McGrath says public sector costs 'the elephant in the room'
AN INDEPENDENT TD has called for a reduction in the pay and pensions of senior public servants, Cabinet and Oireachtas members and former ministers.
Mattie McGrath said the IMF should be looking at the “savage” pensions of former ministers and at the “elephant in the room” of public sector costs.
“I do not understand why the IMF don’t deal with the cost base of senior public servants, senior politicians, the likes of myself and above all the disgraceful pensions that people who got us into this mess are gone off with.”
The Tipperary South TD was speaking during the debate on the Fiscal Stability Bill which gives effect to the fiscal treaty rules requiring EU states to balance their budgets.
The fiscal treaty legislation, based on the referendum passed earlier this year, also provides for an “automatic correction mechanism” that will be triggered if there are significant deviations from budgetary targets.
Mr McGrath questioned the focus of the legislation, and asked why it was not dealing with pay and pensions of senior public servants, politicians and former ministers.
It would not do so, he claimed, “because the same people are drafting all these Bills and they don’t want it. We have to tackle the elephant in the room and that is our own public sector costs – while business people who are paying taxes, PRSI and rates cannot continue.”
Fine Gael Waterford TD John Deasy said “hard decisions” on public sector pay should not be avoided to keep harmony between the Coalition parties.
When there is a resignation “there is a natural political tendency to cool things down by avoiding controversy that would stoke up the grassroots of one party or the other”, he said. “In such circumstances caution seeps in and a ‘safety first’ approach is adopted.”
Fianna Fáil enterprise spokesman, Dara Calleary, said if the Government was serious about fiscal responsibility targets it would have to ensure “accounting officers become accountable” and not just “spin a line” at the Public Accounts Committee, “get their heads kicked in at PAC and in the papers the next day and then we move on with the next story”.
This Bill “is going to have to challenge the entire political and service culture of this State”.
He warned “unless people are accountable by their jobs they will not be accountable and that includes Ministers as well”.
The Mayo TD said if a Minister could not ensure their department was delivering “the budget agreed by this House, then that Minister should go”. The same should apply to any State or semi-State accounting officer.
If an accounting officer was responsible for delivering on a capital project that was supposed to be budgeted “then your neck should be on the line if it doesn’t happen”.