Monday, February 21, 2011

Shoddy corporate housekeeping at the Road Safety Authority

The essential role of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority is the advocacy of public compliance insofar as it relates to road safety, so I was surprised to discover some shortcomings with respect to compliance by the Authority itself

The Authority’s 2009 Annual Report is based on accounts that are unsigned by the chief executive and chief financial officer and are unaudited. There is not a single note to elaborate on the contents of the accounts, or to reflect compliance in all material respects with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.

The Annual Report identified one board member as Chairman of the Internal Audit Committee. There is no information to indicate what qualifies him to take on this role, nor is there any indication who the other member of the Internal Audit Committee are; if there is a member of the staff of the Department of Transport on that Committee; how many meetings were convened in 2009 and what they have to say to taxpayers.

The Chairman of the Remuneration Committee has been a member of the Court of Bank of Ireland since 2005. That is an institution that is intimately familiar with finer the dynamics of remuneration. They have paid themselves in the region of €47 million since 2005.

The Annual Report neglects to identify the membership of the Remuneration Committee; nor does it disclose the details of the chief executive’s remuneration and board members’ expenses, as required by the Code promulgated by the Department of Finance.

When it appeared last November that the Roma beggars who sit on their arse on the streets of Dublin were more au fait with the arrival of the IMF in Ireland than the Minister for Transport was prepared to admit, a taxpayer would be forgiven for concluding that former Minister Dempsey’s understanding of codes, accounts and governance issues might be compromised by an inability, on his part, to differentiate between a balance sheet and a bingo card.

Ireland is about to embark on the PBE (post-Beverly era) after next Friday’s general election and a new generation of politicians are more likely to emerge who will trim their flaming red eyebrows from time to time. An opportunity for the Road Safety Authority to synchronise with this change, show leadership and creativity could lie in how it reports to its stakeholders.

The membership of the Authority, for example, is currently defined by a set of names that presumably tally with those on corresponding birth certificates and utility bills and photographs which confirm gender and if there is a proclivity to smile. But, with the exception of Gay Byrne with whom the public are most familiar and whom they trust, these details convey no information to describe what credentials the other members have to advocate road safety as set out in S14 (4) of the Act and their capacity to contribute to the orderly governance of the Authority to a standard more desirable than that which prevailed at FÁS or Dublin Docklands Development Authority over the past several years.

Taxpayers, with their financial partners in the IMF, ECB and HM Treasury pay Authority membership fees and require more information about these individuals than might be typically forthcoming from a cohort of masked members of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940’s.

The mission of the Road Safety Authority as ‘simple’. Fast food stalls at a farmers market have a ‘simple’ mission. The mission of the Authority to be relatively complex, far reaching and sophisticated, as it seeks to fundamentally change stubborn and embedded social habits. The catastrophic distress caused by delinquent banks is of such viral and venal gravity as to prompt the desirability of research to establish the significance of the correlation between instances of suicide involving single vehicle collisions and financial distress attributable to Ireland’s delinquent banks.

A culture of fossilised inertia based on ‘twill do’ and shure, what’s wrong with it’ no longer pleases a very restless, agitated and wounded society.

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