FG calls for targets to be set for State agencies


State agencies should in future be obliged to deliver annual efficiency targets and senior managers should have their contracts tied to that delivery, Fine Gael said today.

The party’s deputy leader and finance spokesman Richard Bruton said the question of what other agencies had behaved like Fás in their spending was on many people’s minds.

“When asked in the Dáil, the Minister for Finance plainly didn't know,” Mr Bruton said.

"The truth is this Government is years behind its developed world counterparts in the way it allocates money and afterwards accounts for how that money was spent. Its agencies and senior managers are not tied to clear targets and performance measures as happens elsewhere.”

He said the Fás controversy illustrated “a far deeper problem”.

“As economic priorities changed with falling unemployment, there was no move by government to switch resources to higher priorities. The continuing availability of high budgets and the lack of prioritisation according to needs, only breeds complacency and waste within an organisation.”

He said many Government departments charged with overseeing agencies had “a weak understanding of the policy priorities concerned and do not impose any serious system of performance accountability”.

“Not surprisingly agencies become focused on their own needs, rather than the needs of clients. Empire-building and protection of agency turf thrives and the overseeing Department gets sucked along.”

Mr Bruton said there had to be “radical change” to root out such problems across the public service.

“In future, agencies and units should only get money if they enter into agreement to deliver specific outputs chosen for its importance in meeting government priorities,” he said.

Agencies that succeeded in achieving stretching targets of performance should be rewarded and those that fail should “face the consequences”.

“Agencies should be obliged each year to deliver efficiency targets as has been the pattern in many European countries, and senior managers should have their contracts tied to delivery.”

Mr Bruton said it was important to delegate authority to managers and give them the freedom to manage and make decisions.

“However this can only work if it is matched by demanding tests of efficiency and performance. This Government has failed to demand those standards.”

The State training agency faced controversy last week over some €640,000 in expenses payments to senior executives in the course of promoting a science programme in the US over a four-year period.

Its director general Rody Molloy resigned on Tuesday.

The board of Fás said yesterday it would initiate procedures to strengthen the audit role within the agency, which faces inquiries by both the Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General.