RTÉ may be brought within remit of Comptroller and Auditor General

Varadkar tells Fine Gael move would allow RTÉ finances to be scrutinised by Public Accounts Committee

The Government is considering bringing RTÉ within the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General which would mean that all of the broadcaster’s spending could be scrutinised by the Dáil’s spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Thursday that such a move is being considered by the Government in the wake of the serious issues that have arisen over secret payments, the €2.3 million losses of Toy Show the Musical and the generous exit packages paid to senior executives leaving the broadcaster.

The PAC received a special dispensation from the Committee on Privileges and Oversight to examine the broadcaster’s use of public finances. The remit expired at Christmas and it has now sought a time extension.

However, as the Taoiseach outlined to the meeting of his party colleagues on Wednesday night, chaired by Alan Dillon, the Government will now consider formally extending the mandate of the PAC to scrutinise the broadcaster’s use of its finances.


It comes after RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst disclosed on Thursday evening legal advice he had received on whether or not he could make public the amount that RTÉ agreed to pay to former executives Rory Coveney and Richard Collins under exit deals struck when they were leaving their employment there.

Neither RTÉ nor the media have commented on the advice. However, RTÉ News has reported that the legal advice has made it clear that the confidentiality clauses associated with the payments cannot be broken, without court action being taken.

It has also reported that there may be some scope to disclose the overall figure paid to all executives who have left the broadcaster in recent years, without breaking it down for individuals.

However, this might also be possible to ascertain by scrutinising RTÉ's annual accounts.

RTÉ has been contacted for comment on the contents of the legal advice.

The broadcaster has been under pressure from Government Ministers and Oireachtas committees to disclose the amounts paid. It was reported last weekend that Mr Coveney, the former director of strategy, received a package worth €200,000 but RTÉ has not confirmed any figure.

On Wednesday, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath, in an implicit criticism of Mr Bakhurst, said RTÉ had put itself in a “straitjacket” by agreeing to the confidentiality clauses.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times