Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has welcomed the agreement of the Public Accounts Committee to seek clarification and answers following the decision of two Fianna Fáil ministers to approve a salary package for the new CEO of Horse Racing Ireland worth over €52,000 above the agreed rate.
While the starting salary for the CEO had initially been set at €137,356, the Department of Agriculture successfully advocated in favour of a salary and car allowance worth in excess of €203,923 annually.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Horse racing in Ireland receives substantial taxpayer funding in recognition of the success of the sector and its importance to the rural economy.
“But there are serious questions as to the distribution of that state support and whether best value-for-money is being achieved. These questions will intensify following reports that two Fianna Fáil ministers, Charlie McConalogue and Michael McGrath, approved a pay package for the new CEO of Horse Racing Ireland worth over €52,000 per annum above the agreed rate.
“What is particularly bizarre is the manner in which the salary for this role has been adjusted. From the information at hand, it seems that the Department of Public Expenditure simply took a lead from the Department of Agriculture, who in turn were directed by Horse Racing Ireland itself.
“Horse Racing Ireland is set to receive some €70million in state funding in 2022. There should be full transparency and accountability as to how that money is spent. Clearly, many in the sector have raised concerns that this funding has not always been expended in a manner that has the widest beneficial impact.
“Prior to the approval of the Horse and Greyhound fund Sinn Féin proposed an amendment that directed the Minister to conduct a full review of this Exchequer funding to examine the social and economic impact of the fund, including the efficacy of the fund in supporting the development of the sectors and to ensure that the best value for money is being delivered. Government rejected that amendment.
“The importance of Sinn Féin’s proposal is again evidenced by the agreement of two Fianna Fáil ministers to approve a €200,000 plus salary package for a CEO based upon a business case provided by HRI itself.
“I welcome the agreement of the Public Accounts Committee to raise questions with both departments to secure the full rationale behind awarding this substantial pay package – taxpayers are entitled to full transparency as to how their money is spent by government and all state-funded agencies.”