Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (189)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

189. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance in view of the fact that several executives of the National Asset Management Agency have taken up employment with private equity groups, his plans to tighten up regulations and guidelines relating to the movement between public and private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31701/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Deputy refers in his question to NAMA. I would point out that all NAMA staff are employees of the NTMA and are assigned to NAMA by the NTMA. Under the NTMA business model, all employees are recruited on the basis of individually negotiated contracts. In addition to NAMA, the NTMA carries out a range of commercial asset and liability functions on behalf of Government and its ability to successfully perform these functions is critically dependent on its ability to attract employees – often with specialist skills – from the private sector, including those at middle and senior management level. It is simply not possible for the NTMA and NAMA to carry out the work that they do on behalf of the taxpayer without recruiting the relevant expertise from outside of the public sector. Mobility with the private sector is a critical component of the NTMA model and if it is to be successful we have to accept that expertise can move in both directions. That is the basis on which close to 300 staff have been recruited to NAMA from the private sector over the past three years and it would not have been possible to move from a standing start in December 2009 to become fully operational with a €32 billion balance sheet a year later without having that ability to recruit the appropriate expertise and experience from the private sector. That expertise and experience is now producing results for NAMA: you will have noted that NAMA recently announced a profit for the second consecutive year and that it has generated cash of over €12 billion in its three years of existence.

There are extensive safeguards in place to protect the confidentiality of information held by NTMA employees, including those assigned to NAMA. Employees assigned to NAMA by the NTMA, as is the case with all other NTMA staff, are subject to Section 14 of the National Treasury Management Agency Act, 1990 which prohibits an employee from disclosing any information obtained while carrying out their duties as employees of the NTMA. Employees assigned to NAMA are also subject to a prohibition on release of confidential data under Sections 99 and 202 of the NAMA Act 2009. NTMA employees, including those assigned to NAMA, are subject to the Official Secrets Act. Contravention of these prohibitions is a criminal offence. These protections do not cease at the point of resignation but rather apply indefinitely and extend to former employees.

The notice period for NTMA employees assigned to NAMA is typically three months. NTMA contracts for employees assigned to NAMA have a provision entitling the NTMA to place the employee on garden leave at any point during the notice period during the time the employee may not work for another employer.

As was indicated by the Chief Executive of the NTMA at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform on 24 January last, the NTMA has been engaged in a review of its policy in respect of notice periods and post-termination restrictions on employment. The review commissioned by the NTMA was conducted by the law firm, Matheson, and has now been completed. Arising from the review, I am advised that the NTMA is implementing a number of changes to its employment contracts, including the introduction of longer notice periods of 3 to 6 months (up from 1 to 3 months) for middle and senior management employees and garden leave provisions to be included in all employment contracts. These changes have been introduced for new NTMA employees and existing NTMA employees as they are promoted. As I pointed out above, the three-month notice period and garden leave provisions already apply to NTMA staff assigned to NAMA.

In addition, I am advised that additional post-termination restrictions on employment are being considered on a case-by-case basis in respect of NTMA senior management employees in particular. However, the imposition of such restrictions needs to be carefully balanced against the NTMA’s need to recruit good candidates for whom such restrictions may act as a significant disincentive to taking up employment with the NTMA.

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 98.
Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 87.
Question No. 192 answered with Question No. 175.