In a recent speech to a conference on “Transforming Public Services”, I argued that official policy-advice and decision-making processes are overly secretive and cartelised and that increased transparency and contestability would yield superior outcomes. Good ideas would have a greater chance of driving out bad ones and the possibilities for interest-group and regulatory capture would be reduced. The paper argues for:
– clearer lines of demarcation between expert policy advice and political decision making
– a US-style Council of Economic Advisors, to allow a greater diversity of competing voices and an increased likelihood of resignations if political decisions went grossly against expert advice
– a further loosening of the traditional doctrine of “the corporation sole”, which obfuscates the assignment of responsibility
– a radically reformed and better resourced Oireachtas committee system to enhance oversight of the executive
– a relaxation of the libel laws along the lines of the 1991 Report of the Law Reform Commission (e.g. “that the prosecution should be required to show that the matter was false as well as defamatory”)
– a constitutional rebalancing from rigid protection of the “right to one’s good name” in favour of greater freedom of speech
– extending the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General to “name and shame”
– mandating the public-sector Top Level Appointments Committee to identify and penalise blame-avoidance motivations
– reconstitution of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (“An Bord Snip”) at ten-yearly intervals to check the empire-building instincts of the bureaucracy and reduce agency proliferation, which diffuses blame and helps to avoid difficult decisions.
The full paper is here.