Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton has complained that scrutiny over his pay package has had a “personal” impact on him.
The agency boss has seen his basic salary increase from £160,000 to £190,000 after negotiating a new pay deal.
He had waived a right to a performance-related bonus over the past three years since he started the high-profile post — but his new pay is now backdated until 2009, meaning he has received another £90,000.
Politicians on the enterprise committee yesterday interrogated his departmental colleagues, Invest NI chairman Mark Ennis and DETI Permanent Secretary David Sterling, on the pay rise. Later, committee member and Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan told him the discussion “wasn’t about you personally”.
Mr Hamilton said: “I don’t want to get into the debate and I think it’s right that I don’t but it would be fair of me to say that while people try to depersonalise it, the way it is presented externally is very personal and it has an impact on the people I try to lead and an impact on me as an individual trying to do a job in an organisation.”
The chief executive defended Invest NI’s record on job creation and said it was succeeding in reaching out to small and medium-sized Northern Ireland firms.
In addition, in the past three years, there had been 5,192 net new jobs created by 1,300 companies on its books, he said.
Yesterday Invest NI said the change in Mr Hamilton’s salary was not an increase and said the post, when advertised in 2008, had remuneration of £208,000, including £160,000 in basic salary with up to £48,000 in bonuses if targets were met.
The board had assessed Mr Hamilton as deserving bonuses of £36,800 for every year but the former BT executive had indicated he did not want to accept them, instead taking the basic salary.
Invest NI chairman Mark Ennis said Mr Hamilton himself had indicated he did not want to accept bonuses.
“The chief executive became sensitive that he didn’t want to be cast in the same light as a fat cat bonus banker so he gave the opportunity for the board and department to reconsider his package based on whatever appropriate way the board and department saw it.”
Mr Ennis added that the changes to Mr Hamilton’s pay had been approved by the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Invest NI had created 1,592 jobs over three years when in fact the correct figure is 5,192. We regret the error. A comment referring to the inaccurate figure has been removed as it is no longer valid - Readers Editor, Belfast Telegraph