has not been the case up to now. I received a number of replies to parliamentary questions, including some from the Minister for Finance. In the current financial situation it might be better if special bonuses which may be small in some cases, were not paid until the country is out of this crisis.
In the education sector there has been a significant number of reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General with regard to excessive pay or moneys being paid to individuals at the highest level in education which have not been sanctioned by the Minister or by the Higher Education Authority. I refer to the situation in the University of Limerick where over a two-year period, three presidents were all drawing a full presidential salary. A former president of NUI Galway voluntarily repaid over €250,000. There are issues in UCD over pay in excess of €1.3 million. No later than last week, there have been issues arising about the Royal Irish Academy of Music where significant amounts of money seem to have been paid over and above what was the going rate. With regard to FETAC, a number of employees took part in a restructuring programme and received pensions over and above what they would have expected to receive. Control of public sector expenditure is at the heart of these issues with reasonable and moderate bonuses being paid - if at all - in good times while in bad times everybody must put their shoulder to the wheel. I have a query on the situation in FETAC. It is currently carrying out nationwide audits of FÁS courses. What audits have been carried out in the past 12 months since the scandal of the FÁS manipulation of courses has come to public notice? What new information was FETAC given on 10 November and what are the results of the audits? At the heart of the public service is its credibility. FETAC should make a statement today about its actions and the information it has received. We must affirm the audit and the work but the quality of the certification of its courses is paramount and critical because more than 300,000 people per year receive FETAC certification. I refer to FETAC in the context of the credibility and accountability of the public sector. Those at the top in every organisation, particularly in the public sector, must be seen to take their fair share of the burden. There must be an end to these bonuses and the abuses which have been brought to our attention by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
The Higher Education Authority spent nine years writing to the universities to say these payments must cease as they were not sanctioned by the Minister but nothing happened. There has been a lack of ministerial accountability or vigour in pursuing these issues even though the abuse was clear and moneys were paid without ministerial sanction. This is the weakness at the heart of this Government. We need a general election to put a new team in place who will insist on more accountability and transparency from all these public bodies.