A car is parked on the roadside for a few weeks. It hasn’t been moved. It’s taxed, insured and NCT’d. But it definitely hasn’t been touched for weeks. What would you think if we said to you, ‘It’s OK, nobody seems to want it, you can have it’?
Giving money away that’s not yours is a crime
That’s not the way the world works, is it? Goods and money normally have an owner and we cannot do with them as we like. That’s why we have both civil and criminal law, to stop people taking what doesn’t belong to them from those who do own those things. Taking and giving away other peoples’ property is called theft. Of course it’s something else if you’re the Minister for Public Expenditure and (the magnificently inappropriately named) Reform.
Civil servant gets €1 million payout
A special report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the management of severance payments in public sector bodies has just been published. In it, an unidentified civil servant received a payout of more than €1 million under a Government severance scheme and had more than seven years added to their (careful now, don’t even identify the person’s gender) service to bring it up to 40 years.
But shhhhhhh, it’s a secret
The person concerned received an early pension payment of €665,000 plus €454,000 for “added years”, bringing them to a total payout of €1,119,000. The C&AG report said the provision of these added years was approved by Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The addition of this “notional” service falls within the terms of the scheme, but the amount was not disclosed in the Department’s accounts.
It’s only public money after all
But why no disclosure? What is wrong with the public being allowed to know what goes on with their money? Why is the public not allowed to know why any person is worth such a ‘top up’? An ISME member running her own firm, earning €100,000 a year would have to save for over 45 years at 10% p.a. – or their entire working life – to put away €450,000 as a pension saving. Some top up Minister! And the reason a Minister thinks he’s allowed to get away with giving away public money is because, in his eyes it’s just that, public money that doesn’t belong to anyone - there to be given away.
Why pay more taxes?
In the great tax debate it’s possible that wealth creators might be willing to pay more taxes for public services if they knew it wasn’t going to be wasted, or worse, given away. Is it any wonder that there’s a reluctance to pay more taxes when this is how they’re used?