26 September 2023

IRELAND: New pay rise for controversial Health chief

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Senior Irish Public Servant, Robert Watt, controversially awarded an €81,000 ($A128,000) pay increase last year, has received a further rise of nearly €3,000 ($A4,700), six months later.

Mr Watt (pictured), who was appointed Secretary General of the Department of Health on a salary of €292,000 ($A461,300) in April, got the latest top-up in October.

As a result, his salary now stands at €294,920 ($A465,974), official figures released by the Department of Public Expenditure show.

Sinn Féin Member of Parliament, Matt Carthy said the pay increase, at three times what the Government has decided to give to front-line workers in recognition of their role during the COVID-19 pandemic, was unacceptable.

“This is not about the individual, Robert Watt. This is about the process around the salary level,” Mr Carthy said.

Amid controversy at the time of his appointment over how the salary was agreed upon, Mr Watt temporarily waived the €81,000 increase, but there is confusion as to whether that waiver is still in place.

Mr Carthy, a member of the Dáil’s (Parliament’s) Public Accounts Committee, sought to question Mr Watt on this issue when the official appeared as a witness recently, but did not receive a response.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Health said he was not aware whether the added portion of salary was still being waived.

“That is a matter for the Secretary General,” the spokesperson said.

Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath said a revised salary of €292,000 was sanctioned for recruitment to the post of the Secretary General of the Department of Health, reflecting the challenges and very significant responsibilities attached to this role.

Mr Watt is the only Secretary General to be paid at that higher rate at present, but there are concerns others will seek a similar pay rise.

Dublin, 25 January 2022

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