Government considers new debt collection system

Howlin says he wants to make the recovery of debts cheaper and more efficient

Siptu is holding a protest outside a conference being addressed by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin today. Photograph: The Irish Times

Siptu is holding a protest outside a conference being addressed by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin today. Photograph: The Irish Times


The Government is considering introducing new streamlined arrangements for collecting debts across the public service.

Speaking at a conference on public sector efficiency, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said he was examining ways in which the processes around the recovery of debts could be made cheaper and more efficient.

It is understood one option being considered by the Government is the out-sourcing of such debt collection arrangements.

The debts covered include those owed to local authorities and the HSE.

However, Mr Howlin said his preference would be for “an integrated public sector delivery model but we will see what comes up and what is proposed”.

The Minister said that “contestability and competition in the delivery of services” was needed.

“To this end, all new services must now be tested for external delivery suitability before any approval to deliver the service internally will be granted. Other functions and services are being assessed to establish how they might be delivered more effectively.”

Mr Howlin confirmed that a number of Government departments had drawn up proposals on existing public services that could be out-sourced and that these had been considered by Cabinet but that no decisions had been made.

He said other departments would produce out-sourcing proposals by the end of the year.

Mr Howlin said these proposals would “feed into the reform agenda obviously there will be negotiations as to which ones are suitable and which ones are not”.

He said overall “it will be a mixture of the best competences of public and private sphere that will deliver the platform for the future”.

Members of the trade union Siptu staged a protest outside the conference.

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said the union protesting at the conference because it was discussing the privatisation of public services.

He said last month Siptu and other unions had asked the organisers to be allowed speak at the conference to provide details of efficiencies and cost savings secured in the public service under recent agreements.

Mr Bell said the organisers had decided to exclude the unions. He maintained on this basis the conference would be unbalanced.

Mr Bell said he condemned the event organisers for excluding the unions but stressed the protest was not aimed at the Minister.

The organisers of the conference rejected Sipru’s claims that they were excluded.

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