Written Answers. - Department of Finance Remit.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

19 Mr. Nolan asked the Minister for Finance, with regard to the recent report by the Association of Higher Civil Servants on the Government's strategic management initiative, if he will respond to the problems identified which include the sprawling remit of his Department and its lack of proper co-ordination with other Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15179/95]

At the outset I would point out that the Association of Higher Civil Servants (AHCS) report to which the Deputy refers was a submission made in June of this year in response to a request from the Co-ordinating Group of Secretaries, which was set up to oversee the strategic management initiative, for ideas and suggestions regarding the proposed programme for reform of the civil and public service. The AHCS submission was not therefore directed specifically at my Department but was concerned with the civil and public service in general.

As the Deputy is aware, this administration clearly stated in its Programme for Government that public service reform would be high on its agenda, and that a number of problems were known to exist which could only be addressed by a systematic programme of action including legislative change. Earlier this year the Government mandated the Co-ordinating Group of Secretaries to prepare proposals for reform and I understand that the group will submit its proposals to Government very shortly. In framing its proposals, the group has taken account of the views of the AHCS. Once it has had an opportunity to consider the group's proposals, the Government will announce details of a reform programme.

This Government has not been slow to acknowledge the need for reform within the public service and would share much common ground with the AHCS and other bodies in their assessment of what needs to be done. The Deputy also adverts to my Department's remit and its co-ordination with other Departments. The strategic management initiative, which was introduced by the last Government, has resulted in the completion by almost all Departments and offices of a strategic statement setting out their mission and high-level objectives, as well as their principal strategies for achieving those objectives. My own Department has also completed this exercise in which it addressed a wide range of issues, including the need to increase the quality of co-ordination and communication between it and other Departments. Indeed, this matter received considerable attention and the need for devising suitable mechanisms for addressing it was fully acknowledged. The work that is now under way is expected to produce a strategy for further improving the quality of co-ordination, thus building upon the significant improvements which have already been made over the past several years.
I would not agree with the Deputy that my Department's remit is not logically conceived or that it does not fit satisfactorily within a rational framework for public administration in this country. However, the strategic management initiative is an ongoing process, requiring regular review of the business, organisation and structures of each Department, as well as the Civil Service as a whole, and adjustments in the remit of each must be expected from time to time in line with changing needs and circumstances. This is the whole purpose of the strategic management initiative.