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Sasko Lazarov
on it goes

Forensic accountants appointed to examine RTÉ finances as Varadkar says no bailout requested

RTE representatives, including new director-general Kevin Bakhurst, will return to Leinster House tomorrow for yet more questioning.

LAST UPDATE | 12 Jul 2023

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR told Fine Gael colleagues tonight there has been no request for a bailout from RTÉ but said significant conditionality would be required if Government was to ever accede to such a request.

The Fine Gael leader said where this has occurred for other organisations in the past, it has not been granted without significant conditionality from Government.

The Taoiseach’s comments come as Mazars has been appointed as the forensic accountancy firm to review the accounts of RTÉ.

Following the RTÉ payments scandal, Media Minister Catherine Martin announced last week that the Government is launching two independent reviews into RTÉ.

The minister said a forensic accountant would also be appointed to look through the broadcasters accounts. 

The appointment of the forensic accountant was expedited by the minister, who originally said it could take a number of weeks to procure the services. 

In a statement this afternoon, the minister said the forensic accountant will initially focus on the barter account and any other off-balance sheet accounts.

This scope may be expanded by the minister, if required. 

Mazars will collaborate and share findings with the two Expert Advisory Committees on Governance and Culture and on Contractor Fees, Human Resources and other matters as well as any third party consultants working with these Advisory Committees, said the statement.  

The minister also announced the appointment of Stephen Smith to the Expert Advisory Committee on Governance and Culture and Liam Kelly to the Expert Advisory Committee on Contractor Fees, Human Resources and other matters.

With the committee memberships now complete and the minister plans to meet with the committees early next week.  

The procurement for the advisory services to support these reviews is currently out to tender and they are expected to start work in August.

Martin said the appointment of Mazars as forensic accountants “is a very important step in getting to the facts in RTÉ and shedding further light on the issues which have surfaced in recent weeks”.

She added: 

“I also want to thank Stephen Smith and Liam Kelly for agreeing to serve on the Expert Advisory Committees on Governance and Culture, and on Contractor Fees, Human Resources and other matters respectively.  

These expert committees will oversee the independent root and branch examination which will play a key role in restoring trust in RTÉ.”

The appointment of the forensic accountant comes as RTÉ executives are set to face further questioning from politicians tomorrow after Ryan Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly completed a marathon day at the Oireachtas yesterday. 

Representatives from RTÉ will appear before the Oireachtas Public Account Committee (PAC). 

While many had hoped that the appearance of Tubridy and his agent might provide some answers as to what went on, the public sessions in some instances only brought about more questions. 

On Thursday, the new director general of RTÉ Kevin Bakhurst will appear before the committee, presumably to outline the reforms he plans to implement at the national broadcaster. 

Others that have been invited to appear include Adrian Lynch who is acting deputy director general, as well as Richard Collins, Jim Jennings and Breda O’Keeffe.

Collins and Jennings were not named on the interim leadership team announced this week by Bakhurst when he stood down the former board

O’Keefe is a former CFO at RTÉ and appeared before the committee last week.

Yesterday, Noel Kelly of NK Management claimed that O’Keeffe was involved in the deal between Renault and Tubridy being underwritten by the broadcaster. 

It is understood that O’Keeffe has declined to attend the meeting this week and former RTÉ chair Moya Doherty will also not be in attendance.

Speaking to The Journal after yesterday’s committee sessions, PAC chairperson Brian Stanley said RTÉ need to “put to bed” that matter, stating that what the committee heard yesterday “flies in the face of what RTÉ had been saying” to the committee last week. 

“We will need to put that to them and see what they say about that,” said Stanley. 

He said further questions need to be asked of RTÉ management about invoices that were sent in under the commercial deal, and the labelling of them as consultancy fees, as well as some of the accounting practices. 

Stanley said that number of questions remain about the tripartite deal between Renault, RTÉ and Tubridy. 

He said RTÉ need to come to the committee meeting on Thursday with all the answers, so they can “draw a line under all this”. 

If information was misrepresented or misleading, then RTÉ need to “own up to that”, said Stanley. 

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