Counting on public accountability

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Sir Fred Goodwin, erstwhile head of Royal Bank of Scotland and now public enemy number 1, has got a new job, The Scotsman reports today. The trouble is, that since he already has a sizeable pension fund from his days with RBS, there are those who think he should not really do anything except go and hide in a distant, far-off land. So, it should be no surprise to learn that there are some politicians (glass houses, pots and kettles come to mind) who believe that RMJM, the architectural firm which is now employing Sir Fred, should no longer be considered for public contracts.

Given that one of RMJM’s most recent contracts was to oversee the building of The Scottish Parliament, it is rather difficult to see that this would pose any problem, even before Fred the Shred’s appointment. The eventual spend on Holyrood was around £450million – about 10 times the initial estimate.

Of course, having set that precedent, other public contracts such as The Edinburgh Tram Project and the staging of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 are already over-budget, something that it seems we now rather take for granted in Scotland. Unless of course questions are asked of those responsible for these budgets? Perhaps it is time to make councils and governments accountable for every last penny of taxpayers’ money, before it is too late and there is none left. After all, the taxpayer has already bailed out the Royal Bank, but who will bail out the taxpayer when the public coffers are empty?

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