Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quango Pay - some people are earning a lot of money!

Last November I wrote about The top 100 best-paid in education - Does Not Include Me! - an article written by  Seán Flynn and Peter McGuire which had been published in The Irish Times. At #1 was Prof Des Fitzgerald, who is Vice-President for research in UCD, who earns €263,602. At #100 was Professor BG Loftus, who is Dean of Medicine at NUI Galway, who makes a paltry  €112,610 per year. Sadly I did not make the top 100.

Image from Betty the Sheep Blog.
Last Tuesday's Irish Times, in a follow up report by Flynn and McGuire, asks the question: "Who earns what in our education quangos?". The Times reports that in  "total, these agencies cost the taxpayer close to €1.5 billion – equivalent to what the State spends on the entire third-level sector". FÁS accounts for nearly two -thirds of this.

The Times lists the Quangos in the following order:
  1. FÁS 
  2. SCIENCE FOUNDATION IRELAND 
  3. NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT 
  4. NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION 
  5. NATIONAL EDUCATION WELFARE BOARD 
  6. THE HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY (HEA) 
  7. GRANGEGORMAN DEVELOPMENT AGENCY 
  8. THE STATE EXAMINATIONS COMMISSION 
  9. THE NATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS AUTHORITY OF IRELAND (NQAI)
  10. IRISH UNIVERSITIES QUALITY BOARD
  11. COMHAIRLE UM OIDEACHAS GAELTACHTA AGUS GAELSCOLAÍOCHTA 
  12. LÉARGAS AND THE NATIONAL CENTRE FOR GUIDANCE IN EDUCATION (NCGE) 
  13. GAISCE 
  14. SKILLNETS 
  15. THE FURTHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING AWARDS COUNCIL (FETAC)
  16. THE HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING AWARDS COUNCIL (HETAC)
Some of these Quangos I had never heard of, and there are many more not listed. Some like FÁS have huge annual budgets (€950 million), while others have quite small budgets (e.g. IRISH UNIVERSITIES QUALITY BOARD which has a budget of €750,000). In November 2008, the Government announced plans to amalgamate the NQAI, HETAC and FETAC and the IUQB into one super agency- Qualifications and Quality Assurance Ireland. But over two years later this still has not happened. (You might argue that the Government had more important things on its mind over the past two years). Last year, an Bord Snip Nua recommended "a culling of the various education quangos" and that many of the quangos could be "re-integrated back into the Department of Education or completely abolished". Fine Gael promises to abolish 150 quangos across the State after the General Election.

The thing is - all these State Agencies (except FÁS) do a lot of good work. SFI must be retained - in planning for a smart/digital economy it is essential that State funded research continue (even though NCI sees only a tiny fraction of their money). The State Examinations Commission must be kept separate from the Dept of Education. However - the rest could easily be combined. But how much money will this save? How many people will lose their jobs, but will retain fat state-funded pensions? Where will all the existing CEOs go -  some of whom are on enormous salaries? What is the cost of redundancies in this sector? It is easy for Fine Gael to be populist by blindly promising to "abolish quangos". Some of these were in existence that last time Fine Gael was in Government - why didn't they abolish them then?

Meanwhile, those of us who work at the "coal face" of education have to live with the existing system. No doubt that whatever replaces the above agencies, our work will not be any easier.

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