Ornua should lead the charge in co-op transparency, not hide behind figures

The lack of transparency around senior salaries in Ornua is the second time in recent months that Irish farmers must question how their money is being spent.

While there is no obligation on Ornua to disclose is staff salaries, there is no reason it should not make more of the details known.

With over 3,000 employees, no one is asking for a detailed breakdown of individual staff salaries, but the remuneration of its Chief Executive and its Board members should be made known. Not even the Con Lucey report, which detailed remuneration of IFA people on boards, declared how much IFA Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary is receiving for sitting on the Ornua board. Instead, it stated that it was Ornua policy not to disclose this figure.

The figures now released show that nine senior staff were paid €9.2m over two years and the 14 directors of the Board received €509,000 in 2015, €452,000 in 2014 and €352,000 in 2013.

This token attempt towards remuneration transparency can only be seen as a communications failure. It should have taken the opportunity to publish, at the very least, the Chief Executive remuneration and Board members’ fees.

Now, instead of giving any real transparency to the remuneration of senior staff it has pointed a spotlight on its own numbers that leads people to think it really has something to hide.

Just days before it announced its annual results, Ornua announced that it would be temporarily suspending the levy it collects from dairy farmers.

While dairy farmers might welcome the short-term relief the suspension of the levy provides, it seems a short-sighted policy. With Ireland exporting 85% of all its dairy produce, and Ornua responsible for 60% of Irish dairy exports, spending as much as possible promoting and marketing this products in international markets is vital.

Meanwhile, just over 12 months ago, it spent an unknown figure on a re-brand which saw it change its name from the Irish Dairy Board to Ornua.

It’s about time the dairy farmers of Ireland, through their co-ops, which fundamentally own Ornua, asked for greater disclosure on how their money is being spent.