Dan White: Where were the whistleblowers as we headed for debt disaster?

Dan White

So now we know. It wasn't their fault.

According to a report on the performance of the Department of Finance during the Celtic Tiger years, senior officials repeatedly warned of the dangers of the economic policies being pursued by the Government.

Oh, come off it. This one has whitewash written all over it.

If you, as a senior official, know that what your political bosses are doing is not just wrong but dangerous then you surely have a duty to make sure that this becomes known to the wider public.

Where were the whistleblowers? I don't recall Department of Finance sources leaking their objections to the media.


Why didn't some of the senior officials use the multiplicity of Oireachtas committees to publicly voice their objections to what the government was doing?

Why, if they felt so strongly, didn't some officials take the ultimate step and resign to spend more time with their fat, gold-plated pensions?

Of course they didn't.

Reading the report I was immediately struck by what wasn't in it.

While the report, which was written by three former bureaucrats, repeatedly points out that the department did make its reservations known to the politicians, it doesn't actually publish any of these objections.

Could this possibly be because they were encrusted with the 'on the one hand but on the other hand' CYA (cover your a*** -- well you know what I mean) Sir Humphrey-style obfuscations that could mean anything?

However, even the report finds it incredible that after a decade or more of having its objections routinely ignored by the politicians, the department didn't at least raise the tone of its warnings.

If you or I were seriously concerned that what our employer was doing was putting the future of the company at risk and that our immediate superiors were routinely ignoring our warnings then we would have a duty not just to make our warnings more graphic but also to ensure that those warnings reached those in a position to act upon them.

This clearly didn't happen with the Department of Finance.

Part of the problem is, as the report itself points out, that the department was sucked into the whole "social partnership" malarkey.


Instead of doing the job it was supposed to be doing it was preoccupied with implementing the various harebrained schemes of the Ahern/McCreevy/Cowen era.

I think the report is on to something here.

Unfortunately, the problems created for the Department of Finance by social partnership go much deeper than the report points out.

One of the consequences of social partnership was that the pay and pensions of senior civil servants, including those in the Department of Finance, rose to ridiculously high levels during the boom years.

Could it possibly be that, with their pay and conditions having risen to previously undreamed of heights, the officials were reluctant to bite the hand that was so generously feeding them?

I'm only asking.