Buried at the end of the press release issued late last Friday night announcing Jenny Pyper’s appointment by Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill was the fact that the DUP and Sinn Féin ministers had approved for her a salary greater than that of any of her predecessors in the 99-year history of the civil service.
However, there was another sum which was alluded to but not revealed in the press release which means that she is actually receiving far more than even that figure.
Even Ms Pyper’s basic salary of £178,000 puts her at a level which is 10% higher than the salary of the Prime Minister and above the salaries of the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the director general of MI5, the director of GCHQ, and Whitehall’s Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance.
It is also substantially more than what Sir David Sterling was paid until his retirement as head of the NI Civil Service in August – between £155,000 and £160,000.
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At the end of a long civil service career Ms Pyper had been chief executive of The Utility Regulator before retiring recently.
The annual accounts of the Utility Regulator show that by April Ms Pyper had a pension valued at more than £1.4 million, having been paid a salary of between £145,000 and £150,000.
Because of the fact that she therefore already has a pension, Ms Pyper is not receiving pension contributions from the taxpayer – but is instead being given that money immediately by Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill’s department.
That ‘pension’ money which is being given directly to Ms Pyper as de facto salary equates to £62,000 a year, bringing her total pro rata annual salary to £240,000.
That equates to £20,000 a month.
Stormont Castle has said that Ms Pyper will only be in post for eight months, meaning that her total payment would be £160,000. However, it is unclear whether her tenure can be extended if by next July Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill find themselves again unable to agree on substantively filling the post.
It was because the ministers left advertising the post to the last minute – despite having had six months’ notice that a vacancy was coming – and their inability to agree on any of the three candidates to replace Sir David that an interim replacement has been appointed.
A source told the News Letter that at least two individuals asked to take the job on an interim basis turned it down – something which Stormont Castle has not denied, meaning that Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill were desperate to find a replacement. That may explain their willingness to pay so much to Ms Pyper.
The Executive Office revealed the exact payments being received by Ms Pyper after being asked about the issue by the News Letter. It said that the payments were “is in line with the package available in the recent HOCS recruitment competition”.
It added: “The interim HOCS arrangement is facilitated through the Strategic Investment Board and the process involved focused conversations with two suitably qualified and experienced individuals assessed against the eligibility criteria and person specification for the HOCS recruitment competition.”
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