A TD has described a barter account used by RTÉ as ‘a slush fund’ as he revealed some of the things it was used to pay for.
Brendan Griffin was addressing the broadcaster’s Chief Financial Officer, Richard Collins, at a hearing of the Oireachtas Media Committee today as the RTÉ payments scandal rumbled on.
Meanwhile, Mr Collins refuted suggestions he had misled the Committee on the number of barter accounts after RTÉ appeared to suggest on Tuesday that there were two more.
Addressing Mr Collins on Wednesday, Mr Griffin listed some of the expenses the barter account was used for, including almost €5,000 on 200 pairs of flip-flops for a summer party for agencies and clients.
€7,500 was spent on a golf outing and €12,000 on Bruce Springsteen tickets, while 50 tickets for Robbie Williams and Phil Collins were bought at a cost of €6,358.
“I have heard of Let Me Entertain You, but that is a bit ridiculous,” said the Fine Gael TD,
He added: “This is what is going through this account. This is not the barter account; it is a slush fund.
“All of these entries ask more questions of RTÉ.”
Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster also highlighted the purchase of the flip-flops as being at odds with the broadcaster ‘crying poverty’.
“I want to come on to the slush fund, for want of a better word, as one of my colleagues mentioned the 200 flip-flops at a cost of €5,000,” said Ms Munster.
“One thinks of RTÉ crying poverty and looking for an increase in the licence fee when this type of Celtic Tiger splurging was going on.”
Mr Collins earlier denied suggestions there were additional barter accounts, comparing the idea that there were three such accounts to a shopping trip.
Asked by Mr Griffin why he claimed last week there was only one barter account, Mr Collins replied: “The reason for that is because there is one barter account.
“There are three companies feeding into that barter account but what I look at is a consolidated view.
“For instance, if someone was to ask the Deputy what his weekly shopping bill is, he would not say his weekly bill was €70 with Dunnes, €70 with Super Valu and €60 with Lidl.
“He would say his weekly shopping bill was €200.”
He added: “I am saying that there is one barter account in terms of how it is looked at financially but there are three companies feeding into it.”
Mr Griffin also appeared to criticise the ambiguous views of barter account.
Breda O’Keeffe, Mr Collins’ predecessor as Chief Financial Officer, described barter trading as ‘a standard industry mechanism for selling surplus advertising air time’.
However, former RTÉ board chairperson, Moya Doherty, said she was never aware of the account’s existence.
“On the one hand, we are being told that barter accounts are a normal part of a media organisation and, on the other hand, the former chairperson did not know that there was a barter account in the organisation,” said Mr Griffin.