Creighton: state agencies

Almost 3,000 people are being paid up to €12,000 to sit on the boards of state agencies, according to figures released in the Dáil last week.

This is as many as are employed by cut-price supermarket chain, Lidl, one of the country's biggest employers.

Fine Gael deputy Lucinda Creighton was told by all government departments that a total of 2,875 board members have been appointed to over 100 state agencies still in existence today.

This is despite efforts by finance minister Brian Lenihan to cut the number of state agencies by 33 in a bid to cut down on costs.

So far about 15 agencies have been culled and while more closures and amalgamations are imminent, progress is slow.

UCD economist Colm Mc­Carthy, in his An Bord Snip Nua report last year, recommended another 40 or so agencies be cut. To date little progress has been made on McCarthy's recommendations.

Earlier this year a report by Muiris Mac Carthaigh of the Institute of Public Administration noted that the average size of agency boards was 12, though the actual numbers on the boards ranged from a low of two to a high of 37.

Mac Carthaigh said that this was too many for effective governance and recommended this be cut to between six and nine members, as is the practice in Australia.

The average fee for state board members is €12,000 a year plus expenses, which covers attending no more than one board meeting a month. While not all board members are paid, assuming at least 1,500 are, means the total paybill is over €20m a year.

The biggest agency board in the figures presented last week was An Bord Altranais, the Nursing Board, which has 29 members.