The Chief Financial Officer of the body that governs Irish horse racing has been placed on voluntary leave after a ‘grave' matter came to light.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) is appearing before the Public Accounts Committee this morning.
While delivering his opening address to the committee this morning, IHRB Chief Darragh O'Loughlin went off script to inform TDs and Senators that Chief Financial Officer Donal O'Shea would not be appearing as planned.
He said he has been on 'voluntary leave without prejudice to his position' since yesterday after a matter which caused ‘grave concern' came to light.
Mr O'Loughlin said he is currently aware of the ‘preliminary facts’ surrounding the matter and has referred it to the board’s audit and risk committee.
He said an external review has been commissioned – but he couldn't tell the committee much more about the matter.
“The review will be into the matter which is financial in nature and in all of the circumstances around the specific issue and the events that led up and that gave rise to those circumstances,” he said.
Asked whether Mr O’Shea’s absence from the committee was related to the review he said: “I really don’t wish to say anything that could prejudice the outcome of any review or investigation in the future.”
Mr O’Loughlin said he has taken legal advice on the matter and has informed the Comptroller and Auditor General as well as Horse Racing Ireland, which funds the IHRB.
Code of Practice
Meanwhile, the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy told the committee that the IHRB is not in compliance with the Code of Practice as its 2021 and subsequent financial statements did not include its salary band information or the remuneration of its CEO.
He noted that that the board was granted an exemption by the Department of Agriculture which meant that it was not required to include the salary information in its 2018 to 2020 declarations.
The former IHRB CEO Denis Egan took early retirement from his position in September 2021.
In a statement attached to the IHRB’s 2021 Financial Statement, Mr McCarthy noted that Mr Egan had received a “termination payment” of €384,870 – some €141,880 (58%) more than was permitted under the board’s early retirement and voluntary redundancy scheme.
Mr Egan had himself announced the scheme the previous month.