What does “The buck stops here” mean? Short answer: the person at the top pays the price. If you’re in charge of an organization and something goes seriously wrong in that organization, here’s your hat and mind the door. If a Premier League team looks headed for relegation, it’s the manager/coach who is given a football boot in the bum. If a big company is doing well, its CEO is rewarded with eye-watering bonuses; if it’s losing contracts and money, the CEO is sent on his/her way.
Simples? Not really. I’m willing to bet you can think of at least one case where the CEO, the head honcho, shrugged their shoulders, not my fault, just some of those bone-head lower-downers screwing up the system, let’s fire them. Or sometimes the CEO will do a brag-humble routine. They’ll say “Well, if I’d known then what I know now, this would never have happened. But I didn’t”. Or the talk will be, not about doing right or wrong, but about ‘mistakes’. I made a mistake and our firm is doing only half the business it was. But hey, I’m only human. Sorry.
Even life-and-death matters can be handled this way. When a regiment of soldiers shoots dead fourteen people in broad daylight, with hundreds of witnesses, the man in charge of operations doesn’t get the boot. Don’t be so silly. The spotlight is shone on the lower orders, there is talk about ‘mistakes’ rather than murder, and you spin things out and withhold evidence for so long, even the lower orders are spared, because you wouldn’t want to put a man in his late seventies into prison, and him a bit sick already, now would you?
Which brings us to Sir Patrick Coghlan’s report yesterday on the RHI scheme. The real problem was SPADs, the real problem was the civil service, all parties were a bit to blame, yerrah lads ye’re only human, try to do better next time, although if you don’t, we’ll understand that it all was an accident. Nothing to see here, off you go. By the way, shouldn’t we have a whip-round for Sir Patrick, get him a Thank-You card and a wee present?