Saturday, February 23, 2008

McCreevy's one stroke in 2003 that paid off

Charlie McCreevy, EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Photo: Construct Ireland

Charlie McCreevy, Minister for Finance in 2003 and currently European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, pulled two strokes in that year and one of them has worked as intended.

The biggest public sector restructuring plan in thirty years was the rabbit-out-of-the-hat announcement in December 2003, that 10,000 civil servants were to be moved out of Dublin and in true Tammany Hall style, ministers got the first choices in picking departments and agencies for relocation to their constituencies. It was all to be completed by 2007 and while the scam hasn't worked, it is still promoted as a success because the revised date for completion is whenever that target is met.

Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton has been advised that the number of Freedom of Information requests received by the Department of Finance dropped by up to 78 per cent from 2003-2007 following amendments to the FOI Act in 2003.

The Irish Times quotes an unnamed spokesman for the Department of Finance who said the €15 fee was necessary as time and money was being spent by departments to track paperwork and other extensive documentation in each case.

It's not as simple as that and McCreevy can claim credit for drawing a shadow over the very limited transparency in the very British system that his anti-Brit party Fianna Fáil, has left essentially unreformed over the decades.

I was told by the Procurement/Tenders Unit in the Department of Finance last year, that information on annual procurement would have to be requested from 15 individual Government Departments and the catch is that at their discretion, each of them can charge for the cost of providing the information, after the event. What that would be or include, would be unknown in advance.

Anyway, haven't we sufficient oversight with 23 Oireachtas committees - complete with 69 TDs/Senators getting additional salaries, research staff and so on?

Yes, indeed!