Civil Service ratings need reform, says Howlin

Minister says too many civil servants getting high evaluation grades to qualify for pay rise

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: The performance review process is being reformed

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: The performance review process is being reformed


The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has indicated there are too few staff in the Civil Service being officially assessed as under-performing.

He also suggested too many personnel were receiving higher grades in their annual performance evaluation.

In an answer to a parliamentary question tabled by Fine Gael TD Sean Kyne, the Minister said his department was engaged in an ongoing review and reform of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) in the civil service.

Mr Howlin said some changes, agreed in July 2012 by the department, civil service management and trade unions were being introduced for the 2013 assessment cycle.

Lack of fairness

He said these changes sought to address issues concerning the perceived lack of fairness and consistency in the application of PMDS.

Mr Howlin said the most important element in this phase of the reforms was the introduction of a formal system of calibration for the review of performance. This process, he said, involved managers at the same grade-level meeting to discuss the performance of their staff “with the aim of making sure they apply similar standards for all jobholders and help to ensure greater balance and consistency in the award of ratings”.

The Minister said a particular focus of attention for 2013 was the distribution of ratings “with the aim of achieving a distribution of ratings that more accurately reflects performance across the system”.

“Although there has been some movement towards greater alignment with the expected statistical distribution, there remains relatively high levels of awards of the higher categories of ratings and very low levels of ratings in respect of underperformance.”

Figures released last year showed that in 2011 only 0.1 per cent of staff – about 30 of the 30,000 or employees – were awarded a rating of one in their performance evaluation while 64 per cent were awarded ratings of four or five in the five-point scale.

Under civil service employment rules in place at the time, staff had to receive a rating of two or more to qualify for an incremental pay increase.