Nine chief executives of semi-State companies remained in their posts beyond a seven-year term limit laid down by Government, new figures reveal.
These include seven companies under the Department of Transport’s remit.
The information comes in the wake of controversy over the unprecedented third renewal of a contract worth almost €250,000 per annum for Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh last September.
Mr Kavanagh is just one of a number of semi-State chief executives with a pay package worth more than €100,000 per annum who have held the posts for longer than the seven-year limit set out in a code of practice for the sector.
At an Oireachtas Agriculture Committee meeting in October, Horse Racing Ireland board members were questioned over whether Mr Kavanagh, who first took up the role of chief executive in 2001, was eligible for contract of indefinite duration (CID) status due to his length of service.
They replied that Mr Kavanagh had given an undertaking not to invoke CID status when his third and final contract elapses in 2021.
In a statement, the Department of Transport revealed a number of chief executives of port and harbour companies across the country are already protected by CID status.
Of the seven chief executives under the department's remit who are in their posts beyond the seven-year recommendation, six are the current heads of port and harbour companies. They are Brendan Keating (Port of Cork, appointed 2002); Paul Fleming (Drogheda Port, appointed 2001); Gerry Dunne (Dún Laoghaire Harbour, appointed 2009); Éamon Bradshaw (Galway Harbour, appointed 2002); Capt Luke Foley (New Ross Port, appointed 2009) and Pat Keating (Shannon/Foynes Port, first appointed on interim basis in 2006).
The seventh is Irish Aviation Authority's Gerry Brennan, who is entitled to a package worth up to €344,000 per year.
The 2016 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies outlines that it is the “normal policy and practice” to limit the service of semi-State chief executives to nonrenewable single-term contracts of five to seven years.
This follows on from previous guidelines from 2001 and 2009 that allowed for extensions beyond seven years only under “exceptional circumstances”, such as where a candidate brings scarce skills and expertise to a role.
All seven chief executives in question were appointed after 2001 and so were subject to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines.
Asked which of the listed chief executives had to reapply for their jobs through an open competition at any stage in their tenure, a spokesman for the Department of Transport said a competition was held for the Port of Cork position in 2009, which was won by Brendan Keating, the incumbent since 2002.
Mr Keating’s contract has been renewed on a temporary basis following the completion of his second seven-year term last year, an arrangement that is subject to “clarification of the legal position” regarding his employment status, according to the spokesman.
Elsewhere, the chief executives of the Galway, Shannon/Foynes and Dún Laoghaire companies are protected by CID status, and Drogheda Port Company chief executive Paul Fleming was appointed on a permanent contract in 2001, which remains in operation.
Sinn Féin spokesman for public expenditure and reform David Cullinane called on the Department of Transport to explain to why such a high proportion of contract overruns are situated within its remit.
Mr Cullinane said he intends to raise the issue with department secretary general Graham Doyle at an upcoming meeting of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.
“The Department of Transport do say that there are a number of staff who are on contacts of indefinite duration, which is in accordance with employment law. But are they then in accordance with the code of practice that’s been laid down? We need to get clarity on that,” he said.
The department pointed out that Government policy on appointments of chief executives is subject to statutory protections of employment status, such as are afforded in a CID scenario.
THE NINE AND WHAT THEY EARN, ACCORDING TO 2015 ACCOUNTS
Brendan Keating, Port of Cork: appointed 2002, salary €175,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €240,000)
Paul Fleming, Drogheda Port: appointed 2001, salary €123,000
Gerry Dunne, Dún Laoghaire Harbour: appointed 2009, salary €136,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €168,000)
Éamon Bradshaw, Galway Harbour: appointed 2002, salary €127,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €160,000)
Capt Luke Foley, New Ross Port: appointed 2009, salary €75,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €92,000)
Pat Keating, Shannon/Foynes Port: appointed 2006, salary €117,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €178,000)
Gerry Brennan, Irish Aviation Authority: appointed 2003, salary €232,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €344,000. Mr Brennan voluntarily waived 10 per cent of his salary in 2015).
Brian Kavanagh, Horse Racing Ireland: appointed 2001, salary €190,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €247,000)
John Osborne, Irish National Stud (outgoing): appointed 2010, salary €166,000 (total package including pension and benefits worth €190,000)