This rather Victorian title of Comptroller and Auditor General goes to a man called John Purcell. He’s the guy who coordinates an office of 170 people examining the books of the State’s coffers. His office examines about €50 billion of taxpayers’ money per annum and sees if we get value for money from the services returned for this extraction. He’s the darling of some journalists and researchers because he provides ready copy. But there’s a really accessible feature about public finances and value for money in today’s Irish Times and Paul Cullen has done a good job compiling it all. One portion of the article entitled “Casting a cold eye on State’s costly cock-ups” particularly caught my attention.
Cullen lists off the wastes of money that we have been subjected to in recent years: Ppars, CTC train signalling projects, electronic voting, the practice of lowballing*. A bigger litany of roguish behaviour by public servants too stupid to call a halt to a project over-spending will you find in the feature as a whole. Purcell believes that his carefully-maintained low profile is accounted for by the quality of the frequent reports his staff produce, and this is indeed admirable. But then he is asked about what fitting negative sanctions could be assigned to underperforming public servants when they cock up royally but their political masters move on or are not returned:
In many cases, the public berating of the people involved in controversies is punishment enough, I believe.
Huh? Say what now? Our public scorn is enough to make some stupid and suited idiot in the National Roads Authority feel bad? You can’t even listen to Joe Duffy during office hours in most public buildings!! John John John, give us some more hope than this.
* when artificially low estimates are submitted to win a contract. Once the competitors are out of the equation the costs start to rise and the State has little option but to pay up.