THE 2014 annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) highlights further instances of wastage and the incompetent use of public money by those charged with looking after the purse strings of the State on our behalf. Apart from all the money being spent on consultants, one of the many bugbears mentioned in his latest report by C&AG Seamus McCarthy is the €38m being spent on coming up with the EirCode postal code system – the expected benefits of which his office is unclear about.
Across a lot of government departments, there are cost overruns on projects and evidence of money being thrown down the drain on projects such as the proposed Thornton greenfield prison site that has cost taxpayers €50m to date for, effectively, a piece of land that is only now worth about €2.5m. The C&AG still has concerns about social welfare fraud and the HSE’s stocktaking systems.
People presiding over profligacy in the private sector would not be tolerated and would eventually lose their jobs if they were found to be incapable of rectifying matters. However, such sanctions only seem to exist in theory in the public service, so the absence of fear of them does not provide any great incentive to change things because it is so difficult to get fired from a permanent pensionable position.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin still has much to rectify.