Analysis: Con Lucey report to influence the future of the IFA

Con Lucey will today present the findings of his report to the IFA Executive Council in the IFA’s Headquarters at the Farm Centre in Bluebell.

The former Chief Economist of the IFA has been tasked with a monumental job and his recommendations will guide the organisation through the coming months and perhaps even years – if it takes them on board and acts on them.

Lucey is to look at the implementation of recommendations around remuneration and other observations in he originally made in 2015 in his letters to the then President Eddie Downey.

He is also set to make additional recommendations on corporate governance or other areas which he considers relevant.

While much of Lucey’s review will look at the remuneration package of the former General Secretary of the IFA Pat Smith, he will also look at salaries of other IFA staff. It has been rumoured that a number of other significant pay packages may be announced this week.

There will be full transparency and accountability from now on – Tim O’Leary

While it is understood that Lucey will not be involved in determining the actual remuneration of senior members of the IFA, one of his main issues was the improvement of financial oversight in the Association.

Further, submissions made to Lucey by IFA members – the number of which one expects to be significant – will have to be addressed – perhaps not directly by Lucey in the report, but by those tasked with implementing Lucey’s report.

It may not be explicitly stated in the report, but one of the underlying themes of Lucey’s review and recommendations will be to help the IFA identity and address what it will take to restore confidence in the organisation’s decision-making structures.

Lucey has also pointed out that there should be clear accountability for all major decisions in relation to the governance of the Association.

To quote Lucey himself, in his second letter to then President Eddie Downey in 2014 when he stepped aside, the IFA must be above suspicion, if it is to maintain the confidence of its membership.

And it is hoped by many within IFA that Lucey will look at the role of the General Secretary and its remit.

However, Lucey’s report may even be underwhelming for a lot of people. It’s unlikely that he will go as far to say whether the senior salaries are justified or not.

In fact, it’s quite likely that the Lucey review and recommendations may not provide the answers that many IFA members are looking for, it will no doubt provide a lot of questions for the senior staff and volunteers within IFA – questions that are being asked around the country by the membership.

And these questions must be addressed and fully answered by the IFA.

Future Ambitions in IFA

The meeting will also see the county chairmen and possible presidential candidates back in the one room for the first time since its 17-hour marathon meeting.

Today will be a day where many may go to Bluebell hopeful of the support of others and confident about the future.

What Lucey and others will no doubt be hopeful of is that the majority will leave with a fresh confidence about the future of the organisation, whatever about their own personal ambitions, which should take a far second place to the task at hand of rebuilding the organisation.

 Con Lucey’s remit

Lucey’s remit is quite broad and will focus on the main issues and make practical recommendations, he has said.

The recommendations will reflect that the times and corporate governance standards have changed; with businesses and organisations now subject to greater scrutiny as regards how they operate.

He will look at all aspects of the remuneration package of the General Secretary, the President and the Deputy President.

Lucey will also make recommendations around the IFA’s Remuneration Committee, which will be responsible for setting the pay and remuneration of these senior positions.

According to the letter he wrote to then IFA President Eddie Downey in August 2014, Lucey had concerns that  he wanted addressed. These included:

  • Review the level, timing and method of financial reporting in IFA, taking account in particular of the primacy of the Executive Council.
  • Review internal financial controls to ensure that all expenditure is authorised and that the method of authorisation is robust.
  • Review IFA’s code of practice and training programmes for Committee Chairmen and Staff in order to minimise the risk of litigation by Regulators and Commercial firms.
  • Review the maximum time limits for payment of expenses to ensure that claims can be verified (currently €1.2m of estimated expenses by Committee and County Chairman are unclaimed).
  • Examine the issues that may arise from changes to accountancy standards which are to apply from January 2015.

Lucey will also look at the expenses of voluntary officers within the IFA and the levels of executive staff salaries in the organisation, as well as making recommendations around these.