Government seeking to let go 4,000 more public sector staff
THE GOVERNMENT is to seek to let go about 4,000 more staff in the Civil Service and non-commercial State bodies by the end of next year.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has written to all Government departments asking them to bring forward policy options which will result in staffing numbers being reduced further.
It said this should include options “to move to less labour-intensive service delivery”. Surplus staff will be offered voluntary redundancy under proposals being drawn up by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.
The Government had set a target of reducing numbers in the public service – including the Civil Service, health service, local authorities and education – to 282,500 by 2015. In essence it now wants to move the deadline to 2014.
This will mean that the Civil Service and non-commercial State companies will be asked to reduce staff numbers by 10 per cent more over the next year or so than originally envisaged.
More than 9,000 staff left the public service over recent months prior to the introduction of pension changes. At the end of March there were 291,927 staff in the public service, similar to the figure in 2005.
However, the Department of Public Service said it did not believe that expected natural retirements would lead to the numbers dropping to the next level of 282,500, sought by the Government over the next year or so.
“The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has issued letters to all departments asking them to bring forward policy options which will yield staffing reductions, including options to move to less labour-intensive service delivery.
“Where staff surpluses are identified, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will support targeted voluntary redundancy schemes for these staff.”
Under a recent deal with trade unions the terms for staff being offered voluntary redundancy would be the same as those available in the scheme in the HSE in 2010. These were three weeks per year of service in additional to statutory entitlements.
Meanwhile, new HSE internal audit reports reveal that an overpayment of more than €63,500 was made to a health service employee who availed of the 2010 voluntary redundancy scheme.
Confidential internal audit findings in relation to the HSE Dublin/Mid-Leinster region found there had been two incidents of overpayments arising from the redundancy scheme, one of which has been referred to the legal department.
The report said that in the first case the overpayment of €63,570.64 had been recouped from the recipient by bank draft.
In the second instance arrangements had been made to recoup the largest proportion of the overpayment (€15,024.32) as an offset against the employee’s retirement lump sum due this month. The HSE requested that the employee repay the balance of €1,613 by cheque. As of July 2011, no payment had been received, and the matter had been referred to the legal department.
The internal audit reports also reveal details of salary overpayments. In the HSE South the internal audit found €248,572 in salary overpayments in 2010 alone, mainly to nurses, administration staff and pensioners. The audit said there was “widescale resistance” in cases where the HSE sought to recover the overpaid amounts, with most staff refusing to pay the money back, claiming “undue hardship”.
Cases highlighted in the audits included an overpayment of €16,054, which occurred when a consultant was set up on the wrong salary scale in 1994. Some €10,125 of the amount remained outstanding, but no repayments were being made.
Separately, following a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on health, the HSE has been instructed to develop plans aimed at making savings in four areas: sick leave; use of agencies; fees to doctors, dentists and pharmacists under the primary case reimbursement scheme; and procurement.