Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ireland broken governance system

In early 2009, I compared the broken governance systems in Japan and Ireland even though both countries have got new governments after long-dominant crony parties were turfed out of office, little has changed.

There is little appetite for change in Ireland despite the crash.
University College Dublin has published research on governance systems and the content below is my contribution to a thread on the issue in the Irish Economy blog:

A culture changes very slowly and issues such as reform are not a priority in a conservative society.
Process is boring and cannot match the level of interest when there are perceived nefarious foreign forces to blame. We love to talk but the record of running things is poor.

The level of transparency is also very poor; the available useful data on  public spending is primitive and conflict of interest remains a strange concept in Ireland.

RTÉ, Ireland's State broadcaster, sees no problem in board members pitching for work to former colleagues: "It would not be in the interest of any public broadcaster, nor the public, for independent producers of experience and skill . . . to be either barred from board service or, if appointed to a board, to be barred from seeking to maintain their business and livelihood by being disallowed from competing for programme commissions."

When it was disclosed in 2010 by The Irish Independent that  the wife of Eamonn Gilmore, Labour Party leader, had sold a two-and-a-half acre site in Galway for €525,000 to the Department of Education, a LP spokesperson said: "She is a private citizen and it is her money, not his."

The planning tribunal wound up after 15 years, lawyers became multimillionaires and the corrupt land-rezoning system remains untouched.

Changing the power balance in the Oireachtas would help over coming decades but the main interest of members will remain at the parish-pump level for the foreseeable future.

Research resources have been improved in recent years, TDs have been given additional staff (more opportunities for family jobs) but there is no evidence of improvement in teh standard of output.  37,397 Parliamentary Questions (PQs) were tabled in 2011 and Dáil Éireann registered second highest out of 18 Parliaments. The Irish figure is approximately three times the average number of questions tabled of 12,515.

As for civil servants standing up to ministers, again unlikely to happen and there are specialists in the area of science in enterprise agencies and in the Enterprise Department, but it doesn't seem to matter.

The enterprise agency heads when they speak in public, it's usually babble supporting the official line.

To borrow from 'The Irish Mind' fairytale, it permeates the 'eco-system.'

How likely is it in UCD that an insider would even question a pet project of a professor that is wasting public funds?

Look no further than the public science budget over 10 years of €23bn to wonder about governance: Oireachtas (houses of parliament) committee members not interested because it's over their heads; university presidents vying for funds but showing no interest in value for money issues; State agencies supporting ministerial delusion that Ireland could clone a Silicon Valley where so many others have failed; tech companies and IBEC welcoming lavish funds and captured journalists dazzled by stories of Facebook, Apple etc.