It’s great to see that we are building strong relationships with NASA.  That’s right, National Aeronautics and Space Administration agency in the States, who are responsible for America’s public space programme!   It’s all thanks to the progressive top man in FÁS who thought it necessary to shell out almost $600 for  golf  at a Florida resort in order to foster business relationships with the agency.  It’s quite remarkable considering that the closest we have ever come to having a space programme of our own is that funny looking fellow that appears on those seriously questionable TV ads for the psychic hotline who boasts that he is to become Ireland’s first space tourist.  (Or is that Bill Cullen?  I know there is some controversy there.)  Well whoever is to become Ireland’s first space tourist there is no doubt about it that the leaders in our own government sponsored agency FAS, are already on a different planet to the rest of us.

Given the revelations of the weekend about the expenses incurred by FAS top brass, they are indeed an easy target this week for a bit of fun and ridicule.   On planet FAS the norm is fancy meals, luxury travel to the states, pampering treats in beauty salons, a spot of high end shopping here and there, pay per view movies in top hotels, golf days; the list goes on. What is probably more annoying than their obvious lack of responsibility and regard for a FAS credit card is that they are now trying to justify it.

For example when questioned about the expensive round of golf, The FÁS boss suggested that this was indeed a business expense as he was “developing relationships” with officials from NASA!  That has to be one of the funniest things I’ve read in a last while.  Why couldn’t he just say that he was in Florida, it was an opportunity to play on one of the finest courses in the world and he felt that he was doing such a good job for FAS that he deserved it!

From what I can gather there has been no real rule breaking on the part of these people.

Yes they availed of first class and business class flights to the States when they traveled and, also at the taxpayer’s expense, they brought along their wives.  Of course they ate well and stayed at high end hotels because they could.  If we were all honest we too would have done the same if the rules allowed it.  Why stay in a hostel and eat cheaply when the best is available to you?  I can even forgive the ‘pay per view’ movies in hotel rooms.  It can be lonely on business trips and in the past few years I have had to stay in my fair share of hotel rooms and a good movie certainly shortens an evening. However when you are paying for it yourself or you work for the private sector you are slightly more reluctant to buy them.

The main problem is the fact that they are now claiming that it was all legitimate!  Wouldn’t it be a better approach to state facts.  If they could tell us that they were doing a brilliant job and that it was the least they deserved after months of hard work, which one of us could cry foul?  Unfortunately the route they have taken is to pretend it is all perfectly normal.  It is all just high level business that, we, the great unwashed, just wouldn’t understand.  Well make us understand then.  After all we are the ones footing the bill!

Rody Molloy and the other top FAS executives are really no better or worse than many of our other high profile politicians and top civil servants.   I’m sure there are other ‘irregularities’ in other departments and agencies also.  What this actually shows is just more evidence of leaders and decision makers being out of touch with reality, shielded in an ivory tower of sorts which removes them from the day to day problems of the common man.  People at this level with expense accounts and access to free world wide luxury travel tend to become soft and, sometimes, ineffective.   Now, that’s fine if they only have themselves to worry about but unfortunately when they have chosen a public servant’s role it is a profile that doesn’t fit.  The very term ‘public servant’ should give them all a hint as to the proper definition of the job.  It’s not like these people are forced into positions such as these.  They choose these career paths and we, as their employers per say, should be happy to see them prospering in return for doing a good job.  But therein lies the real question; are they in fact doing a good job?

As a taxpayer I would be happy to see someone enjoying the rewards of a job well done.  Instead our outraged attitude is always that these people are cheating.  This in itself says that we don’t believe that they are doing a great job.  It is quite sad that in a free country we don’t trust those that we ourselves have put in charge.

Of course the fun is only just beginning as this is a story that looks set to run for a while yet.  No doubt there will be more and more revelations as the days go on.  However I just hope that someone somewhere, even for a few minutes, takes the focus off the expenditure and asks these people to justify their actual jobs.  What have they brought to the table or what have they contributed in the last while?  Are they doing an excellent job or do they just bide their time from day to day dreaming up ways of getting more foreign travel and jumping at every opportunity for a junket and a bit of fun.