A typographical error by a government official in 2002 resulted in two barristers employed by the Moriarty tribunal earning an extra €1m over the past six years.
The “typo” seven years ago added €250 per day to the agreed €2,250 “per diem” fee paid to John Coughlan and Jerry Healy, the two highest-earning barristers in all the recent tribunals.
Despite being spotted shortly after it occurred, the mistake was not corrected by the Department of Finance. After legal advice the higher payment of €2,500 was sanctioned, so Coughlan and Healy were paid a higher per diem than any barrister in any tribunal.
The mistake was revealed in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report published last Thursday.
What’s to stop civil servants arranging such ‘errors’ across a wide range of departments and splitting the spoils with confederates? Citizens can be forgiven for assuming that such ‘deals’ are common.
Has the senior official in the Department of Finance, who make the mistake, been sacked or promoted?
If senior counsel had been underpaid by a million would the legal advice have been – ‘Tough, you have to suffer the loss?’
If somebody on social welfare was over paid by, let’s say, €50, could they, like the learned gentlemen, (legally) refuse to give it back or would the full force of the State come down on them like a ton of bricks?