Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we…

5 10 2007

Whose are the most together, the most united and well-built team in government between 2004 and 2007?

Step forward the Department for Social Development – the lads that shelled out £276,318.75 on staff teambuilding costs, of course!! Only Stamford Bridge boasts a more lavishly assembled team.

Having been cemented together with over a quarter of a million pounds of good, hard taxpayers dough over three years, I’m extremely confident that Team DSD are extremely well built.

No, wait! I’m not. I’m actually extremely worried about them. The teambuilding bill is going up while headcount is going down. In 04/05, £63,000 was spent on teambuilding; then £88,000 in 05/06; and finally, £123,000 was spent this year. Yet over the past two years, more than 370 people left the department.

So what the hell’s going on inside DSD? Are they all nihilists in there? Or maybe they’re very sensitive chaps. Margaret Richie had better not be too mean to them lest teambuilding costs go up again next year.

But at a time when the department should be committed to making overall efficiency gains of 2.5% as part of the Gershon review, it upped teambuilding expenditure by 100%. So, broadly speaking, they missed that target by 102.5%.

Which looks bad… until you look more closely at the figures, then realise that they’re really, really bad. DSD spent around £185,000 on away days over three years. So we’re paying civil servants wages to go into DSD offices only for DSD to pay almost £200,000 back out to send them away for the day.

In between learning how make a kayak out of oil drums and a skipping rope, what else do staff learn? Well, DSD should take a leaf out of DARD’s book and do some staff surveys to find out.

Overall, DARD shelled out close to £20,000 over the past two years on a total of 15 staff surveys. Christ, they must have been pretty detailed. But that’s child’s play to the complexity of surveys carried out in DENI. They managed to produce two staff surveys at a total cost of £10,000.

Remedial maths classes for DSD/DARD/DENI beancounters… not very efficient chaps!

But how do we know about all this profligacy? Can it all be down to the work of just one man? Well, yes. Step forward Mr Efficiency… it’s DUP MLA Stephen Moutray!!

Alas, all that tireless representation doesn’t come for free y’know. To be good – to be Moutray good – costs c.£33,000 since May. That makes him the most expensive out of all 108 MLAs.

His colleague Allan Bresland (whose West Tyrone constituency is further from Stormont than Moutray’s in Upper Bann) propped up the expenses league with a paltry sum of just over £2,000 for the same period. In fact if public representation operated an economic exchange rate mechanism, you could get 15 ‘Breslands’ to the ‘Moutray’ at the moment. Not sure, maybe the ‘Bresland’ is deflated and undervalued at the moment…

But thank goodness the BBC are on hand to report all this. After all, the organisation which pays the irritating Jonathan Ross and invisible Graham Norton £23 million between them from public funds over the next three years will know wastage and inefficiency when it sees it.

All this talk of fancy away days, huge expense bills, massive payolas and Solomon-sized pay cheques… staff at Bobballs are wondering what ever happened to their annual pay review. (Time for some ‘IN&M efficiencies’… y’know, Katyn-style mass firings which make Stalin look like an investor in people. Ed.)

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