Private (and) confidential

The illegal activities of Government Minister, Pat the Cope Gallagher, serve as a perfect example of how things are done (or not done) in this corrupt state. No anger, no accountability, no reaction (to my knowledge) apart from posts on this website and my letter to the Irish Times. (Below).

GALLAGHER’S POSTERS
Madam, – Ireland is the kind of country where a Government Minister, Pat the Cope Gallagher, can break the law in an apparent effort to gain cheap publicity in the run-up to a general election (The Irish Times, April 16th).
It is the kind of country where the authority responsible for repairing the damage, at the taxpayers’ expense, is accused of being “overly vigilant” by the same Minister.
It is the kind of country where there is no outrage, no widespread reporting/analysis of his actions, no questions asked by his fellow politicians and not even a hint that he might be sacked or face any consequences as a result of his behaviour.
It is the kind of country where cute hoorism and political irresponsibility is the norm rather than the exception.
It is the kind of country of which I am ashamed to be a citizen. – Yours, etc,
ANTHONY SHERIDAN

In a follow up on the matter I rang Dublin City Council to enquire if Minister Gallagher was fined for his illegal activity. The conversation went as follows: (Emphasis’ are mine)

Spokesperson: Nobody is above the law as far as we are concerned, so you needn’t think that we treat anybody more favourably than others. We treat everybody as equal.

Me: What’s the procedure when somebody is guilty of something like that?

Spokesperson: First, a fine of €125 would issue, if the fine is not paid legal proceedings would follow.

Me: That would hardly put a dent in the Minister’s petty cash.

Spokesperson: Depends on how many fines we issue. We could fine for each poster.

Me: Has any action been taken against him?

Spokesperson: That part is actually confidential.

Me: Why is that?

Spokesperson: But listen to what I’m saying in between. This would be the type of answer you’re looking for; it’s open to us to issue a fine.

Me: No, That’s not what I’m looking for; I’m not looking for a nod nod wink wink reply that might indicate that the Minister may have been made accountable. I’m looking to challenge the system to see if it properly brings law breakers to account.

Spokesperson: I don’t discuss anybody’s fines; it’s a matter between Dublin City Council and the person who caused the offence.

Me: Are you making that decision or is it based on a legal requirement?

Spokesperson: That is the policy of this office.

Me: Where does that policy come from?

Spokesperson: It’s my policy.

Me: I do not accept that.

Spokesperson: That’s fine, if you want to go further, that’s fine.

The crucial point of this conversation was reached when the spokesperson based her refusal to answer a question on her own personal office policy of ‘confidentiality’.

This is not to accuse this particular person of being dishonest or corrupt. It is, however, to assert that she operates in a corrupt system whereby strategies are employed to avoid answering questions.

Firstly, the softly softly re-assuring approach; ‘nobody is above the law etc. Then the wink wink strategy; I’m not going to give you an answer but here’s a strong hint that we can make wrong-does accountable if we have a mind to and finally, when all else fails, the most common and most powerful strategy of a corrupt state was invoked – It’s confidential, it’s a state secret, you are a non entity, a mere citizen and we don’t have to tell you anything.

After a couple of days trying I eventually got through to a higher authority. I was point blankly refused answers. When I asked for the legal basis of this refusal I was told to put my questions in writing. When I asked what regulation required citizens to put questions in writing on such simple matters, the spokesperson just kept repeating – Put it in writing.

Obviously this is going to take time but I will update as things develop.

It is important to remember that my question is very simple. Was the Minister fined and if so, by how much? Simple, you would think.

Pay increase, whether you like it or not

Sometimes, in unguarded moments, our politicians reveal the truth about how our country is run. The impact is all the greater when the revelations are made in all innocence, as is the case here.

Senator Shane Ross, speaking on the Marian Finucane Show last Sunday (Eamonn Dunphy was standing in for Marian) claimed that the whole bench marking deal was flawed because it was done in secrecy.

Dunphy:

Would you be happy if you’re wages were determined in secret?

Ross:

Let me tell you a little secret about this. I’m a bit of a hypocrite about all this because I get bench marking in the Senate as a senator and I’m a beneficiary of that. Let me tell you a story about it that shows how ridiculous it was.

When the last bench marking award came through I got my cheque and I saw this increase.

Dunphy:

How much was it for?

Ross:

I can’t remember, so I got this increase and I didn’t know what it was for so I rang up the Dept of Finance and I said ‘What’s this for, it was for another €200 or something I can’t remember and the guy said.

Oh, that’s your performance related pay.

And I said, but my performance has been worse in the Senate (great laughter from the panel). I have to admit to you in the last few months it’s been worse and I said, why did I get it?

He said that’s what’s been ordered for you and that’s what you get.

I said why and he didn’t know but he said you have to take performance related pay.

This is one of the ridiculous things about bench marking. They give out performance related pay, they set up these bogus, what they call performance verification groups, which rubber stamp these performance related payments for reasons for which we don’t know about and they give relativities for which we don’t understand

John Waters then cracked a joke about the senator’s work performance and everybody enjoyed a great laugh.

My comments:

Senator Ross is so insulated from the reality of Irish life that when one of his incomes is substantially increased he can’t remember by how much. The figure eventually comes to mind and we find the increase is equivalent to what many thousands of old age pensioners live on every week.

He freely admits that he is not entitled to the pay increase as his performance had actually dropped in recent months but gave no indication that he is going to give the money back, or perhaps give it to an old age pensioner.

The civil servant at the Dept. of Finance was so incompetent that he was unable to tell the senator the reason for the pay increase.

The senator also freely admits that the performance verification groups, apparently set up to actually police work performance, are bogus, and merely rubber stamp pay increases. (How close is this to fraud?)

Senator Ross’ tone of voice was one of astonishment at the situation but there was no trace of anger or any indication that he was going to act on the matter.

And the most depressing aspect of this little story? Senator Ross is one of our best, most diligent, most pro active, most socially aware of our politicians.

Probe finds doctors are operating price cartel

The Competition Authority is investigating doctor’s charges:

HUGE numbers of Irish doctors are operating a cartel which fixes prices for a range of their services. This is the central allegation of a major new Competition Authority (CA) investigation. And the authority has told the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) it now intends to take legal proceedings. In a letter to the IMO, the authority says the price-fixing “caused and continues to cause, significant harm to consumers”. The IMO represents approximately 6,000 doctors, including 2,000 self-employed GPs. Medical sources said that while this investigation had to do with a limited range of services, it is bound to raise questions about GP charges generally.

Audit critical of PPARS contract

More interesting PPARS stuff:

The internal audit report was sought by the HSE several months ago in the wake of strong criticism from Fine Gael about some of these consultancy contracts.

Fine Gael revealed that €2 million had been paid to Blackmore Group Assets Ltd, which it maintained was a shelf company based in the British Virgin Islands and administered from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

The Irish Times understands that an investigation over recent months carried out in Ireland and in Bermuda by legal advisers to the HSE has been unable to determine the beneficial owners of the company.

However, it is understood that Blackmore Group Assets Ltd informed the HSE legal advisers in early February that no persons or corporate entities resident or incorporated in the Republic of Ireland had any shareholding in the company either directly or indirectly through nominees.

It also maintained that no person connected with the HSE had any beneficial interest in the company.

The HSE investigation confirmed that Blackmore Group Assets Ltd was registered in the British Virgin Islands but that it did not have a physical presence there.

Legal advisers commissioned by the HSE in Bermuda reported that the company had been incorporated in the British Virgin Islands on February 25th, 2002.

The Bermuda law firm told the HSE that it was not required in the British Virgin Islands for the register of directors and members to be made public or to be filed at the corporate registry.

The law firm said that no such filing had been made and that it was not possible, from publicly available details in the British Virgin Islands, to discover who held shares in the company.

It emerged last December that the Revenue Commissioners had contacted the HSE’s office in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim, seeking information and documentation about Blackmore Group Assets Ltd. However, it is understood that the HSE has received no further contact from the Revenue Commissioners.

A spokesman for Fine Gael said last night that a series of questions set out by party leader Enda Kenny last December remained unanswered. These included how a shelf company was awarded a €2 million contract.

DWL ordered to hand over aquatic centre

After all the controversy, Dublin Waterworld are being forced out of the National Aquatic Centre.

Dublin Waterworld Ltd must hand over possession of the €62 million National Aquatic Centre on April 28th next to the State company which owns it, the High Court has directed.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan yesterday deferred to April 25th his decision on any application by DWL for a stay on the possession order. He also adjourned to the same date the issue of liability for the costs of the legal proceedings brought against DWL, which are expected to be more than €2 million.

Costs were sought by Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Ltd, the State company which owns the centre, against DWL, a shelf company with no assets and registered offices at Ballyvard, Tralee. DWL contends it is entitled to costs of various aspects of the proceedings.

Following an application yesterday by Denis McDonald SC, for CSID, DWL undertook to continue operating the centre to April 28th. It also undertook not to remove any equipment from the centre and to retain membership and other relevant records.

Irish – Politically stupid?

Consider the following email from Brendan Gleeson, read out on the Marian Finucane Show last Saturday.

I have witnessed my parents, both in their 80s, spend days and nights on trolleys in an overcrowded unit totally ill equipped to take care of them. The place is overrun and at times, filthy. This is not anecdotal, this is fact.

The staff are unable to cope, despite incredible commitment because the set up is stacked against them. Sick people are reduced to grabbing chairs, never mind beds from others who have gone to the toilet. My father spent six hours on a chair, afraid to vacate it, he’s 88. He paid VHI all his life along with the heavy taxation of the day which he viewed as a duty.

He spent four days and nights on a trolley having suffered a stroke and subsequent blindness. His dinner lay at the end of the trolley, untouched because they had forgotten he was blind and that he couldn’t see it.

My mother spent over two days and nights unable to use the solitary toilet in the unit when she needed to because she couldn’t get off the trolley unaided and by the time she reluctantly called a nurse, the toilet was occupied again. This was an unspeakable indignity to a woman of her generation and standards of personal hygiene. When she finally got to the toilet, it was covered in blood which incidentally she attempted to clean.

When my dad took ill again, he refused a doctors advice to go in – He couldn’t face it

Now consider the following: (Taken from a quick look at some files)

€9 billion: Over runs on road building – Gross incompetence by civil servants

€1.35 billion: Cost to taxpayer resulting from the deal done between Church and State over child abuse – Criminality, cruelty and incompetence by church and state

€1 billion: Illegal charging of the elderly in nursing homes – Criminality, cruelty and gross incompetence by civil servants.

€180 million: Amount spent on a computer system that was supposed to cost €9 million and doesn’t work – Gross incompetence

€20 million: Cost of tribunal into the taking of childrens organs without permission. – Gross incompetence and arrogance.

Hundreds of millions: Ansbacher, Dirt, Organised financial crime, etc. – Standard (and apparently acceptable) level of criminality in Irish financial community.

Only one question arises from the above – Why are the Irish people so docile and politically ignorant?

First rule – Always be covered

I think it’s very curious that the Government have decided not to publish the Ferns Report on the internet for “legal reasons’. The report is available from Government Publications only in hard copy. It is not available on CD.

A spokesman for the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Dept. responsible for the report told me

‘The report was not actually published. It was placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas and is therefore covered by Executive privilege.’

This is consistent with the way things are done in Ireland. No matter how serious the situation is, no matter what damage has been done to innocent citizens, no matter what loss has been suffered, the first rule is ABC – Always Be Covered.

Of much less importance but also curious is how difficult it is to contact the Government Publications Office. You would imagine that this service would be available on the internet for citizens to browse through the many publications.

Not only is it unavailable on the net but it is “invisible’ in the telephone directory. You must first be inspired to realise that this important office comes under the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The Ferns Report is on the internet, despite government shenanigans. It can be accessed at Ferns Report.

Government Publications – 01/6476879
Mail Order Section – 01/6476000

The sheriff is not for the good guys

BANKING Rottweiler Liam O’Reilly still doesn’t trust the banking sector not to get up to mischief again. “There’s an old saying. Trust . . . and verify,” he smiles.

The above quote is from an interview with the Financial Regulator’s chief executive, Liam O’Reilly in last Sunday’s Independent .

Anyone unfamiliar with the fact that Ireland is a corrupt state might get the impression that O’Reilly is an Eliot Ness type figure relentlessly pursuing the corrupt and protecting the interests of honest citizens.

An analysis of the article will clear up any such misconceptions.

AIB will have more reason than most to cheer O’Reilly’s impending retirement from the Financial Regulator’s office, having been hit for €34m after the forex rip off

AIB were not hit for €34m. They were not hit for anything. The €34m in question was the amount they stole from their customers and that’s all they were required to pay back.

At the time the Financial regulator did not have the power (even if it wanted to) to impose any punishment on AIB because the civil servants who established the organisation did not provide for any such power. This is like a car manufacturer designing a car with no petrol tank – in other words, gross incompetence.

There was always a very clear determination by (AIB chairman) Dermot Gleeson and the board to sort it out. It’s not to say that in this room that there weren’t some very hard and tough conversations. But it was always businesslike. It was never personal,” he says. “A bit like the mafia.

Unwittingly, O’Reilly hits the nail on the head here. ‘A bit like the Mafia’ Can you imagine the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) the American equivalent of our Financial Regulator, inviting Enron into the office to “sort out” allegations of very serious corruption? All done in private with no police involvement.

In the US, the police and SEC were involved from the start. Everything was done in public and through the courts, in other words justice was seen to be done. Our Financial Regulator operates, for the most part, in secrecy. This policy benefits the corrupt and damages the interests of ordinary citizens.

On the Cologne Re corruption, O’Reilly is quoted as follows.

“We were on top of that from day one…”We were quietly moving on it.’

Quietly is the operative word here. The Australians and the Americans immediately initiated legal action, keeping their public (customers) fully informed of events while our Financial Regulator kept things quiet preferring to merely “monitor” the situation. This is despite the fact that the corruption originated in Dublin’s IFSC centre. No wonder the New York Times labeled the IFSC “the financial wild west”.

‘Up until May of this year the regulator had secured over €69m in refunds for consumers’

‘In refunds’?? The consumer, somehow, is supposed to be grateful that the regulator managed to get refunds for stolen money. No fines, no police involvement, just quietly refund the stolen money.

‘Some 32 institutions have been nailed for 259 cases of overcharging since May 2004.’

What does O’Reilly mean by “nailed’?? None of these institutions were punished in any way whatsoever for their corruption. All of them are protected by the regulator through a policy of secrecy. This secrecy puts the ordinary citizen at a serious disadvantage in that he is unaware that he may be dealing with an organisation that has a record of stealing from its customers.

‘Perhaps AIB won’t be the only bank who’ll be happy to see the sheriff leave town.’

AIB were never afraid of O’Reilly nor do they care who replaces him. They are safe in the knowledge that his successor will maintain the policies that have always protected the financial institutions at the expense of ordinary citizens.

That’s how things are done in the financial ‘wild west’ sector in Ireland

Irish/Italian accountability

The ongoing case involving the Bank of Italy’s governor, Antonio Fazio makes an interesting comparison with how things are done in the Banana Republic of Ireland.

Fazio is facing questioning by magistrates for allegedly abusing his position by favouring Italian banks over foreign banks. If Italian standards of investigation and accountability were applied in Ireland, there would be dozens if not hundreds of Irish executives and politicians in jail.

Let’s just compare the Italian case with one of the hundreds of corrupt practices uncovered in the Banana Republic in recent years.

Irish banks and other financial institutions robbed hundreds of millions from the State through a well organised fraud involving DIRT tax. The Central Bank, Dept of Finance, Revenue Commissioners and various Ministers for Finance all knew that this fraud was in operation. Indeed, Revenue actually facilitated the fraud by issuing a memo that specifically prevented its own officials from checking the banks.

When the media (the only effective regulator in Ireland) uncovered the fraud, the banks were only required to pay back a portion of the money stolen, with some interest. No police, no magistrates, no courts, no jail, no accountability.

In Italy, Fazio is merely accused of favouring an Italian bank over a foreign bank in a takeover bid. For this he could be facing a three year jail sentence. In Ireland, this kind of activity would attract praise and promotion.

But most astonishing of all for Irish citizens, used to living in a state without integrity or accountability, is to witness the Italian Economy Minister, Domenico Siniscalco, resign in protest over the scandal saying that Italy’s reputation was being damaged.

On the waste of money

Looking back at Leader’s questions from last week I continue to be amazed, or dismayed even, at the nonsense Bertie Ahern comes out with. Machiavelli would be proud.

The Taoiseach: Deputy Kenny tried to say that it is an IT system. It is not an IT system.

Mr. Allen: It is a system that does not work.

The Taoiseach: It is a human resource system being developed for the entire HSE into the future. A large part of it is working.

Ms Enright: It is not working.

The Taoiseach: The firm in question, Deloitte & Touche, did not get the money just for consultancy. It implemented the system, trained 140,000 staff and tried to put the entire system together. That is what the money was paid for. We should have more honesty. There are difficulties with the system, but we should not have presentations, either here or elsewhere, which are totally dishonest.

Mr. Allen:A donkey is always a donkey.

Mr. Kenny: I have rarely heard such rubbish as the Taoiseach’s defence of this system.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy does not like the truth.

Mr. Kenny: He has blamed the consultants, he has blamed the health boards, he has blamed the workers and he has blamed the nurses for not working regular hours.

Ms O. Mitchell: He has blamed Fine Gael.

The Taoiseach: I have not blamed anyone.

I think that’s part of the problem Bertie.

It’s not an IT system now. But wait:

The Taoiseach: …The ICT system in question——

Ms Burton: The Taoiseach said earlier that it is not an IT system.

The Taoiseach: ——was procured following an EU tendering process and international evaluations.

Ms Burton: He said it a few minutes ago.

Truly great leadership we have.