Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Promotion of Civil Servants.

2.

asked the Minister for the Public Service the procedure in the Civil Service for assessing promotion of staff at the various grades in the clerical and administrative levels of the Civil Service; and when the last review of the criteria used was undertaken.

The principle of merit underpins promotion to all posts in the Civil Service. The appointment of officers to higher grades on promotion may occur in two ways, by internal promotion in Departments or by inter-departmental competition.

Internal promotions up to and including the grade of higher executive officer may be made by Departments under delegated authority. Promotions above that level are authorised by my Department. Departments are required to certify that officers proposed for promotion are the most suitable and best qualified of all the officers eligible for the post.

Personnel units in Departments keep up to date on a continuing basis with current ideas on assessment for promotion. Each Department is responsible for ensuring that their criteria for internal promotions are kept under review to ensure that they reflect best modern thinking and are appropriate to their circumstances.

In recent years schemes of staff appraisal have been introduced for EO, HEO, assistant principal and principal grades. While the primary focus of these schemes is developmental they also assess suitability and potential for future promotion.

There are a number of inter-departmental schemes of promotion which cover promotions to grades in the administrative area. The policy of my Department is to ensure that these inter-departmental promotion schemes are progressively widened to cover eventually all staff in administrative, professional, clerical and technical grades who have not already been included.

Appointments at assistant secretary and higher levels are made following advice from the top level appointments committee. This gives renewed emphasis to the importance of mobility at senior level in the service and it ensures that the best use is made of the management talent which is available.

The criteria for promotion are kept under continuous review. The last formal service-wide review took place prior to the publication of the White PaperServing the Country Better published in September 1985. Paragraphs 4.6, 4.7, 4.8 and 4.13 deal with promotion and performance appraisal.

Can the Minister say when the last changes in the system occurred? He mentioned the Top Level Appointments Commission but when did the last changes occur in relation to lower grades?

Changes occur on a minor basis at regular intervals. For example, a scheme was introduced in December 1985 in relation to the promotion of clerical assistants under which they may be promoted to the grade of clerical officer within their own Departments. The basis for selection depends on suitability and experience but it is a matter for individual Departments to determine how they assess these criteria. The scheme of direct promotion to clerical officer is due to be reviewed and, obviously, consultations have to take place with the staff side early next year.

Can the Minister say if age-related promotion is a thing of the past in grades below senior rank?

The principle of merit underpins promotion to all posts in the Civil Service but that does not mean that work performance and experience are ignored in relation to the length of service. Seniorityper se does not count. Work experience can be a help if a person uses the years of service to the best advantage.

Is the Minister happy with the system of inter-departmental promotions because the basis of appointment in the lower grades of the Civil Service relates to the Civil Service only? What justification is there for inter-departmental promotions? When one enters the Civil Service one is appointed to a specific Department. Why should a vacancy for promotion not be open to all Departments?

That is one of the many problems we have tackled in the public service and it has been the policy of the Government to widen the possibility of inter-departmental promotion. Much has been done in that area and we are in the process of doing more. The job has not been finished but the ultimate aim is to have the greatest possible mobility within the Civil Service.

Does the Minister accept that the Department of the Public Service were set up over a decade ago to solve difficulties like that and that they have failed abysmally to make any progress regarding inter-departmental promotion?

That was the case until this Government came to office.

As I said, much progress has been made since this administration came to power which is in sharp contrast to the total inertia and inactivity of the preceding administration.

It took two Ministers to reply.