IBEC, the body that is sponsored by State organisations but purports to represent Irish business, has welcomed the appointment of former ICTU General Secretary David Begg to the position of Chairman of the Pensions Authority. That’ll be the same appointment that was made by Minister Joan Burton, without any public competition. That would be despite all of the promises made by Fine Gael and Labour to bring a new type of politics to the country. Some will find it reassuring that despite such rash radical talk that nothing has changed. It’s still jobs for the boys, in this case a part-time positing that pays €100,000 plus expenses to the union retiree.
What credibility can IBEC have when it complains, sotto voce of course, to the government about issues such as petty corruption in the State procurement process or in trying to drive fair and open competition in sectors such as the legal profession, when it welcomes this appointment that is wrong in the method of appointment from start to finish?
There are definitely dozens, probably hundreds, of people who have worked in the pension industry over the years, at a very senior level, both here in Ireland and abroad, who know a lot more about pension issues than David Begg. Why weren’t any of them asked to chair the Authority? Charles Haughey gave a hubristic description of himself when he said "I have done the state some service, they know it, no more of that." To borrow Haughey’s view of himself, there are those in IBEC who believe that David Begg has also done the State some service. At ISME we’re not so sure.
It is now universally acknowledged by most independent commentators that Social Partnership, consisting of Government, IBEC and ICTU (led by David Begg), played a major part in the destruction of the economy. A key part of the same so-called partnership was equality among participants; one for you and one for me.
Partnership - ‘the brothers and the bosses’ – which sounds like a musical but was more like a farce, had a slush fund. This fund, located in FAS, was used to grease the partnership process.
The FAS based fund elevated Social Partnership to 30,000ft, as troublesome union officials were placated with some Florida sun, while they attended ‘fact finding’ meetings in the US State. The IBEC publicity machine feigned mock rage at the millions of Euro that went missing from the fund (never to be found). Their buddies or the brothers in ICTU couldn’t find the missing lotto sized pile of cash either. The Partnership held firm. Move along, nothing to see here.
It’s no wonder IBEC is welcoming this no-competition appointment. It’s one of their own who got the job. IBEC has a financial services unit that presumably covers the pensions sector in Ireland. The large pensions companies can sleep easy this weekend. With Begg at the helm, what are the odds on the Pensions Authority recommending that employers pay into the pensions’ pot, adding more costs to SME businesses?