The view from:
Paraic Bergin FCCA, Regional Director, Ireland, The Alchemy Network and former chief executive of the Galway Clinic
Q. You have worked at senior levels in the public and private sectors – what are the differences?
A. Responsiveness and accountability. Private enterprise without a monopoly must respond to market pressures and change to survive. Public bodies are not generally linked to measured or measureable requirements to be responsive to consumer demand. Private sector organisations are accountable to markets and investors, plus statutory agencies, while staff are individually accountable for performance. Neither public bodies nor their staff are generally accountable for the delivery of key objectives.
Q. Must the public sector be more like the private sector?
A. The public sector can succeed by retaining its distinctiveness while improving governance – re-examining how it serves the public. Many public bodies have forgotten their sole purpose is to deliver instruction, aid, or assistance to the general public. There is an emphasis on customer rights and charters, while the service involves ‘customers’ queuing for long periods, or travelling long distances.
Q. How should public bodies improve efficiency and cut costs?
A. Public bodies are often portrayed as inefficient and expensive, yet efficiency in dealing with human care issues is not easily measured in monetary or time terms. How do you conduct a cost/benefit analysis on a kindergarten programme whose long-term benefits include a better quality of life for participants and long-term economic and social benefits across the lifetime of the students? Improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness should focus on streamlining operations and making services accessible.
Q. Do the UK and Irish governments have the right approach to public sector reform?
A. No. For 20 years there has been much talk, but little actual reform. Without deep and fundamental reform at the top of government, politicians cannot drive a change agenda in the public sector.
Q. Can the public sector survive without radical reform?
A Unfortunately, yes. We get the public sector and services we deserve. We are too complacent and disconnected from any sense of ownership of the appalling waste of human talent and money that happens in our public sectors. We are also disconnected from any sense of ownership of and pride in the wonderful services and achievements of our public sectors.
Galway Clinic turnover: €40m on appointment; €50m on leaving
Losses before appointment: €100,000 per month
Profit after one year: €500,000 per month