Moran tells PAC of reforms at Finance Department

Thursday 08 May 2014 23.31
Public Accounts Committee meeting was Mr Moran's first public appearance since news of his resignation
Public Accounts Committee meeting was Mr Moran's first public appearance since news of his resignation

The outgoing Secretary General of the Department of Finance has appeared before a sitting of the Public Accounts Committee to discuss the accounts of the department.

The committee meeting was Mr Moran's first public appearance since yesterday's news of his resignation later this year.

Committee Chairman John McGuinness thanked Mr Moran for his work and said he had no doubt that he would move on to pastures new and fresh. 

Explaining that there was nothing sinister about his decision to resign, Mr Moran said that he had had an "intense and fun four years" since returning home to Ireland.

Mr Moran said that the Troika programme had always been his guiding time-frame.

He said that parallel to this, he had also identified a series of other reforms that needed to take place and now he was going to hand over the work to someone else who would identify other reform areas.

He told the committee that he had nothing planned work-wise, adding that he had no specific plans or even preferences in terms of what his next project will be. He said that this was a nice time to leave because it would allow his successor to settle in before the Budget. 

In his address to the committee, Mr Moran took the opportunity to set out the achievements of the department since his appointment in 2012. 

He said that it had set the department five goals back then to focus on and described putting the first objective of restoring the economy and job creation as "brave". 

Mr Moran said the Department of Finance could take some satisfaction that Ireland has moved from a space of considerable job losses to a situation whereby the unemployment rate has dropped from 14% to 11%.

"I believe we are entitled to take some satisfaction from the fact that while still at unacceptably high levels, within only two years, the unemployment rate continues to fall incrementally from a peak of 15.1% in February 2012 to the April figure released last week of 11.7%," he told the committee.

"Also, at a rate of 3.3%, Irish employment growth now outpaces anywhere else in Europe. Furthermore, at less than 3%, the Irish Government can now borrow to finance further measures at the lowest rates ever in the history of the State and a long way from the 14% which prevailed during July 2012."

Mr Moran said that there are more than 300 people working in the Department of Finance and the reviews have been achieved with less than 1% of the civil service. 

"Many have questioned how the failings occurred in the past in our system and how we might move to fix that. I believe new processes embedding principles of good governance, more effective communications and a culture encouraging open challenge and questioning will go a long way to addressing many of the past failings," he said.

Work being done to build 'a forward-thinking department'

The committee was told that what is not obvious to the public is the work being done to try to build a forward-thinking department. He said that this challenge has gone beyond what was demanded of it. 

Mr Moran said that work is continuing on this and the road-map is well worked out. He said that the decision had been taken to reunite the Budget and tax policy areas, as well as reuniting the banking and financial services areas.

Mr Moran set out a raft of changes and reforms that have taken place in the department over the last number of years.

He said the reputation of the department is like the reputation of the country - it had taken a serious beating but he said he believed that this had now changed.

Mr Moran said this was not a comfortable place for department staff or for him to begin his tenure there.

He said that the Department of Finance, and indeed the public service, had gone from a place where people wanted to work, to one which people tried to avoid and he called on the committee to continue to focus on this and to build on what has been achieved. 

The outgoing General Secretary said the handling and storing of information in the department had to be overhauled and that this would be a long and expensive process if best practice is to be observed. 

"The quality of information on which we have to base our decisions, while much improved in recent years, is still very much below what I would consider to be an optimum level and to get there will require considerable further investment of technology and time. We are a long way away from being able to data mine the wealth of information present across other organs of government," he said.

The perception that the department is closed to views from industry and the social pillars is not true, Mr Moran stated. 

He said that the Department is now reaching out to the world through its new international division, "whose successful work was evident during the presidency but more discretely during the intense global diplomatic efforts around the renegotiation of the troika programme, the promissory note restructuring and the clean exit from the troika programme".

The public remains the Department's most important stakeholders, he added.

The decision to keep the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance in the same building was a good one as it allowed for contact between staff in both departments, Mr Moran said.

This was particularly useful in run up to the Budget, he added.