Trip to Dubai expo 'outrageous', says McGuinness –

Ireland’s National Public Service Media
Meáin Náisiúnta Seirbhíse Poiblí na hÉireann
The Chairman of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, John McGuinness, has described as "outrageous" a trip by Secretary General of the Department of Health Robert Watt and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to attend the Dubai 2020 expo.
Mr McGuinness said it was "not the business" of Mr Watt and Mr Donnelly to be at the event.
"I would suggest that given not just the Kerry controversy, there are issues in health services generally, that the Secretary General responsible for all of that it should be at his desk, doing what needs to be done to give the services that people are demanding."
"It's clear that they've made the wrong choice at the wrong time, in relation to Dubai," Mr McGuinness told RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne.
"It's a whole of government issue, and I believe that the Cabinet now need to meet to put some sort of structure on the Government for the future, and to insist that those Secretaries General that are being paid so much to do their job, particularly Mr Watt, that they should be at their desk doing it, at a time of crisis in the health service."
In a statement, the Department of Health said that Minister Donnelly and Secretary General Watt were attending and participating in Health Week in Expo 2020 and their trip included supporting Irish companies operating in the region.
Earlier this week, the department confirmed that Mr Watt had taken a €81,000 increase to his salary which brought it to €294,920. He had earlier waived the increase until the economy improved.
But Mr McGuinness said Mr Watt should appear before either the Health Committee or the Public Accounts Committee to provide details surrounding his salary.
He added that a previous committee could not bring "a very extensive report" on the matter to a "proper conclusion because of the lack of cooperation from the Taoiseach, and from Robert Watt".
"This was a deal that was done in a room in Government Buildings.
"It was pitched as we were told by one of the Secretary Generals at a level that would be palatable for people €292,000, €81,000 of an increase, plus the €3,000."
"All of this was done at a time when we were in lockdown when people were faced with all sorts of difficulties in their lives, when pension increases are being pitched at €5.
"Robert Watt refused to come to committee, he sent us a press release instead."
Mr Watt's salary increase was also criticised by Sinn Féin Health Spokesman David Cullinane, who said that the pay rise was "wrong" and added there was a culture which "lacks transparency" regarding the awarding of the pay rise.
He called on Mr Watt to make a "public statement" regarding his salary.


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