Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Top pay civil servants to be named

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has ordered publication of the identities of 24 high-earning public sector workers
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has ordered publication of the identities of 24 high-earning public sector workers

Civil servants and quango chiefs who earn more than the Prime Minister have no right to keep their salaries secret, the Information Commissioner has ruled.

Christopher Graham's ruling came as he ordered the publication of the identities of 24 high-earning public sector workers who tried to avoid being named, under a new transparency drive.

The Cabinet Office last year published lists showing that 332 civil servants and quango chiefs have salaries of more than £150,000. Of these, 49 were paid more than £200,000, with the largest package of £390,000 going to David Higgins, the chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority.

The names of 24 people receiving taxpayer-funded salaries of more than £150,000 were withheld from the list after the individuals involved refused permission to reveal their identities.

Mr Graham has now ordered the Cabinet Office to reveal their names, saying: "If you are earning over £150,000 working for a body that is funded by the public purse, then there is now a legitimate expectation that your name and salary details will be disclosed. Being open and transparent is an integral part of being accountable to the taxpayer and, like it or not, this level of disclosure goes with the territory."

Mr Graham's order comes in response to a complaint under freedom of information legislation, and the Cabinet Office has 35 days to appeal against the decision or reveal the names.

In his report, Mr Graham wrote: "Those who receive some of the highest salaries in the public sector should expect certain information on their public or work life to be made public, including detail of their remuneration. If it was the expectation of these senior public officials that their names would not be released, it would not be a reasonable one.

"There is a strong, legitimate public interest in the public knowing how its money is spent, how public sector salaries compare with those in other areas, and how money is distributed between different levels of staff. This is facilitated by the public knowing which individuals ... draw a relatively high salary from the public purse.

"On balance, it is the commissioner's decision that releasing this requested information would be fair."

The Cabinet Office welcomed the decision and said it intended to release the 24 names as soon as possible.

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