Minister attempts to increase adviser's salary


MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has made several attempts over recent months to secure a higher pay scale for one of his special advisers.

The Minister has also made applications for a higher pay rate for his personal secretary.

In April last year Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin approved the appointment of Seán Faughnan as a special adviser to Dr Reilly for six months on a salary of €80,051 – the first point of the pay scale for principal officers in the Civil Service.

It is Government policy that special advisers should be paid at this rate, except with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

In June of last year, Dr Reilly sought to have Mr Faughnan’s salary increased to €92,672, the maximum point of the principal officer’s pay scale.

Last October Dr Reilly sought to extend Mr Faughnan’s appointment “because of the important work he is engaged on in relation to the implementation of the Government’s programme of reform in the health sector”.

In his letter to Mr Howlin, Dr Reilly in effect suggested restructuring his team of special advisers. He proposed that Mr Faughnan would work on a one-third basis in the future and suggested appointing the former chief executive of the Northern Area Health Board, Maureen Windle, who retired in 2005 under a special severance arrangement for former health board senior management, as a special adviser on a two-thirds basis.

“Since Ms Windle has extensive experience of the health system at senior management level, I would appreciate your sanction to her appointment at the maximum point of the principal officer standard scale (€92,672) on a pro-rata basis.”

Mr Howlin approved the extension of Mr Faughnan’s contract on his existing salary, reduced to take account of the fact that he would be working fewer hours.

However, Mr Howlin, in a letter to Dr Reilly last November, refused to sanction Ms Windle’s appointment.

“Government policy is that there should be a maximum of two special advisers per minister and that advisers should normally be appointed on the minimum of the principal officer’s scale.

“Her appointment would mean that you would have three advisors, albeit the equivalent of two on a whole-time basis. However, from a public perception it is likely that it would be seen as three advisers,” Mr Howlin wrote.

Mr Howlin also maintained that the combined job-share salary for Mr Faughnan and Ms Windle, proposed by Dr Reilly, would be above the approved rate for the post – the minimum point on the scale.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform later indicated that Mr Howlin would be prepared to sanction a job-share arrangement on a combined salary of €80,051 “with appropriate pension abatement for Ms Windle”.

However, Mr Howlin was subsequently given a hand-written letter on the notepaper of the office of the Minister for Health requesting Mr Faughnan be appointed on a salary of €92,000. The note also proposed that this salary should be backdated to his original appointment the previous April and also proposed Mr Faughnan and Ms Windle should job-share on a combined salary of €92,000 – the same terms which had been previously rejected by Mr Howlin.

It is understood Dr Reilly made further representations to Mr Howlin last week in an attempt to resolve the dispute over the pay rate for Mr Faughnan and Ms Windle.

Separately, it is understood Dr Reilly sought approval from Mr Howlin to increase his personal secretary’s pay from €456 per week – the first point on the scale – to €746, the eighth point.

A spokesman for Dr Reilly said it had been the Minister’s “consistent view that the quality of the advice and expertise provided by Seán Faughnan should attract the higher end of the . . . scale”.

“As you know Seán Faughnan has remained in place . . . Discussions will now centre on reaching agreement to allow Maureen Windle assume the full-time position as policy adviser.”