Friday, 17 September 2010

FAS decentralisation. How best to waste public funds.

Maybe we need an Irish Maggie Thatcher? OK, that’s a very provocative thing to say, but just bear with me. I worked in London, in the print industry, when Thatcher was in power.

She battered the miners, destroying whole communities, shutting down whole towns along with economically viable pits. It wasn’t just Scargill’s NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) that found itself pitched against Thatcher’s ideologically driven ambition to take miners’ livelihoods from them, but my union of the time, the NGA (National Graphical Association). I had good reason to hate her too – we had Conservative contributor Murdoch, the gravedigger of Wapping, to contend with.

But one thing I will say, she was consistent. And she really was a free-marketeer – no messing. Unlike the lamentable Irish politicians who passed (and pass) for right-wing ideologues: McDowell, Harney and McCreevy. These people did not support a free market, they used the state’s fiscal policies and the IDA to create an inverted socialism that favoured the wealthy and furnished them with tax breaks to distort and eventually destroy the economy. Gombeens all.

But what the hell do you do about the state and semi-state bodies that seemingly make a virtue out of wasting public money? I’d send Mags to deal with scandal-ridden FAS, for instance. This body, supposedly charged with training the workforce, is a disgrace.

National embarrassment, Charlie (eeeehhh) McCreevy, decided to decentralise the civil service many years back. The reason behind this was not to make the civil service more efficient, enhance its role as a public service, or make the lives of civil servants any better; it was to get votes for gombeen politicians around the country.

Witness this report from yesterday’s Indo:

“FÁS paid more than the recommended price for two offices for its decentralised staff in Birr, Co Offaly, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report. One case was for a vacant site and the other was a lease on office space.

The State training agency paid more than double the amount recommended by its own property consultants for a new head office. However, no site works have been undertaken pending the review of decentralisation set for next year.

FÁS agreed to pay €1.5m for a 5.59 acre site in December 2004, despite having received a valuation in August of that year recommending a price of €700,000. In 2007, FÁS entered into a ten-year lease on a 708sq.m building in Birr at an annual lease cost of €200,000, 77% higher than the upper benchmark for leased offices in the area.

Only one firm, the landlord's building company, was asked to provide quotes for the fit-out contract. FÁS had planned that 40 staff would move there, yet so far only 20 have.”


Overall, the State has spent €43.8m on 12 sites in locations where the decentralisation programme is currently not going ahead. Over 700 staff have been moved to locations where the full decentralisation programme has now been deferred.

Almost 11,000 civil and public servants were due to be decentralised, but the movement of 6,600 has been deferred. The Office of Public Works bought 22 sites to accommodate the staff who would be decentralised at a cost of €67.4m.

Six of these sites were purchased for a price higher than the benchmark set by the Comptroller and Auditor

It’s enough to make you want to privatise the whole lot. And while I’m not in earnest in the post’s opening statement, a sea change is needed in how state bodies such as FAS use public funds.

Contrary to what they might think, they are not an infinite resource.

Back to Gombeen Nation main page


Anonymous said...

not to worry GM the IT has comfirmed what we all suspected oirland is now the second richest country in euorpe LOL, the IT forgot to mention that the imf is now looking up oirland on their maps lets hope they dont land in iceland by mistake with their big bags of cash BH

The Gombeen Man said...

"Second richest country in Europe"? Just goes to show we can't always believe what we read in the papers!

Yeah, be interesting if the IMF is called in, BH. I personally think we need an outside agency of some kind to sort the place out.

Dakota said...

Yep Mrs Thatcher was consistent and even today such traits are admirable. Well at least I think it is. But of course this is Ireland, consistency, eh,I don't think so.
Remember 40% of first preferences went to FF, what does that tell you? Pre 2007 - 08, for example, if you said such a house was over priced,or if you were not on the housing ladder you were considered mad. Hey lets not even go there about the traffic shall we. We all sat in Dublin traffic didn't we?

The Celtic tigers detritus is whats going to cause the lasting damage....State agencies are merely a symptom.

The horse has bolted,privatising state and semi state bodies may save money in the medium term but the money has already been spent.

The Gombeen Man said...

40% of first prefs to FF... yes D, that says it all. Now it's gone sour it's as if nobody voted for them at all!

anna said...

**Sigh**Re decentralisation: I am a public servant and had only been in the job 1 yr, when there was a shock announcement that 10 % of our staff would move down the country. I won’t say which county (not FAS and not Offaly) ….but they never got enough people, even when part of the offices were to be in the main county town: Idiotically they also picked teeny Villages no one ever heard of for other offices of the Dept to go to ,the same with most decentralisation counties. Yes maybe 70 people were decentralised to the main town- that was all.
Yet Densely populated Louth has several towns with 1000’s who commute to work in Dublin.So the proposed decentralisation offices for Co Louth were OVER Subscribed 4 TIMES OVER. And it doesn’t look as if 1 job ever will go there now- they hardly even got going on buying the sites in Louth. Of course decentralisation was a great idea- it would have reduced Dublin urban sprawl, and brought quality permanent jobs to regional towns. But look at the idiot locations- all about vote catching. NB, they never did a poll of 30,000+ civil servants in the country to ask where they'd all Want to go, Beforehand. Or even failing that, just picking the 20 largest towns in Ireland, (allowing for a slight weighting to see these were the 20 largest As spread Across the country), would have instantly provided the right no of recruits. But no. Couldn’t have been attempted in a more cynical, idiotic vote catching way.
Another FF own goal, take a bow Charlie Mc Creevy.

Anonymous said...

Praise for Mrs T? at a time when even Tories in the UK are disowning her?

You must have lay out in the sun too long GM :)

To give 2 examples of how Mrs T was bad for Britain.

She championed the deregulation of the banks - nuff said.

She allowed the British Car industry to die, preferring instead to go cap in hand to Nissan asking them to build 1 UK factory (The French by contrast supported their car industry and Renault now owns Nissan!)

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Anna. The only intended beneficiares of the whole silly scheme were the local TDs. I know lots of civil servants who are completely opposed to the whole idea.

Anon. I thought it was clear my "praise" was somewhat qualified, to say the least. See first para.

paysan said...

Hi GM, I was in the Irish chapel of the old NGA at about the same time - not that my boss would recognise a union. But those were the days when being in a union actually mattered and we believed we could make a difference, both in the workplace and in society.
Sadly, the way that unions in Ireland have cosied up to the government in order to bolster their own importance has meant that the ordinary member has been forgotten. The antics of FAS happened with the knowledge of the unions - they and IBEC were getting handsome stipends from FAS at a time of full employment in the state.
And don't get me started on decentralisation. It has served to put a massive debt on taxpayers while at the same time removing a lot of good corporate knowledge from the civil service at a time when we need it most. McCreevey is a complete wanker and couldn't wait to run off to the board of Ryanair once he got his Brussels pension. Cunt.