Friday, July 26, 2013

26/7/2013: Forfas Report 2012: A Handy Guide to 'Egg-Face' Collision

Ireland has been described as a 'Knowledge Economy", a science and R&D intensive economy, and island of Scholars (yes, while ago we also allegedly had saints). We have enough science development policy 'platforms' to fill TCD's Long Room. And we do spend some dish on funding science.

One of the organisations, responsible for shaping policy and assessing effectiveness of all of these and other 'platforms' is Forfas - a state body in charge of economic policy supports. You can read all the glorious descriptions of what Forfas does here:

And this week, RTE reported the following nice stats about this beacon of knowledge and research (full article here:

  • "The pension scheme at State enterprise body Forfas has a net deficit of almost €1.2 billion" (to be more precise: €1,187,674,000 - up 22% from €972,389,000 in 2011). Note: "Forfas administers the pensions of a number of agencies including Forfas, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the predecessors of those agencies."
  • "The report also states that 78% of last year's €51.4m Oireachtas grant to Forfas went to pay pensions - with just 22% spent on policy activities, corporate and shared services."
  • "The cost of payments to pensioners rose from by over 23% from €35.3m in 2011 to just under €43.5m last year."
  • But wait, there's more: "'non-effective expenditure' of €1.4m relating to rents for unoccupied office space.

On top of the figures highlighted in the RTE article, here are the actual breakdowns from the annual report:

  • EUR79.052mln was total income received by Forfas from all sources in 2012, down on EUR79.229mln in 2011.
  • Pensions spending was EUR61.372mln in 2012 or 77.63% of total income. In 2011 the same was EUR60.424 or 76.27%.

So: EUR43.5m on pensions, EUR1.4m on wasted rent, our of EUR51.4m grant means that Forfas has managed to spend ca EUR44.9m from EUR51.4m on… err… being a well-housed pension administrator. Less than 12.65% of the organisation grant went to fund its activities.

Seriously, folks, this does not give one much confidence in getting 'value for money'…

Updated: A comment from a senior science body head in Ireland: "I was gobsmacked to see this figure. I wonder how much of the country's so-called €500m 'science' budget goes on pensions? This is not to begrudge retired public servants their entitlements, but we should be transparent about what we spend on science & what we spend on other things."
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