There was a bit of coverage at the weekend re. Dr Michael Somers, former chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), when it was officially revealed that his 2008 pay was €1 million (see here for example). That made him the highest paid civil servant in the country at the time. Now we could debate the merits of his pay as a public employee, but the statement that has set my alarm bells ringing is this – “His 2007 pay could not be revealed because the department had no record of the figure.” The NTMA is the agency that manages the country’s assets, liabilities, debt and various financial funds, including the national pension reserve. Given what is happening in the bond markets it is desperately trying to argue that Ireland is not a financial basketcase and will manage its way out of the crisis. And yet it seems incapable and/or unwilling to provide basic information concerning its own financial affairs. This is hardly a statement to inspire confidence. In fact, it is a statement that sets alarm bells ringing. An NTMA spokesperson states: “The confidentiality around the chief executive’s remuneration has become a distraction and [is] unhelpful.” No argument there. The problem lies with NTMA and providing answers, not those asking the questions. Is there a credible reason as to why an institution that manages finances on behalf of the taxpayer cannot provide records of its own financial affairs, including salaries of its employees?
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