I thank the Deputy for his good wishes and for his question and look forward to working with him over the term of this Dáil. He has put forward a really good question. I will read the official answer and look forward to engagement on any particular issues he may wish to discuss in the course of this debate.
Covid-19 has been an unprecedented public health emergency with implications across the economy and society. For that reason, there has been a whole-of-Government response led by the Department of the Taoiseach and involving all Departments with many other public bodies, including my Department. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has established the Cabinet committee, chaired by the Taoiseach, to assess the social and economic impacts of the potential spread of Covid-19. The work of the Cabinet committee includes addressing the impacts, mitigation measures and contingencies for cross-sectoral issues which arise in areas beyond the health service, building on the effective public health work undertaken to date. A whole-of-Government approach to the Covid-19 response requires cohesive decision-making, a partnership approach, expert public health advice and clarity of communications.
As the Deputy will be aware, the health sector response has been led by the Department of Health and the HSE and questions in this regard are a matter for the Minister for Health. Due to the nature of its role, my Department has been involved in a number of areas of the overall Government response including but not limited to the following. There is a whole list of them and I will read a few into the record. My Department has engaged proactively with relevant Departments from an expenditure perspective throughout the crisis and the Deputy will be aware that the Government has agreed to allocate substantial additional funding to a number of Votes to meet additional costs, including, for example, in the social protection and health areas. The crisis has had major implications for employers and staff across the Civil Service and public service and my Department has provided leadership, direction and a collaborative approach to managing the complex issues that have arisen for public service employers.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer in my Department has worked with other public bodies in the context of the role of digital Government in responding to the crisis. The Office of Government Procurement in my Department has played an important supporting role in respect of aspects of the public procurement response and there have been many innovative elements to the response to this unprecedented crisis. My Department’s reform office is seeking to capture those and will look to reflect them as appropriate in the next phase of the public service reform programme.
My Department has also had its own departmental response to the crisis through the implementation of its internal business continuity plan and the move to large-scale remote working. Lessons have been learned about the value of effective communication and collaboration on cross-cutting issues, the importance of business continuity planning and the effective use of technology, and these will continue to inform the Department’s future approach to such issues.
In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to the way in which individual public servants and public bodies have responded to this emergency. The response across all sectors has been immense and I am grateful to all the public servants who have played such an important role.