Deputy Durkan has the next question, but he is not present.
Public Procurement Contracts
Mary Lou McDonaldQuestion:
7. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to ensure full compliance with all legal obligations under labour legislation by companies awarded public procurement contracts, with respect to their use of subcontracting, in view of impending requirements under the new EU rules agreed in January 2014. [42059/14]
This question relates to public procurement. The Minister of State will be aware that I have taken a considerable interest in the matter. I am concerned, not least because of a number of very well publicised cases in which there has been evidence and allegations of flagrant breaches of labour law and exploitation of workers. I had cause to speak again yesterday with the workers who are in dispute with JJ Rhatigan in respect of Kishogue Community College in Lucan; that is ongoing. The question is straightforward. What are the plans to ensure full compliance with all legal obligations under labour legislation by companies awarded public contracts with respect to their use of subcontractors, which is the issue at the heart of the JJ Rhatigan dispute?
I thank the Deputy for her question and I note her ongoing interest in issues of procurement.
The main purpose of the EU public procurement regime is to open up the market and ensure the free movement of supplies, services and works within the EU, having regard to Treaty of Rome principles including transparency, proportionality and equal treatment. This is the rationale that shapes the detailed rules and directives governing the regime.
Under the current regime and standard forms of contract, there are requirements in place for compliance with legal obligations under labour legislation. For example, clause 2 of the standard form of the public works contract requires the contractor and his or her personnel and subcontractors to comply with all legal requirements.
There is a substantial body of legislation that directly or indirectly governs construction activities. However, two key pieces of industry-specific legislation, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 and the Building Control Regulations 1997 to 2014, both place considerable responsibility not only on contractors but on all those involved in construction projects, including designers, supervisors and individual workers.
The ultimate sanction for a serious breach of health and safety regulations is a criminal conviction and imprisonment. Compliance with health and safety regulations is separately assessed in a pre-qualification of works contractors, with supporting evidence required to demonstrate that the applicant possesses sufficient resources and is competent to carry out the proposed works. The works requirements, which are a key part of the contract documents, also set out detailed specifications on how regulatory standards are best to be met.
Contractors are required to submit ongoing certification under clause 5.3 of the contract, which deals with pay and conditions of employment, to show that they have complied in full with the requirements of that clause, which covers aspects such as compliance with employment law and deductions for social welfare. Contractors are also required under this clause to maintain records and timesheets in respect of all those engaged on the works.
The new EU rules comprise a suite of three directives that repeal the existing rules governing conduct in procurement across the EU, but the basic architecture of EU procurement will remain intact.
I note that I will run out of time. I will come back with a reply to the Deputy's supplementary question. The key message is that I have opened this up to consultation for six weeks. I encourage people to go to the website www.procurement.ie and examine the consultation document. The first question relates to labour law. We are eager to get this right. We get only one opportunity to transpose these directives correctly, and that is why, while consultation was not necessary, I decided it was prudent. Consultation is open until 12 December.
I welcome that consultation, which is indeed prudent. I welcome that at call-for-tender stage a company may be required to specify what part of the contract it does not intend to perform itself but intends to assign to a third party, which is significant. The company will also be required to inform the public purchaser of the names and addresses of such subcontractors, thereby providing a chain of responsibility. These tougher rules on subcontracting are intended to fight what is called "social dumping" and ensure that workers' rights are respected. Equally, it allows that contractors who do not comply may be excluded from bidding. These are very welcome developments. Does the Minister of State accept that we have an issue with social dumping and breaches of labour law in respect of subcontracted work on public contracts?
I know that the Deputy has highlighted the issue, including during Private Members' time on Fridays. I accept her bona fides in bringing the issue to the House. I have asked the Office for Government Procurement to look into the matter when considering the implementation of the directive.
The directive obliges us to give consideration to how we wish to adhere to "applicable obligations" in labour law. While most of the directive is mandatory, each member state has a policy choice on which appropriate measures to adopt to ensure compliance with this obligation. That is the discussion I wish to have between now and 12 December.
I am approaching the matter with an open mind. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, undertook significant work during our Presidency of the European Council in getting this through the European Parliament. Considering Ireland's leadership role, I want to ensure Ireland is best in class and that we transpose these directives in a way that ensures flexibility and does not gold-plate them while also addressing the social and labour law issues that we have discussed here and that I am sure we will continue to discuss.
It is very important - I am sure this will be reflected by those with whom the Minister of State consults - that we make the correct policy choices, and in so far as adherence to labour law and the rights of workers are concerned, they need to be watertight and robust.
JJ Rhatigan and Company has approximately 50% of school building contracts at construction stage awarded by the Department of Education and Skills. As the Minister of State knows, Unite is in dispute with JJ Rhatigan over the treatment of its members on the site at Kishogue Community College in Lucan. Following a ballot, the workers unanimously decided on industrial action, which commenced on 19 September. They will be in court tomorrow fighting an injunction.
JJ Rhatigan operates a complex system of subcontracting under which workers on these public capital contracts have been forced into bogus self-employment with no PRSI, holiday, pension or other entitlements. These workers are effectively earning less than €5 an hour. They have been locked out since 1 September. I know there are obvious limits in what the Minister of State can say and I am not asking him to stray beyond that. However, I ask him to respond as he can to this situation and to make it very clear for those workers and anybody else being exploited in this way that he is aware of the phenomenon and is determined, as I hope we all are, to stamp out these practices. I hope that workers enjoy the Minister of State's support as they try to deal with these exploitative situations.
The Deputy correctly notes the limitations on what I can say about specific cases. However, I am very happy to say that we have quite a robust suite of labour law. In the procurement area, I want to ensure that in transposing these directives we deal adequately with all of these issues.
Obviously the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has overall responsibility for employment rights. The National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, is responsible for enforcing minimum statutory employment rights and entitlements in the State.
While we are discussing the issue of subcontractors, the Government has made a decision, led by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, that the Minister of State, Deputy Nash, will work on the implementation of the Construction Contracts Act, which is of serious concern to many subcontractors. I am very proud that this Oireachtas passed the Act, and we expect it to be implemented next year.
Public Procurement Contracts
Mary Lou McDonaldQuestion:
8. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to increase access by indigenous small and medium enterprises to public procurement contracts, in view of the impending requirements under the new EU rules agreed in January 2014. [42056/14]
We touched on this issue in the course of last week's debate. At that stage I raised with the Minister of State the importance of increasing the access of indigenous small and medium-sized enterprises, including micro-enterprises, to public procurement contracts, in view of the new EU rules agreed in January 2014.
Some of my prepared reply is the same as I have already outlined, so I will take that as noted regarding the objectives of the EU directives.
The Office of Government Procurement is currently exploring policy choices as part of the transposition process. In this context, I have launched a public consultation on the new directives. It is open to everybody - not just specific people - to give their views on how they wish to see these directives transposed, and I urge everybody to do so. We are accepting written submissions up to 12 December. Consideration will be given to the responses received when drafting the statutory instruments to implement the EU rules in national law.
Many of the changes in the directives on SME access to, and participation in, the public procurement market were foreshadowed in Circular 10/14 on initiatives to assist SMEs in public procurement, which we have discussed previously.
This policy initiative aims to open up opportunities for small businesses to bid for State business by simplifying and streamlining the public procurement process and reducing the administrative burden on businesses wishing to tender for public contracts.
The circular contains guidelines setting out relevant and proportionate financial capacity, turnover and insurance levels for tendering firms and the subdividing of larger contracts into lots to enable SMEs to bid for these opportunities. In addition, the guidelines encourage SMEs to form consortia where they are not of sufficient scale or capability to tender in their own right. The aim is to encourage Irish SMEs, where necessary, to form alliances and networks to ensure they can tender competitively for business. The guidance also encourages suppliers to use fully the e-tender system and to avail of its facilities for registration, e-tendering and automatic alerts for future tendering opportunities. These are facilities which are aimed at easing the administrative burden of suppliers in tendering for public contracts.
We have established an SME working group with industry representative bodies, including ISME, IBEC, Small Firms Association, SFA, Chambers Ireland, Construction Industry Federation, CIF, and public sector representation from the office of Government procurement, OGP, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, InterTrade Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. The focus of this group is to develop and monitor SME access to public procurement. This group meets regularly - I am pleased to have met the group recently - and it has broadly welcomed the policy initiatives in the circular. I expect this group to input into the public consultation process. While the circular and its provisions have been broadly welcomed, I am acutely aware, as is the OGP, that the main criticism from many stakeholders is the lack of consistency in the implementation of the circular. If I were to identify one challenge for 2015 it would be to ensure that the SME circular is consistently implemented across the board.
I thank the Minister of State. I appreciate the challenge and I note the consultative phase and also the Meet the Buyer event which will be held shortly. I hope to attend that event.
The Minister of State referred in his response to the practice of breaking contracts into lots and making them accessible. He referred to encouraging SMEs and micro-businesses to form consortia to give them the capacity to bid. While on paper this may appear to be a very straightforward proposition, in practice it is failing very many smaller businesses. The Minister of State may be aware that in the stationery sector those companies that bid for stationery business with the State have had an appalling experience in this bidding process and the requirement to create consortia. I am not sure that this particular issue has been terribly well thought out nor am I convinced that the system has had a listening ear to the real experience of businesses. Training has been provided, not least through InterTrade Ireland, which is welcome but we need to get that piece of it right. I encourage the Minister of State to have a particular eye for that issue in the course of his consultation.
I am pleased to hear that Deputy McDonald hopes to attend the Meet the Buyer event. I have made a point of inviting every Member of the Oireachtas to the event and if the Deputy is not in a position to attend there will be more events. It is very important to allow an opportunity for SMEs to interact first-hand with the public service buyers and for us as policy-makers to see that interaction, to see what is working and what is not working.
I accept Deputy McDonald's constructive criticism about consortia; it is a criticism I have heard from the representative bodies.
I refer again to the consultation process which will provide an opportunity to look at what is working and what is not working, to look at what we want to achieve from these directives. All too often EU directives can be regarded as negative or challenging measures but in my view we must seize them as an opportunity. The Deputy correctly said that we are looking at upskilling SMEs by providing training sessions so that they are ready to engage in procurement. It is in the interests of the entire Irish economy that we get more SMEs availing of and winning public procurement contracts.
I hope the consultation period will be successful. A number of issues were raised within the stationery sector, including concerns to do with quality levels and the health and safety standards required in respect of stationery provided to schools, including primary schools. The sector has brought these issues to the attention of some of the Minister of State's colleagues. I ask that when those observations come back about the real experience of those involved in any sector that they will not be brushed off or dismissed. It is my view that the health and safety and quality issues as well as some of the predatory practices, perhaps, by others outside of the State who tender for this business and who are bigger operators, are very real concerns. I ask the Minister of State to consider those very carefully because it is a case of getting it right and as he says, ensuring that as many indigenous Irish SMEs and micro-businesses can legitimately and fairly win as many contracts as possible.
I agree with much of what the Deputy says and she is correct. Aside from capital projects the State spends about €23 million a day on purchasing goods and services. It is a very significant contribution to the domestic economy and to the flow of money around the domestic economy. There is also an issue with SMEs needing to know that the public procurement process is open to them. We want them to become involved. It is a little like exporting in the days of the Celtic tiger when exporting was viewed as something only done by larger companies. There has been a cultural shift and a change in the mindset and many smaller businesses are exporting successfully. We need to get to that point with regard to procurement where the procurement process is open to everyone in every town and village and where we provide all the supports.
I agree we need to achieve value for money and we have very ambitious savings targets. However, we have previously debated the point that value for money is not always a case of the bottom line; it comprises a formula that is more complex than just considering the bottom line. That is the balance we need to achieve. I hope we get it right most of the time - I am not saying we get it right all the time - and hopefully this consultation process will tease out these issues.
Public Sector Staff Recruitment
9. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to reduce the level of temporary staffing across the public sector by converting such posts to permanent contracts. [42069/14]
I wish to ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform whether he will reduce the very high level of temporary staffing across the public sector by converting such posts to permanent jobs.
I thank the Deputy for his question. In my role as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I have overarching responsibility for recruitment to the Civil Service. All such recruitment is governed by the Public Service (Management and Recruitment) Act 2004. Under the Act, the method of appointment to a permanent Civil Service post is as a result of being successful in a competition run by the Public Appointments Service or by another licence-holder such as the head of a Department or office. Selection processes are open to all eligible applicants who meet minimum entry criteria.
In the main, vacancies in the Civil Service are filled on a permanent basis. However, temporary vacancies arise from time to time to cover such absences as maternity leave or shorter working year and where a permanent vacancy will not exist and a job needs to be done for a finite period of time. Temporary clerical officer positions in the Civil Service are filled by an annual competition conducted by PAS which is usually advertised in February of each year.
It is a matter for human resource units in all Departments and agencies to have procedures in place for dealing with the recruitment and employment of fixed-term employees and the management of their contracts. My Department issues guidelines, entitled Best Practice for the Recruitment and Management of Fixed-term Employees in the Irish Civil Service, which are revised from time to time. The most recent version issued in April 2014 and took account of changes arising as a result of the single pension scheme and the Haddington Road agreement. The guidelines can be found on my Department's website.
PeoplePoint, the Civil Service human resources and pensions shared service centre, became operational in March 2013 and brings together shared HR and pension processes and systems. There are now over 24,000 employees availing of PeoplePoint services across 20 Departments and offices. The use of contract staff for these posts was necessary to ensure that business needs were met and as a temporary response to the demands of this new service. Plans are progressing to replace those temporary clerical officers with permanent staff. In June of this year PAS advertised a recruitment competition to fill permanent clerical officer positions in the Civil Service and public service. In excess of 28,000 applications were received and the first successful applicants are now being offered appointments in line with demand to fill vacancies across the Civil Service and the public service. Decisions on the filling of posts, permanent or otherwise, in other public service bodies are a matter for the employing bodies in the context of their business needs.
There is an inordinate number of temporary contract workers in the public sector, in particular, as a consequence of the recruitment embargo and people were brought in on very short-term contracts.
These contracts were renewed one after the other and many had to resort to the courts to have the State implement the law to give them fixity of tenure. If we look at the Department of Education and Skills, we will see the matter involves 935 primary school teachers and 2,618 post-primary school teachers, not all of whom are replacing teachers on maternity leave and so on. Almost 200 staff have been employed on temporary contracts in PeoplePoint; some of whom have been in the Department for years; were promised a confined establishment competition in which they could hope to move to a permanent position and now find themselves thrown into the mix with 29,000 other applicants to join the public sector generally. This is highly unfair. They were made a promise and I would like to know what the Minister will do about it.
In general, I am far happier to have permanent appointments where there is a permanent job to be filled. That is what we are going to migrate to. We certainly had difficulties in filling positions that were needed during the time there were restrictions on recruitment. Some staff were recruited on a short-term basis. I have a difficulty. I want permanent staff in PeoplePoint, but I must allow others to apply for jobs. I cannot simply say those who have been there on a temporary basis will automatically be given all of the positions. That would not be fair to others who want to apply for them. As far as is practicable, staff can apply and will be facilitated. They will have an advantage in their applications because they already have the skills required. I am aware that there are people who have applied and have not met the recruitment criteria for the jobs being created within PeoplePoint on a permanent basis. I encourage people to keep going in order that everybody will have an equal opportunity to secure jobs, as opposed to me saying this discrete section will have precedence over all others.
Of course, we want people to have proper decent jobs in the public sector with proper pensions and conditions, but that has been made far more difficult by the fact that the Government and the previous Administration did not replace up to 30,000 public sector workers. Does the Minister not see the difficulty of staff in PeoplePoint with up to two years experience who hope to be made permanent but who might now face the dole? It is not fair to regard them as complete outsiders competing with others applying for the first time. Surely it is a matter of justice. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that the people concerned will move to permanent positions. What is the position of those with contracts of indefinite duration who as a result of threatening legal action had inferior conditions under which they were employed on temporary contracts in being made permanent?
As PeoplePoint became operational in March 2013, staff have not been there for years. I take account of the point made by the Deputy that we must have some consideration for those who are doing the job on a temporary contract, some of whom have had that contract rolled over because it is only an annual contract. I do not know whether it is the Deputy's position that they should automatically be made permanent and that people elsewhere in the Civil Service or those not employed in it but who would like to seek a clerical officer position should be excluded from applying for these jobs. On balance, we should have an open competition to fill all jobs, but those already there have an advantage inasmuch as they have a proven track record of being able to do the job. That is the better way to go.
Public Sector Staff Recruitment
Thomas P. BroughanQuestion:
10. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in respect of his address to Dáil Éireann on expenditure Estimates for 2015, if he will provide further details of the increased autonomy that will be afforded to Departments and agencies to manage their own staffing levels and the way this will work in practice; and when the resumption of Civil Service recruitment will recommence in 2015. [42005/14]
In his expenditure statement the Minister mentioned the fact that the Civil Service leadership in Departments and agencies would have much more autonomy in recruiting staff. I also note that in the interesting report, Vision One, which was launched recently by the Minister, action 18 also refers to developing the capacity of local managers to develop or recruit their own staff. How is this working out? The Minister mentioned recruitment in 2014. What are the plans for 2015, given the fact that he and the previous Government have presided over the slashing of the public service by something like 10% and the fact that 73% of staff in the Civil Service are aged over 40 years and that only 4% are under 30?
The Deputy used pejorative words like "slashing". The bottom line is that if every organisation of State was to do things more effectively and efficiently - which it can do - we would produce much more for less by transforming the way we provide services. I know that the Deputy would not be so backward as to think we could not modernise the Civil Service or that we should stay in a frozen state.
As I announced on budget day last month, I will seek to put in place new arrangements to replace the moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service from 2015 onwards. This will be subject to the issuance of formal delegated sanction by my Department to all other Departments and offices in return for agreed commitments by them to manage staff resources within agreed pay ceilings and meet ongoing reform and efficiency objectives. Under the new arrangements which my Department has begun to discuss in detail with the other Departments, sectoral managers will be incentivised to make further savings. Where these are achieved - for example, by recasting the grade mix or reassigning duties or introducing more efficient work practices, all of which are normal ways of doing business - such savings can be reinvested in expanding services to meet increased demand, including hiring more staff, where appropriate. There will be restrictions and controls to prevent unwarranted grade drift and unsustainable recruitment and, of course, recruitment will be carried by the Public Appointments Service in the normal way and open to open competition.
The Deputy will be aware that the moratorium was first introduced as an emergency measure in response to the fiscal crisis that struck the public finances under the last Administration and as a policy instrument, it has made an important contribution on two fronts. First, it has helpedto deliver more than €3 billion in Exchequer pay bill savings, which is a huge contribution to the repairing of the public finances. Second, since 2011 in particular, it has served to help drive reform across the public service, underpinning programmes to introduce new and more efficient ways of delivering public services across the system.
We have produced a number of reform plans with which the Deputy is familiar. It is transforming the way the State deals with citizens, making it much more transparent, open and, I hope, efficient.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
Nonetheless, in the course of framing the second public service reform plan which I launched at the beginning of the year it became clear to me that an emergency measure such as the moratorium was not conducive to long-term, sustainable reform and service provision. It is simply not something that any major organisation can or should wish to sustain over a long period, which is why the new reform plan contained a commitment to introduce more flexibility at the operational level. In the context of the budget, therefore, having regard to our much improved fiscal position which allowed the Government to bring an end to spending cuts, I decided to accelerate implementation of the reform commitment and work towards introducing the new arrangements early next year.
This change in policy is not about giving a blanket sanction for widespread recruitment or promotion across the public service, nor does it signal an end to the efficiency drive that has defined public service reform in the past few years; rather, it is about giving those who are best placed - front-line managers - a degree of freedom in the management of staff resources to meet the demands they face. With this comes responsibility to make the right decisions, continue to implement reform and continue to achieve efficiency gains. That requirement will be reflected in the terms and conditions of the sanction being finalised. As outlined in the reform plan, the policy objective in this change of approach is twofold: to continue to contain the cost of delivering public services at affordable and sustainable levels in the medium term; and to allow the public service to respond and adapt quickly to the needs of the citizen.
Regarding recruitment to the Civil Service, about which the Deputy asks specifically, the Public Appointment Service has begun a number of open competitions, including at clerical and graduate grades. Some more will follow in 2015, with the dual aim of bringing new people and new skills into the public service and addressing any imbalance which may have developed during the operation of the moratorium. The competitions run by the Public Appointment Service are advertised nationally and open to all suitably qualified candidates.
In respect of local management, will the professional expertise of recruits be an outstanding aspect of how local managers will manage? I note that the report, Vision One, refers to the available talent pool, heads of profession and developing the ICT, legal, economics and statistical cadres within and across Departments. What flexibility will a local manager have in this respect? The Minister talks about open recruitment to fill all positions. Does this also apply to private secretaries to Ministers? Is every single position open to all recruits? I note that that there will be a new code of conduct for political appointees in Ministers' offices.
On performance assessment, has the Minister settled on a modern, international set of measurements which can be applied fairly across the Civil Service and will give us a high performing Civil Service? It must be said the Civil Service was usually ranked very high in the OECD rankings throughout the noughties and up until very recently. It was in the top five, or certainly the top ten.
I echo the Deputy's view on the quality of the Civil Service.
I remarked at the launch of the Civil Service reform document that on the evening before the final departure of the troika, the head of the troika group told me it had never dealt with a more competent Civil Service than ours. I thought that was high praise and I passed it on. However, we need to modernise and upskill, as well as to provide clarity about roles in the Civil Service. The Deputy asked a number of specific questions. We need to give clarity to civil servants about what they are expected to do before we can evaluate how well they are performing their roles. We also need to provide proper supports in terms of training. We have been recruiting specialists because there are skills deficiencies in the spheres of economics, human resource management and procurement. I expect that we will see more specialists and fewer generalists in the future. In the past, the bulk of civil servants were clerical officers but they are being replaced by much more technology as people use online mechanisms.
I am excited by the capacity of the new digital age to provide more effective services. More than 400 public services are currently accessible online and we want to migrate more services online. We are analysing the 20 most used services to see how we can make them more efficient for citizens. The first phase in our public service reform programme was, by necessity, focused on saving money by improving efficiencies. The next phase will be more focused on improving the experience of our citizens when we deliver the services on which they depend.
Has the Minister investigated new, and perhaps simple, methodologies for assessing the performance of managers and leaders in the Civil Service? Is recruitment in respect of the private sector completely open?
The right-wing media, which is often hostile to civil servants and the public service in general, often has a field day running down our Civil Service. Who will now speak for the Civil Service? The Minister decided against appointing a head of the Civil Service but it appears that the Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr. Watt, will effectively become the spokesman for the entire 35,000 staff. Is that the case? I note that the management board will be chaired by the Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach. In the context of Irish Water and other public companies, it is striking in the public sector that communications people rather than the chief executive are sent out to explain. We have all been looking for the chief executive of Irish Water but I have not seen him since was manager of Dublin City Council. Who will speak for the Civil Service?
The Deputy's questions underscore the point I made earlier to Deputy McDonald on the need for a more structured debate on this exciting set of reforms, which will be transformative for the Civil Service.
In regard to a spokesperson for the Civil Service, it has been determined that the Secretary General of my Department will be the official spokesperson for the Civil Service. We need somebody to argue and listen to criticisms on behalf of the Civil Service, as opposed to Ministers performing those tasks. In regard to the management board, one of the major deficiencies in the Civil Service is that it is not sufficiently integrated. One of the objectives of the new reform plan is to develop a more integrated Civil Service so that people do not think in terms of silos. If a manager cedes personnel or functions to another Department, that should not be seen as a weakening of his or her position but as a shared assessment of how services can be improved or particular problems addressed. In terms of assessments, for the first time objective criteria will be developed for assessing performance against the stated objectives of Secretaries General. This exercise will be carried out by a board chaired by the Taoiseach and will involve myself and other Ministers, a number of Secretaries General and external experts from business. All of this will be put in place in the coming weeks.
Clearly we need a broader debate on these issues but I am excited about the potential for a real transformation and, more important, by the engagement of 2,000 civil servants in the process over the last year. There is an appetite to embrace change and to do things better, and the objective of having one of the best civil and public services in the world is within our grasp.