We put a lot of effort into making sure that data that have been collected at great cost to the taxpayer are then made available.
They are out there and a lot of these data are being commercialised in the private sector. It is a very positive initiative. Much of the data are used in various new apps that help people to access services more widely.
The first Civil Service employee engagement survey was carried out in 2015 and the second one was carried out during 2017. The results were published in early 2018. Of the 24 areas surveyed, 22 showed improvements in the most recent survey. The results indicate that overall employee engagement remains high at 72%. This result compares well with other administrations across the world. The findings indicate that the majority of staff have a sense of energy and connection with their work, that they can cope with the demands of their job, and that they find their work fulfilling. The results confirm that we are doing well in a number of areas but highlight where we need to focus our efforts in the future. For example, we need to provide opportunities for greater levels of involvement, create a more innovative culture, address performance issues and improve the public perception of the work of civil servants.
It is quite interesting that, when we asked civil servants whether they valued their own work, they said they did but, when asked whether they feel their work is valued by citizens, they did not. We then asked citizens whether they valued the work of the Civil Service and found that they do and that they rate it very highly. The difference between civil servants' perception of how citizens perceive them and the reality is interesting.
The committee may also be interested to know that last week we published the results of the 2019 Civil Service customer satisfaction survey. Running regular surveys of customers to more fully understand our users' experiences is a key commitment in the Civil Service renewal plan. This is the eighth survey carried out among the Irish public. It determines satisfaction levels with services received from Civil Service Departments and offices. It also surveys more general perceptions of, and attitudes to, the Civil Service. The results of the customer satisfaction survey show a very positive trend in terms of overall satisfaction with service provision and outcomes.
I will highlight just a few statistics from the survey. Some 85% of customers surveyed were satisfied with the service received from the Civil Service. These are people who engaged with the Passport Office, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Education and Skills or other Civil Service offices. It refers only to the Civil Service, not the wider public service. This figure is an increase from 83% in 2017 and 76% in 2015. The same percentage of people were satisfied with the outcome of their most recent contact with the Civil Service and 89% of customers indicated that service levels are mostly meeting, or exceeding, expectations. Some 87% were satisfied with both the knowledge and helpfulness of staff and the public’s perceptions of Civil Service efficiency, trust, independence and equality have also all improved since 2017. Based on this survey, almost 70% of citizens in Ireland have a high opinion of the Civil Service with regard to trustworthiness, competence, independence and so on. We are very happy with that result but, of course, we need to do better and to improve upon it.
We are now reflecting on what has been achieved and what we need to do to support the future development of the Civil Service and to ensure that it can play a more effective role in meeting the needs of the Government and the public. We will develop a long-term strategy for Civil Service renewal. We are now engaged in a process of consultation and will welcome engagement with the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course. We will welcome input on the next phase of the plan.
I would like to briefly mention the reforms of the wider public service that have been undertaken since 2011. I have already mentioned the establishment of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer to drive ICT. I will speak shortly about the Office of Government Procurement where Mr. David O'Brien is involved in reforms.
The current framework for public service reform and innovation is entitled Our Public Service 2020. It builds on earlier reforms while expanding their scope to focus on delivering better services for our customers, as well as building innovative and responsive organisations. It puts focus on evaluation, the importance of building a reform culture, and developing indicators to support outcomes. A public service leadership board, on which Secretaries General and CEOs sit, has been established to implement this agenda. This group involves myself, other Secretaries General, the Garda Commissioner, the Chief of Staff, the head of the Health Service Executive and others. It is the first time we have had a forum for Civil Service and public service leaders to meet regularly to talk about issues around HR, innovation, data management and so on. It is a useful forum and we will see how it helps to deliver in the future.
I will now turn briefly to public procurement, which is the second item on the agenda. A division within my Department leads the procurement reform process, sets out the overarching public procurement framework, manages the Government’s eTenders platform, engages with and communicates to the large number of stakeholders who are tendering for public service jobs, and provides support and advice to public bodies and suppliers. This is one of the areas in which there has been a lot of change. The procurement service is now a centre of excellence. Colleagues in different Departments and office come to Mr. O'Brien and his colleagues to seek advice on procurement solutions. This division also delivers these solutions for public bodies, largely through central arrangements such as framework contracts.
It is important to state that, while the office and its sector partners in health, education, defence and local government put these central arrangements in place for common goods and services, the individual public bodies are responsible and accountable for the contracts awarded under these arrangements. We provide a service but the Secretary General is still the Accounting Officer responsible for the management and delivery of the service procured. The work of the Office of Government Procurement brings a strategic focus to procurement, drives value for money, enables compliance, supports business participation and promotes transparency.
This year to date, the office has established 17 framework agreements with a total value of €3.6 billion, bringing the overall number of framework agreements currently in place to over 130. During the year, the office also conducted 800 mini competitions, with an estimated value of €654 million on behalf of 222 public bodies.
This commitment to better public procurement is also underlined by the ongoing development and communication of the overarching policy framework, which is a comprehensive suite of guidance for public bodies. With regard to e-invoicing and e-tendering, a significant digital development in 2019 has been the Office of Government Procurement's support for the e-invoicing programme. The e-invoicing directive has been transposed into Irish legislation and appropriate solutions were available for public bodies through a services framework in time for the implementation date in April of this year. This has delivered a flexible range of solutions for a variety of finance functions across the public sector. The outcome of this is apparent in the fact that 85% of central government bodies were compliant within months of the implementation date. The adoption of e-invoicing in the public sector will facilitate the digital transformation of how public services process the more than 4 million invoices that are currently processed on a paper basis annually. At the moment, we receive millions of invoices, which are manually checked against purchase orders before a direction as to whether to pay the invoice is given. With e-invoicing, this will be done automatically, which will have a number of benefits including reducing processing cost and improving accuracy. The hours spent on this matter will reduce. It is a very significant reform which, over time, should bring significant benefits to the public sector.
I will now turn to the final area, which is the overall public expenditure framework, public expenditure reforms, and the role of our Department in respect of budgetary matters. The Department, with the Minister, has responsibility for the overall public expenditure framework to support the management of expenditure at sustainable levels in a planned, rational and balanced manner to support Ireland’s economic development and social progress. This includes developing central policies and guidelines in respect of public expenditure. The implementation of this framework, and in particular the management of expenditure within the allocations voted by Dáil Éireann, is a key responsibility of the line Departments and relevant Accounting Officers.
A sustainable expenditure policy needs to meet certain key requirements including ensuring that the overall level of expenditure remains affordable over the longer term and delivering sustainable improvements in public services and infrastructure. This requires that growth is set at a level that is consistent with the long-term growth potential of the economy and that there is an ongoing focus on the quality of spending. To ensure sustainability, these two elements of the framework are necessarily interlinked.
The reforms to the framework implemented in recent years seek to embed sound expenditure practices that maintain a focus on the totality of spend rather than the incremental amount added each year. Key elements within this suite of reforms include performance and equality budgeting, the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, and the spending review process.
The objectives of the spending review for the period from 2017 to 2019 have been to create a larger stock of relevant analysis and evaluation across all Departments and offices, to underpin continued prudent allocations of expenditure, to identify areas of existing expenditure that require ongoing analysis, to spotlight areas of innovation and good practice, both in programme design and delivery, that will be of wider interest and applicability and to provide an evidence base in respect of departmental spending that informs the choices made on budgetary allocations. These objectives have been largely achieved. Nearly 80 papers have been produced and published. Over the three years of the process, the level of engagement across key line Departments and agencies has increased. The process is aligned to the Estimates process, with publication of papers in July by the Minister allowing the findings from the reviews to feed into budgetary discussions.
Significant momentum has been developed and it is intended to continue the process in 2020 and beyond. This provides an enormous wealth of information and data analysis of spend, the efficiency and the effectiveness of spend, which can guide decisions in any given year and into the future.
As part of the ongoing reform of Ireland’s capital management systems, an updated public spending code will be published shortly before Christmas or in the new year, focusing on improving appraisal, cost estimation and the management of infrastructure projects. This updated guide will better align the realities of project delivery with decision gates at each stage of the project cycle to ensure full consideration of the costs, risks and benefits of each investment. The guide will be supplemented by a new governance and assurance process for major projects, estimated to cost more than €100 million. This new process will involve an independent, external review of projects at key stages in the project life cycle. It is being developed by my Department and will come into effect in 2020.
In this statement, I have sought to set out some details of the work my Department is undertaking in respect of the items on the agenda for today’s meeting. We have made considerable progress in these areas since the Department was established in 2011. I am proud of the work of my colleagues in the Department in this regard and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their commitment to this significant and collective effort. As I have set out, we have ambitious plans for the future. I would like to highlight that my Department is currently preparing a new statement of strategy to cover the next three years. I would be happy to receive the views of the committee in terms of priority areas to be addressed in that strategy.