Unpublished European Commission report criticises Government for 'slow progress' on key reforms

Monday 17 June 2013 22.35
The commission is critical of the State's capacity to 'meaningfully engage' with jobseekers
The commission is critical of the State's capacity to 'meaningfully engage' with jobseekers

An unpublished bailout report by the European Commission has attacked the Government's slow progress on key reforms.

The strongly worded document is critical of slow or delayed changes to legal services, the introduction of credit register and steps to cut the cost of drugs.

It also says the Government will miss an important target in opening "one-stop-shop" facilities to help the unemployed.

The Spring Review for 2013 says it is "surprising" that the Irish authorities have only assigned "limited priority" to introduction of a credit register, which would show the extent of multiple loans to individuals.

The European Commission says the register has been "further delayed" since its last mission. It could now be introduced as late as 2016 instead of next year as originally planned.

It is critical of the State's capacity to "meaningfully engage" with jobseekers.

It says there are around 300 case workers for over 400,000 people on the live register.

This figure is expected to reach 600 by the end of 2013 and perhaps 800 by the end of next year.

However, it says this increase will be reached through the redeployment of existing staff, many of whom do not have required qualifications and would need significant training.

"Rapid decisions and actions on the possible outsourcing of some services are therefore needed," it says.

Despite a commitment to open 43 "one-stop-shops" for the unemployed by the end of the year the Government will fall short of the target, the report says.

The European Commission says "the process of reforming legal services have been unduly and frequently delayed and needs to come to fruition rapidly".

It says high legal costs feed through to higher prices for goods and services and damages Irish competitiveness.

Despite the criticisms, the commission says Ireland's compliance with the bailout programme remains generally strong.

However, it stresses the need to ensure Ireland adheres to its commitments to make savings to expenditure on public services in the wake of the Haddington Road agreement.

It says reducing the cost of delivering public services rather than the numbers providing those services is important to limit the adverse impacts of cut backs.

It adds: "This is especially important when it comes to the health sector where half of the 2013 pay and pension bill savings are assumed to be obtained."

The report says most milestones for the first three months of 2013 were met with the exception of a report on comparative health costs which is now expected in the coming weeks.

Responding to the report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said Ireland has met all of its targets under the Troika bailout programme.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Mr Kenny said the report in question was an internal report, and by contrast official Troika reports have been very positive about Ireland's performance.

He said that he was confident that Ireland would meet all of its bailout conditions on schedule and before it leaves the programme.

A Department of Finance spokesperson said the department does not comment on unpublished reports, but pointed to numerous positive comments by the most senior members of the EU Commission, including President Barroso and Vice President Olli Rehn.

The spokesperson said they had consistently praised Ireland's extremely strong implementation of the Programme of Assistance.