Accountability, not responsibility, is now a must for civil service

There’s no shortage of responsibility in Government. High salaries accompany heavy responsibility. But there is an overwhelming shortage of accountability.

This became clear to me in the KGB-like shenanigans preceding the launch of The Steering Group’s Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy.


Minority reports from both ABFI and MEAS were excluded from the final partisan report while journalists attending the launch appeared to have been carefully-selected.
I wasn’t one of them.
On enquiring as to why Drinks Industry Ireland magazine was excluded from the report’s press launch I was told by the Department of Health Press Office that I didn’t have an NUJ card – a bit like having to be a loyal party member in old Soviet Russia, I thought – the first time such a card had been played on me in 30 years….
Sour grapes aside, when I further enquired as to who was ‘accountable’ for setting up this non-NUJ exclusion zone, I was informed that it was ‘policy’. A handy word, that.
Who thought up this ruse? You’ll find no one to be ‘accountable’ – a familiar ring in these post unaccountable Financial Regulator times.
‘Accountability’ – taking the consequences for one’s actions in behemoths such as a Government Department or the HSE is a state of being that’s seldom encountered in this Emerald Isle. For that would force someone – a Government Minister or a number of senior civil servants hiding behind the facades of Hawkins House or Oak House or other Government buildings – to stand up and take the consequences of their actions. And that is not the Irish way, certainly not in the civil service.
Instead, nameless – and unaccountable – bureaucrats in ‘the system’ continue to belie a functioning democracy just as the ‘system’ has lately denied some very ill people in dire need of life-saving medicines access to a medical card (which was taken away from them by a civil servant’s ‘oversight’ – for which he or she remains ‘unaccountable’).
No one, it seems, has been able to intervene as no one, it seems must stand to account. We must ask ourselves for how much longer we’ll put up with a policy of unaccountability in this country’s civil service.
This latest report has not been taken too kindly to by either the media or the drinks industry. It seems rather light on impartial factual evidence and heavier on bending to the cause of the anti-alcohol zealot. But I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Finally – and purely in the spirit of sour grapes at this point – I’d like to make one final minor observation. The Steering Group’s report is available at www.doh.ie.
Ring any bells, Homer?

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