‘Quango cull’ results in just 17 fewer agencies

Fine Gael had listed 145 quangos which would be terminated when it got into power

 

The ambitious “quango cull” of State agencies promised by Fine Gael and Labour in the run-up to the 2011 general election has amounted to a net reduction of no more than 17 bodies and practically no savings.

Both parties separately promised to abolish or merge many dozens of what they termed inefficient and wasteful State agencies. Fine Gael listed 145 quangos which would be terminated when it got into power.

An analysis by The Irish Times coupled with the findings of recent academic research suggests that while a total of 62 were terminated in the past six years, as many as 40 new agencies have been created, some 14 of them involving the merger of old agencies.

In addition, 12 of the agencies included in the Fine Gael-Labour programme were already pencilled for abolition or merger under the previous Fianna Fáil-led government – many of them had already ceased to exist by the time the coalition’s rationalisation programme began.

The net figure for reduction is, therefore, estimated at between 12 and 17 bodies, a little over a tenth of what was promised by Fine Gael.

New agencies

In a report published last year, Dr Richard Boyle of the Institute of Public Administration said there had been a 13 per cent reduction in State agencies since 2011, noting that only 10 had ceased to exist completely. At least five new agencies have been established since then, or are planned, including the Low Pay Commission, the Judicial Appointments Commission, the Public Sector Standards Commission, and the Climate Change Advisory Council.

Dr Boyle concluded the savings of €24 million were “relatively small” in scale.

“The objective of delivering a simplified agency landscape with more transparency and less duplication is hard to assess at this stage due to limited evidence.”

Promises

Notably, no political party included promises of further “quango culls” in its manifesto ahead of last year’s general election.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on public reform Dara Calleary said the “quango cull” was symptomatic of all of the promises of reform made by Fine Gael before 2012 which were “all spin and no substance”.

His Sinn Féin counterpart David Cullinane also criticised the low numbers, but argued there was still a case for rationalisation. The State agency system needed to be radically reformed, and that had to include their managerial and bureaucratic culture. “Quangos with no real independent purpose need to be shut down.”