Watt under pressure amid calls for transparency around senior civil servant wages

Watt under pressure amid calls for transparency around senior civil servant wages

Senior civil servant Robert Watt has confirmed he is in receipt of the full €294,920 salary for his job as secretary general of the Department of Health.

The confirmation comes amid increasing focus on whether or not he was still waiving an €81,000 pay increase he got when he was appointed to the role in April 2021.

Mr Watt said at the time of his appointment that he would waive the €81,000 increase “until the economy begins to recover and unemployment falls”.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said on Wednesday: “The secretary general has confirmed that he is in receipt of the full salary for his role.”

When revised civil service pay scales came into effect on October 1st, 2021, the salary increased from the €292,000 offered in April to €294,920.

The Department of Health statement does not say when Mr Watt began taking the full salary. “Further details are personal and private in respect of the individual concerned. The Department has no further comment.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys called for transparency around the wages of top civil servants in a move that added further pressure on Mr Watt.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Ms Humphreys said: “It’s very important that we have transparency in the public sector. My wages are there for everybody to see.

“As far as I know the wages of my constituency staff and the people who work with me are available for everyone to see, and I don’t see any reason why those at the top of the public service, that their wages shouldn’t also be available to people. I don’t see any reasons why they shouldn’t be published.”

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Taoiseach said that “transparency is always useful but it’s a matter for Robert Watt” as to whether he answers questions on the topic. That came after the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien also said earlier this week that “there should not be any secrets” around “salaries like that and what people earn”.

“People know what I earn. People know what other senior civil and public service servants earn as well. I think transparency is always a good thing where it’s appropriate and I would expect that [question] would be answered at the appropriate time.”

During an appearance at the Public Accounts Committee last month Mr Watt refused to say if he was still waiving the €81,000, telling TDs: “I wasn’t brought here to talk about these matters.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday that Mr Watt’s pay was a “private matter”.

“As you know, as a Cabinet Minister I surrender 10 per cent of my salary to the State and have done that for a very long time now – all Cabinet Ministers do but for civil servants

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