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September 2003 Archives

TDs and Benchmarking

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Now that the Dail has resumed sittings, let us have some real performance improvements from the Dail and politicians to justify benchmarking. Some suggestions in no particular order of importance:

1. No double jobbing as TDs are paid to do full-time jobs. Earnings from nixers and consultancy work should be used to reduce Dail salaries.
2. The Dail's annual holidays should be only 4-6 weeks. Normal office hours should apply from Monday to Thursday with Fridays reserved for constituency work and clinics.
3. The number of TDs should be rationalised - one TD per constituency is adequate.
4. All expenses and allowances paid to TDs should be accounted for in the same way as applies to the self-employed.
5. TDs should have the same tax allowances as all other workers or self-employed persons. Tax certificates should be supplied before taking a seat in Dail and every year thereafter. No cert, no seat.
6. Official transport should only be used for official business. Unofficial or party use should be reimbursed to the State.
7. TDs should have the same pension entitlements as most working people and should be eligible for redundancy payments when they lose their seats.
8. The productivity of TDs should be tracked by the quarterly publication of their attendances and speaking records in the Dail and at committees.
9. The Dail's effectiveness should be monitored in terms of sitting days, bills proposed & passed and output of committees.
10. Backbenchers should have greater flexibility in respect of Dail contributions and votes. Free votes should become the norm rather than the exception.
11. If backbenchers cannot become more active and productive in the Dail, their hours of work and pay should be scaled back.
12. There should be greater public accountability of TDs' performances via annual public meetings with constituents.
13. To ensure that TDs have real mandates, elections should be rerun if fewer than 50% of the electorate in their constituencies cast votes.

In return for these implementing changes, the salaries of the remaining TDs should be substantially increased to reflect their enhanced roles. As is often said, change and good example must start at the top!

Lead letter published in the Irish Times on 2nd October 2003. It was also read out on RTE's Morning Ireland and discussed with Joe Duffy on RTE's Liveline.

Tribunal Offences

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Which is the more serious offence - obstructing a bin lorry for a few days or a tribunal for an extended period ?

Letter published in the Irish Times on 23rd September 2003.

Benchmarking & Productivity

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Benchmarking was an election gimmick and Enda Kenny is correct to call it into question. The cost of benchmarking over the next ten years, at current prices, could be about €13, 000,000,000.  If used productively, these funds would enable us to reduce class sizes, repair leaking roofs, open and fully staff more hospitals, police our streets, reduce traffic congestion, care better for the elderly and lots more.

It is extraordinary that the private sector acquiesced so readily to benchmarking given that at least one month's income tax paid by all private sector workers will, for every year henceforth, be used to fund benchmarking.

Many of the action plans linked to benchmarking merely represent "good management" or "normal progress" and should be done without any reference to benchmarking. They do no relate to labour productivity unless performed by existing staff in addition to their existing tasks.  In the private sector, productivity means higher output for the same input or maintained output from reduced input.

As the justifications for benchmarking awards are, inexplicitly, a State secret and economic conditions have, in any event, rendered them obsolete, we cannot afford any more fudge and we must insist that the same definition of productivity be used by the private and public sectors.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 22nd September 2003. 

Public Sector Productivity

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Your correspondent Ms X (16th September) suggests that the jury is still out on the matter of productivity and benchmarking. She describes, as an example, a commendable action to be taken by the CSO to assess the usefulness of statistical data held in Government Departments. To my thinking, this merely represents "good management" or "normal progress" and should be done without any reference to benchmarking. It is not related to labour productivity unless performed by existing staff in addition to their existing tasks.  In the private sector, productivity means higher output for the same input or maintained output from reduced input.

It is extraordinary that the private sector acquiesced so readily to benchmarking given that at least one month's income tax paid by private sector workers will, for every year henceforth, be used to fund benchmarking.

As the justifications for benchmarking awards are, inexplicitly, a State secret and economic conditions have, in any event, rendered them obsolete, we cannot afford any more fudge and we must insist that the same definition of productivity be used by the private and public sectors. Genuine productivity increases should be rewarded.

Televise the Tribunals

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I observed two of the tribunals in operation before their Summer breaks and was I was shocked at the behavior by some parties and by the difficulties experienced by the tribunals in getting simple answers to simple questions.

As we move into the tribunal season, I suggest that all public tribunals should  consider broadcasting their proceedings live on TV, radio or the Internet. The cost of this will be more than offset by resultant time savings. If the Internet option is used for streaming audio and or video, there would be no problems about dislocating other programming or frequencies.

I'm sure that televising the DIRT enquiry and the extensive re-enactments of the Hutton enquiry have helped greatly to concentrate minds, improve memories and speed up the information gathering. It is one thing for witnesses to "carry on" in the relative privacy of the tribunal rooms but it is an entirely different thing to do so if (hundreds of) thousands of people are listening or watching.

I'm sure that this measure would be very popular based the interest shown in the Flood Tribunal's interim report. Given that the tribunals are being funded by the taxpayer, their broadcasting, for informational or entertainment purposes, might offer us a partial return on this investment.
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This page is an archive of entries from September 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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