Regulator bonuses 'out of keeping'
Public accounts committee:The payment of bonuses to staff in regulatory bodies is “out of keeping” with the current economic climate, a member of the Dáil public accounts committee said yesterday.
Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell made the comments as he questioned the chairman of the Commission for Energy Regulation, Dermot Nolan, about bonuses amounting to €220,000 and €240,000 paid in 2011 and 2012.
Mr Nolan said the amount represented the overall payment to between 60 and 63 staff as part of a performance-management scheme, something that was “contractually bound”.
He said at least one staff member received no performance-related payment last year and said it was not applicable at commissioner level.
The committee also heard from the Commissioner for Aviation Regulation, Cathal Guiomard, who was questioned over €16,000 paid in performance payments to eight staff in 2010. He said the payments had been made at the end of a project transferring three administrative functions of the office on to the web to allow for online applications.
“There was a substantial amount of work involved for the staff and to reflect that I made a performance-related payment to them at the end of the entire project,” he said.
Mr Guiomard conceded the timing of the bonuses “wasn’t great, given the conditions in the economy at the time” but putting these functions online had allowed the office to carry out its work with a smaller staff and was in the context of reductions in the cost of running the office. He was also questioned by committee chairman John McGuinness over an €80,000 ex gratia payment made in 2010. Mr Guiomard said he had made the payment, equivalent to a year’s wage, to the contractor despite that individual having had less than a year to serve in his contract.
The commissioner said he believed this was the “cheapest option” as a legal dispute could have arisen otherwise.
Mr McGuinness criticised the decision, saying the most cost-effective thing to have done would have been to let the contract run out and he described Mr Guiomard’s response as “unsatisfactory”, Alex Chisholm, chairman of the Commission for Communication Regulation, said that performance-related payment of approximately 8 per cent was in place for staff but not at commissioner level.
The committee also heard from Mr Nolan that the number of households whose gas was disconnected due to non-payment of bills had grown significantly between the first and second quarters of 2012.
He said there had been 1,717 gas disconnections in the first quarter of 2012 rising to 2,373 in the second quarter.