Nash questions government’s commitment to transparency and reform as Benefacts wound up
Labour’s Public Expenditure and Reform spokesperson, Ged Nash, has today said that the Government’s decision to discontinue funding to the data analytics company Benefacts raises serious questions about this Government’s commitment to transparency and reform in the wider public service.
The social enterprise was established in 2014 as a non-profit company to transform the transparency of Ireland’s €14 billion non-profit sector.
Deputy Nash said:
“This is a bad day for anyone with the slightest interest in reform and transparency in the public sector and the non-profit sector. One of the key issues that has impeded reform efforts previously has been the lack of robust data.
“Benefacts definitively broke new ground in this area progressing accountability in a new and radical way. It shone a light where none previously existed. The organisation was established seven years ago with explicit support and funding from Brendan Howlin as one of a series of Labour Party reforms to improve the analytic capacity of the civil and public services.
“Before Benefacts was established it was practically impossible to access a complete and reliable picture of the scale, work, governance arrangements and funding of the 34,000 non-profits operating in a sector that now employs 165,000 people.
“Over the last seven years Benefacts and its staff have provided a genuinely innovative service to the voluntary sector, to funders, officials, policy makers and to the public. The work of Benefacts staff has moved the dial and is responsible for helping to drive higher standards and greater public confidence in how our important community and voluntary sector organisations are run, governed and funded.
“The discontinuation of Benefacts’ funding by Minister McGrath begs serious questions of the government’s commitment to driving reform, transparency and ensuring value for money. The money involved is insignificant in the context of overall public spending. If the Minister believes there is no longer any value in the work of Benefacts, he should say so and explain how he intends to produce and publish this vital data into the future.
“We believe he won’t because he can’t, and that decision is the wrong one. The last three weeks have seen a lot of silly sloganeering about productivity in the public and civil service which is devoid of detail or examples of solid reform proposals. Benefacts has been a ground breaker both in terms of the data it collected and its devolved model.
“This decision, however, is a prime example of us going backwards. Better data use will be a key driver of new and modern public services and this decision to pull the plug on Benefacts should be reviewed immediately.”