Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has said senior civil servant Robert Watt had “no input” into the sanctioning of an increase in the salary level for the next secretary general of the Department of Health.
In a letter to the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, seen by The Irish Times, Mr McGrath also says he approved the final terms of the advertisement for the job which offers a salary of €292,000, a rise of more than €90,000 over what the last person to hold the role in the Department of Health was paid.
Questions have been raised about the process by which the pay level increase was decided upon and the role played by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) in the matter.
Mr Watt was last month moved from his former job as secretary general of DPER to become the interim secretary general of the Department of Health while the job is advertised on a full time basis.
He would be in line to earn around €81,000 more than his salary at DPER if he applied for the job and secures the role.
Mr McGrath will be quizzed on Tuesday on the decision to raise the salary level for the job at the Department of Health by members of the Committee on Finance.
In his letter to the committee he says the post of secretary general at the Department of Health is a “highly complex one with a very challenging brief, particularly so in the midst of a global pandemic.”
His letter says the €292,000 salary is “commensurate” with the scale of the responsibilities that come with the job.
He said the decision to appoint Mr Watt to the Department of Health on an interim basis “is a matter for Government”.
Mr McGrath adds: “I would like to clarify for the committee that Mr Watt had no input into my sanctioning of the salary of €292,000 to apply for the open competition for the substantive post.”
Sinn Féin TD Mairead Farrell said the pay rise was wrong given the numbers of people unemployed nationally.
“It makes no sense to have a situation where we see an €81,000 pay increase for any individual when there are guidelines in terms of public sector pay,” she said.