Howlin unveils reform plan

 

The Government is to rationalise 48 State agencies or quangos by the end of next year under a public service reform programme announced today.

It has also said that it is to review the position of a further 46 bodies by the end of next June.

As part of its new plan, the Government is also to cancel the controversial decentralisation programme, first announced in 2003, under which thousands of civil and public service staff were to be moved out of Dublin to various locations around the country.

A total of 40 projects set out under the decentralisation initiative are to be scrapped. A further 32 projects - mainly in locations where permanent accommodation has been secured - will be left in place while the Government is to make a decision on the future of 22 additional decentralisation projects in the near future.

Speaking at a press conference at Government Buildings, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today's announcement draws a line under the decentralisation programme, which he described as one of the most “ill-judged, badly planned ideas” of the previous government.

The Government has also announced further cuts in the number of staff in the public service, which currently stands at around 297,000. The numbers on the public service payroll are to be reduced to 282,500 by 2015.

The reductions will mean that the numbers working in the public service at that stage will have fallen by 37,500 or 12 per cent since the peak in 2008. The Government has maintained that such a reduction in staffing will generate savings of over €2.5 billion on its pay bill.

As part of the reform plan, the Government will also introduce new leave arrangements for staff in the public service. In future serving personnel will get no more than 32 days while new staff, including those who accept promotion, will have a maximum leave entitlement of 30 days.

The Government’s reform plan, which contains almost 70 recommendations and 200 key actions to be taken, includes initiatives aimed at radically restructuring how business is carried out, with new shared service arrangements in areas such as human resources, payroll and pensions.

The plan also calls for better use of technology and further reforms to the process of public procurement. There will also be reforms to how the public service manages its property portfolio while new efforts will be made to reduce costs by means of addressing duplication and eliminating waste across the entire system.

Under the plan, a new single awarding authority for student grants, including an online application process for more than 72,000 students, will be set up; there will be better use of technology to improve services for citizens; and there will be improved data sharing across public service organisations.

Property portfolios will be rationalised, maintenance costs reduced and properties released for for cash.

Shared HR, payroll and pensions services are also planned for the Civil Service, to streamline operations and remove duplicate activities. Reform of these would start in 2012 and be completed by 2015.

"For too long, reform of Government was ignored and sidelined. Lack of political leadership at the top stood as a barrier to delivering an efficient public service that met all the needs of its citizens. No longer will this be the case," Mr Kenny said.

"To make Government leaner we are going to reduce the total number of people employed in the public service back to more sustainable levels and make Government more cost efficient by merging agencies together or back into Government departments.

"Like everyone else in these financially difficult times we have to be smarter with our scarce resources," the Taoiseach added.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the new arrangements would see “the abolition of historically based local leave arrangements such as festival and race days.

“It will also eliminate many of the anomalies that exist under the current leave arrangements by having the same cap on the leave allowance for different public service employment groups.

“This will lead to greater uniformity of terms and conditions in the public service and enhance the fluid movement of staff between different sectors and organisations,” he said.