Publication of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal, which last sat in public in October 2008, is expected shortly, when it will deliver its judgement on alleged planning corruption in Dublin.
The Tribunal was established in 1997, and it is estimated that its cost to date is a whopping 97 million euro, though the final figure is believed to be 250 million euro, and perhaps even higher.
The findings will be keenly analysed in many quarters, not least by the public who will be anxious to discern whether this forum is an efficient or economical way of dealing with issues of national concern.
They will seriously doubt that this week with the revelation that the State has racked up a massive 30 million euro bill meeting the day-to-day running costs for this Tribunal alone.
Those costs included 80,000 euro on tea, coffee and water, 70,000 euro on newspaper, milk and kitchen supplies, almost 50,000 euro on lunches for judges and the Tribunal’s legal team, business class flights, and the very bizarre payments of 1,000 euro for plants, 5,160 euro for a timber shed as well as 1,100 euro for a judge’s bench.
In addition more than 200,000 euro went on expenses for judges and their staff and 46,000 was spent on shredding documents.
Bear in mind that all of this is in addition to the vast scale of fees paid to legal representatives involved in the proceedings – with some lawyers claiming 1,700 euro per day for the benefit of their expertise.
To the ordinary public, struggling day to day, it is all mind-boggling. To them it defies comprehension that such vast sums of their money could be spent on issues which they would, rightly, have expected would have been dealt with in a far more expeditious and economical manner. There is no doubt that they would never have entertained such a procedure if they had been aware that it would cost up to 250 million euro and take 13 years to determine.
They would also, again rightly, expect that when Tribunals of this nature are established, the findings would be quite emphatic and that someone, or group, would be held to brook for the behaviour that led to the establishment of the proceedings.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case in the past. They have proven to be a vast waste of taxpayers money and there is little evidence to suggest that the findings of the Mahon Tribunal will prove to be the exception.
What is incomprehensible is that no lessons appear to be have been learned by the excesses of those in authority in the past. Former Ministers still continue to draw huge salaries, Department advisers continue to receive salaries above the maximum agreed, day-by-day we learn of the excesses which were enjoyed by Government and non-Government agencies not too long ago and yet the powers that be expect that the people of this country should accept the penalties being imposed upon them as a direct result of those excesses.
People are weary of the doom and gloom which greets them each day – they have become almost inured to fiscal disasters which seem unending. They wonder whether political leaders have even a basic comprehension of the fear which is genuinely felt by huge numbers of society.
However, when they hear that up to 250 million euro of their money has been spent on a Tribunal of Enquiry which is highly unlikely to produce any tangible result, most particularly in terms of the imposition of penalties which adequately reflect the cost of these proceedings, it breeds a seething resentment that those in authority would do well not to ignore.