Series of reports point to ‘dysfunctionality’ at RTE, media minister says

Catherine Martin said the idea that certain rules applied to some staff but not others was ‘appalling’.

RTE pay revelations
RTE pay revelations Media minister Catherine Martin (Liam McBurney/PA).

A series of reports into RTE finances point to “dysfunctionality” at Ireland’s public service broadcaster, Media Minister Catherine Martin has said.

She was speaking after the latest report published on Thursday found that the exit package for RTE’s former chief financial officer, Breda O’Keeffe, was not considered or approved by RTE executives.

The McCann FitzGerald LLP report found responsibility for this lies with RTE, and Ms O’Keeffe told the report authors she had “no awareness” that her package had not been approved by the board.

Separately, the external review also found that 10 applications under the 2017 programme were approved and termination payments paid but they “did not… satisfy the requirements of a redundancy within the meaning of the Redundancy Payments Acts” and that Revenue now need to decide if a tax exemption applies.

Ms Martin has said the McCann Fitzgerald report highlighted a “shocking disregard in terms of the treatment of staff, in terms of the inequality that it shows, the lack of fairness and the lack of transparency”.

“It’s quite shocking that the executive put rules and procedures in place to govern the voluntary exit schemes and then do not adhere to them themselves.

“So some staff have the rules rigidly applied, but there’s (another) rule for the others, and that’s an appalling culture that existed at the time.”

She said that RTE’s interim leadership team should appear before the Oireachtas committees, and RTE director general Kevin Bakhurst told Ms Martin that it will happen, “especially those who are referenced in the report”.

“I have confidence in how the interim board is operating now, but I believe they need to come before (the committees) for accountability.”

The Green Party TD said that RTE’s director general Kevin Bakhurst was looking at giving the RTE board a role in approving voluntary exit scheme applications.

“The board had no role whatsoever in voluntary exit schemes, I think they’re looking at finding a role for the board now, that would bring further oversight into these voluntary exit schemes,” the minister said.

She added: “The DG is currently looking at that, to find that extra role of oversight in the form of the board and maybe the remuneration committee, they’re working out exactly what that will be.”

Asked if they should investigate schemes separate from the 2017 and 2021 schemes, she said: “I think the DG is satisfied it’s the 2017 and 2021 voluntary exit schemes that needed to be investigated.”

Ms Martin also said that two reports due at the end of the month would represent a “crucial piece of the puzzle in bringing stability to RTE” as they will include recommendations on what needs to be done.

The two government reports into culture, governance and HR at RTE are due by the end of February.

“I think what we need to really focus on is making sure it never happens again,” she said, speaking in Co Kildare.

“I can certainly understand the staff feeling disappointed, feeling angry, and frustrated. But my focus is on making sure that, as the DG has assured me, that it will never happen again, that the reforms are put in place, there is reform under way.

“It needs to continue, my focus is on bringing stability to RTE and getting that funding model in place.”

She added: “It points to a culture of the past where there is poor governance, little or no oversight.”