Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Public Service Embargo.


asked the Minister for the Public Service if he will give details of the result of his Department's staff reviews undertaken some time ago to examine the operation, fairness and efficiency of the embargo over the last number of years as this review was promised by the previous Minister for the Public Service and the results to date have not been made known to the House.

As already announced, the one-in-three embargo has been replaced by an arrangement whereby end-year targets are determined for individual Departments and offices.

The first application of this arrangement relates to 1986. End-1986 staffing levels have been set for each Department-office by reference to a number of factors including the continuing need to reduce the size of the Civil Service and reviews of the relative staffing levels, needs and demands of Departmentsoffices. These reviews identified areas of special concern which were taken into account in determining the levels. The resulting end-1986 levels involve a reduction in numbers for most Departments-offices, increases in a limited number of cases — e.g. prisons where the end-year target provides for an additional 85 posts during 1986, and the provision of a reserve of 50 posts for computer, accountancy and welfare staff throughout the service. The service-wide effect is a reduction of a nett 200 posts by the year's end.

The Minister said in an earlier reply today that the embargo, as it has been understood by everybody in this House since 1981, has been abolished. Earlier in the year the previous Minister for the Public Service said there was a new system of reviews in operation where departmental heads would have an opportunity to review the staffing structures and to make their cases on where they felt staff was necessary or where staff could be transferred. Is the Minister stating, other than in regard to the Central Statistics Office and the Department of Social Welfare, because of the high unemployment figures, that all the other reviews by the Departments led to a reduction in staff? If that is so, and that is what he stated in reply to two questions today, how was that achieved? Was it achieved through retirements, through transfers to the Department of Social Welfare or how?

Of course there was considerable debate and discussion between my Department and the other Departments in relation to the requirements of some Departments for additional staff and the ability of other Departments to contribute towards the continuing reduction in the overall numbers in the Civil Service. In addition, there were discussions between myself and other ministerial colleagues on these issues. The result of those various reviews and discussions was an acceptance by the Government of the figures for the end of 1986. There is no question of redundancies as a consequence because as the Deputy will be aware there is normal wastage. In addition, the Deputy will also be aware, because of the initiatives we took in the job creation area of the public sector, that is, job-sharing and in particular the career breaks, recruitment to the Civil Service is continuing despite the fact that we are committed to reducing the overall numbers.

Is it the position that if a Department or a section of a Department have two, three or four vacancies and if they can justify that they require an additional head of staff from whatever grade, they do not have to refer back to the public service on the basis of the embargo, that they can fill that post from their own Department provided the number of staff is not over a particular figure? Is that the structure? The Minister will appreciate that the system was never outlined clearly in this House. There were a number of questions answered vaguely by way of stating that there would be departmental reviews. It was never clarified to the civil servants, to their unions, to their associations or to this House.

I am not sure if the Deputy was involved but there was so much criticism of the embargo being a blunt instrument that the Government decided to——

Just give me the answer on replacements. I know too much about the embargo.

——come up with a more refined system but with the objective of reducing the overall numbers. If the Deputy is interested I can send him a copy of the statement I made when the new system was put into operation. It outlines the system in detail.

What date is on that statement?

16 July, 1986.

I know the statement.

It outlines the basis of our approach and the effectiveness of this new approach.

Will the Minister answer the question I put to him? Has a section of a Department permission to employ a person provided they keep within the overall figures for the Department or is it necessary to refer to the Department of the Public Service before making an appointment?

The figures for Departments are not broken down for sections. They relate to the entire Department and within those figures Departments have the flexibility to manage their own affairs.

Can they do so without reference to the Department of the Public Service?

I am sure the Deputy is aware that in the case of some vacancies reference has to be made to the Department of the Public Service.

In the case of the appointment of the top people?

Appointments above a certain level must be referred to the Department of the Public Service but, in general, Departments have the facility to manage their own affairs and fill their numbers within the overall staffing target limit.