Colm McCarthy: July report?

An Bord Snip Nua, the group charged with identifying waste and overstaffing in the public service, has been 'deleted' by the government.

But the much-feared group, headed up by UCD economist Colm McCarthy, will still be able to submit its final report on public-service staffing levels and expenditure to the government by July as planned.

A note to the minutes of the last meeting of the Oireachtas Commission, which runs the Dáil and Seanad, states that references in previous minutes to 'An Bord Snip Nua' be deleted and replaced with 'the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure'.

Set up by finance minister Brian Lenihan last November to conduct a root-and-branch review of all government departments and report back on ways to reduce spending and cut non-essential staff, the group was quickly dubbed 'An Bord Snip Nua'.

This was a reference to a previous group set up in the last recession in the 1980s by the then finance minister, Ray McSharry, who was known as 'Mac the Knife' for his approach to expenditure

This group became legendary in the way it diligently sought out wasteful spending and was privately dubbed 'An Bord Snip' by ministers and senior civil servants who dreaded its inevitable visit to their departments.

The new name quickly caught on and, for reasons of brevity and efficiency, the tag even found its way onto official government documents.

But now it appears the Oireachtas has had a change of heart, fearing perhaps
that the term would be less than respectful of a group that will also be looking at TDs' expenses and other general spending by the Oireachtas.

The change has already been made on past Oireachtas minutes on its website, and all references to An Bord Snip Nua have now been expunged from official records. But the media is likely to stick with An Bord Snip Nua, which, in addition to its chair, Colm McCarthy, also includes former governor of the Central Bank Maurice O'Connell, and CIé chairman John Lynch.

The group is still on target to report to finance minister Brian Lenihan by July.