Social Democrats co-leader, and PAC Vice Chairperson, Catherine Murphy TD has queried whether the imminent appointment of Robert Watt, as permanent Secretary General of the Department of Health on a salary of €292,000, was always a fait accompli.

“Taoiseach Micheál Martin personally asked Mr Watt to transfer from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to the Department of Health. This was in advance of the recruitment process getting underway and suggests his appointment was always a fait accompli.

“Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has said he increased the salary for the position to €292,000 – an increase of €81,000 – as he wanted to entice the best and brightest to apply. But, Mr Watt was apparently happy to do the job on an interim basis on a salary of €211,000. Why then the need to award him such an enormous pay increase to remain in situ?

“A salary bump of this magnitude sets a precedent which may have ramifications for the pay rates of other senior civil servants if they demand parity. In fact, Minister McGrath’s own officials warned him of this fact when the new salary was being set – a warning the Minister chose to ignore.

“If Mr Watt takes up this position on his revised salary scale, Ireland will have among the highest paid health officials in Europe with Mr Watt on €292,000 and Paul Reid, the head of the HSE, on a package of €420,103. In the UK, by contrast, Simon Stevens – the head of the NHS, which has a staff of 1.3m – is on a salary of £195,000 while their most senior civil servant in the Department of Health, Sir Christopher Stephen Wormald, is on a salary of £179,000.

“Raising questions of this nature are not an attack on Mr Watt’s professionalism or his capacity to do the job. However, a pay increase of nearly 40pc to a sitting civil servant who is simply transferring to a commensurate position in a new department is an extraordinary breach of public sector pay scales. This breach demands answers.”

April 13, 2021


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