Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cowen: A dyed- in-the-wool conservative

It would be indeed news if the leader of a very conservative country like Ireland was other than a dyed- in-the-wool conservative.

Britain bequeathed a 19th century era governance system complete with Victorian secrecy and it remains basically as inherited in 1922.

The only transparency on public spending is via parliamentary question s and Freedom of Information requests.

It's an inadequate hodge-podge of a system that provides little transparency in a system where the State conspires with private clients to maintain what ids termed "confidentiality" - - which is without any doubt not in the public interest.

It severely impacts accountability and protects connected individuals who benefit as insiders in the system.

Taoiseach Brain Cowen is a man without vision who would not be expected to question well established routines.

As a minister in several governments, he went with the flow.

He was not the author of one single innovation of significance, since his election to Dáil.

In the Irish system, that was not an issue of any relevance.

Cowen claimed on Wednesday this week in the Dáil, that the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was being abused by long-winded requests.

He said public servants were being forced to spend an inordinate amount of time "trawling through" files when they could be doing other work.

"It is an expensive and time-consuming aspect of Government work," he said.

"I have no problem whatsoever with the legitimate use of the Freedom of Information Act for individual citizens or, indeed, for others,

"However, the idea of the department trawling every question that comes in from people who, perhaps, regard the departments of State as a source of generating information was not within the contemplation of the Freedom of Information Act and, to be honest; it is an abuse of the process," he added.

Why not try some radicalism?

Transparency on public spending with few exclusions, such as grants to foreign direct investors?

Political and economic reform in conservative Ireland and the promise of an "everlasting boom"