RTÉ external reviews:  No stone will be left unturned, pledges Martin

by Rose Barrett
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Catherine Martin

Rose Barrett

The Minister for Media, Catherine Martin delivered the terms and basis for the external reviews into RTÉ and its finances last Tuesday; in particular, the bizarre ‘barter’ payments to top earning presenter, Ryan Tubridy.

In a very calm and restrained manner, Minister Martin claimed the need for two external reviews to run concurrently were required because RTÉ had utterly shattered its trust with the public.

“The independent, root and branch examination of RTÉ I am announcing today is the beginning of our efforts to restore that trust.”

Let us not forget what ignited the whole furor and focus on RTÉ – an undisclosed over payment of €345,000 to Ryan Tubridy in the space of five to six years.

To most of us that’s a fortune in itself; a mortgage, and there are many couples even who dream of earning that in wages. Overpayment, slush fund, bonus, top up – or ‘barter’ accounting as it was described, it is a sickening amount to fellow RTÉ staff, many of whom struggle to cope with the rising cost of living.

Minister Martin stated RTÉ, previously Raidió Éireann, had held up a mirror to Irish society, “one that has demonstrated not only the best in our society …revealed its injustices, both glaring and sometimes all too hidden.”

Thanks to the tireless work of its staff over the years, she said, it had sustained the trust of the people, a trust that was now totally shattered.

With steely composure, Minister Martin delivered the terms of the external reviews, which she expected could take up to six months and added, she’d prefer the investigations and recommendations to be thorough and not rushed to appease an angry people and Government cabinet.

Ms Martin added she will invoke her powers under section 109(7)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to appoint a forensic accountant to examine the books or other records of account of RTÉ in respect of any financial year or other period.

The forensic accountant will initially direct its focus on the barter account and any other off-balance sheet accounts but as the examination progresses, the Minister may widen its scope to take account of any further findings.

What she described as an “independent, root and branch examination of RTÉ,” it will be composed of two separate and parallel reviews: a review of Governance and Culture and a review of Contractor Fees, Human Resources (HR) and other matters.

The terms of reference for the two reviews included: to conduct an examination of RTÉ’s corporate governance framework, to reflect on best governance practice for Commercial State Bodies as set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, to include “a robust system of internal governance, including appropriate divisions of responsibilities, operational procedures, internal checks and balances… direction and oversight by the Executive Board and the RTÉ Board.”

The first Advisory Committee will be Professor Niamh Brennan as Chair, Dr Margaret Cullen and a third member to be appointed over the coming days.

Re the review into RTÉ’s of contractor fees, Human Resources (HR) and other matters, Minister Martin confirmed Dr Brendan McGinnity as Chair, Patricia King and AN Other to be announced. 

On Tuesday night, RTÉ News announced there were more barter accounts discovered in the “truck load of files” delivered to the Dáil earlier in the day. It is not known as yet, to whom the accounts referred or what monies were involved. ‘Bartering’ is not an illegal or illicit practise in corporate business.

As yet, Dee Forbes, Ryan Tubridy nor agent Noel Kelly (NK Management) who secured the presenter’s lucrative top-ups, have not appeared before the Oireachtas committees.

On Tuesday, Minister Martin stated “It is important that anyone who can bring some transparency and healing should come to the Oireachtas hearings. I believe anyone who can shed light on this, should do so.”

Transparency is the order of the day, and no stone will be left unturned.

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