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 Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?

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PostSubject: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Sun May 04, 2008 3:27 pm

On 28th April Brian Cowen launched the latest OECD report on Public Services in Ireland. The OECD brief was

(i) To benchmark the Public Service in Ireland against other comparable countries, including identification of appropriate measures to compare the productivity and effectiveness of the Irish system, or discrete elements of it, against comparable international best practice, and

(ii) To make recommendations as to future directions for Public Service reform which will support the Irish Government's drive for delivery of world class services to the citizen, within existing resources commitment, and contribute to sustainable national competitive advantage.

The full report is here Full text of OECD Review

The Review "Towards an Integrated Public Service" homes in on lack of integration between services and lack of teamwork, faulty schools and hospital planning, lack of transparency and accountability in state agencies, bureaucratic cautiousness, poor approach to civilianisation of the Gards, e-investment that doesn't deliver economies or improved services and, most fundamentally, the need for accountability.

It slates the cumbersome and time wasting local government structures introduced under "Better Local Government":
Quote :
In addition, local agencies seem to have been set up to compensate for some perceived weaknesses of the local government system, which is not sustainable in the long
run, and has led to large scale duplication of roles.

Importantly, the Review also points out that we have relatively few public servants in comparison with the European average and are not high spenders on public services.

Brian Cowan's speech on introducing the Review hedges his bets.
"Were bad but were good but you think were bad and I won't let you say we're bad..."

Quote :
But I think any reasonable analysis must also acknowledge that while significant progress has been made, many more changes are both awaited and needed. At a time when the Government has been investing unprecedented levels of resources in public services, problems remain with delivery on the ground and maximising the return on investments. I recognise that in the minds of some commentators and members of the public the sustained economic success of the last decade and the investment in public services that this has allowed has not been matched in all cases by commensurate improvements in services. But there is a limit to the level of criticism that I will accept of the thousands of dedicated and hard working civil servants, health care workers, teachers, local authority workers, Gardaí and others who contribute to the delivery of our public services. Nevertheless, I believe that there now needs to be a renewed focus on Public Service modernisation. Public Service modernisation needs to shift up a gear.
Any views on

1. What it would take to give us efficient, value for money, public services and

2. Is there any chance that Brian Cowan will do it?


Last edited by cactus flower on Sun May 04, 2008 5:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Sun May 04, 2008 5:10 pm

Today's Business Post headlines say that Cowen's first step as Taoiseach after appointing his cabinet will be "to highlight the need to ensure better value for taxpayer's money to improve services in key areas, particularly the health service."

It is six months since the start of the credit crunch and the ISEQ slide. The Post notes that Cowen has finally met with banking executives to discuss the implications for the economy.

With a tax shortfall of €730 million Cowen will presumably be looking for cuts. Unfortunately for him the OECD doesn't suggest that we are overspending on public services.

There is a dim folk memory of the havoc wreaked by FG and FF cuts in the past, with hospital beds decimated, and gaping holes left in our planning capacities through closing An Foras Forbatha. The steely grip of the Department of Finance went into strangulation mode and there was no "investment spending" for a decade.

Have we learned anything? The HSE are already closing brand new "step down" units (whilst continuing to pay the staff) to save money, when the end result is going to be the same number of patients, but crammed in A and E on trolleys.


I see baby and I see bathwater...





Which will Cowen go for?
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Sun May 04, 2008 10:27 pm

cactus flower wrote:

It slates the cumbersome and time wasting local government structures introduced under "Better Local Government":
Quote :
In addition, local agencies seem to have been set up to compensate for some perceived weaknesses of the local government system, which is not sustainable in the long
run, and has led to large scale duplication of roles.

Bullseye.

Somebody, somewhere needs to admit that we don't need 88 Local Authorities.

Its bizarre to think that our system of Local Government is based on the GAA.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Sun May 04, 2008 10:46 pm

cactus flower wrote:
seinfeld wrote:
cactus flower wrote:

It slates the cumbersome and time wasting local government structures introduced under "Better Local Government":
Quote :
In addition, local agencies seem to have been set up to compensate for some perceived weaknesses of the local government system, which is not sustainable in the long
run, and has led to large scale duplication of roles.

Bullseye.

Somebody, somewhere needs to admit that we don't need 88 Local Authorities.

Its bizarre to think that our system of Local Government is based on the GAA.

Dead right. The Regions would do perfectly well for local authorities. But at the other end of the scale, small towns should have their own local authorities to deal with the basics.
In Greece and France every little town and village has its own mayor: it makes for better use of local resources, stronger local identity and initiative, and is more democratic.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Sun May 04, 2008 10:57 pm

If my understanding is correct that figure of 730 million is the figure that the deficit has widened more than the estimates were. The new estimates now figure that the gap will be 3.7 billion. I reckon with less than half the year gone the eventual gap will be nearer 10 billion. He has no choice but to cut or raise taxes
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Sun May 04, 2008 11:01 pm

Cut, raise taxes and borrow would be my bet.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Sun May 04, 2008 11:35 pm

Borrowing will be difficult and very much more expensive than a year ago. Even say a low 4 billion gap would be a thousand Euros each for every person in Ireland. Can a family of 4 pay an extra 80 Euro a week more in taxes. The time for happy talk is over and reality has to be faced. Is it any wonder Mr Cowen is reluctant to face the music.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 10:37 am

seinfeld wrote:
Somebody, somewhere needs to admit that we don't need 88 Local Authorities.

Its bizarre to think that our system of Local Government is based on the GAA.
Local Authorities don't include County Councils is it? Is there a list of the Local Authorities with personnel etc.? What would be a better plan of administration that would serve the locals then? Shouldn't people have to serve on councils obligatorily in rotation like juries to get people involved in their local areas?
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 2:38 pm

I think that any reform will be accompanied by cuts as is being done in the Health Service. It is my hope that the hiring freeze is being implemented with the intention of making people adapt to be more efficient. The hiring freeze is a blunt instrument but it should be effective in some areas and should shed a light on other areas where staff are already working to maximum capacity.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 2:47 pm

The hiring freeze probably means that the work is being done by disgruntled 'temporary' workers.

It is blunt beyond all reason. If all three of your sanitary services engineers leave and are not replaced then bingo! no development can take place.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 2:59 pm

One would have to think that if PPARs had been properly implemenrted then the hiring freeze could be applied more forensically.

Can anyone tel us how widely PPARs has been deployed at this stage?

Are all departments and state institutions in need of a personnel management software, including payroll and role tracking functionality?
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 3:49 pm

I don't think the problems are cureable by technology. Wasn't the problem with PPARS that there was no consistency between different departments on the ground, so there was no computer system that could possibly keep track of the whole thing.

Most government and local government departments are quite small in terms of personnel, but their management structures are vertical rather than pyramid or team based. They look like this:

Management Flow Chart

king The Director - big boss - nearly always male
jocolor The Senior - no one knows what he does
scratch The Senior Executive - near retirement
bounce Executive A - plays a lot of golf
study Executive B - addicted to the rules
drunken Executive C - no experience - will be Senior in 5 yrs.
Shocked Assistant Executive - on temp. contract - does most of the work.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 4:00 pm

The problem with PPARs was that it wasn't properly designed and implemented. It should have performed allowed the HSE to analyse
the staff they employ to identify where the money is going and where there might be duplication of roles.

I was unaware about the vertical rather than pyramidal management structure.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 4:12 pm

Zhou_Enlai wrote:
The problem with PPARs was that it wasn't properly designed and implemented. It should have performed allowed the HSE to analyse
the staff they employ to identify where the money is going and where there might be duplication of roles.

I was unaware about the vertical rather than pyramidal management structure.

Perhaps the PPARS project was administered by the Senior with help from Executive A ?
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Wed May 07, 2008 4:15 pm

Auditor #9 wrote:
seinfeld wrote:
Somebody, somewhere needs to admit that we don't need 88 Local Authorities.

Its bizarre to think that our system of Local Government is based on the GAA.
Local Authorities don't include County Councils is it? Is there a list of the Local Authorities with personnel etc.? What would be a better plan of administration that would serve the locals then? Shouldn't people have to serve on councils obligatorily in rotation like juries to get people involved in their local areas?

Local Authorities is an umbrella term for County Councils, Town Councils, City Councils and Borough Councils. There are 88 in total.

What we need are about 8 regional councils, and a substructure of 50 or so town councils.

Instead we have the sort of chaos where large towns are split between 2 local authorities because a river runs through them (Athlone) and counties like Tipperary that have 2 Local Authorties.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Thu May 08, 2008 8:59 am

I wondered when I first read this in the Irish Times this morning if Cowen was heralding a more socialist approach to government:

Quote :
“The ultimate test of our progress will be the extent to which we can mobilise all of the people to think and behave in a manner that puts the interests of society as a whole ahead of their own private interest,” he said.

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/0508/1210199732964.html

This appeal to a collective sense of responsibility might more realistically be interpreted to mean 'us and our IBEC chums have got us all into a fine mess and now you lot can lookforward to paying the price of it.'

If money has to be found to make up for declining tax revenue then how about taking a long cold look at tax subsidies to the so-called 'wealth creators'. A good place to start would be at the Department of Health where the ideological privatisation zealot Mary Harney is handing out subsidies to private investors like smarties:

Quote :
Mary Harney claims that the public sector can’t provide 1,000 extra hospital beds as fast and as cheaply as the private sector. This is a blatant lie. Co-located hospitals are the most expensive way to provide extra beds. Private investors will get tax breaks that will cost the state €500 million over seven years. On top of this the income lost to public hospitals from the transfer of private patients will be €700 million, which makes a minimum cost to taxpayers of €1.2 billion (about 44% of the cost) to build hospitals that will belong to private companies!

The new private hospitals will also treat public patients through the National Treatment Purchase Fund - more taxpayers’ money going into the coffers of private healthcare companies. In fact, there will be an incentive on the part of the government not to invest in the public health system to overcome the shortfalls that lead to waiting lists because they can just pay the private hospitals to do the job. This system will also be open to abuse by consultants who could transfer patients from the public to the private hospital for their own financial gain.


http://www.socialistparty.net/pub/pages/socialist026jul07/1.html

The problem with what is called 'reform' of the public sector is that it is a euphamism for getting rid of the public sector entirely and franchising it out to the business buccaneers, at enormous expense to the rest of us on the basis that these people are more 'efficient' at doing things than the rest of us. We already have an absolutely dire situation within the health service, where private management consultants and other publicly funded parasites are leeching vast sums of money out of reserves that should be going directly into patient care.

Instead of identifying the patent lunacy and inefficiency of this situation, a recent OECD report has called - wait for it- for more of the same, rather than less.

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Desktop\Sunday Business Post Irish Business News.htm

The report calls for increased involvement of private sector 'reformers' in public administration . What is really being advocated here is the dismantling of a sizeable element of what claim we can make to being a democracy. We already have a situation where, with virtually zero public discussion about what is going on, unelected and unaccountable IBEC representatives are crawling all over government quangos and committees. From these positions they are wreaking absolute havoc on many aspects of the public sector - deregulation of various sorts is creeping in by stealth. It's a barnyard auction of the puvblic sector.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Thu May 08, 2008 10:36 am

Aragon wrote:
I wondered when I first read this in the Irish Times this morning if Cowen was heralding a more socialist approach to government:

Quote :
“The ultimate test of our progress will be the extent to which we can mobilise all of the people to think and behave in a manner that puts the interests of society as a whole ahead of their own private interest,” he said.

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/0508/1210199732964.html

This appeal to a collective sense of responsibility might more realistically be interpreted to mean 'us and our IBEC chums have got us all into a fine mess and now you lot can lookforward to paying the price of it.'

If money has to be found to make up for declining tax revenue then how about taking a long cold look at tax subsidies to the so-called 'wealth creators'. A good place to start would be at the Department of Health where the ideological privatisation zealot Mary Harney is handing out subsidies to private investors like smarties:

Quote :
Mary Harney claims that the public sector can’t provide 1,000 extra hospital beds as fast and as cheaply as the private sector. This is a blatant lie. Co-located hospitals are the most expensive way to provide extra beds. Private investors will get tax breaks that will cost the state €500 million over seven years. On top of this the income lost to public hospitals from the transfer of private patients will be €700 million, which makes a minimum cost to taxpayers of €1.2 billion (about 44% of the cost) to build hospitals that will belong to private companies!

The new private hospitals will also treat public patients through the National Treatment Purchase Fund - more taxpayers’ money going into the coffers of private healthcare companies. In fact, there will be an incentive on the part of the government not to invest in the public health system to overcome the shortfalls that lead to waiting lists because they can just pay the private hospitals to do the job. This system will also be open to abuse by consultants who could transfer patients from the public to the private hospital for their own financial gain.


http://www.socialistparty.net/pub/pages/socialist026jul07/1.html

The problem with what is called 'reform' of the public sector is that it is a euphamism for getting rid of the public sector entirely and franchising it out to the business buccaneers, at enormous expense to the rest of us on the basis that these people are more 'efficient' at doing things than the rest of us. We already have an absolutely dire situation within the health service, where private management consultants and other publicly funded parasites are leeching vast sums of money out of reserves that should be going directly into patient care.

Instead of identifying the patent lunacy and inefficiency of this situation, a recent OECD report has called - wait for it- for more of the same, rather than less.

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Desktop\Sunday Business Post Irish Business News.htm

The report calls for increased involvement of private sector 'reformers' in public administration . What is really being advocated here is the dismantling of a sizeable element of what claim we can make to being a democracy. We already have a situation where, with virtually zero public discussion about what is going on, unelected and unaccountable IBEC representatives are crawling all over government quangos and committees. From these positions they are wreaking absolute havoc on many aspects of the public sector - deregulation of various sorts is creeping in by stealth. It's a barnyard auction of the puvblic sector.

Do you have some specific examples in mind?
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Thu May 08, 2008 12:29 pm

There are hundreds of examples CF. A good place to start investigating this is the IBEC website which boasts about its involvement in government policy across the spectrum - everything from immigration, to social welfare and education.

My son has been fiddling with the damn computer and I can no longer find the url/address links thingy on my toolbar. Otherwsie I'd also link you to the FETAC website which is a good example of what Im talking about. IBEC reps are heavily involved in determining education policy. Nowhere more so than in the area of vocational education where they are currently rolling out a plan to dumb down FETAC awards by switching from a system of independently assessed and monitored awards to a sort of self-certification system. At the same time they are enabling businesses to define the most basic of activities as a 'skill' or a 'training'. The motivation behind all of this would appear to be a serious lessening of the onus on businesses to provide proper training and to enable more of them to qualify for the subsidies that go with having what is really a dirt cheap, highly dependent and flexible form of labour - while pretending that you are training people for something worthwhile. IBEC is an organisation that never ceases to work out ways and means of getting the hands of business on as much of our national tax revenue as possible. AT the same time it wags its finger at public sector employees who would like to see their wages keep pace with the cost of living.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:19 pm

There has been a lot of publicity in the last 24 hours about the Comptroller and Auditory General's 2007 Annual Report on public spending. To me it is a very disappointing report in that it is limited to a few "one-off" issues (flood relief, prison warders travel expenses etc.). Perhaps there is a different report somewhere out there that evaluates value for money obtained by government spending, but this is not it. One item in the C and AG report is a 1,24 billion local authority underspend of development contributions. These contributions are collected from developers for essential infrastructure needed for newly permitted construction projects.
The C and AG report appears to accept the Local Authority line that the money was not spent because of the time it takes to carry out infrastructural works. This flies in the face of everything I know about how they operate. The people responsible for spending the money have less hassle if they don't spend it than if they do - go figure. The fact that this money was not spent is one of the reasons why we get polluted rivers and bans on all development in some areas.

The OECD Report on our public services published earlier this year has been endlessly referred to on P.ie as proof that we get value for money in public services. It was a soft and disappointing report, on which an OECD spokesman said when challenged "what do you expect when you put two sets of bureaucrats in a room together"

http://audgen.gov.ie/documents/annualreports/2007/AnnualReport2007b.pdf
http://www.finfacts.com/irishfinancenews/article_101348.shtml
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0916/1221430255039.html

Last month, John McGuinness, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, made a speech on the "Best Practice in the Public Sector" that provoked outrage from Trade Union leaders. He was heavily critical of the culture and performance in public service and is pushing for ISO 9000 standards to be a requirement in Government Departments. Both the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance disassociated themselves from the speech which they described as "personal".

http://www.johnmcguinness.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=187&Itemid=1

Cuts are coming in public services, and one asks oneself who will decide what they are, and how rationally and strategically they will be made. My expectation based on past performance and my personal experience in the public sector is for the worst. I don't have any confidence in current management's ability or will to make cuts that will cut out waste, that are oriented to value for money and that ring-fence essential services. Imo there is an urgent need for some kind of "crack squad" to work with staff and management of public service bodies to identify the changes that are needed to deliver services on a reduced budget.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:56 pm

you mean ISO 9000 standards are not a requirement of government departments? - even though they are a minimum requirement in most tenders for Government and state business - fecking typical

That says a hell of a lot - all you need to get ISO 9000 is a QA bureaucracy that talks to itself at least once a year - it is the minimum,minimum quality standard going - you make the rules yourself - all that ISO 9000 means is that you practice what you preach

Yeah thinking about it - that would asking too much of the civil service - there might a chance that somebody might have to take responsibility - which goes totally against the secret code of th sect of Civil Servants.
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Tue Sep 23, 2008 9:36 pm

cactus flower wrote:


Management Flow Chart

king The Director - big boss - nearly always male
jocolor The Senior - no one knows what he does
scratch The Senior Executive - near retirement
bounce Executive A - plays a lot of golf
study Executive B - addicted to the rules
drunken Executive C - no experience - will be Senior in 5 yrs.
Shocked Assistant Executive - on temp. contract - does most of the work.

Very Happy The perfect team with which we can make dreams happen!
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PostSubject: Re: Will Brian Cowen Reform the Public Sector?   Tue Sep 23, 2008 10:04 pm

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:


Management Flow Chart

king The Director - big boss - nearly always male
jocolor The Senior - no one knows what he does
scratch The Senior Executive - near retirement
bounce Executive A - plays a lot of golf
study Executive B - addicted to the rules
drunken Executive C - no experience - will be Senior in 5 yrs.
Shocked Assistant Executive - on temp. contract - does most of the work.

Very Happy The perfect team with which we can make dreams happen!

I am that Assistant Executive Sad
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