Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Scandal of public-sector waste

Despite a five-fold increase in the health-budget since 1997, Liveline remains deluged with angry callers complaining about our 'Third World' health-service. Old people forced onto trollies in corridors, often in undignified circumstances. In spite of the potential for rationalisation of costs with the abolition of the bureaucratic balkanised health-boards, the Health Service Executive is every bit as bureaucratic and wasteful, with 70,000 people employed directly and 30,000 indirectly. This is because former Health Minister Michael Martin caved into the unions when they - as always - demanded concessions in return for their going along with the amalgamation of the 13 health-boards - namely the retention of all the staff working for them. This is typical of the kind of sell-outs to the unions that have flourished under this Government, and produced a monumental tsunami of wasteful government-spending with the taxpayer footing the bill. Until Mary Harney took over, successive Fianna Fáil health-ministers have failed to reform the health-service to the point where the public can see proportionate returns of the staggering €13bn billion investment in the health-service. At least 60% of the HSE budget is spent on staff., and managers are ten-a-penny.

Transport is another area of government waste. Despite transport-spending having soared from €151m in 1997 to €2.8bn last year, we have two Luas lines that don't link up, a Dublin Port Tunnel which is intermittently closed because of safety-concerns, a second-terminal at dublin Airport costing €2 billion in spite of a delay in its opening from Autumn 2007 to April 2010 because of inter-Coalition wrangling and our typically inefficient and slow planning-process.Overall, Ireland's road construction projects have accrued cost-overruns of €3.2 billion since 1997. Other cost-overruns include €471m on the Luas and €150m on the Port Tunnel. The Minister who presided over most of this, Martin Cullen, should in my opinion have been removed from the Cabinet. But he is by no means the only one.

Education spending spiralled from from €2.9bn in 1997 to €8.3bn in 2007. In spite of this, children in towns like Laytown, Co.Meath and Maryboro national school in Portlaoise are forced to attend school in prefabs rented by the Dept. Gorey, Co.Wexford, with a population of 30,000 people, has just one school for 1,700 children. Our school-system is bursting at the seams because of a combination of appalling planning and population-pressures consequent on an incompetent policy of unregulated migration (notably since the EU Enlargement of 2004) and a failure to enforce our borders because of Political-Correctness and fears of accusations of 'racism'. The possibility of efficiencies in the work-practices in our schools was binned by the failure of Fianna Fáil, as usual, to face down the teaching unions on performance-related pay and school league-tables. Minister Mary Hanafin must take responsibility for this failures, which reflect the gombeen tendency for Fianna Fáil to be all things to all people and avoid tough decisions.

It is a good thing then, that all three Ministers are no longer in their present positions, though whether they should even remain in the Cabinet is debatable. I have already set out my stall on this - Martin Cullen should certainly have gotten the 'chop'. This blogger has decided to give Hanafin another chance to redeem herself and learn from her mistakes. For all Micheal Martin's failings, there is less-scope for waste of public-money in his new throne in Iveagh House. The most important changes are the removal of Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach and Cowen as Finance Minister. Brian Lenihan has already shown some promise in his former Justice portfolio. If he wants to do the same in his current post at Finance, he must crack down on endemic waste in the public sector. Among other things that means facing down the unions, (which Cowen failed to do) and linking benchmarking to changes to work-practices. The extent to which Cowen's uninspiring records in Health, Transport, Energy and Communications and Finance will impede his successor's capacity to bring about real value for taxpayers' money remains to be seen. But the Irish people, tired of good money being thrown after bad, will be watching closely.


1 comment:

Graham said...

Hi FT. I've been really impressed by your blog. You've got an excellent grip on the statistics and the political minutiae of politics (whereas I prefer to immerse myself in theory), and your analysis is first-rate.

I hope you will join the Irish Liberty Forum. We are assembling a team of freedom-friendly writers for our blog and I think you'd fit in perfectly!