Department of Health wanted €100,000 salary for two-day-a-week job as chairperson of the HSE

THE Department of Health wanted to pay the new chairperson of the HSE €100,000-a-year for a job that would involve working for just two days each week.

After negotiations with the Department of Public Expenditure – the fee was instead agreed at €80,000-a-year, internal records have revealed.

The Department of Health wanted the pay package to be linked with their plans for a new starting salary for their new chief executive. Interviews for that role were scheduled for the end of October.

The salary for the chief executive will be in the range of €250,000 to €300,000 with “provision for a higher rate in exceptional circumstances”.

Health officials asked that this information be “kept confidential” in communications with the Department of Public Expenditure.

In negotiations over a salary for their chairperson – who has since been confirmed as Ciarán Devane – officials struggled to find a similar role for pay comparison.

In emails, they said the chair of Bórd na Móna was paid €21,600-a-year for between four and eight days per month while the chair of CIE gets €31,500 annually for ten half day meetings each month and “significant further time commitment”.

An official explained the new HSE chair was seen as a key appointment.

One email from the Department of Health said the position would be “on the basis of a more substantial role and time commitment than a standard chair and requiring a significantly higher level of remuneration than the standard rates”.

In a preliminary business case sent on June 7, they said they would be looking for an €80,000 fee for the role with a five-year term.

In it, they provided details of chairperson fees from the private sector including AIB, Smurfit Kappa, Bank of Ireland, and CRH.

Twenty minutes later however, the Department came back to say they now believed a fee of €100,000 should apply to the two day a week position.

An email from the Department of Health explained: “Our Sec Gen [Jim Breslin] has just contacted me from a meeting to say that following information received from Fiona Tierney [then chief of the Public Appointments Service] that the fee for the Chair position should be pitched at €100k.

“The going rate for a non-exec director in the private sector for six meetings per year is €60k. For a Chairman, that is likely to be €100k+.”

They said a recent board position advertised by AIB came with a €65k fee while the chair of Nama Frank Daly was paid a fee of €150,000.

“On the basis of this additional information we wish you to consider agreeing to the higher rate of €100k rather than the €80k mentioned in the business case below,” it continued.

The Department of Public Expenditure were unwilling to go higher however, saying they were only prepared to sanction the €80,000 salary.

“This will be an exceptional measure in recognition of the particular nature of this role and the context as outlined in your business case,” they said.

In a statement, the Department of Health said they had considered a fee of up to €100,000 for the role and that they had agreed upon the rate that was ultimately decided.

They said: “Following consideration of the work involved for the Chairperson and that at least two days per week would be required to undertake the role, it was agreed that €80,000 was appropriate for the position.”

They said the chairperson would have a key role in helping manage an organisation with 110,000 staff and a budget of almost €16 billion next year.

The Department of Public Expenditure said in a statement: “The decision on salary level was reached following a review of the business case submitted by the Department of Health.

“This was an exceptional measure in recognition of the particular nature of the role and the context as outlined in the business case and reflects the strategic importance and scope of this position.”