Friday, 10 February 2012

Quackers counting

RIGHT we apologise for the pun about being quackers, but it was South Antrim MLA Mitchell McLaughlin’s fault.

“If it walks like an overspend, quacks like an overspend, then as far as the public is concerned it is an overspend,” said Mr McLaughlin about a government ‘overspend’ on an accounting software procurement designed to improve accounting...

The software package concerned, called Account NI, is designed to make procurement in the civil service more efficient. Seriously, you really couldn’t make this up.

Of course, the civil service had a perfectly rational explanation why something budgeted at almost £1m ended up costing ten times that figure. For those like us with limited mathematical skills, we’ll save you reaching for the calculator - it works out as almost £10m.

Now while this is a shocker in terms of how such a figure grew to such wallet choking amounts, it does give legs to the issue of the deep, entrenched relationship between the public sector and the private sector.

As good, balanced people, we can regularly argue for both public sector cuts and protection of the public sector, sometimes at the same time. However, pushing the political soundbite generators known as MLAs to one side for a minute, the reality is that for some companies the deep pockets of the civil service can be picked to see what pounds lie within - consultancies specialising in telling the civil and public sector exactly what they want to hear are two a penny here.

In the public’s perception this must lead to some confusion.

There now follows a gratuitous selection of puns: This whole thing is quackers; we need to identify who ducked this issue; and we cry fowl on the whole thing!

And that’s before the news that the Public Prosecution Service, the Departments of Justice and Finance are expected to have to cough up around £2m to settle a lawsuit taken by…over 50 lawyers.

Is it any wonder that various species of duck come to Norn Iron as part of their annual migration: with so many people quackers they feel right at home.

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