Children's ombudsman Emily Logan: her office may be merged with another body mark condren

THE office of the children's ombudsman should be axed and merged with other organisations as part of an extensive rationalisation of quangos and regulatory bodies, the report of An Bord Snip Nua has recommended.

It is understood An Bord Snip Nua has targeted what is widely perceived to be a proliferation of regulatory bodies and agencies. But it is the recommendation on the future of the Ombudsman for Children Office (OCO) that is likely to generate most debate.

If the proposal was accepted by the government, the OCO would lose its current stand-alone status, becoming a section of the OCO, which is headed by Emily O'Reilly.

Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan was appointed to the position at end of 2003 and last week launched her fourth annual report.

The OCO currently has a staff of 15.

The report also advocates transferring the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to the Ombudsman Office and says that the Pensions Board and the Health Insurance Authority – which regulates the private health insurance sector – should be merged into the Office of the Financial Regulator

The report of An Bord Snip Nua, which will recommend a reduction in public sector numbers of around 30,000, will be presented to the cabinet on Wednesday and is now certain to be published.

The timetable for, and the method of, publishing has not yet been determined. One strong possibility is that the report will be quickly forwarded to the Oireachtas Finance Committee, which will continue to meet throughout the summer.

There is a view in government circles that releasing the information in this more controlled forum would allow for a more measured and less frenzied debate on the report's recommendations.

"What is being proposed overall is horrific. It will amount to a root and branch reform of public expenditure," one informed source told the Sunday Tribune.

The report proposes a reduction of €1.5bn in the social welfare budget as part of overall suggested cutbacks of €5bn. Other recommendations include a reduction in the number of rural garda stations and garda numbers, cuts in army numbers, a restructuring of government departments and the closure of little used public transport routes.