Independent Review of the Department of Finance Post author By Philip Lane Post date September 10, 2010 The press release is here. Categories In Fiscal Policy Tags independent review of Department of Finance 46 Comments on Independent Review of the Department of Finance ← Landfilling waste → Monetary Dialogue Briefing Papers: September 2010 46 replies on “Independent Review of the Department of Finance” Ah Karl must be thrilled about Pat McArdle’s inclusion! Well Pat McArdle does have a good deal of experience in the DoF. Can’t pretend to know much about the other appointments but at least they (the main two) are outsiders who will be able to maintain an objective stance. Memo to An Oireachtas: (1) Enact legislation to increase the powers and resources of Oireachtas Committees and to elect charipersons and deputy chairpersons by secret ballot; (2) Propose to this Review Body that it recommend to the Government to allocate competent DoF staff in the areas of policy formulation and evaluation to the Oireacthas Cttee on Finance and the Public Service – and that a similar recommendationis be made for all respective departments and committees. Recall the OECD report on the public service in late April 2008, Bertie via his alter ego seeing the world from outside the tent, said of the estimated 800 quangos, “there’s too many by half.’ Cowen appointed an implementation taskforce, which hasn’t been heard of since; it appears to be orbiting some planet called Limbo. Competent staff etc is important but political leadership is the key. As in the private sector, most times it pays to go with the flow and during the boom, it wouldn’t have really mattered how many competent economists the Department had, as regards the drift of policy. The ESRI politely offered some dissent on policies but Bertie had the demography nuts fuelling his delusions. In the early days, the Department had young bright officials like Joseph Brennan (Secretary) and his Assistant Secretary, James McElligott. Then in 1955, Minister Gerard Sweetnam appointed the 39-year old Whitaker as head of the Department. There must have been resistance from the time servers. In the 1956 Budget, the imprint of Whitaker was clearly evident in the key proposal of tax exempting profits from exports. In recent decades, it looked like Buggins’ turn operated, with an eventual elevation to semi-retirement on Dame Street. Consider if a mid-ranking official had correctly viewed the benchmarking scheme as a fraud on the taxpayer, would he or she have enhanced or damaged career prospects by making an issue of it with colleagues? When it’s partytime, economists who are dependent wage slaves, have to play the game of optimism and forecasts tend to revolve around a consensus figure and it can take several adjustments to a more realistic forecast. In the UK, during the tech boom, fund manager Tony Dye who was called “Dr Doom,” was well known for many years as the successful chief investment officer of the fund managers Phillips and Drew. However, he refused to follow investor fashion by buying shares in dot.com companies, fearing a slump in the markets was imminent. He was fired just before the bubble burst in March 2000 and both he and legendary US investor Warren Buffett were proved right. The latter of course was his own boss. As regards the appointment of former bubble-era bank economist Pat McArdle as an adviser to the Panel, he appears to have met the box-ticking requirements; a supporter of NAMA and no compromising incendiary comments on blogs like this. As Sir Humphrey might have said: “a safe pair of hands.” @karl & Brian This body is bound to recommend a Council of Economic Advisers. Sorry, you ain’t gonna make the short list….but I bet you can name your colleagues who will. . Michael Somers: “we may have lost the skill to run the country” The former NTMA chief has previously claimed he did “a lot of hard swallowing” about Nama. “It sort of sticks in my gullet to hand all this money over.” . http://www.independent.ie/national-news/economic-crisis-our-worst-fiasco-says-former-ntma-chief-2332714.html . AIB is to sell its 70% stake in Poland’s Bank Zachodni WBK to Spanish bank Santander for €3.1bn. http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0910/aib.html Pat McArdle. Soft Landing, Ulster Bank Economist. Pat McArdle? Ah The soft landing was for himself. Ok…. One risk is that the Canadian knows all the DoF types through the shared constituency at the IMF. I was taking that press release seriously until I came to the Pat McArdle part — couldn’t they get Dan McLoughlin? The result of the dept? enquiry into Revenue at the time of the DIRT PAC show, was to take away the independence of inspectors of taxes! Thereafter they had to obey a minister and their expertize could be lost by transfer into other departments! That’ll teach ’em to enquire into AIB cheating on DIRT! Where is the private sector experience in this evaluation? What about individuals with bankings sector experience to assess the level of qualifications and competence of staff? MH at Finfacts says “Pat McArdle, the chief economist of Ulster Bank during the bubble years, will be providing support and assistance to the Panel.” http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1020544.shtml Is McArdle’s status different from the other 3 group members? It sounds like when someone is “helping the Gardai with their inquiries.” Maybe McArdle will illuminate the furriners on the group about the Irish Cultural Climate in which events and policies unfolded over the last decade. For example, he might explain the Unique Irish Political and Financial Realities Of The Time (UIPFROTT), as there’s no way they could possibly make sense of the goings-on otherwise. It would be a shock if after this review, the DoF could produce useful budget information in the form of a detailed profit and loss type breakdown of total spending costs by categories. e.g. isn’t it crazy in 2010 that the DoF itself is unllikely to have a detailed cross-departmental breakdown of spending never mind the black hole that is local government? What is the total IT budget? How much is spent on bought-in services etc? What are staff travel costs; ministerial travel etc. As the Taoiseach lamented some time past about FOI requests taking up so much staff time. What often happens is that responses to FOI requests and PQs are partail as some department has had difficulty in collating-sourcing the required information. So much for the computer age. The other shock in conservative Ireland, would have been if the terms of reference had included how full transparency on public spending including public contracts, could be implemented. It would of course be both in the public interest and an aid to competition but why cull too many sacred cows at once? “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” Louis Brandeis said in 1914 – two years before he became a justice of the US Supreme Court. He wasn’t referring to a brand of soap! http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/republic-of-ireland/irish-president-mary-mcaleesersquos-astonishing-attack-over-irish-slump-14946185.html Why no other media coverage? Maybe too early? I virtually asked her on this blog, to refer the NAMA Bill, to no avail. So she allows the matter to be hidden and then discovers a conscience and a desire to lead. A beginning, anyway! Well done, Madam President! Professor Paul Hare of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University said at the 50th anniversary conference in 2008, celebrating the publication of Economic Development that Ireland’s economic institutions “especially where they concern issues of competition policy; selection of personnel for senior positions (eg in private business, the civil service, the universities); the awarding of government contracts; and so on, seem inherently quite vulnerable to, special pleading, ‘jobs for the boys’, and other such undesirable distortions. ‘Jobs for the boys’ (and girls, too, naturally) is a widespread practice in many countries and generally refers to the practice of securing jobs through personal connections and the like. “If the boys (and girls) who actually get the jobs are sufficiently deserving and competent, then the system need not be so bad (though it is never fair). But how does a country build up the ‘ethos’ that makes this happen and sustains it? In a small country like Ireland, where at elite level everyone knows everyone else, this is surely immensely difficult. To ensure both fairness and high standards, I would therefore favour extensive use of international panels of experts, along with a high degree of openness and transparency. To achieve this, Ireland still has some way to go,” Ireland is facing an economic emergency; it lacks policy think-tanks; political parties do not produce detailed policies and in government amateur ministers rely on the consultancy industry and appointed taskforces with memberships selected to make slanted recommendations. Meanwhile, in the lead up to the budget on Dec 7th, the vested interests who have nothing of substance to propose on the crisis, will ship loads of submissions into Merrion St. to plead the narrow causes of their memberships. Would it not be useful for a group of academics to produce an agenda of reform for the next government; where the participants are beyond worrying about career prospects; willing to rattle the cages of the complacent and self-interest; challenge the research community on why it should get the lion’s share of enterprise policy spending; the closed shop professions and their public welfare lifelines; public service reform, pensions, transparency and recruitment; governance accountability and the system of appointment of thousands to public bodies and its cost, planning/land development policy and the 88 planning authorities and local government? It may not have any impact but it has potential to have more than op-ed pieces and letters to newspapers. Professor Hare’s suggestion of extensive involvement of outsiders is important. It was not apparently big news on Friday that Quinn Insurance posted a loss of €788.4m in 2009 but recall the pressure on Matthew Elderfield following the initial application for examinership at the end of March. @ MH: “Would it not be useful for a group of academics to produce an agenda of reform for the next government; where the participants are beyond worrying about career prospects; willing to rattle the cages of the complacent and self-interest; challenge the research community on why it should get the lion’s share of enterprise policy spending; the closed shop professions and their public welfare lifelines; public service reform, pensions, transparency and recruitment; governance accountability and the system of appointment of thousands to public bodies and its cost, planning/land development policy and the 88 planning authorities and local government?” This would be a great contribution to public discourse. Perhaps some of the regular posters here could take it up. This could be particularly effective in generating more discourse (and political pressure on all parties) if they would also go a few steps further by actively lobbying–making sure copies get to the members of the Seanad and Dail, and following up with the media. (In the past I participated in a grass-roots forum relating to a specific issue. This approach proved successful beyond our expectations. It was handled in an apolitical way, with the emphasis on informing and educating.) MH “Would it not be useful for a group of academics to produce an agenda of reform for the next government; where the participants are beyond worrying about career prospects; willing to rattle the cages of the complacent and self-interest; challenge the research community on why it should get the lion’s share of enterprise policy spending; the closed shop professions and their public welfare lifelines; public service reform, pensions, transparency and recruitment; governance accountability and the system of appointment of thousands to public bodies and its cost, planning/land development policy and the 88 planning authorities and local government?” In fairness, i think a casual perusal of the blog in which we now communicate would give people a good idea as to these issues. In the last few months, apart form the NAMA beast and its pomps, we have had good discussions on a whole host of areas. Looking at this plus IrelandafterNAMA would take about a day and then the politicians could get on with an informed decision. But theres probably a funeral to go to of someone you didnt know or a pothole somewhere to pretend you care about. @ Brian Lucey At some point then, anyone with any sense will get out of the place. These people are not going to bother reading blogs. What works is to ignore criticism as the news cycle moves along. A Danish economist welcomes rising bond yields as excellent news; maybe it is and how bad does the situation in Ireland have to get for people to wake up? http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1020547.shtml @Michael H, “Would it not be useful for a group of academics to produce an agenda of reform for the next government; where the participants are beyond worrying about career prospects; etc…” Nobody doubts the passion and rigour underpinning your arguments for profound reform evidenced on your own site and here, but, if you stand back and think about it, do you really see the potential to achieve anything close to what you desire? During the twilight of this Government it will commission reviews, but it won’t have the time, energy or will to implement anything that will be recommended. And it certainly won’t annoy any constituencies of special interests whose support it will hope to retain, however tenuously, when, it expects the Irish people, eventually, to forgive it and its predecessors for the mess they have created. And as for the academics, forget it. This board, some op-eds and other media outings are as good as it gets. As Tull MacAdoo pointed out on another thread, even some of the ‘heavy-hitters’ no longer participate here. Ireland doesn’t have the number of specialists in public policy areas – though those we have are as good as, if not better than, any internationally; there does not seem to be a broad consensus (not surprising, perhaps) on what needs to be done; governments will always ignore unsolicited advice and there is no mechanism for it to gain any traction in the policy process; and why bite the hand that might feed you in the future – or, even worse, savage the funding of academia? And even if a coherent and comprehensive blueprint for reform were advanced and, by some miracle, the Government were to buy in to it, we are confronted with the dysfunctionality of Irish politics since the foundation of the State and the extent of executive dominance over the Oireachtas. The extent of the reform required would need at least two full term governments to secure implementation (and a broad national consensus on reform if an alternative government were voted in after one term). This Government simply hasn’t that time, and any looming alternative, given the toxicity of the current brand – and of anything it touches – would feel duty bound to undo and recast anything it began. And then we have the composition of the likely looming alternative. FG has always been a more self-righteous, but electorally less successful, ‘mini-me’ version of FF. It has recently demonstrated that it is an uneasy coalition of a C&W FF-lite wing and a more urban, liberal-centrist grouping that is vaguely recognisable in a European context. Neither would cohabit easily or effectively with a resurgent Labour Party that seems help bent on ignoring the economic reality of Ireland’s situation and the broader European political reality. Yes, of course, the prize of power and executive dominance – having been deprived for so long – will paper over all sorts of cracks temporarily, but as for agreeing and implementing the wide-ranging and deep-seated programme of political and economic reform required, forget it. And, as for a combination of Labour with a decapitated FF (which some in Labour might prefer), don’t even go there. And again, mirabile dictu, if a reasonably sensible programme of reform were agreed, whoever would comprise the opposition in the Oireachtas would seek to unpick and undermine its implementation at every turn. The only hope is for the Lenihanistas in FF and the Brutonistas in FG to break with the C&W factions in their respective parties, combine and force a general election. But the chances of that happening vary between infinitesemally slim and FA. @ Brian I think mh has a point. It would be great if there was a fact check or expertise available now and in the eventual run up to the election. Interviewers etc could then compare the pol,s against each other and against best practise or even intelligence. All I have no doubt that MH has a great point – my point however is perhaps that this is as good as it gets now. @ PaulHunt “And as for the academics, forget it. This board, some op-eds and other media outings are as good as it gets. As Tull MacAdoo pointed out on another thread, even some of the ‘heavy-hitters’ no longer participate here. Ireland doesn’t have the number of specialists in public policy areas – though those we have are as good as, if not better than, any internationally; there does not seem to be a broad consensus (not surprising, perhaps) on what needs to be done; governments will always ignore unsolicited advice and there is no mechanism for it to gain any traction in the policy process” I disagree based on personal experience re: e-voting. A non-organized grassroots group of folks took steps to inform politicians, media, and through them the general public. Things happened and changes occurred. Politicians and media need to be spoon-fed summaries. They need to receive backed up references to facts they can check up. Don’t expect them to cull key points from this great blog–they don’t have time. Please use your collective expertise to make the process easier. Folks here are in a good position to quickly summarize key policy recommendations, with a few references pointing to the facts on which their reasoning is based. Comments such as “do you really see the potential to achieve anything close to what you desire?” and “governments will always ignore unsolicited advice and there is no mechanism for it to gain any traction in the policy process” are a cop-out and a self-fulfilling prophesy. This blog on its own may not make the policy impact we might desire–but if anyone cares enough to take it further it is possible. There are surely a number of policy issues that many posters and commenters here might agree on. If information and recommendations were to be clearly summarized and shared, do not underestimate the potential of such actions. If there are two or more groupings with different or opposing proposals, no harm in that. Disengagement is what got us into this mess. Doing nothing other than post or comment on blogs or OpEd pages is what will guarantee things don’t change, or that change will happen without our input. Engagement needs to be taken to the next step, if someone wants to make a difference. If that happens, there is no telling how profound the results might be. shorter: This is NOT as good as it gets! Simpleton, What conclusions would a Council of Economists ever reach other than they were important. Let’s just give Colm McCarthy the job of National Economist- he is one of the few who can communicate to the ordinary populace & given what he charged for his report, he comes cheap. As an aternative, why not a council of Druids, Soothsayers and Psychics. Their track record is better. Ritual sacrifices of animals are much cooler than econometric models. It will be very hard to pin blame on anybody for the crisis. In many ways the policies pre-crisis were foolish but not bad. This investigation into the DOF is just a smokescreen and will unearth absolutely nothing of any real value. It will criticise a culture of complacency and lack of diligence and probably even suggest downsizing of the department. The few people that are left in the country by the time it is written will be too depressed or dying with toothaches cos the dentists have all gone. (Sorry I forgot the other group that will be left – the NAMA administrators who will be too busy enjoying 250 million Euro per year to give a damn). What we need to know is why Anglo was given a blanket guarantee? A simple straight forward question. Do we must have some equivalent of treason in this country. @OAC, Similarly to Michael H, I don’t doubt your good intentions and the validity of what you desire, but, as I understand it, this board has not been, is not and never will be a campaigning vehicle. (And I note that in the passage of mine you quote, you dropped the last clauses.) I agree with Brian Lucey (probably one of the highest profile contributors here) that this is as good as it gets. The consent of the people is required for the changes required and we hire professional politcians to represent our interests and to secure our consent. That is where any campaign has to start. Unfortunately, Ireland is more hamstrung than most other polities because of the dysfunctionality of the configuration of its political factions and the excessive dominance of the executive. But this is where we have to start. Realigning the factions and re-empowering the Oireachtas relative to the government are the sine qua non of formulating, enacting and implementing the reforms required. My concern is to ensure that any economic policy debate is conducted in the context of these constraints – and opportunities. I hope that this in not too off topic but there is a presumption that the current momentum is pushing us towards reform. Honestly I’m not so sure. Europe wants stability above all else. It’s in Europe’s interest to support the current status quo here, therefore there is high possibility that the govt will get through the funding requirements for 2011 with the assistance of the invisible hand of Jean Claude. Europe supports the status quo, the government support the status-quo, the high paid elite support the status quo. Change is not coming. A kind of stagnating pax frankfurta is on its way. That’s the worrying thing about the “this is as good as it gets for now” approach. This might very well be as good as it ever gets, and to be honest, it’s really quite bad. @ Paul Hunt I left out “and why bite the hand that might feed you in the future – or, even worse, savage the funding of academia?” as it implies that no academic would or should consider being involved in making policy suggestions. In my experience Irish academics have been able to engage in a constructive way. I did not mean to suggest that this board be used as a campaigning vehicle, but to point out that * such activities are possible off-list, either in public or not * rolling over and playing dead, and bemoaning our collective fate may not be an effective strategy You’re right about the need to realign factions and re-empower the Oireachtas relative to the executive. There is also the need for an informed media, an informed public, and an informed Oireachtas. The latter might be helpful in addressing the former, as well as in suggesting possible constructive policy options. If the public is not informed (with the cooperation of an informed media), then there is little chance of the realignment, re-empowerment, transparency and accountability that is so urgently needed. Public consent requires first sharing information and vision about alternatives and their rationale. If vision and direction are not forthcoming from the top down, why not explore might be accomplished working from the bottom up? Leadership can come from any direction or level. While not the role of this blog itself, those who participate here in any capacity *could take additional steps* outside this blog if they wish to promote specific options about which they feel most passionate. OAC Im not sure I follow you. While, in the most part it doesnt bother me a whit, its always interesting to see the reaction of some of the lower elements in the political/commentatoriate tree of life when one does express a view on issues strictu sensu outside ones academic ring. The most charitable tend to be “oh, so yer mans an expert on X now as well is he” downwards. Understandably, most sensible people choose to stick to the knitting. My most recent experience was in my longish letter et seq to the Times re the priorities of the govt being diverted to the care and persecution of the ward union rather than, say, CF patients. Theres also a selfconstraining fear of being seen to use ones position as a bully pulpit. For good or ill people such as say Karl Whelan or Richard Tol or indeed myself have through our public profiles got some degree of “cred”, no matter how unwarranted it may be or may be seen to be. So, if we were to start to pontificate on matters such as the appropriate treatment of CF patients, or libraries, or multiseat constituenties, many us might feel that we would be taken more seriously than is right due to our views elsewhere. @Eureka, The odds are it will be a modern version of the ’50s with much less insularity, Pax Frankfurta (as you decribe it) replacing Pax Britannica and those with land, property, a job or position, and feeling under threat, holding on tightly to what they’ve got – while everyone else not so favoured can take a hike. That’s the way it’s always been during the history of this State whenever the heat came on – and there’s no reason it’ll be any different now. @ Brian Lucey I was referring to proposals regarding economic / finance policies and possible structural reform/reorganisation of immediate relevance. OAC Ok. In which case, I think reading this blog/opeds/policy papers that people produce is as good as we can offer. @ Brian Lucy Ok if you mean as much as *this blog* can offer. (And it does offer a lot.) It would be great if some subset of blog posters/commenters/others could take it further (off-blog), e.g. in relation to 1 or 2 specific economic/finance proposals. @OAC, Following on Brian Lucey’s observations, I think you are looking for far more than the principal contributors or commenters here can provide. For example, I have strong views on reforms that are required in specific areas of public policy, but I have no wish, whatsoever, to impose these views on others. What I would like is to see these proposals assessed, tested against evidence with rebuttal and counter-rebuttal before an Oireachtas Ctte as part of a much broader public debate and prior to that Cttee, appropriately empowered and resourced, making a decision on a piece of legislation before it. And this is where I would like to see the principal contributors on this blog – and others with relevant expertise, being called on formally to present evidence or to contest evidence presented in such a process. The final decision is for public representatives and there is no guarantee they will make wise decisions, but, at least, the extent to which they might deviate from the consensus of the evidence presented will be clear for all to see. The current process comprises a conclave of ministers, special advisers and senior department officials with inputs from tame consultants and possibly some special interests. The output is close to draft final legislation which is whipped through the Oireachtas with minimum scrutiny and amendment and with the full support of the government spin-machine. It’s no wonder we’re in the mess we’re in. But it’s for the political classes to change this; it is not the role of the principal contributors on this blog. Why no one from the private sector on the panel? Ireland is facing serious economic challenges and a likely a return to long-term emigration. The ESRI produced a rosy recovery scenario in May 2009; this year the economists opted for two scenarios and even the low one may turn out to be optimistic. Many are still living comfortable lives where the remote desperation of the tens of thousands of shattered lives gets an intermittent mention in the mainstream media while the main culprits in the drama will draw from State funds for life. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, which was published in 1962, lawyer Atticus says to his daughter Scout: “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” From the aftermath of the dot.com bust, I know what it’s like to fear running out of money in the modern economy and rummaging for small change to bring two children to McDonald’s because a credit card wouldn’t be accepted. Earlier this week. I referred to a very unusual Irish situation where Brendan Hayes, Vice President of the trade union SIPTU and Feargal O’Rourke, a partner in the Tax & Legal Services practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers and son of Mary O’Rourke TD, who refused fees for participating in the Commission on Taxation. The chairman, the ex-head of the Revenue Commissioners and currently chairman of NAMA, Frank Daly, collected €120,00 on top of a generous State pension. The public treasury is no longer a bottomless pit. Isn’t it time for collective community spirit from those who are in comfortable positions for life? In 2013 some 20% of tax revenues may be used for paying interest on the national debt compared with 28% in 1991 but in that year cash transfers from the likes of Germany and the Netherlands more than offset all the interest burden. MH “The public treasury is no longer a bottomless pit. Isn’t it time for collective community spirit from those who are in comfortable positions for life?” Yes, it is . But dont hold your breath…. @ Michael Hennigan, You know, you have an uncanny ability to hit the nail on the head. @MH whoever do you mean, senior well paid public officials? @PH “What I would like is to see these proposals assessed, tested against evidence with rebuttal and counter-rebuttal before an Oireachtas Ctte as part of a much broader public debate and prior to that Cttee, appropriately empowered and resourced, making a decision on a piece of legislation before it. And this is where I would like to see the principal contributors on this blog – and others with relevant expertise, being called on formally to present evidence or to contest evidence presented in such a process.” In my prior experience, two Oireachtas committee presentations on different dates were made by several relevant experts. Those competent and compelling presentations had no effect at the time–in fact the committee members ignored everything that was presented and did the opposite. (I was at one of the presentations, and found it noteworthy that unanimous sound advice coming from multiple expert sources was completely ignored.) HOWEVER, many months later, after those same experts (with the help of others) passed factual information to the media over an ongoing period of time, and more public awareness and pressure resulted within all political parties, the Oireachtas members started to get the message, and eventually political actions were taken that generated significant movement. Formal presentations to Oireachtas committees have a role to play, but they are not enough. Political dynamics outweigh everything. Hence the importance of including the media and the public in the sharing of information, and of delivering it in a way that it can be easily digested. Flow chart: Expert information ==> Oireachtas committee (likely to ignore info if it’s not politically expedient) Expert information ==> media ==> public ==> Oireachtas (which now has a harder time ignoring info when it’s not just a handful of experts but actual VOTERS putting pressure on them) Short version: Don’t have unrealistic expectations about what will be accomplished through “mere” presentations and discussions with Oireachtas committees–regardless of your expertise. @OAC, You make valid points, but I fear you may be misunderstanding the major changes I am advocating in the process of policy formulation, scrutiny, amendment, enactment, implementation and review. Since we are drifting off thread (thank you, Michael H!), let’s examine the likely treatment of this review of DoF process and performance which was the subject of Philip Lane’s initial post. It may not be the best example since it deals with process within the government machine, rather than a specific economic policy, but it should give a flavour of what’s wrong and what needs to be done to remedy it. I am confident the members of the review group will do a competent and workmanlike job in the context of the ToR, but a retired senior departmental official and a functionary with experience of the system are on board to ensure that nothing too radical or useful is recommended. Even if the recommendations are sufficiently radical (the Canadian and Dutch members should have experience of policy formulation and decision-making in parliamentary democracies that seem to function better in the public interest than Ireland’s), the report will end up in the hands of the Minister, his special advisers and senior DoF officials. That’s where the problem starts. The report should be submitted both to the Minister and to the Oireachtas Cttee on Finance and the Public Service. The Minister, having reflected, should then submit his proposals on how the report recommendations should be implemented to the Cttee. The Cttee should then hold hearings and call on expert opinion to validate and contest the proposals advanced by the Minister. Having heard and considered the evidence for and against – and proposed amendments and modifications – the Cttee should then decide on its recommendation re these modified proposals to the Oireachtas. Of course, the in-built Government majority on the Cttee will be used to whip through a version close to the Minister’s original proposals, but, at least, the media and the public will see the extent to which this whipped result deviated from the evidence presented. And, of course, an Oireachtas and Cttee system reclaiming powers and resources progressively usurped over time by governments would be able to make and enforce decisions on policy that were more closely based on the evidence presented. This, of course, won’t be the outcome of the current DoF review. It is likley to be a largely cosmetic exercise that will be spun by the Government machine as being the most radical transformation of the DoF in the history of the State. @ Paul Hunt, Interesting analysis, thanks. BOH. I’ve just been reading Tony Judt and this comment thread dovetails very nicely with one of his main points: the disengagement from politics in modern societies. He comments that young people who want to get engaged nowadays usually choose single issue groups rather than party politics. Given the state of our parties, who could blame them! But the bottom line is that it is the political system that runs the country, and that if people want change they ultimately have to engage with that system: joining existing parties, or forming new ones.This is how change comes about in a democratic society. Blogs and so on can help inform public debate, but in the end politics is about power: FF and the Greens had the votes in the Dail, which is why they were able to push through their disastrous banking schemes in the face of widespread criticism from independent commentators. It is easy to be cynical about everything within the country. The D of F always considered themselves to be the elite but when you consider their own review carried out last year with the breakdown of staff and qualifications held you begin to realise just how really bad this organisation was in terms of being staffed for purpose. They are handling over €50 Billion in Expenditure and do not employ one qualified accountant. They have a fair few staff with business degrees but none with the experience and analytical skills provided by trained accountants. Their staff with economics related qualifications are not what you might consider to be experienced macro economists. The worst part of this organisation is that they actually believe themselves to be good at what they do. The Top echelons need to be fired with reduced pensions to let them understand what it is really like for the rest of us in this recession as a result of their incompetence in dealing with the Government Finances and their lack of oversight of the Financial Regulator. Can we hope to see any changes at the D of F ? – honestly No because they will obfuscate their incompetence to the Review Committee by blaming the Politicians/Banks/ Devolopers/ Uncle Tom Cobbley and nothing will change going forward. Paul Hunt laid out succinctly what will happen to whatever is left of the Report when the CS and the Advisers have nobbled it. Comments are closed.