Reforms to make it easier to remove civil servants

Three-year plan for Civil Service includes new performance management system

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will launch the Civil Service Renewal Plan at Government Buildings this morning. File Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will launch the Civil Service Renewal Plan at Government Buildings this morning. File Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Government is to streamline its disciplinary procedures to make it easier to remove civil servants who are clearly underperforming.

The secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt said the existing arrangements were too burdensome and contained too many steps.

The move forms part of a new three-year renewal plan for the Civil Service launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny today.

Mr Watt said that where staff were not performing, they would be given an opportunity to improve.

He said if they did not improve their performance, new structures would make it easier to “exit” them.

“The big challenge is to enable human resources managers to manage. We just have not valued the HR management process in the system in the past. We did not put our best people in.”

Accountability board

The establishment of a new accountability board, which will include a number of external representatives, is one of the main features of a new reform plan for the Civil Service to be announced by the Government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will launch the Civil Service Renewal Plan at Government Buildings this morning.

The three-year plan plan comes on foot of the recommendations of an independent panel chaired by Prof Kevin Rafter of Dublin City University earlier this year, as well as a series of nationwide meetings involving staff across the Civil Service held over recent months.

As part of the plan, the Government is expected to introduce new performance management arrangements for top-level civil servants at departmental secretary general and assistant secretary level.

The existing performance management system for other grades of staff in the public service, which has faced criticism over recent years amid allegations that it was inconsistent and too many staff received high grades, is expected to be fully overhauled as part of the new process.

It is envisaged as part of the new accountability arrangements, organisational reviews of Government departments would be carried out on a regular basis.

The plan contains 20 separate actions to be implemented by the Government.

One of the key recommendations of the independent panel was the establishment of a new full-time position of head of the Civil Service.

It suggested this person, who would receive a salary of about €183,000 per year, would provide leadership of the service; oversee implementation of policy across departments and have responsibility for managing performance of the secretaries general and the most senior officials in government department.

New management board

However, it is understood under its new plan, the Government has opted instead for the establishment of a new management board for the Civil Service.

Sources said it was envisaged this would be chaired by the secretary general of the Taoiseach, Martin Fraser, but that Mr Watt would also play a key role.

The Government’s plan is also expected to re-state its intention to streamline the existing grading structure for staff in the Civil Service – a move which could have serious implications for some trade unions as their representation rights is restricted to specific staff grades.