BY SHANE ROSS
Well, the very, very serious Dail Public Accounts Committee sits down and takes a very, very grave view about the waste of public funds. It summons very, very important witnesses to explain the waste. It issues another very, very long-winded report. All 226 members of the Oireachtas receive a copy. The report costs another five grand. . .
Sometimes the report is even debated in the Dail. Nothing happens. No one pays a price.
Last week Buckley gave us our annual appetiser. It was no more influential nor more shocking than any of his other missives in recent years, but it was dynamite all the same. As usual it was dynamite without the explosion. Expect plenty of outrage and little action.
This year, Buckley introduces a twist to the familiar story. His narrative helpfully highlights the latest extravagance. In the past he reported plenty of plutocrats plucking booty from the boom. Not today. Now that the economy is teetering on the edge of Armageddon, it is the victim of more skilful pillagers — the guys who help the destitute.
Plenty of vultures are enjoying the feast served up by the rotting economy. The Department of Finance — or other equally generous organs of the State — have paid more than €11m to solicitors Arthur Cox, over €6m to accountants PwC and over €7m to investment bankers Merrill Lynch, supposedly to plot a route out of our banking catastrophe.
Welcome to the world of ‘advisers’ and ‘consultants’, Ireland’s fresh, faceless plutocracy. Some of the gigs given to consultants in the banking swamp were awarded without normal procurement procedures. The same names pop up with alarming regularity.
There is little evidence that today’s favourites have merited their millions. What did all their advice do to lift us out of the bottomless Anglo pit?
One foreign dignitary with a big reputation, Andrew Large, was paid €120,000 for scouring the globe and finding the new Financial Regulator, Matthew Elderfield.
Elderfield was a great appointment, but what is going on? A €200 advertisement on the appointments pages of The Economist would have flushed out Matthew from his Bermuda post.
Poor Buckley highlights the payments — but then cravenly points out that, in the greater scheme of things, the massive €34m sting that the financial advisers inflicted on the nation is a pinprick compared with the billions needed to recapitalise the banks.
Instead of downplaying the €34m figure, he should have challenged the assumption that their advice was worth the money. He could have queried how such a blood-sucking industry is ballooning. He should have asked whether we can stomach similar parasites now circling Nama, where Nama-vultures are set to savage the taxpayer for €2.3bn over the next decade.
Auctioneers are risen from the dead, concocting fantasy valuations for Nama. Happily forgotten property consultants and stockbrokers are furtively resurfacing, discredited asset managers are re-asserting their ‘expertise’, ghosts from the gang of compromised economists are touting their services. All the old guard who got it so wrong just three years ago are haunting Nama, hoping to do the State some service. And they are being indulged.