Senior civil servants to face greater scrutiny

Howlin backs performance bonuses under new reform plan

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin: said he favoured the reintroduction of performance-related bonuses for civil servants who hit and beat strict targets set for them. File Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin: said he favoured the reintroduction of performance-related bonuses for civil servants who hit and beat strict targets set for them. File Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Thu, Jan 9, 2014, 14:15

Senior civil servants face greater accountability under new proposals contained in a paper launched by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.

Mr Howlin also said he favoured the reintroduction of performance-related bonuses for civil servants who hit and beat strict targets set for them.

He said that while it is not financially possible to bring the bonuses back now, it could be examined down the line.

Mr Howlin said it is intended the top 1,000 civil servants in the country, at the grade of principal officer up, will face greater accountability.

He said disciplinary procedures similar to the private sector are already in place across the public sector, including laws allowing for compulsory redundancies.

Mr Howlin said he “of course” intended to use these procedures more frequently.

He was speaking at the launch of a consultation paper called Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance, which offers members of the public the chance to make submissions on how the civil service can be more accountable.

The Department of Public Expenditure says it will “pin down accountability for results at every level of the public service - from Ministers down - with clear consequences for success or failure”.

The public consultation process is open until March 31st, and submissions will be reviewed by an independent panel chaired by Professor Kevin Rafter.

The panel will submit recommendations to Mr Howlin by May, and he will make proposals to Government soon after.

The paper says: “The high degree of complexity of modern public administration and the large volume of detail encompassed would, in practical terms, make it impossible for any minister to have direct personal knowledge of all operations of his or her department.”

Mr Howlin said the current system does not reward risk taking, and the new plan will devolve responsibility to civil servants, as well as clarifying their role with the minister.

Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department, said greater use of fixed term contracts, such as for five year terms, should be encouraged at the higher levels of the civil service.

He also said more positions could be opened up to external candidates.

Mr Watt said the Department of Public Expenditure is making greater use of year-long probation periods when hiring new staff, which allows for performance reviews before someone is given a longer contract.

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