To be fair to the retired accountant in question – Donal O’Connor, formerly of Pricewaterhouse Coopers until he retired in 2008 – he did point out that he had gifted a 17% discount on his usual €580-per-hour rate and only charged the State €480-per-hour for 201 hours – equating to 25 days at 8 hours per day – for his work in 2011 as an administrator to a company called Icarom, which was formerly known as Insurance Corporation of Ireland PLC, a failed AIB insurance business bailed out by the State in 1985.
The €96,480 fees for 2011 claimed by Donal were part of an overall total of €291,000 of administration fees for 2011 which were previously agreed by the Central Bank of Ireland and submitted to the High Court in Dublin for approval.
And just to heighten the farce, one of the second highest remunerated judges in Europe, couldn’t even stomach the €480-per-hour demand from a retired accountant and reduced it to €360-per-hour, thereby saving the State €24,000 and giving Donal only €72,000 for 25 days work. The judge also reduced by 25% the remaining €162,000 being charged by PwC for the provision of junior staff to assist Donal. All-in-all, the State saved €65,000 for 2011 and over €50,000 for 2010, from the judge’s intervention. The matter is reported by Mary Carolan in the Irish Times today and deals with a court hearing yesterday where the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was examining the finances of the 27-year old administration.
And by the way, PwC is the company being sued by the administrators of Quinn Insurance for alleged failings in signing off the accounts of Sean Quinn’s former company, which may cost us €1.6bn which we will be paying via a 2% levy on most insurance policies for more than a decade.
Of course we shouldn’t be surprised that what was acceptable to the Central Bank of Ireland – which previously approved the administration fees examined by the judge yesterday – was not acceptable elsewhere. The CBI has different standards. We learned during the week that the CBI paid five employees more than €200,000 per annum and the Government has decided it cannot ask for any waiver on those salaries, though to be fair to Governor Honohan, he has unilaterally sacrificed much more than the 15% asked of from other State employees earning more than €200,000. And in fact it seems Governor Honohan is earning 40% less than at least one of his underlings.
With 309,000 unemployed as part of the 430,000 in receipt of all unemployment-related benefits on the Live Register, with 240 people emigrating per day, with the State running a 8.5% annual deficit equating to €13bn, with debt:GDP approaching 120% and debt:GNP approaching 150%, with the country in an IMF programme, you really need to stand back to admire this circus.