Priority Questions

Croke Park Agreement

Seán Fleming


1. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will commit to independent verification of the achievability of proposed savings that are to be targeted under a successor to the Croke Park agreement; if he will ensure that the interests of the users of public services are fully considered during negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3185/13]

Mary Lou McDonald


2. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the measures taken by him to ensure pay equality and the reigning in of excessive pay and pensions in any extended Croke Park deal.. [3345/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

The Deputies are aware of the Government's record to date in reducing higher levels of pay and of pensions in the public service. Since it took office, the Government has introduced a general pay ceiling of €200,000 for higher positions across the public service, brought forward a referendum to allow pay reductions to apply to the Judiciary and amended the public service pension reduction to apply a higher rate to those benefiting from higher pensions.

The reduction by 10% of the salary scale and fixed allowances for new entry grades to the public service was implemented by the previous Government with effect from 1 January 2011 and remains in place. The stated purpose of the measure was to achieve a medium-term structural reduction in the pay bill cost of the public service, and as a contribution towards improving Ireland’s competitiveness. The measure also had regard to the current Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, or Croke Park agreement, which provides for no reduction in the rate of pay of serving public servants.

The Deputy will be aware that, on foot of the Government’s invitation to the public service trade unions, discussions have commenced on extending the public service agreement. Pay rates for all employees, including those subject to the 10% reduction, will form part of those discussions.

The discussions with the public service trade unions are predicated on the scale of consolidation required to meet our fiscal targets which will require a further reduction of some €1 billion in the cost of the public service pay and pensions bill.

Intensive engagement, facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission, has now commenced between the parties to the discussions and will continue over the coming weeks. In order to ensure that savings can be found as early as possible in 2013 to meet expenditure commitments, management has indicated that these intensive discussions should conclude in a matter of weeks. While it would not be appropriate to comment on the detail of a possible future agreement while those discussions are ongoing, any measures agreed must result in cost savings to the tune of €1 billion over the next three years. It will be important that the Government is able to verify these cost savings, as has been the case for the current agreement.

The Government has been, and will continue to be, acutely aware of the needs and interests of the users of public services. The Government’s ambitious public service reform plan was published in November 2011 and sets out the basis for the comprehensive and strategic reform of the Irish public service. The plan includes a core commitment to “place customers at the core of everything we do”.

In the context of a smaller and leaner public service, there is a requirement to become more strategic and flexible and to focus on supporting citizens and businesses where and when they need it most, including working across business functions and across traditional organisational boundaries.

In this context, the plan sets out a range of actions to improve the citizen’s access to, and interaction with, Government services by providing more integrated services through more efficient and accessible channels, by reducing the information and administrative burden, and by engaging with citizens and business customers in the design and delivery of services.

There is a need to make this interaction with the State as simple and efficient as possible and to improve the customer experience in engagement with the public service. This is addressed by all Government Departments and offices through their customer charters and customer action plans, and also through a range of customer service improvement initiatives at organisational and sectoral level, many of which are set out in departmental integrated reform delivery plans.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes. I understand he is standing in for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, who is away today.

I have a couple of questions. I am calling for the Government to commit funding to ensure there is an independent review. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is leading these talks, did not exist when the Croke Park agreement was originally set up. Over the past year, it made one effort at reducing costs, which was on the issue of allowances. It promised savings of €150 million per annum and 5% of the target was achieved. Clearly, therefore, there is neither the competence nor the ability within the Department to assess properly the savings that can arise from this. Past experience has shown that.

It is important for the public to recognise that the Government is the main employer in the State, while the trade unions are representing employees' interests. From the Government's viewpoint the negotiations are to cut costs, while the trade unions wish to look after their members' interests. Despite the document that was published last year, I do not see on that agenda any concern for front-line services and the public interest. It is not sufficient to say "We issued the document last year dealing with that. That was then and this is now, and we have to move on now with our cost-cutting programme". This cannot be done.

I think the cost of leaving is budgeted at €110,000 per person, plus their pension to which they are entitled. It is a large cost and the public would like to see that justified. The Minister of State referred to a figure of €1 billion in savings, but will he add on to that the €400 million cost of the redundancy package? Will it essentially be €1.4 billion in gross savings, or is it €1 billion minus the savings to be made, while excluding the actual costs incurred to achieve that €1 billion?

I will take the latter issue first. The Government is firmly of the view that savings in pay and pensions over the next three years must bring in a net saving of €1 billion. We have set out our plan for 2013 of €300 million and the remainder in 2014 and 2015. It is against a background where three years ago the totality of public sector pay and pensions in this country was €20 billion. As of today, it is €17.5 billion. We have taken out - and, I recognise, so has the previous Government - €2.5 billion over a three and a half year period. We have gone a long way but we need to go further. One way or the other, we have got to make these savings of an additional €1 billion in pay and pensions over the next three years.

This morning, the Taoiseach told the Leader of the Opposition that it is the Government's firm view that we want to do this by agreement. We think an extension of the Croke Park agreement and the mechanism provided is useful in coming to some arrangement, but difficult issues have to be resolved here. It is important to say that, with or without agreement, these savings have to be found.

There are two elements to my question. The first relates to the issue of pay equity in the new round of negotiations. The Minister of State is right in saying that this morning the Taoiseach committed himself to a preference for change by agreement. However, he has also said - he repeated it this morning - that in the absence of an agreement he is quite prepared to legislate for the changes and reductions that are required. I do not know how useful it is to articulate that position in terms of the discussions with the trade unions, but be that as it may.

On the issue of pay equality, we had graduate nurses and midwives in today. They have a clear sense that they are being singled out for unfair treatment. They are being asked as graduates to enter the system at only 80% of the rate for their professional job. This decision was made unilaterally and there was no consultation whatsoever by the HSE or the Government with the representative bodies. The Minister of State makes noises about change by agreement, followed by sotto voce soundings about legislating if no agreement is forthcoming, but all of that is blown out of the water by the fact that in the case of these young graduates, the Government has acted unilaterally.

While the question of the graduate scheme in the health service is of course a matter for the Minister for Health, the reality is that ten years ago, Ireland had a public sector of approximately 290,000 people. Today, even on foot of the reductions in the total number over the past four years of 30,000, it still has approximately 290,000 people, despite the collapse by one third in the taxation base in the intervening period. We must find novel ways in which to engage talented young people right across the public sector and to so do in a way that is commensurate with what the State actually can pay in the current circumstances.

The Deputy spoke about the question of equity and she is right about that, as it is important that there be pay equity right across the public sector. The Deputy regularly speaks about people in receipt of salaries of €100,000 but I note that of the 290,000 people employed in the Irish public sector, approximately 6,000 have salaries of €100,000. The great majority of people who work in the public sector are in receipt of average and modest pay. If the Government is going to make these savings and get the expenditure level down to a sustainable level in a circumstance in which 36% of everything it spends goes on public pay and pensions, there must be a leaner and more efficient public service. Moreover, it must be a public service that does things differently and which works in a way that ensures the quality service gets to those who need it most, and this is being achieved.

I will allow brief supplementaries from Deputies Sean Fleming and McDonald. We will take both together.

While the concentration is on a reduction in numbers, I wish to put on record that part of the increase in numbers over that decade was due to the provision of additional resource teachers and special needs assistants in schools. This represented the biggest single increase in staff numbers and that cannot be ignored. I hope the Minister of State does not suggest the numbers that were increased over those years should be in some way reversed because that would be a retrograde step.

The Minister of State's comments on cutting one's cloth according to one's measure and all the rest would be fair if that was levied equally across the system. However, it is not and I will give the Minister of State an example. When a clinical director who is a consultant takes up a post, he or she gets an additional allowance of €46,000, which is more than the equivalent of two nursing salaries under the so-called graduate scheme. The Minister of State correctly stated that the vast majority of public and civil servants would only dream of earning €100,000 in any given year, but as he quite correctly mentioned, there are those 6,000 people at the top. As the Government negotiates this new agreement to find €1.4 billion in savings, where will it come from? Is the treatment being meted out at present to graduate nurses and midwives a forecast of what is to come for other jobs and professions? In the current economic climate, which the Minister of State has acknowledged, to brag about a pay cap of €200,000 is sick.

What is sick is to pretend to people that one can solve this problem by taking out everyone on a salary of €100,000, putting them up against a wall and doing what the Deputy's former comrades used to do to them. That is sick, in a circumstance in which the great majority of people who work in the public service are not on that kind of money. If one is serious about dealing with this fiscal problem, which with respect I suspect the Deputy is not, one must address expenditure and taxation at the same time. The point the Deputy ignores is there has been inequality of contribution, in that those at the very top have seen pay cuts of up to 30% in some circumstances, those in the middle have seen pay cuts of approximately 15% and those at the bottom have seen pay cuts of 5% or 6%. The same pattern is replicated on the pension side but the Deputy does not recognise that.

The Minister of State does not recognise the huge gap in earnings between those categories of people.

On the question that Deputy Sean Fleming quite rightly asked about teachers, one point on which I wish to agree with him is that even with the reductions in public servant numbers the Government and its predecessor were obliged to introduce, there still will be more teachers in the system. The reason is the number of children coming into the schools has not been at the current rate since the 1880s. As a result of more children coming into the primary schools, more teachers are being seen and the Government is proud that despite these adjustments, it has managed to enable more teachers to come into the schools. The Government has not cut class sizes and has managed to do this in a tight fiscal position. This is an achievement of which the Government is very proud.

National Procurement Service Framework Agreements

Thomas Pringle


3. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has assessed the impact of Public Procurement (Framework Agreements) circular 06/12, for the procurement of goods and services on local jobs that has provided for single suppliers on a national level in respect of day to day purchases for public bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3220/13]

The public service reform plan published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in November 2011 identified procurement reform as a key instrument that can assist in maintaining the delivery of public services in an efficient manner. The National Procurement Service, NPS, has put in place a number of national arrangements designed to secure better value for money from leveraging the public sector’s buying power with regard to a range of goods and services that are commonly purchased across the public service. These national arrangements have benefits that include cash savings, administrative savings from reduced duplication of tendering, greater purchasing expertise, improved consistency and enhanced service levels. In some instances the take-up of the NPS arrangements has been low. In order to increase the usage of the NPS arrangements and thereby secure best value for money, the Government decided that it should be mandatory for public service bodies to use specified national procurement arrangements.

Circular 06/12, to which the Deputy referred in his question, implements the Government decision by making it a mandatory requirement that public service bodies avail of specified national arrangements put in place by the NPS. The list of categories subject to national procurement arrangements includes electricity, natural gas, stationery and office supplies, paper, ICT consumables, managed print services, print media advertising and motor vehicles. These national arrangements will secure best value for money and facilitate contracting authorities to deliver services within their budgetary constraints. Where a mandatory framework arrangement exists, any public service body intending to make a purchase other than through the framework arrangement will be obliged to ensure it can explain the rationale for not using the NPS arrangement and can provide a value for money justification that takes account of the full costs, including those incurred in managing its own procurement process.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

While the key purpose of circular 6/12 is to enable the State to do more with less by aggregating procurement to secure better value for money, it is worth noting that such aggregation arrangements can be implemented in a manner that achieves value for money with a minimal negative impact, or indeed a positive impact, on small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs. While a number of the categories of goods and services mandated under the circular are suited to single supplier national arrangements, it should not be taken that single supplier frameworks are to be accepted as the norm. The greater use, where appropriate, of multi-supplier frameworks can address local supplier issues while also ensuring ongoing cost competitiveness of the framework itself. Such multi-supplier frameworks may also offer SMEs the opportunity to participate in national level contracts, thereby offering valuable reference work when competing for public procurement contracts in other jurisdictions.

In order to encourage greater SME participation, the NPS over the past three years has conducted a targeted programme of education for suppliers who wish to learn more about doing business with the Irish public service. This programme consists of seminars, workshops and large-scale so-called meet the buyer events hosted nationwide. In 2012 the NPS, working with InterTradeIreland, for the first time brought together a number of the lead Government agencies to create a programme of major events for the island of Ireland. Attendees could also avail of educational seminars on a variety of topics ranging from the technicalities of public service procurement to procedures around consortia building for SMEs. To date, the NPS has facilitated workshops and presented at seminars to more than 3,000 SMEs nationwide. Surveys conducted at these events have indicated a high degree of satisfaction among suppliers. Parallel with these events, the NPS also works closely with business representative bodies such as ISME and IBEC to provide briefings for their members.

While I appreciate the Minister of State's response, it does not address the question. The question was whether, in drawing up the procurement frameworks, the impact or potential impact on local jobs nationwide was assessed as part of that process, and from the Minister of State's reply, it appears as though it was not. While up to now, local companies have been supplying materials to bodies such as schools, local authorities and so on, what will happen is those bodies will be obliged to buy from a single centralised company that will service the entire country. This will give rise to a real threat to local jobs throughout the country. In the case of County Donegal, a number of companies supply materials to schools, such as, for example, janitorial supplies. In future, the VECs and third level institutions will be obliged to buy from a single entity nationally when purchasing such equipment. This will have a real impact on local jobs.

A question please, Deputy.

Many companies are now fearful as to whether they will be able to sustain the jobs they have on the basis of losing so much of that type of business which they have built up over the years. This is an issue that should have been considered through the procurement process and it should be addressed as a matter of urgency because if jobs are lost across the country on foot of this development, the value of this procurement process then comes into serious question.

To answer the Deputy's question, it was considered by my Department very carefully. My Department stands over the decision it successfully brought to the Government for approval last July. That memorandum is crucially important for the procurement space into which the Government is trying to get. There is an enormous prize to be won in this regard. A recent independent report showed the State could save somewhere between €250 million and €650 million over a three-year period through better procurement, better and more efficient buying, knowledge of markets, fewer procurers and getting the best value for money.

I wish to make the procurement agenda an absolutely crucial part of the expenditure profile in the adjustment programme in the State. This can be done and the Government can get procurement to a much better space. However, this requires people who know the business and does not require people sorting out local suppliers, just because they know them, at jacked-up prices. Such quality procurement, as other small states have done, is what is required and this State can get there. I will make the following point carefully. Local public service bodies, be they schools or anyone else, which can get a better price than the price in the framework that we have negotiated centrally, thereby taking out major savings on administration, can use that better price. However, they should be able to explain to my Department, the National Procurement Service and to local procurers that there is justification for so doing.

If a better price can be attained, it can be used. As I said when I brought the issue to the Cabinet at that time, these frameworks should be allowed or it should be explained why they are not being used. The problem seems to be policy related and there is not enough implementation, but I will change that.

Savings may be possible in procurement and substantial savings would be made if the Government tackled the cartels operating in the likes of the concrete industry, etc. That would bring about real savings in contracts. The procurement policy will cost jobs in local areas, and this is not down to the fact that people will be making decisions based on whether they know somebody. Local managers in the public sector are achieving the best prices that they can and there is intense local competition with regard to provision of services. The circular does not state that local managers can make different procurement decisions. Will the Minister of State provide the House with the document that considered the impact on local jobs, as well as the rationale and justification used in that respect?

We had very substantial dialogue with representatives of the small and medium enterprise, SME, sector before introducing this because we want that sector to win more of these contracts. If there is a criticism I can make of the procurement, it is that we do not have multiple suppliers on those frameworks. I accept the criticism from some that a framework should not be created with one supplier and there should be a framework with multiple suppliers.

The managed print contract has a total of five suppliers with approximately half being Irish small and medium enterprises and the others multinationals. The Irish companies would win because they came together and are working collaboratively. I want to see more of that but I also want to see significant savings for the State. To be blunt, some people have been screwing the State for years as a result of prices they got and we must make the procurement agenda an absolutely key part of the expenditure agenda in this country. That means we must professionalise the process, and we have recently appointed a new chief procurement officer. We are also rationalising and changing the procurement service through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Procurement Service.

There is a substantial prize to be won if people hold their nerve and believe we can get the country to a better place by way of procurement. It is an exciting opportunity for Irish SMEs to win a bigger share by coming together and using their expertise.

Sale of State Assets

Seán Fleming


4. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will ensure that the proceeds from the sale of the National Lottery licence are ringfenced for key infrastructure investment; if he remains committed to using the maximum amount of the proceeds from the sale of State assets for job creating initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3186/13]

On 17 July 2012, the Government announced its plans for an additional €2.25 billion investment in public infrastructure projects in Ireland. The stimulus package included €850 million in Exchequer investment to be funded from the proceeds of the sale of State assets and from the new licensing arrangements for the national lottery. This investment will be used as a project preparation facility for the new public-private partnership, PPP, programme and to fund additional Exchequer capital projects and other commercial and publicly needed projects.

With regard to the national lottery licence, we have already committed to using some of the proceeds from the licence to part fund the new national children's hospital. In addition to this, officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are examining other potential Exchequer projects which can be funded as part of the stimulus plan. They are also considering the selection criteria to be applied and how best to channel funds to commercial projects.

With regard to the use of proceeds generated from the sale of State assets, it has been the Government’s consistent position that funds released from the disposals should be used to support job creating initiatives in the economy. As the Deputy will be aware, the agreement with the troika is that all of the Government’s proceeds from the State asset disposal programme will be available, in one shape or another, to support job-creating initiatives in the economy. Half of the proceeds will be available to fund employment enhancing projects of a commercial nature. The other half, while destined eventually to pay down debt, will in the first instance be constituted as a fund to underpin additional lending into Ireland in support of further investment in job-creating initiatives.

Due to the commercial sensitivities surrounding both the sale of State assets and the licensing arrangement for the national lottery, it is not possible to comment at present on the expected quantum of funding or on specific projects to be funded. As the Deputy is aware, the enabling legislation on the new arrangements for the national lottery licence was published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in December. The asset disposal programme will start later in 2013. Details of these aspects will become clearer as asset sales progress and the new licensing arrangement put in place.

I know the Minister of State has read from a prepared script. I am beginning to realise that the people felt there was a genuine and very strong commitment that part of the proceeds from the sale of the national lottery licence would be ring-fenced for the new national children's hospital. There is absolutely no sense of that in the Minister of State's reply today. As a result of a new location being selected, this building will not be completed until 2017 or 2018 but the proceeds from the lottery licence will come through in a couple of months in 2013. The question was ignored by the answer but I had asked if proceeds from the sale of the lottery licence - or a substantial portion of them - will be ring-fenced in a special account for the children's hospital. The Minister of State did not answer it.

I apologise. I can do so now.

What will happen this funding or will it be used for another purpose? When the time comes, will the Government be trying to find money for the national children's hospital? The Minister of State mentioned new legislation regarding the national lottery licensing, particularly the process of licensing. I have gone through every line of it but there is nothing in the legislation that would ring-fence any of the proceeds for any good cause like the new children's hospital.

The Deputy is correct in that there is no such reference in the Bill, but that is not the intention of the legislation. The Minister published the Bill last December and the House will have the opportunity to discuss it in further detail shortly. We never said that all the proceeds-----

-----from the national lottery licensing process would go to the new national paediatric tertiary hospital. That was never the intention, which is that a contribution will be made from the sale for the purpose of making a contribution to the new hospital. That is still the proposition of the Government. I do not wish to cut across the terrain of the Minister for Health but I suspect the great majority of the funding for the new hospital will come from the national capital programme, a €17 billion plan that has already been announced. We are also hoping to get some philanthropic proposals. To cut to the chase, it was never the intention that all the proceeds would be handed over to construct the new national children's hospital. A contribution will be made from the licensing process and that is still the Government's intention.

The Minister of State knows that I never suggested that all the proceeds would be used from the sale of the national lottery licence, but it has always been stated that a significant portion would be used. Is the funding from the national lottery licence - whatever portion that is - to be ring-fenced for the national children's hospital, as everybody understood was the case? Will it be used in the normal course of events, meaning it will not be there for its stated purpose?

I suppose we are playing with words. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, has stated that a contribution will be made, whether it is termed ring-fencing or a policy. It depends on whether one man has a dinner and another does not. The bottom line is that this important national facility will be built in the lifetime of this Government. This shows that even in really difficult times, we can get major national infrastructural projects like this over the line. One of the best people to show how this could be done was a former Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, who even in difficult times was able to build important projects for this country.

We are in the most difficult and challenging economic environment since independence and this project probably should have been built ten years ago if the question of the site had not been so controversial. The decision on the site is over and the Government now has a clear plan for bringing forward the development. We do not even know the cost at this stage because we must return to the planning round. We are not talking about the sale of an asset, rather a licence, but it is proper that a portion of the proceeds will contribute to building a new national children's hospital. That demonstrates the commitment of the Government in very difficult times to get significant public projects like this over the line.

Public Sector Reform Review

Stephen Donnelly


5. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if officials from his Department will engage directly with front-line public service staff, unmediated by union officials, to identify opportunities for improved service quality and increased efficiency as part of negotiations for the public service agreement that will succeed the Croke Park deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3407/13]

Given the financial and human resource constraints under which the public service has operated for some years and will continue to operate in future, all opportunities for the identification of improved service quality and increased efficiency measures in the provision of public services are welcome. My officials are happy to engage with staff with or without the benefit of union representation to identify further savings and productivity opportunities. Given that staff engaged in the delivery of public services have a unique insight in to the cost base of those services, I welcome any proposals that could reduce the cost base in the delivery of front-line services in the public service.

Discussions are under way between public service employers and the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which, through their membership of trade unions and associations, public servants have nominated to represent them. The Government’s stated intention is to reach agreement on securing overall savings of an additional €1 billion from the public service pay bill by 2015. This will involve reductions in payroll costs for serving staff as well as significant productivity and workforce reform measures in addition to those already achieved under the current Croke Park agreement. All proposals for cost savings will be considered in the context of the contribution they can make to the targeted saving of €1 billion.

I am pleased to note the Department is open to engaging with front-line officials. Having been involved in reform for some time, the Minister of State will be aware that the Croke Park agreement, while offering some limited value, is an old-fashioned, centralist and top-down approach to public sector reform. International best practice in the public and private sectors is to engage directly with employees. While a small number of measures can be taken at a high level, for example, one can agree changes in rosters and so forth, the vast majority of savings are identified on the shop floor. In cases where we used lean process design for operating theatres, it was shown that substantial savings were possible. However, the only people who can identify and implement such savings are porters, nurses, surgeons and so forth. The same applies in accident and emergency departments in respect of triage procedures.

During a recent appearance on "The Frontline", I argued that engagement with public sector workers was a key element missing from the current approach. After the programme, I was inundated with e-mails and approached by audience members who thanked me for raising the issue and pointed out that I was the first person to say they should be contacted directly. They provided examples of changes in their workplaces that could generate savings of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of euro. I was informed, however, that efforts to implement these changes in response to the crisis were blocked by a union control mentality which insists that change must come through the unions. I hope the current culture in which change and improvement are viewed as things to be stopped and then negotiated with the Government is coming to an end.

I would like the Minister of State, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, and their officials to move beyond agreeing to be open to ideas from employees and instead consider adopting a planned, systemic approach in parallel with the ongoing top level approach that is being taken under the Croke Park agreement. They need to engage with employees all over the country.

The Deputy should appear on "The Frontline" programme more often. I ask him to send me the proposals he has received. Alternatively, we could meet him and go through the proposals one by one and line by line to ascertain how useful they are. That would be a worthwhile engagement.

We are already doing as the Deputy asks, for example, in the area of shared services for human resource functions. Each of the 15 Departments currently has its own human resources personnel. By bringing together in one shared service platform all departmental human resources functions, from banking to payroll, we will achieve savings in personnel of 26% and cash savings of 17%. Much of this engagement is taking place internally as opposed to being outsourced to an agency.

We spoke about procurement in response to Deputy Pringle's earlier question. The administration costs of a centralised procurement framework are €28,000, whereas each local authority would have to spend €6,500 on administration if procurement was done locally. This is another saving we can achieve by having our staff use their time better, acquire more expertise and identify what they want to achieve. I would like to receive details of the ideas the Deputy has received.

The Minister of State and I appear to be discussing two slightly different issues. The shared services idea forms part of a centralised design approach. While I support this approach on the basis that it can deliver benefits, it does not involve asking front-line workers in Garda stations, schools, operating theatres and so forth to identify opportunities for achieving savings. An entirely new approach is required on this issue. I would be pleased to meet the Minister of State to discuss my experiences and outline what is being done elsewhere in the world. We need to have two processes running in parallel. In addition to the good measures the Government is taking, we require a new approach that involves approaching each worker directly.

I do not disagree. One of the questions that is central to the current talks is how we will change the workforce and do things in a radically different way. This requires redeployment and a whole-of-government approach. We need to examine the performance management and development system, PMDS, to determine who is marking it and whether there is real engagement with the process and to ensure people are accountable.

Managers in the public sector are paid very well vis-à-vis public service managers in other similar sized countries. They must manage and be held accountable for their management but we cannot have some centralist, Stalinist approach to management. How we move forward on this issue will be central to the discussions with the public sector unions. Local managers are paid very well and must manage their budgets and engage with people on the ground to ensure we achieve efficiencies and changing work practices. I strongly agree with the Deputy that a centralised approach leads to inefficiency.