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Actions and decisions of Dept of Finance officials vindicated by external review

(01 Mar 2011)

The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS) has said that the decisions and actions taken by senior members of the Department of Finance and their advice to successive Ministers for Finance over the period 2000-2010 has been largely vindicated.

The Association was commenting following publication today of the review of the Department of Finance by Canadian expert Rob Wright, that explicitly cites political, rather than departmental, actions for the economic crisis and deep recession.

The AHCPS said, however, that while its members welcomed this vindication of the actions of senior officials, everyone would take heed of the report’s recommendations on how to improve the work of the Department to ensure it can provide the best economic advice and financial planning to promote recovery.

The AHCPS General Secretary, Dave Thomas, commented, “This report clearly states that the actions of politicians, rather than civil servants, were the primary factors in, firstly, adopting short-term policies that ultimately led to economic collapse; second, ignoring repeated warnings of an impending downturn; and thirdly, failing to respond appropriately when it hit.

“In fact on page 15 the report clearly states that in its annual June memo to the Cabinet the Department’s advice ‘did provide clear warnings on the risks of pro-cyclical action’ and that ‘this advice was more direct and comprehensive than concerns expressed by others in Ireland, or by international agencies.’

“Furthermore, the report also states that ‘relatively prudent fiscal advice’ provided by the Department was ‘systematically ignored in the Budget process.’

“Indeed, the report states that forces outside the control of the Department of Finance, such as commitments given in successive Programmes for Government, left officials having to reconcile these with the normal Budgetary process. This, allied with the ending of the construction boom, left the economy vulnerable to a downturn that was beyond the control of civil servants.

“AHCPS members worked diligently and responsibly throughout the economic boom. Despite this, many of them have been conveniently scape-goated by some for the economic collapse. This report states clearly that our members in the Department of Finance were not to blame. On that basis, we welcome the report and will work with the incoming Government to review its recommendations on improving the work of the Department to ensure that we can provide as best a service as possible to Ministers and the public in the future.”

ENDS

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Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants