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Media cttee may see overall amount paid to ex-RTÉ execs

Political indications suggest that the latest RTÉ legal advice makes it clear that confidentiality clauses covering payments to departing executives cannot be breached without taking court action.

There are suggestions that an overall figure for the amount of money paid to executives who left the organisation could now be provided to the Oireachtas Media Committee.

Political pressure remains on the broadcaster to provide more details about those payments.

RTÉ said yesterday that it had received the “full legal advice” it was awaiting regarding the publication of details of exit packages and had briefed Minister for Media Catherine Martin.

Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon, who sits on both the PAC and Media Committee, has suggested that RTÉ could still give a breakdown of payments to Executives who left the organisation last year.

Mr Dillon said the names could be redacted, adding that there must be an explanation of how the agreements were negotiated.

It comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last night indicated that the Government is considering bringing RTÉ under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

He made the comments at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, and the proposal has also been advocated by Minister for Media Catherine Martin.

The Comptroller and Auditor General audits the accounts of Government Departments and State bodies to ensure public funds are well managed.

The office’s annual report is then submitted to the Dáil and scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee.

RTÉ has been outside the remit of the C and AG since the early 1990s.

While speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar said that confidentiality clauses for exit packages were “the norm” in RTÉ which “is not right”.

Mr Varadkar repeated his belief “that there should be a cap” on the value of exit packages which use public money.

He restated his view that “confidentiality clauses should be avoided by public bodies”, although there may be cases where they are needed.

“It seems they were the norm rather than the exception in RTÉ, and that’s not right,” he told the Dáil.

PAC seeking extension of powers

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is still seeking to have its powers extended to continue its examination of the management of RTE’s finances.

However these powers were not granted yesterday when the matter came before the Dáil Committee on Procedures and Privileges.

This came as Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Media Niamh Smyth, which is also looking at RTÉ Finances, warned in a letter that there was a “duplication of witnesses attending, with the same witnesses being invited to attend at two separate committee hearings on the same topic, in some cases, on the same day”.

The PAC has to decide if it will now move to finalise its written report on the RTÉ controversy or if it should continue to push to have its remit extended.

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