HARSH WORDS WERE exchanged between Independent TD Shane Ross and John Corrigan, the chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency, over the appointment of Dr Eileen Fitzpatrick as Director of the State’s new investment fund, NewERA.
The fund, announced last week, will take control of the state’s control in ESB, Bord Gais, EirGrid, Bord na Móna and Coillte – ahead of the expected sale of those assets in order to boost the State’s coffers.
In the Oireachtas’s Public Accounts Committee this morning, independent TD Shane Ross queried whether Fitzpatrick – who was appointed interally – was given a pay raise in accordance with her new position at the fund, which is a division of the NTMA.
Corrigan, who was attending to answer questions on the NTMA’s spending, said it was not the company’s practice to discuss its employees’ pay – leading Ross to instead ask whether Fitzpatrick had experience in the sale of state assets.
The manner in which you have criticised personally the individual concerned – both in the Dáil yesterday, and in your column in last Sunday’s [Independent] newspaper – is a source of great disquiet to me.
Committee chairman John McGuinness (FF) immediately intervened, reminding attendees not to criticise individuals who were not present to defend themselves.
Ross clarified that he was trying to ascertain whether the job had been filled by the best possible person.
Experience in “the sale of state assets and utilities, in that area, is very important criteria for the job,” Ross said.
“Did you look for that, and is there evidence for it?… This was an internal appointment without being advertised, without an interview… it’s very very opaque. This is an insider being appointed.”
Corrigan said Fitzpatrick’s background in banking had given her experience in valuing and selling “private equity investments” – a skill he said was “not a million miles away” from the art of putting a value on a privately-held utility.
The CEO said he felt it was a testament to the NTMA’s levels of internal expertise that it had only needed to make three external appointments in the past eighteen months.
Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming later said he was “equally satisfied” that there were other people who would have been equally qualified to do the job, and said there would be “uproar… if one of the banks tried to pull a stunt like this.”
Corrigan said he regretted “that you described my performance in this regard as a stunt.”