IHRB chief financial officer resigns

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board's (IHRB) chief financial officer, who had been on voluntary leave since a financial issue of "grave concern" was revealed to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in June of last year, has resigned after a statement from the regulator confirmed that he had "tendered his resignation and no longer works for the IHRB".

At last June's hearing, chief executive of the IHRB Darragh O'Loughlin deviated from his opening statement to reveal that a financial irregularity had been discovered in the IHRB's 2022 accounts and that chief financial officer Donal O'Shea, who had been scheduled to appear at the hearing, was on "voluntary leave" with immediate effect "without prejudice to his position".

The irregularity was subsequently revealed to be the transfer of €350,000 from the Jockeys Emergency Fund to the IHRB in its 2022 annual report, which was publicised last month.

The Jockeys Emergency Fund is one of three charities the IHRB is charged with administering, and the IHRB's 2022 annual report states the transfer of funds was reversed three months later.

IHRB and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) representatives appeared in front of the committee again three weeks ago, when O'Loughlin stated that O'Shea was still on leave. Although he accepted that a year is an "exceptionally long time" to be on voluntary leave, he wouldn't furnish any more details as to the nature of his leave when asked. 

O'Loughlin said: "Our own CFO remains on leave and is unavailable to us. The individual remains in our employment as CFO. As an employer, we have a duty of care to our employees not to divulge personal information. He is on pay."

When urged to reveal what salary the CFO had been on while on leave, he said: "I am not going to answer a question if, by answering, I would be divulging personal information in relation to an employee."

It emerged during the hearing that accounting and auditing firm Mazars, who were tasked with investigating and establishing the facts surrounding the financial matter, are being paid €80,000 to complete the report, and when asked by Brian Stanley, chair of the PAC, if he expects the findings to be finalised in the next two or three months, O'Loughlin said: "Yes, I believe so."