Cardiff nominated for European Court of Auditors

 

THE NEW Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, Kevin Cardiff, who was nominated by the Government yesterday, is taking a cut in pay and a loss in Irish pension entitlements by moving from the top job in the Department of Finance.

The Court of Auditors is the Luxembourg-based EU body which oversees the union’s accounts. Mr Cardiff, who is secretary general in the Department of Finance, was a key figure in the negotiation of Ireland’s EU-International Monetary Fund bailout and in the formulation of the bank guarantee that preceded the bailout.

He will succeed accountant and barrister Eoin O’Shea who replaced Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European commissioner for research, innovation and science, when she was nominated to the commission by the Fianna Fáil-Green government in February 2010. Mr Cardiff’s current salary was recently capped at €200,000 a year. His new pay will be about €180,000.

His pension entitlement from his current position will suffer because he has served less than two years as secretary general, well short of the seven years required for full pension entitlement.

However, it is likely his pension scheme at the court of auditors will more than make up for any loss of his Irish entitlements.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition made little secret of its desire to move those associated with the 2008 bank guarantee into different roles. Mr Cariff’s appointment not only frees up the most senior post in the department, but also replaces a Fianna Fáil nominee at the court of auditors.

Mr O’Shea had lobbied the Government to be reappointed, and received support from the president of the court, Vitor Caldeira. He said it was common practice for members to be reappointed if they had served less than six years.

A Government spokesman said Mr Cardiff’s replacement would be appointed through competition open to outsiders, as well as current civil servants.

Last year, Mr Cardiff admitted that the department failed to forecast the depth of the financial crisis in 2008 but told the Public Accounts Committee that while it had made mistakes, the department’s projections were in line with forecasts from other agencies at the time.

According to US cables released by WikiLeaks, he told officials from the American embassy in late 2008 that he was confident the government would not have to bail out the banks.

“Herd mentality” based on “rumour and innuendo” had created the need for the blanket bank guarantee, he was quoted as saying.

The Court of Auditors job is the Government’s first big European appointment since it took office. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had been discussing the nomination for weeks.

The Government had been asked by the court to provide a name by September 16th last.

In Government circles, it had been widely anticipated the post would go to a political nominee from either Fine Gael or Labour. The speculation in Dublin was that the party, which did not receive a Luxembourg post, would have a claim on Ireland’s seat in the European Commission when next it falls vacant.

Sources familiar with the deliberations in Dublin said it was far too early in the life of the Government to consider appointing any Minister to the post. Given that the nomination is subject to the approval of MEPs, the Government was keen to nominate a figure with a financial background.

“The Government will today convey Mr Cardiff’s nomination to the authorities in Brussels, following which a process of consultation with the European Parliament will be launched,” the Government said in a statement.

“This will include a hearing before the budgetary control committee of the parliament in the autumn. Mr Cardiff’s nomination will subsequently go before the European Council for final approval.”