Robert Watt to be appointed secretary general at Department of Health

Job comes with controversial salary of €292k, the highest paid to a civil servant

Robert Watt has been in the role on an interim basis since January, after serving as secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure for almost a decade. Photograph:  Jenny Barker

Robert Watt has been in the role on an interim basis since January, after serving as secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure for almost a decade. Photograph: Jenny Barker

 

The Cabinet is expected to approve the appointment of Robert Watt to the job of secretary general of the Department of Health in the coming weeks following the conclusion of the recruitment process.

Mr Watt’s appointment is expected to be ratified by Ministers when it is brought to Cabinet shortly, though sources cautioned that the move was unlikely this week.

It is understood the independent appointments process has concluded recently and it is widely expected Mr Watt’s name will be forwarded to Government.

He has been in the role on an interim basis since January, after serving as secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure for almost a decade.

There was controversy after it was announced the new secretary general at the Department of Health would earn a salary of €292,000 a year, more than any other civil servant, though the salary will not be paid until a permanent appointment has been made.

Investigate

Two Oireachtas committees have said they want to investigate the revised salary.

The Department of Public Expenditure has previously said the new salary is “deemed to be commensurate with the scale of the responsibilities, including the vaccine rollout in the immediate term and the challenges of implementing the Government’s ambition for the rollout of SláinteCare and the budget of €21 billion for Health”.

Mr Watt has a reputation as a reformer within the civil service and has previously been critical of budget overruns in the health service. Political sources say that both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly were keen for Mr Watt to move to the role, though the appointments process, managed by the state’s Top Level Appointments Committee, is independent of government.