The only good Quango is a dea… efficiently run, accountable and cost-effective one.

 From The News Letter, February this year:

As Stormont trims the health, education and water budgets, a leaked report has revealed some staggering facts about spending at a little known quango, reports political correspondent Sam McBride.

Yet new figures show that last year the quango spent just 11.6 per cent of its £1.8 million budget on ‘programmes’ aimed at children.

The majority went on essentially administrative costs such as advertising, PR, a costly city centre office and salaries, according to a leaked report.

The quango in question was, of course, the NICCY (Northern Ireland Commission for Children and Young People) and, as it so happens, this week there has been an announcement which should impact favourably on those percentages:

The Ministers recently visited Equality House in Belfast, currently occupied by the Equality Commission and the Older People’s Advocate. The Northern Ireland Commission for Children and Young People (NICCY) will move in during the Autumn followed subsequently by the Commission for Victims and Survivors.

The co-location of the Commissioners for Children and Young People; Victims and Survivors and for Older People is part of a shared services project which will save around £300,000 annually. The Office of the Older People’s Advocate, which will be replaced by a Commissioner in September, has already moved to the new premises. The move is part of an ongoing project, involving the four bodies and the Community Relations Council, which is also sponsored by OFMDFM.

 So more quangoists than you’ll be able to shake a stick at in Equality House but in the interests of cost (and quite possibly damage) limitation it makes definite sense to have all them corralled in the one building.

And, as it just so happens, one of my other favourites, the N.Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has just published their post-Monica business strategy (pdf) for 2011-2012. As you’d expect, “capacity-builders” and “empowered stakeholders” abound but it’s their proposed budget which is, in light of The News Letter’s  exposé, most interesting:

 Staff Costs: 1,040,000 (64%)

Running Costs: 386,000 (23%)

Programme Costs: 135,000 (8%)

Other Costs: 64,000 (5%)

Total budget: 1,625,000

 They are spending even less on their actual programme costs in percentage terms than the NICCY were!

Now, obviously no one expects the good folk at the NIHRC to be facilitating capacity- building and what have you out of the goodness of their hearts and obviously it’s very difficult to run programmes without the required staff and experts but still… especially in the light of the forthcoming financing cuts at the Commission- are those kind of  ratios really justified?

  • And if (when) we get the biggest Quango of them all…a Truth Commission…….it will be more of the same.
    Another reason to resist the nonsense.

  • There are two obvious questions when faced with these figures.

    1. Is there a separate budget for the programmes? E.g. if the actual programmes on the ground are funded from Peace III, they may be part of the budget of a Department or council, not a Commissioner.

    2. What is the defined role of these commissions? Is it to directly run services for young and old people? Or is to to keep a critical watch over what the public and private sectors do to young and old people? If the latter, they don’t need a very big budget for programme costs, although I would expect it to be higher if only to cover publicity and publication costs.

  • Nunoftheabove

    How is the return on the investment measured with any of these quangoes ? And why who ?

  • wild turkey


    its the 4th of july weekend but WTF, here goes

    i have two children aged 10 and 11. they attend an integrated school. i sit on the schools bored of guvs.

    can someone out there name 3 discernible and positive impacts the actions/avtivities of NICCY might have had over the past 5 years on the my childrens lives or my life as a parent?

    for the life of me, i cannot


  • Cynic2

    When we get them in there can we lock the doors and unplug the phones? Or perhaps apply the solution found by the people of Earth in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

  • lamhdearg

    hope you hit groomsport today/tonight W.T., good 4th july fun.

  • backstage

    I don’t know NICCY but programme spending is hardly the sum total of the work they produce. Research, advocacy, lobbying, awareness raising, for a start, are probably significant elements of what the staff do and these will not be reflected in programme costs. I don’t know what percentage these activities represent but flying a few headlines may not tell us everything about the organisation. Possibly…an easy target.

  • aquifer

    Where is the bill of rights we were promised?

    Maybe the NIHRC need to be put on performance related pay, or to be closed down when their work is done, like the Independent Monitoring Commission.

    Or closed down if they refuse to deliver.

    One grievance mill up on the hill is enough.

  • wee buns

    The ratios on the face of it, do not appear to be justified.

    Also NO to the ..threatening Troof Commission.

    Simply not a necessary part of the ‘fleece and consternation’ process.

  • backstage

    “Possibly…an easy target.” They are, they constantly give so much to aim at.

    The original defence put up by NICCY runs along the same lines as you’re suggesting and as I said in the post, programmes don’t get set up and run themselves… but 8%??

    To put it in perspective, the commissioners alone are to receive 30k more than the total spent on programmes.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I had a look on their site for a bit, expecting to find some kind of annual report where they would list the things they had accomplished in the last year, but I couldn’t find one.

    If there was at least a way of tracking what they had delivered against what they were being paid, people could form some sort of conclusion about whether or not they are value for money.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Do we really want the people we elect to make informed decisions without the array of consultants and experts coming in? Seriously? Does anyone think they could?

  • Comrade Stalin

    No they couldn’t. We live in a democracy, not a technocracy. Politicians are administrators and legislators – not experts on any given field.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Knowing how to manage consultants and experts would be a good start; even some form of dummies guide on how to avoid the public purse being fleeced by consultants who run rings round you without you realizing it (if you’re stupid) might be an idea. Realizing that lamentably very few of the civil servants upon who the credulous elected rep will tend to make him/herself reliant upon taking office know shit either nor have the slightest interest in public service would be decent advice too.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I wonder how much of the staff and running costs went indirectly into the programs.

  • Nunoftheabove


    Could well be the case that a lot of it is absorbed by staff costs; in absence of a spirited defence of what was actually delivered though they’re going to be up against it making that ratio look supportable. Also, why do they need such high end office space – is location such a big issue for an organziation of that type ? What if any procurement protocols are/were they subject to etc ?

  • Why do we need a Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission?

    Why should we not be content to leave the law to protect human rights?

    I see that we have a number of commissions which do very similar work, disability discrimination, equality, race relations. Why not merge them together into a commission for Northern Irish Prejudice?