Proposed pay rise for health chief creates €1m liability, Dáil hears

Matt Shanahan says post should be ‘contract role’ in bid to attract private sector candidates

A proposed €90,000 pay rise for the next secretary general of the Department of Health (the offices of which are pictured) represents a liability to the State of €1 million, the Dáil has been told.

A proposed €90,000 pay rise for the next secretary general of the Department of Health (the offices of which are pictured) represents a liability to the State of €1 million, the Dáil has been told.

 

The proposed €90,000 pay rise for the next secretary general of the Department of Health represents a liability to the State of €1 million, the Dáil has been told.

Independent TD Matt Shanahan said that given the total employment costs involved the Government “should have considered creating a contract role and possibly allowing private sector health management professionals to apply”.

The Waterford TD led criticisms of the Government’s proposal to increase the salary for the position to €292,000 a year and has written to the Comptroller & Auditor General and to the Public Accounts Committee to have the matter reviewed.

Robert Watt, head of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, has been appointed to the Department of Health on an interim basis and is being paid his current salary of €211,000,

The increased salary will be more than the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach earns and other senior executives in other agencies.

Mr Shanahan noted that a panel interview had been mooted for the job but he questioned how there could be a “fair interview process when the candidate holding the position” has a significant advantage.

During a Dáil debate on health and the Covid-19 pandemic, he said “I believe at a time when Covid mitigation strategy forces hard-pressed tax paying businesses and individuals to close down and depend on State subsistence”.

He said Government leadership “should be seen not to be reacting to individual crisis points nor creating inflationary precedence”.

Referring to a €1 million liability, he asked if there had been any discussion of waiving the pension benefits accruing from this increase. He said the Government was continually being asked what is the plan in relation to the pandemic but the “master plan” appears to be hidden and the State instead “reacts”.

The increased salary proposals is both “reactionary and rushed”, he said, adding that he had been told that the Department of Health management was “dysfunctional”.

He said that instead of reforming the HSE structure, remit or strategy “it appears this Government has taken the decision to react again in deciding that an overall position can solved by a new appointment and a 50 per cent pay hike”.