Published on Thursday 6th September 2012

Progress on the implementation of the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has today published a statement on progress on the implementation of the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, which was launched on 17th November, 2011.

The Reform Plan was published against the background of the significant fiscal consolidation required to restore our public finances to a sustainable footing. Radical and sustained reform of the Public Service is required to ensure we can continue to provide services, to protect the vulnerable members of our society and rebuild our economy.

Implementation of the Reform Plan is changing the Public Service in terms of the way in which it is organised, the way in which people are managed, and the way in which expenditure is managed.

The reforms being implemented aim to place customer service at the heart of everything the Public Service does, to maximise new and innovative service delivery channels, to radically reduce costs to drive better value for money and to lead, organise and work in new ways.

These reforms are being introduced at a time when Public Service numbers are being dramatically reduced due to the necessity to make major savings in the Public Service pay bill. Public Service Numbers are now 28,000 lower (at 292,000 approx) than their peak (of 320,000 approx) at end 2008. The Exchequer pay bill has been reduced by 17.7% between 2009 and 2012, from €17.5bn (Gross) to €14.4bn (net of the Pension Related Deduction). Over the period 2009 to 2015, the Exchequer pay bill is expected to reduce by €3.8bn, or €3.3bn net of expected increases in public service pensions costs.

More than nine months since the Reform Plan was published, progress has been made across a wide range of areas, including for example:

§ In February, the Government agreed an approach to develop business cases for shared services in the Civil Service for HR, Pensions, Payroll, Finance and Banking. Separately, each of the main sectors are developing their own sectoral plans for shared services. In May, the Government approved the establishment of a HR Shared Service Centre for the Civil Service to be known as PeoplePoint. The financial appraisal suggests implementing the HR Shared Service will reduce headcount by 17% and costs by 26% with annual net savings of €12.5 million. The business case for a Civil Service Payroll Shared Service Centre is being developed and a feasibility study for a Civil Service Financial Management Shared Service and a Banking Shared Service will commence later this year.

§ In April, the Government published its eGovernment Strategy 2012-2015, which sets out 44 actions across eight key priority areas to ensure that Ireland will benefit from the opportunities for new and innovative service delivery channels offered by existing and emerging information and communications technologies. In July, the Government’s Cloud Computing Strategy for the Public Service was published. It sets out a strategic approach for the Public Service to engage with Cloud Computing and to undertake a comprehensive programme of Data Centre Consolidation.

§ In June, the Government agreed to implement the mandatory use of framework agreements for commonly produced goods and services, which is expected to yield significant savings across the Public Service. A capacity review of the central procurement function, supported by external consultants, has been concluded recently. Proposals have been agreed by Government (see separate press release) for the implementation of the key recommendations, including the establishment of a National Procurement Office headed by a Chief Procurement Officer. The review estimates that implementation of its recommendations, over a three-year period, could yield potential annual savings in the range of €249 million to €637 million, depending on the approach taken.

§ In July, the Government agreed a range of actions aimed at achieving a focussed and integrated approach to external service delivery of non-core processes with the objective of reducing costs and focussing staff on priority areas. It has been agreed that all proposed new services across the Public Service will be first tested for external service delivery before any approval to provide the service internally will be granted. Work is also underway to identify existing services that may be suitable for delivery by external providers with a view to selecting a number of major projects for priority implementation. The four major sectors of Health, Education, Justice and Local Government will prepare and implement a detailed benefits-driven external service delivery plan in their sectors.

§ A Government-level performance measurement system designed to measure success in delivering on the Government’s goals, is being piloted across seven programmes in the areas of Economy, Health, Transport and Environment. It will link the Government’s high-level goals with associated outcomes and outputs and will show how the Government is doing over time and how it compares internationally.

§ Significant progress has already been made on the ambitious programme of political and legislative reform aimed at enhancing openness, transparency and accountability. Government approval has been secured for the drafting of legislation to reform and extend Freedom of Information. Work is underway on the drafting of the Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest Bill, which will provide protection to whistleblowers in all sectors of the economy. It is also planned to enact the Ombudsman Amendment Bill by end-year, which will significantly extend the remit of the Ombudsman. Legislative proposals will be brought to Government this autumn on the regulation of lobbying and on Oireachtas inquiries. The Minister is also committed to overhauling and reforming the existing statutory framework for Ethics and for strengthening Civil Service accountability in line with the commitments contained in the Programme for Government.

Further details of these initiatives and information on the progress on other areas of the Reform Plan are set out in the statement published today.

It is important to acknowledge that the Public Service Agreement is a key enabler of many of the reforms, as set out in the statement. Engagement from public bodies and individual public servants has been positive and the building blocks for reform have now been put in place.

While good progress is being made, there is a need for management across the Public Service to further develop their reform plans and to support and drive implementation. Leadership at all levels across the Public Service and a cross-organisational approach will be critical to ensure a more citizen-driven and efficient Public Service.

Public Service Reform is a key priority for the Government. The next six months will be a critical phase in implementing change and building a Public Service that is equipped to meet the challenges we face as a country.