Tuesday 16 January 2018

PAC chair: sack staff who waste public cash

PAC Chairman John McGuinness
PAC Chairman John McGuinness
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The waste of public money will not end unless civil servants responsible can be fired, according to the head of the Dáil's spending watchdog.

Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness said the litany of waste highlighted by the annual report of the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG), Séamus McCarthy, would continue unless there were real deterrents.

He also said that the C&AG's office was under-resourced and should be given powers to name specific civil servants who are guilty of causing waste through either negligence or poor performance.

"We need to have a situation where people are sanctioned for wasting money.

"I would like to see the C&AG being able to identify individuals, rather than having to say it is a system failure," he said.

Mr McGuinness said the threat of civil servants losing their jobs for presiding over wasteful spending "has to come into play" for there to be any real change.

Mr McCarthy's report was published on Tuesday and took much of the gloss off the Government's €27bn capital spending plan, which was unveiled the same day.

It revealed how huge sums had been wasted on projects such as the Thornton Hall Prison plan, which has cost the taxpayer close to €50m to date.

The HSE also came in for criticism after it emerged that it had to pay €9m in compensation for failing to pay suppliers on time.

"This sort of waste is highlighted year in, year out and nobody gets blamed," Mr McGuinness told the Irish Independent. "Nobody gets spoken to. Nobody gets fired."

He added: "The C&AG is starved of general resources and he can't carry out immediate forensic examinations of accounts. He is only given the broad headline figure of waste and that is usually just the tip of the iceberg."

Mr McGuinness said the Department of Public Expenditure was not fit for purpose.

"A lot of reform has been promised, but very little has been delivered," he added.

Irish Independent

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