Senior civil servant offered to take €10,000 pay cut

 

A PRINCIPAL officer in the Civil Service has written directly to the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan offering to take a €10,000 pay cut this year.

The civil servant concerned told the Minister that the gesture was in response to the payroll cuts imposed across all Government departments in recent months “and the request to be proactive, in the national interest, in the current economic climate”.

The principal officer sought “maximum confidentiality” for the move and said that the offer was being made on the understanding that the details were not to be released or published by the Department of Finance or the Revenue Commissioners.

The official said that acknowledgements or correspondence should be sent to their home address or contact could be made on their mobile phone.

The letter to the Minister, which was marked private and confidential and dated November 18th, said the official did not want to “break ranks or to suggest that others can afford to do the same”.

Principal officers are considered as senior personnel in Government departments. They are paid on either of two scales ranging from about €88,500 to €117,500.

Details of the pay cut offer by the principal officer are contained in Department of Finance files which have been released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act. The identity of the official was not made known.

At the time of the Budget last October, the Government said Ministers, Ministers of State and the secretaries general of government departments had agreed to take a 10 per cent pay cut.

Mr Lenihan also urged those in leadership positions in the public sector generally to consider following this move. However, this was generally perceived at being aimed at those at chief executive level rather than at individual officials further down the line.

Those who have agreed to take a 10 per cent cut include President Mary McAleese; the governor of the Central Bank John Hurley; Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly; CIÉ chairman Dr John Lynch and the chief executive of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, Pat Neary.

However, many other public sector chiefs have been silent on their intentions. The Government has declined to publish a comprehensive list of those who have agreed to surrender parts of their salary on confidentiality grounds.

Under tax legislation, those surrendering part of the salary have been asked to fill in forms certifying that the money is a “gift” to the Minister for Finance.

The Department of Finance files, which cover the period from the Budget to the end of November and beginning of December, show that up to that time, five Fine Gael politicians had offered to take a pay cut. Independent senator Eoghan Harris is also to take a voluntary 10 per cent pay cut amounting to €7,013.40 from his Oireachtas salary of €70,134.

The files show that Mr Lenihan’s office wrote to the principal officer concerned indicating that the Minister was giving an assurance that the identities of those making such gifts would be treated with “the utmost discretion”.

The Department of Finance told the official that while it would not be divulging any personal or identifiable information under the Freedom of Information Act, it could offer no guarantees in the event of an appeal to the Information Commissioner.