Ministerial responsibility, policy design and implementation

At a conference in the IPA recently there was some talk about changes in how ministers and civil servants are held accountable, and for what they are held accountable. The traditional doctrine of ministerial responsibility, set out in the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924, hold the minister to be the Corporation Sole, so s/he is legally responsible for every action of the department. This is obviously not very realistic and few would subscribe to the view of the UK Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan that the sound of a bedpan falling in his local hospital should reverberate in the Palace of Westminster.

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Avoiding short-term thinking in politics

Posted by Eoin O’Malley (7th January, 2013)

One of the most common complaints about democracy is that it shortens our rulers’ time horizons to an extent that damages our interests. If you are a hereditary absolute monarch, presumably you take a very long view, as you care about the inheritance you leave your children and grandchildren. But if you’re an elected politician you tend to think in terms of the next election.

Political scientists tend to assume that all politicians care about is re-election, and while this might be an oversimplification, it is hardly a controversial assumption. Then politicians think in four or five year cycles. Internationally there is some evidence, though it’s hardly overwhelming, Continue reading

Incrementalism or radical reform

By Jane Suiter

Writing in The Irish Times Eoin Daly of DCU argues that citizens should have access to non-sectarian public schools. While the argument is interesting in and of itself what appears to be at the heart of it is a kind of radical reform where, instead of the usual incrementalism typical of Irish public policy making, we ask what sort of system is it we want for the future and design for that. In many ways this can be applied to policy making in most government departments, where many things happen simply because they have always been done this way. Is it the case that if we are to reimagine Ireland then we need to look at all areas where vested interests have had an overly substantial input into policy making in the past? Some possible questions arising are whether our Ministers should be bound by precedent, or should they engage in radical reform? And if they do what are their chances of seeing come to fruition in the face of a possibly unenthusiastic public service?

Reformcard first scores

From Jane Suiter

Reformcard – the political reform scorecard developed for election 2011 – has scored all the political parties. We evaluated each Parties’ proposals in five categories of political reform – Oireachtas reform, Electoral reform, Open Government reform, Public Sector reform and Local Government reform.  Details on each are set out below. Continue reading

ReformCard: a tool to help voters decide

The editors and contributors behind polticalreform.ie have teamed with a large volunteer team of project managers, web designers and others to produce ReformCard a measurement tool to rank each party based on the quality of their policies on political reform.  We hope this will prove a critical instrument in informing the election 2011 debate. It provides the 25 proposals for political reform in Ireland which we believe provide the best possible combination to transform the political system and ensure it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. Continue reading

Here’s hoping FG proposals will include open government

A new Fine Gael policy document appears to be in the pipeline according to The Irish Times. It is said to include a slimmed-down civil service, a new cabinet minister for public sector reform and the abolition of the HSE “in its current form”. Under Fine Gael proposals, all Departments and agencies would openly compete for resources on an annual basis and publish the details of their bids. The use of cost benefit analysis would be dramatically widened to evaluate how money had been spent. Continue reading

Lucinda Creighton and Reform

Elsewhere on this site the full text of Lucinda Creighton’s speech to Magill is produced. However, there are no comment faculties there and given the importance of some of what she said I thought I would link it here for comments. She is obviously disillusioned but makes some interesting points. In particular she points to the party whip as a real source of legislative weakness.

In Ireland, however, the most stringent form of whip, the
three line whip is imposed for every single vote. This
demonstrates to me a lack of confidence amongst political
parties. It shows an immature democracy, which urgently
needs to grow up to meet the needs of a mature people. It
also creates a fertile environment for mediocrity to flourish,
where politicians are enabled and indeed encouraged to
avoid individual accountability. The result of our entrenched
and archaic party whip system is that our politicians can
dodge personal responsibility for their own political
decisions.

Is Lenihan right to exclude political decisions from the Banking Inquiry?

Eoin O’Malley (6th July, 2010)

Little attention is given in today’s papers to Brian Lenihan’s appearance before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service yesterday. There he answered questions on the proposed Commission of Investigation into the banking crisis and in doing so made some statements on how he sees his ministerial responsibility. Continue reading