Wednesday, October 12, 2005

10 People that we could blame for PPARs other than Mary Harney

When you look at it, it is interesting to see the sort of things that exercises us these days. We're only too delighted to have a monumental cock-up to sink our teeth into. And it doesn't matter if the problem isn't a particularly big one in the grand scheme of things. The slightest hint of trouble and we're off into mindless hyperbola.

Now don't get me wrong, we should be rightly concerned about corruption by state officials, abuse of children & the vulnerable members of our society, natural disasters, carnage on our roads. But sometimes you can't help thinking that as a society were aren't able to keep things in proper perspective. Have we lost the ability to differentiate something infuriating from a tragedy or crisis?

Take this whole PPAR's yoke. (Now, I'll be the first to admit that I know precious little about computer systems, but my boyfriend has explained the pertinent points sufficiently well for me to make some assessment.) A mess is discovered in a huge amorphous IT project run by the civil service within one of the most complex organisations we've ever created. It is managed by an unaccountable committee, most of which don't have experience of installing enterprise wide IT systems. The project “fails” leading to cost overruns, expensive consultant fees and we end up with a system that doesn't work. Now this is hardly a surprise. Most businesses that have tried to introduce such enterprise wide solutions have failed abysmally. Why should we be surprised that it also failed in DOH&C?

Instead of rigorous analysis, we blame the Minister for Health & Children and ignore the fact that she took on a portfolio that no-one wanted and has spent the last year diffusing landmines which, if they didn't plant, her predecessors at least helped to bury. We seem quick to blame and if we can pin all the blame on one individual, so much the better. Why this rush to find someone to be ultimate responsibility? Do we blame the teacher for every mistake that one of his pupils makes? Or the doctor for the patient not taking her medicine? It seems we are unable to separate individual and collective responsibilities.

Well here are 10 other individuals and organisations that we might have blamed for this mess.
  1. SAP - The international IT firm who have developed a system that no-one can understand and that seems can only be modified by certain South African software engineers. (Is it not strange how these guys haven't taken any flak?)
  2. Deloitte & Touche - Management consultants extraordinaire who borrow your watch to tell you the time - and charge extortionate rates for the privilege.
  3. The many other IT & Management Consultancies who took numerous contracts (and lots of our cash) without giving us anything useful in return.
  4. All the former ministers for Health - under whose watch this disaster had been initiated and who did nothing to address the problem.
  5. Senior Civil Servants - Who, still smarting after the kicking they received on nursing homes debacle, decide to "bury the minister with reports and memos". (Why not show some self respect and take responsibility for your (in)-actions?)
  6. The Chief Executives of the now (thankfully) defunct health boards that got paid to manage but clearly didn't bother engaging in the issues to any detail.
  7. The senior managers within the health service who rather than listen to informed criticism by front line staff decided to bully staff instead.
  8. The various health service unions (nurses organisations, hospital consultants, administrators etc) who rather than embrace new technology saw its introduction as an opportunity to get into some pay bargaining.
  9. The Oireachtas joint committee on health (These guys tell us that TD's do a lot of good committee work. But I didn't hear them once assess this ongoing project. Sounds like the buck could have stopped here.)
  10. You and me for beating up on the guys least to blame for the shambles and not focusing our attention on 1-9.

I don't remember in her promise to overhaul the health service, Mary Harney pledging she'd ensure that all IT projects ongoing would be delivered on time. I'm sure if we sat down to analyse her performance, there is a lot of things we could say that Mary could have/should have or maybe just might have done differently but PPARs ain't one of them. Don't get me started!!


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