On the 14 January last, the Government Reform Unit of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published a public consultation paper. It invites the public submit their views on ‘Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance’. The paper discusses the ins-and-outs of the topic, presenting us with 19 questions that deserve answers.
Minister Pat Rabbite does not believe that the crisis reveals weaknesses in our design for democracy. One might have expected his left wing background to predispose him to structural explanations. Not in this matter: he opts for agency – the system was not the problem, Fianna Fail was. Nonetheless he does believe that the relationship between ministers and civil servants deserves examination. Senior civil servants were not held to account for their failures that contributed to the crisis because their responsibilities are not clearly spelt out. The Government agrees with him and is committed to legislation that will clarify relationships and spell out responsibilities. I suppose the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are working on that legislation. Perhaps the following will help them.