Radical changes to Civil Service structure under new plan, Kenny says
‘Persistent under-performers’ will be dealt with under disciplinary code, Taoiseach says
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin at the announcement of the Civil Service Renewal Plan in Government Buildings, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
There would be “radical changes” to the “civil service structure as we know it”under a new plan announced yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
Mr Kenny said “persistent under-performers” in the civil service will be dealt with under a new disciplinary code.
Speaking at the launch of the plan in Government Buildings this morning, Mr Kenny said there was a determination to modernise and reform Irish public administration.
“There will be a review of the disciplinary code to ensure that persistent under-performers can be dealt with effectively,” he said.
The Taoiseach will chair a new accountability board to provide oversight of performance across all Departments of State.
He also said new appointments were imminent: “In the next 200 days you will see open recruitment competitions, including at key grades that will provide top management of the future.”
Mr Kenny said a “key principle” would be that the Civil Service would remain an “independent, impartial body serving the Irish State and the people of Ireland”.
Mr Howlin described the plan as “challenging” and “transformational” and said it would “meet head on” the various criticisms sometimes voiced about how the civil service operated.
Good performance would be acknowledged and rewarded and poor performance dealt with appropriately, he added.
“You can be fired in the civil service and civil servants are fired. But really it’s very difficult to fire somebody if you don’t actually have very clear objectives, very clear responsibilities, and a very clear measuring system,” he said.
“We have in the past allowed square pegs to be put in round holes. We have promoted people for a variety of reasons into different skills that they don’t have.”
There would be consequences for those who failed to measure up. “It might be simply redeployment, it might be simply better training or it might be ultimately just letting them go. All those will be available to line managers.”
Asked if there was any appetite for introducing quotas to redress the gender balance in the civil service, as is being tried with political candidates, Mr Howlin said: “I don’t like the idea of quotas. I believe in a meritocracy,” he said.
Mr Howlin said he was very conscious of the “top heavy” age profile of the civil service and “regeneration” was necessary.
There would be new recruitment competitions to enhance the skills base and ensure the right people were recruited to the right jobs.
Mr Howlin revealed a departing Troika official “said to me privately that over the three years of interaction that he’d never dealt with a more competent civil service than in Ireland”.
Meanwhile the the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants (AHCPS) has described the Government’s decision to not appoint a head of the country’s civil service as a significant missed opportunity. While broadly welcoming the Government’s intention to implement reform proposals, the AHCPS believes a civil service lead role is necessary.
Such a position, according to ACHPS General Secretary Ciaran Rohan, “could have be used as a catalyst for change and to better manage the oversight of policy priorities.”