Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming has welcomed the publication of the Third and Final Report of the Croke Park Implementation Body which shows pay and non-pay savings continue to be made in the public service. However Deputy Fleming has expressed concern about the future levels of transparency under the new agreement.
Deputy Fleming commented: “I recognise the significant sacrifices that have been asked of and made by public servants in recent years and it is right that we acknowledge this. It had become fashionable in certain quarters to denigrate the work of the Croke Park process but it has been consistently demonstrated that its framework offered the most effective means to deliver vital reforms.
“The main challenge continues to be to ensure that front-line services for the public are protected and that communities do not face the loss of vital services.
“In this regard I believe the verification report is lacking in that while it has focused on three specific projects it has not dealt with key the impact of changed work practices on key areas such as hospital waiting lists, the time it takes to see patients in A&E and delays to processing medical cards, student grant applications and social welfare payments.
“I am also concerned that the independent Implementation Body has been replaced by Minister Howlin with an in-house management / union group, chaired by the LRC. I believe this will dilute the level of transparency and independent oversight of the process as we move into the ‘Haddington Road Agreement’ period. In addition LRC activities are largely shielded from Freedom of Information queries.
“Any new body monitoring progress under the new Agreement should have a broader base to ensure the taxpayer’s interests are represented, by including users of public services as well as people who can bring expertise and experience from the private sector. This cannot simply be just a book-keeping exercise looking at savings but takes full account of the impact on service delivery of changes that are being made.
“Minister Howlin needs to publish a detailed breakdown of the savings he expects to make under Haddington Road in each area. He has refused consistently to provide this information. Despite all his spin about a commitment to transparency he is the most secretive of Ministers when it comes to providing information in the taxpayers’ interests,” concluded Deputy Fleming.