Friday 19 December 2014

Waste still rife on Fine Gael's watch

Published 01/10/2013 | 05:00

THERE has been quite a lot of talk about Labour's broken promises. But it was Fine Gael who shouted the loudest at the last election about fixing the country's Budget deficit by "prioritising cutting waste over raising tax".

The latest report from the state spending watchdog shows there is plenty of waste out there after two-and-a-half years of Fine Gael in power.

The party of fiscal rectitude will no doubt point out that some of the most glaring examples are historic. The appalling mess in trying to find a new office for the State Pathologist and the Dublin Coroner dates back to the past Fianna Fail government. Around €3.3m has been spent with nothing to show for it. The partially completed centre had to be demolished because it was a health and safety risk.

But plenty of problems have continued on Fine Gael's watch. The Central Statistics Office managed to pay an official an extra €206,000 over a six-year period right up to last year. The HSE still has not got the systems it needs to control its finances.

And the penalty points system is in danger of being discredited completely, with CAG's report finding that up to one-in-five motorists are escaping penalty points because of "significant weaknesses" in the system.

However, there are significant issues for Labour too. Social Protection Minister Joan Burton's department lost €97m last year in overpayments due to fraud and error by claimants.

If that €97m of "waste" could be put towards the current target of €440m in social welfare cutbacks, it would spare a lot of Budget pain.

But the biggest pressure is on Fine Gael to keep one of its key election promises – to "aggressively cut the waste in our public service to keep all taxes as low as possible".

Irish Independent

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