Friday 13 December 2019

Editorial: Spend our money with due care and attention

Court fines will soon be able to be paid in shops
Court fines will soon be able to be paid in shops


The annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is usually followed by some hand-wringing for a few days about the gross waste of taxpayers' money, and then it is all quickly forgotten, until the report comes out again a year later.

What it usually points up is that, in most cases, nobody is held accountable for the waste of public money. This year, however, there does appear to be a sea change and the result is that - apart from some examples of waste - we are seeing a new and welcome attitude in the public service.

While there are still examples of waste - one instance being the purchase of 25 sites by various county councils for €35 million, which are now worthless - this year's report is not nearly as bad as has been experienced in previous years. Of course, there were always public servants who treated public funds as if it was their own money, but their rectitude was always overshadowed by examples of wanton waste.

It is quite possible that the years of austerity have taught us all the value of money, something that was not always apparent during the boom years.

However, there are still areas in need of attention. The HSE has a vast budget, but there are clear examples listed where its procurement policies have been found lacking.

The Comptroller and Auditor General also examined the liquidation of Anglo-Ireland Bank and revealed that €1 billion was paid to bondholders and depositors in the failed bank. Once again, the taxpayer has been left to foot the bill.

The annual report of the C&AG is a very valuable exercise in holding public servants accountable for the spending of taxpayers' money. We also have to realise that in some instances things do go wrong, or that sometimes public money is spent at the behest of political expediency and public servants cannot be blamed for that.

What we now need is for the public watchdog to be extra vigilant in the run-up to an election. With money beginning to flow freely again there may well be a tendency for people to forget that every euro in tax comes out of someone's earnings. It is right that we pay our taxes, but it is also right that those who spend our money do so with care and attention.

The thrills of a top sporting weekend

This weekend promises another feast of sport to end a glorious summer.

The replay of the All-Ireland Hurling Final between great rivals Kilkenny and Tipperary will take centre stage on Saturday. Their first encounter was a thrilling and enthralling spectacle. Hurling fans are looking forward to another exciting affair, and, unlike the football final, hurling is a full-on sport where scores will always outplay tactics. There is no time for over-thinking on the hurling field.

It isn't all GAA. The Ryder Cup - which sees Europe, captained by Ireland's Paul McGinley, pitted against the United States in golf - will draw a global audience over the next 48 hours.

And let us not forget the ladies. On Sunday, Cork and Dublin will do battle in the All-Ireland Ladies Football Final in Croke Park, as part of a three-game programme. It also promises to be a great sporting spectacle.

Let us hope that the spectators get the thrilling contests they deserve, and may the best men and women win.

Irish Independent

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