I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for the invitation to come before them today, albeit virtually. As the Chairman has done, I acknowledge Mr. Moloney, the acting Secretary General of my Department, who is also with us. As members know, this is my first time appearing before the committee. As a former member of many years, I am familiar with the valuable work undertaken by the committee on a constant basis. It is a great privilege to appear before the Chairman and members in my capacity as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
I am also happy to have the opportunity to address the points raised in the Chairman's recent correspondence regarding the post of Secretary General in the Department of Health. At the outset, I want to emphasise that the matter in question relates to an ongoing process for recruitment to a post that is of strategic importance for the Government. It is important that commentary on this issue is cognisant of that fact and is not prejudicial to the outcome of that process.
As the committee will be aware, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I have statutory responsibility for the terms and conditions of service, including remuneration, of civil servants, as set out in the Civil Service Regulation Acts. In meeting this responsibility, I engaged with the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and the Secretary General to the Government regarding the terms to apply for the recruitment to the post of Secretary General in the Department of Health.
In that context, I took account of a number of factors. It is no secret that the post of Secretary General in the Department of Health is a highly complex one with a challenging brief, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. There are significant responsibilities attached to the role, including the ongoing management of the response to the Covid-19 public health emergency, implementing the Government’s ambition to deliver on Sláintecare and the management of the greatly increased budget of €22 billion for health in 2021.
Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the successful candidate to fulfil the Department of Health's mission to improve the health and well-being of the people of Ireland. Reflecting these points, I consider that a salary of €292,000 is commensurate with the scale of the responsibilities and the unique challenges attached to the role, not least at the current time.
The decision to appoint a serving Secretary General to the Department of Health on an interim basis pending the holding and conclusion of an open competition for the substantive vacant post is a matter for the Government. In that context, in line with the decision taken by the Cabinet on 6 January, Mr. Robert Watt was assigned to the role of Secretary General in the Department of Health on an interim basis. I wish to clarify for the committee that Mr. Watt had no input into my sanctioning of the salary of €292,000 to apply for the open competition for the substantive post. The newly sanctioned salary will apply only to the person appointed arising from the open competition currently under way.
Regarding the selection process, the members will be aware that the position was openly advertised on 8 January this year by the Public Appointments Service, PAS, on behalf of the Top Level Appointments Committee, TLAC. In addition to the advertisement by PAS on its portal www.publicjobs.ie, the position has been internationally advertised online on selected websites, EXEC Jobs, The Guardian, and the Health Service Journal. It was on LinkedIn and so on, and targeted media. PAS also issues job alerts by email and text message to those who have registered their interest in the position at this level on www.publicjobs.ie. TLAC circulated it to Departments in addition to other public service bodies.
The selection process to recommend prospective candidates for the advertised position is being undertaken by TLAC. The Government has a policy of open recruitment. The role of TLAC, as an independent body, is to support that and ensure that the recruitment and selection process for senior Civil Service posts is accessible to the widest pool of candidates. TLAC operates under the code of practice issued by the Commission for Public Service Appointments in accordance with the principles of fairness, consistency, accountability, probity, best practice and professional confidentiality. The secretariat is based in my Department to support this operation, while the competition is administered by PAS on behalf of TLAC. TLAC will consider any applications received by PAS for the advertised position. The same recruitment process will apply to all candidates for the position of Secretary General at the Department of Health.
On the conclusion of its processes, TLAC may recommend up to three names, in alphabetical order, to the Government in respect of those candidates considered to be of the standard required for the post. As requested, correspondence and documentation on this matter have been provided to the committee. My Department will publish the material on its website at the conclusion of today's session.
I am aware that the focus of attention is the salary associated with the post but I would like to touch very briefly on a couple of wider issues. With regard to our general expenditure, overall gross expenditure for 2020 came in at €85.3 billion. The increase of almost €15 billion against the original 2020 expenditure allocations reflects the additional funding provided in response to Covid-19. This significant allocation of resources has continued into 2021, with, as outlined in Revised Estimates Volume 2021, a Government expenditure ceiling of €87.8 billion for this year, inclusive of a contingency reserve of €2 billion and a recovery fund of €3.4 billion. We are also undertaking a review of a national development plan, NDP to the value of €116 billion.
My Department is centrally involved in the management of Ireland's draw-down from the Brexit adjustment reserve, and the indications are that we will get over €1 billion in phase 1 of that. Along with other Departments, we are preparing Ireland's national recovery and resilience plan to enable us to access grant funding of €853 million as part of the EU-wide recovery and resilience plan.
On public service pay, balloting is under way on the proposed new public service pay deal, Building Momentum. We should have the outcome of that in the next few weeks. In addition, there is a wide programme of both public service and Civil Service reform ongoing within my Department.
I appreciate that the Chairman is under pressure for time so I will leave my opening remarks at that. I look forward to questions and our engagement.