Public Service Management (No. 2) Bill, 1997: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Accountability by the Government to the Dáil has been a fundamental element of our democracy since the foundation of the State and is enshrined in the Constitution. However, while the theoretical basis of ministerial accountability continues, the growing complexity of modern government has changed the practical character of this accountability. At first, Departments were relatively small close knit organisations and a Minister might have known personally his higher civil servants and most, if not all, other officers in the Department. The present position shows how fast our public service is growing, how rapidly our country is expanding and how we are providing better services to the public.

Looking at ministerial responsibilities, the range and extent of matters for which a Minister is theoretically and legally accountable have become so vast as to make the process of accountability almost unreal. The notion that a Minister should know about, let alone direct and manage, every action in his Department is unrealistic. The Minister said issues of importance become personalised and personalities become more important than facts, something we have seen in recent years. This Bill addresses the majority of those issues and does not remove the Minister from the process of accountability but strengthens the Minister's hand and the structures of central government. It ensures that the process of accountability is more focused and, accordingly, more realistic, and it creates for the first time a statutory basis for structures and management arrangements in Departments and other offices of central government.

I hope the thinking behind this legislation will extend to local authorities, health boards, semi-State bodies and urban councils and that they will be put on a similar footing. Senior management and grades in the local authorities and health boards should be more accountable. While I acknowledge the majority of local authorities account annually to elected members, such legislation should cover these bodies also.

I welcome this legislation, many of aspects of which can be recommended. It builds on existing structures in the Civil Service. I compliment the Civil Service, which has provided a valuable service and has carried out many important functions over the years. This Bill will add to that and make the Civil Service more accountable, which is welcome.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Avril Doyle, who has been actively involved in the production of the Bill, to the House and the Minister for Finance's speech and his enthusiasm. I warmly welcome the Bill and hope it makes its way through the legislative process before a general election is called. This measure is long overdue and follows on from a series of failed attempts to reform the way our public service is run. I have great hopes it will work this time. The Minister explained this is not the final stage. He used the analogy of an architect and architectural plans and said this is a foundation on which more work will be done in the coming years.

There are three key words in the Bill on which I will focus. The first word is "management". It is like a breath of fresh air to hear that word being used openly when speaking about the Civil Service. For many years there was a refusal to use that word, and the mind set and practices in the Civil Service tended to reflect that. The public service management school is known as the Institute of Public Administration and not public management. Civil servants were administrators and not managers.

From the simple refusal to acknowledge that the Civil Service needed management and not only administration, many bad practices followed. For example, nobody knew who was responsible for what or to what extent. That situation suited many people who preferred to shelter behind ministerial responsibility. Recently, we witnessed several examples of where the public service system broke down in terms of meeting its responsibilities to the State which established it. I hope this Bill will reduce the possibility of such mistakes happening again.

What is the point about management and administration? One aspect concerns the devolution of power and the acceptance of responsibilities to the level of the organisation where the power and responsibilities are exercised most appropriately. Another aspect is that of control. If one puts somebody in charge of a Department, it does not mean a great deal if one does not give him or her the power needed to do the job with which they have been entrusted. Until now the Secretary of a Department has lacked certain key management controls over his or her staff.

Another aspect concerns leadership. Management is the art rather than the science of getting things done by people. I attended a conference a number of years ago where the speaker asked us to write down in six words or less what the word management meant. We had to work on it and we came up with words such as "delegation", "empowerment" and "responsibility". He asked us to suppose that a Martian came to earth and asked us to explain the word. Eventually, we came up with a definition -getting results through other people.

The old fashioned way to manage was that one told people what to do and expected them to get on with it. That has been the Civil Service way since the 1920s. The modern way to manage is to lead people rather than to drive them. That means leading by example. It involves setting the tone of the organisation and promoting the values necessary to achieve the goals the organisation has set for itself. It means openness to all who work in the organisation and offering them the opportunity to take a meaningful part in decision making. People involved in management are aware of the importance of the leader of the organisation behaving in a manner that will set standards and examples which he or she expects to be followed. These issues are encapsulated in the move from the word "administration" to the word "management". The Bill contains provisions which will make that move possible and that is the main reason why the Bill is welcome. I am enthusiastic about the use of the word "management".

The second key word in the Bill is "strategy". The Bill imposes on every Department and office the requirement to develop a proper strategy. The Minister said the strategy statement is the most important element in the overall framework and I agree with him. The use of strategy contrasts with the hand to mouth approach of the past 70 years, which was heavily reactive rather than proactive. It sprang from the notion that the sole reason for the existence of the Civil Service was to administer the spending of Government money and to ensure that the money was well spent. That was effectively done and, from that point of view, we had a strong and admirable Civil Service.

However, we must recognise, as this Bill does, that the missions of Departments go far beyond that task. Departments have long-term aims that have a great effect on the nation and these aims do not change radically when the Government changes. That might sound like political heresy but it is true. I see a Department as a huge ship which changes its pilot from time to time. The pilot will make course corrections, adjust the speed and even set different priorities in terms of the ports visited on the way to the ship's destination. However, the long-term goals of the ship or Department tend to remain untouched over long periods of time. This is a good rather than bad thing.

It takes a long time to realise a major goal. For too long we have inhibited proper strategic planning in Government by building the Civil Service on the fiction that each new Minister starts with a clean sheet. It is a fiction that has allowed Departments to be run in the absence of a clear long-term strategy and the nation has suffered greatly as a result. It creates a situation in which people tinker at the edges of problems rather than going to the heart of them.

It is also difficult for people outside a Department to deal with the Department because they are unaware of its long-term strategy. The difficulty in dealing with an organisation which has no long-term strategy is that one never knows which way it will jump next. When one looks at how the State runs its business one sees a forest of ad hoc structures which grew up over time to tinker with a multiplicity of problems. Incredibly, there are 150 bodies whose objectives are to tackle the problems of job creation and industrial development. That number is inflated by the number of local bodies, but it demonstrates the absence of a strategic approach.

We need a strategic focus in the way we run Government, not just because we have large problems that will remain intractable if we only take a short term approach but because we are entering an era of greater change than we have experienced in the 75 years since the foundation of the State. The information age, for example, creates a new environment. If we do not prepare properly for the information age we will put at risk the progress we have made during the past 75 years. We will certainly forfeit our chance of winning a share in the future potential of what is offered by that age. The information age creates a new environment, not least in education, where the time span is so long that strategy becomes all important. In recent legislation we have begun to see a recognition of that fact.

The first and second words in the Bill that caught my attention were "management" and "strategy". The third word whose inclusion I welcome is "customers". For the first time Government is acknowledging that customers are a central element of the equation. The Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, has put particular emphasis on this word in the strategic management initiative and it is seeing greater use not only in the Civil Service but throughout State organisations. Customer service is a central element of the equation and everything the State does should revolve around it. It is a change of profound significance. Once one starts thinking in terms of customers, wonderful things begin to happen. They are already happening.

When I was appointed chairman of An Post about 18 years ago I visited one of the large sorting offices. There was a union problem in the office and I was told the postmaster could not see me. I asked to be allowed to join the group of people who had the problem and when I did so I commented that I had not heard the word "customer" used even once. The traditional words used were "the public" rather than the word "customer". For the ten years I was involved in that organisation I set myself the challenge of having the word "customer" rather than the word "public" used when referring to those who used the service. I like to think we took steps in that direction, but none went as far as was necessary or as far as the Minister goes in this legislation. Most of the public's criticism of the Civil Service arises from the lack of a customer driven ethos. A customer driven management style could revolutionise the public service.

The words "management", "strategy" and "customers" mean and matter a great deal. Up to now those words were out of place in the system. They did not fit in with how the Civil Service viewed itself or its role. As a result it greatly restricted what could be done. The mindset was to be reactive, as in administration, rather than proactive, as in management. It was to be short term rather than long-term and to concentrate on tactics rather than long-term strategy, which was often ignored. Customers were regarded as irrelevant to the job rather than as the central reason for the job. Words, attitudes and practices form mindsets, and if we want the mindsets to change, we must change all three. This Bill attacks the words and some of the practices. Hopefully, it will also stimulate a change in attitudes.

I am optimistic about the prospects for the strategic management initiative, the overall project which the Bill seeks to facilitate. The need to change is now recognised at senior level in the Civil Service and young people at lower levels are hungry for that change. There is now a will to bring about change. The road will not be easy or quick but we have no option but to travel it.

I welcome the initiation of the Bill in this House and I hope we can improve it during its passage. I ask the Minister to think again about some of the terminology in the Bill. Words are most important and some of the words used in the Bill are wrong. My main concern is the new term we use for the position now known as Secretary of the Department. I am delighted to see the removal of the word "secretary" and I appreciated the Minister's story about the translation of the words "permanent secretary" as "everlasting typist". I have had similar experiences with translators. The term "secretary" is a relic from our colonial past which we inherited from the British. It conjures a picture of a subservient, minor functionary bowing and scraping before the all-powerful Minister. It does not convey the image of a proactive chief executive of a large and important organisation. The United Nations has a Secretary General but that title does not help him either. We do not go far enough by changing the title to Secretary General because the Secretary element with all its unfortunate connotations is retained and it makes the change appear too small to be more than just fiddling around.

I propose the term "director general" be used as it has a more proactive and strategic management feel about it. It is a term we are now familiar with in Ireland as organisations such as RTÉ have a director general and in the EU the top civil servants under each Commissioner are known as director general. It is proposed in this Bill that the head of the Office of the Attorney General be known as a director general. I would prefer to go the full distance and call, them chief executives because that is what they are and how they are best regarded. However, it might not sound official enough, so I am happy to settle for director general. Nonetheless, I know the Minister has the concept of chief executive in mind so why not use the title?

I wish to refer to the convoluted sections attempting to deal with the situation where a Department has more than one Secretary. As far as I know, this only applies to the Department of Finance, which has two Secretaries, of which only one is head of the Department. That situation exists for historical and perhaps not very good reasons. The manner in which this Bill deals with it is unacceptable. The title "Secretary" can be played around with, but not the titles "director general" or even "secretary general", because they signify that the holder is head of an organisation. Two people in the one organisation cannot both be the head, so the titles must reflect the hierarchy of the organisation. I have no problem with two people being of director general rank in one Department, but it is nonsense to give them both the same title. This makes it more confusing, whereas the lines of command should be clarified and made less ambiguous. I hope the Minister of State has second thoughts about this before Committee Stage. If she does not, I will.

I commend the general thrust of the Bill and wish it well. I was impressed with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn's, architectural analogy that it is the first step in building this new framework. It is a strong foundation and one which we welcome and which the Civil Service will welcome now and in years ahead.

I welcome the Public Service Management (No. 2) Bill, 1997. Change for the sake of change is unnecessary, but it is needed here because the Ministers and Secretaries Acts date back to 1924. Many changes have taken place since. Members of this House are sent huge amounts of material in the form of booklets, papers, EU Directives, EU information, etc., so we nearly need two secretaries each to deal with it. The same pressure applies to Ministers and Secretaries. The Minister, Deputy Quinn, said that in the past a Minister would have known all his staff but it would be impossible today. New situations need a change in legislation which is why this Bill is necessary and timely.

Ministers are now greatly involved with the European Union so streamlining and changes in organisation are needed. We no longer deal with what happens in Ireland but in Europe and the world as well. The explanatory memorandum states that the Bill:

.....introduces a statutory basis for the creation of a new management structure for the Civil Service. The purpose is to enhance the management, effectiveness and transparency of operations of Departments and Offices and to put in place a mechanism for increased accountability of civil servants.

Those lines are extremely important and should be carefully noted. It goes on to say:

At the same time the discretion of Ministers in charge of Departments of State for the administration of their Departments is virtually unchanged and the collective responsibility of the Government to Dáil Éireann is preserved.

Those are three very important points.

I welcome the change of name because, for example, one of our senior civil servants, a secretary, visiting Japan had his title translated into Japanese as "everlasting typist". Changes must be made and similar positions in other countries must be examined to avoid such confusion and to give the position an international flavour.

The memorandum also states:

.....specified tasks will be assigned to Secretaries General in accordance with various categories as set out in the Government's policy statement Delivering Better Government. The Secretary General will be given formal responsibility, under the Minister, for the day-to-day management of the Department. This will involve implementing and monitoring policies and delivering the goods and services of the Department to its customers and clients. Other functions include giving advice to the Minister in relation to the wider concerns of his or her Department, making arrangements in relation to cross-departmental matters, examining and developing means to improve the provision of cost-effective services and ensuring that the Department's resources are used appropriately and with respect to value for money. Subject to existing legislation, Secretaries General will have responsibility for appointments, performance, discipline and dismissal in relation to staff below the level of Principal.

Clearly defining these items for the new Secretaries General is of paramount importance to allow them to give a good and effective service.

I also note the Secretary General will be required to prepare and submit a strategy statement to his or her Minister every three years at least and the Minister may approve or amend it. What is important is that the approved statement must be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas within a specified time limit and I welcome that.

This is only the first step and further ones must be taken to streamline the Civil Service. It is important that responsibility for work done is taken in the appropriate place. Furthermore, the establishment of autonomous State-sponsored bodies should not mean that when a question is asked or a discussion sought in either House of the Oireachtas, we are given the same reply of it being a matter for a semi-State body. That is not proper in a democracy, because if a serious item is raised in either House someone should answer questions about it.

I am glad the titles of positions will be changed because some of them are mystifying and out of date. When special regulations were passed by county councils, the term "servants of the county council" was used for a long time and has only been dispensed with recently. Titles such as that ought to be deleted.

I welcome the Bill and fully support it.

Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

I am glad to have the opportunity to express my appreciation for the dedication, commitment and performance of the public service since the foundation of the State. With few exceptions it has performed in an exemplary fashion. I was a Minister and Minister of State in eight Departments over 12 years and had a detailed knowledge of the workings of the public service. Words cannot express my experiences of personal loyalty, dedication and honesty from those I dealt with during 25 years in public life. From the most junior grades to the highest levels I have found people who are committed to their work and conscious of their responsibilities.

It is not the fault of the public service that we have allowed its procedures and management practices to remain in the Dark Ages. Politicians, Governments and Members of both Houses must take responsibility if the public service worked in a bureaucratic and less than productive manner. Little has been done to reorganise it since the foundation of the State. If modern systems had been introduced those working in the service would have responded positively. We all share the blame for the shortcomings in the public service. However, we need to be careful when introducing this legislation that we are not creating further bureaucracy. This legislation is being rushed through to enable the Government to say during the election campaign that it has modernised and streamlined the public service.

Is the Senator in the same party as Senator Roche?

I had the advantage which the Senator did not have of being a Minister and Minister of State in many Governments. We had antiquated procedures in the public service. It was the responsibility of Government to change these procedures. Much of the delay and bureaucracy was due to procedures laid down during British rule. We had 18th century procedures to deal with 20th century problems.

This legislation can modernise and streamline the systems under which the public service operates. However, it is only part of an overall scheme which the Government has in mind. Some of this was dropped because of technical difficulties. The explanatory memorandum acknowledges that there are technicalities and other matters which need to be resolved. As a result, part of the intended, initial legislation has been abandoned. Perhaps this will be introduced at a later stage by way of amendments. There are gaps in the Bill to facilitate this.

Would the Minister outline the technical difficulties? It is unusual for a Minister to say before the conclusion of Second Stage that a Bill will be amended. The amendments will be substantial. If the full picture is not to be presented until Committee or Report Stage then it would be better to withdraw the Bill and wait until everything can be included. This is why I believe this legislation is an election gimmick designed to convince the public that a major reorganisation of the public service is under way. However, the major reorganisation is the setting up of the executives. This is omitted from the Bill.

We all welcome the opportunity to look carefully at the management and operation of the public service to see if we can set down a framework to allow it meet the challenges of modern communications systems, the information society and the provision of a good service to the public. We would be willing to assist the Minister and the Government if we were convinced that they were genuine about reform. However, I do not think they are. This is part of a bigger picture and only that which was agreed is being presented to us to create the impression that something is being done to reorganise the public service.

The reason for this legislation is to put a statutory framework in place for special advisers. Special advisers have been spoken about for quite a while and we have seen the expansion of their role and activities, especially since the Labour Party entered Government. I will not go into the criticism of the hiring and introduction of special advisers to Ministers. Part of the reorganisation in this legislation is to enable the executive of the Civil Service to advise Ministers. This is set down clearly in this Bill.

There is a second set of special advisers whose qualifications are not set down in this legislation. The section which deals with them is short and says Ministers shall appoint special advisers. There is no indication as to whether these advisers require any expertise in the area of activity of the Department for which the Minister is responsible. What is the purpose of setting down a statutory framework for special advisers unless we define the necessary qualifications clearly, whether it is experience, expertise, or knowledge of the Department concerned?

I would have thought that in setting down a statutory framework for special advisers the Government would have availed of the opportunity to outline, perhaps in the Schedule to the Bill, some criteria for the selection of special advisers. For instance, for the position of special adviser in the Department of the Environment, he or she should have experience in dealing with local authorities and some topical environmental issues such as water charges. A special adviser in the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht should be familiar with related matters.

Under the provision in this Bill for the appointment of special advisers, no qualifications or experience are mentioned, there are no details given as to whether the individual will be a public servant and whether pension rights apply. The only specification is that the position of the adviser is terminated with the expiry of the Minister's term in office. If that is the only criteria set down, what happens when there are five or six Ministers in a Department over a period of four or five years? For instance, there were many Ministers in the Department of the Marine over a short period. I set up the Department, John Wilson, the Tánaiste at the time was also Minister for the Marine, along with Deputy Andrews and Deputy Seán Barrett. There were four Ministers for the Marine within four years. How can anyone be of assistance in advising any Minister with that many changes?

A set of guidelines for Ministers in appointing advisers should be included in this legislation. As for any other people appointed to important positions, some qualifications should be necessary, rather than a Minister hiring a special adviser who has no knowledge, expertise or experience, when under this legislation he can seek advice from a new enhanced service.

I do not want to be negative about this Bill. I know from the way it has been put together that it has been taken from overall legislation which was discussed and designed to do a specific job. The acceptable parts which could be agreed were wrenched from that legislation and have been put together in this Bill in a haphazard and piecemeal manner. Putting a framework like this in place does no service to the public service. As the Minister indicated before the Second Stage discussion of the Bill even started, it is proposed to amend it. This rarely happens.

It is not my style to be negative about legislation which comes before the House. On all occasions I endeavour to point out deficiencies and suggest remedies to improve legislation. The Public Service Management (No. 2) Bill, is really the Public Service Management (No. 1) Bill, which was initially introduced in the Dáil and has now been brought back before the Seanad, which I do not object to. This Bill is an extract from a broader document which set down fundamental changes in the Ministers and Secretaries Acts. These have been set aside to produce this bizarre legislation which is an election gimmick— nothing more and nothing less.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, to the Seanad. I welcomed the Government's strategic management initiative document Delivering Better Government which was debated in detail in this House. I thought it represented a step in the right direction. My party made proposals around this time last year as to how the public service could be reformed. They were different in tone and content to the Government's document, which nevertheless made a reasonable stab at the matter. From that point of view, it was welcomed at the time.

Does this Bill fulfil the objectives set out in Delivering Better Government? I do not think it does. We all know about the centralised nature of our State, the need for change and the fact that technical development and technology has dramatically changed the way in which services must be delivered to the public. This is accelerating rather than decelerating in pace. I think it was Brendan Keenan of the Irish Independent who said that if the former British public servants who were resident in Dublin Castle came back from the great filing cabinet in the sky, they would fit well into the modern structure and modus operandi of the Civil Service. If that is the case, it dramatically underlines the need for a radical overhaul.

We need a system which is effective, efficient and rewards effort so that people with initiative in the system are promoted. This Bill does not fulfil this requirement either. We are faced with an optical illusion. Nothing in the Bill will change matters. It will achieve and do nothing. Before I read the Bill in detail I thought that perhaps it could be a step in the right direction. I am not even prepared to concede that, having read the Bill. There are few specifics.

The Minister for Finance was right when he said there is no need to repeal the Minister and Secretaries Act, 1924, and successive Acts. There is nothing in the Bill which requires their repeal. The Minister said the Civil Service Regulations Act, 1956, would have to be amended. It is extraordinary to read through the Bill and not find any substantive amendment to either the Ministers and Secretaries Act or the Civil Service Regulation Act.

When we debated the Freedom of Information Bill, which is welcome legislation and part of the platform of the strategic management initiative, many of us made the point that, irrespective of what that legislation sought to achieve, if the culture of the public service and local authorities does not change dramatically and come to terms with the need to provide information to the public, even the laudatory provisions of that Bill will find it difficult to achieve a dramatic overhaul of the degree to which the public will be allowed know. If that pervasive culture of secrecy does not change, the laudatory provisions of that Bill will find it very difficult to penetrate that edifice.

That contrasts with my experience of the EU Commission which is much more open and from which it is much easier to acquire information. Senator O'Kennedy has more experience in that regard and I am interested to know if he agrees with that observation. I suspect he does.

I also bow to the fact that Members with Cabinet experience have contributed to the debate. They obviously have more experience and bring a different perspective to the debate. Nevertheless, that does not prevent us from making legitimate criticisms of the Bill because, from our experience of dealing with the public service, we know where it could be improved.

Many speakers have congratulated the public service and referred to how much we are indebted to it for the wonderful service it has given the State over the years. I will not repeat that but, instead, take it as read that we owe our public servants a debt. The vast majority of them have worked faithfully and patriotically for the good of the State and its citizens.

However, where there are deficiencies in local authority staff, the elected public representatives are held accountable for some of those inadequacies and sometimes they have to pay a fairly high price. That raises the question of the degree to which it is possible to implement discipline and to sort out staffing difficulties in these bodies. It seems to be extraordinarily difficult to deal with some of those unsatisfactory situations and where they are dealt with, certainly at senior level, it seems to cost the State an extraordinary amount of taxpayers' money. It appears that some people have been far more highly rewarded for impropriety than for doing their job well and effectively. That must be looked at very seriously because those who do their job well and effectively should be rewarded.

The fundamental point is that State sector employees cannot be insulated from the gale which sweeps around the private sector in this modern, technological society and to which employees and executives in private companies and bodies are exposed. We require an open and flexible system which the Bill does not deliver.

Section 3 is significant:

A Minister of the Government having charge of a Department shall, in accordance with the Ministers and Secretaries Acts, 1924 to 1995, be responsible for the performance of functions that are assigned to the Department pursuant to any of those Acts.

That underlines my point about how the Ministers and Secretaries Acts remain intact because nothing in this Bill intrudes on any of that legislation. If this legislation were to be effective and good it would intrude on that legislation, require it to be amended and, possibly, repeal sections. The Minister said there was no need to repeal it, which there is not in the circumstances. However, my contention is that if the Bill were effective, elements of the earlier legislation would have to be amended or repealed.

There must be a degree to which the public service can be freed from the shackles and bureaucracy which stifle it. I do not underestimate the difficulty of that task but I believe it is possible to address it with determination and radical thought. I do not see any evidence of that in the Bill. It can no longer be denied that the public service should be vulnerable to the influences of commercial realities.

There must be an accountability which moves downwards through the system. That does not mean the Secretary General of a Department should just tell an Oireachtas committee about the prepared statement, which appears to be all that will be required of the Secretary General. Section 4(1) (b) states that a duty of the Secretary General shall be "preparing and submitting to the Minister of the Government a strategy statement in respect of the Department or Scheduled Office". It further states that the Secretary General must appear before the relevant committee to explain that statement.

There is far more than that at stake here. My party proposed the creation of a State body which would be above the public service, to which Department Secretaries would report and which would be accountable to a committee of the Dáil. That should be looked at very closely.

I referred to the ability to deal effectively with the very isolated cases of serious impropriety in the public service. They must be dealt with in accordance with natural justice but not by the provision of the very large sums of money we have seen given to staff required to leave the service. If a public servant broke the law or was prosecuted and found guilty of fraud but not jailed, would he or she be automatically excluded from the public service? I am not sure about that. I understand that almost all these cases are a matter for Government decision and take a long time to be dealt with.

Section 4, which deals with the functions of a Secretary General, refers to "managing the Department". I would welcome the Secretary General managing the Department and being responsible for input and output. The Secretary General would be given a certain amount of money and would be responsible for how it was spent. That would separate the political and policy functions of the Department from the administrative functions. Many activities in Departments, such as the disbursement of social welfare funds, could be devolved to agencies and the focus within the Department should then be on policy making.

The Bill provides that a function of the Secretary General is the giving of advice to the Minister. It then addresses the role of advisers and proposes to put them on a statutory footing, which is extraordinary, especially when consideration is given to their proposed powers relative to those of the Secretary General. Section 11(2) states:

A Special Adviser to a Minister or to a Minister of State, as the case may be, shall—

(a) assist the Minister or the Minister of State, as the case may be, by—

(i) providing advice,

(ii) monitoring, facilitating and securing the achievement of Government objectives that relate to the Department....

Is this not the responsibility of the Minister? I take exception to a Government importing special advisers in such a manner and granting them that type of power. Will the next development be statutory provision for consultants, task forces, teams, etc? The Bill should be confined to the public service, the way it delivers its functions and the manner in which it is effective and efficient. I do not understand how the appointment of special advisers is a matter for statutory provision.

The Bill asserts that the Secretary General will be entitled to manage a Department. What will this entail other than the production of a strategy statement, which should not be the most important work, and giving effect to an outline of how specific elements of responsibilities are assigned to ensure that functions on behalf of the Minister are performed by an appropriate officer, etc? Other than what is set out in the strategy statement, the Bill merely nods in the direction of the powers of the Secretary General. Section 10 states that he or she will "...appear before the committee in relation to any strategy statement that has been laid before each House of the Oireachtas..." Are there to be no other reasons for appearing before a committee of the Houses?

The Bill will be significantly amended because it is only a nod in the right direction. The question of interdepartmental links and how one Department liaises with another must be spelt out in greater detail. In addition, the question of boards of management must be looked at. I understand that following a decision by Seán Lemass, weekly board of management meetings were established in the Department of Industry and Commerce whereby the Minister and senior civil servants considered the work of the Department. It was a good way to conduct business.

It is desirable that powers be devolved downwards and that consideration be given to a code of ethics, an issue about which the public service unions are concerned. There should be rewards for excellence of commitment. When the SMI was debated I outlined some of my party's proposals for reform of the public service, which we published approximately one year ago and which I commend to the House. Many of them could be incorporated into the legislation, which would significantly improve it.

We must close the culture gap between the public and the private sectors. We all wish to deliver a better service; I do not suggest that the Minister would wish to do other than that. It is the objective of all in this House to make it more efficient, accountable, accessible and flexible. My party will support any proposals in that regard.

This is extraordinary legislation and the thrust of it is to be welcomed. However, there are parts I do not understand and I will seek answers to a number of questions. I welcome the fact that this issue is being addressed and that it is to be given a legislative base. It is past time that we advanced beyond the 1924 Act.

The question of dealing with delegation and vision is addressed in section 4. Subsection (1) (f) states:

ensuring that the resources of the Department or Scheduled Office are used in a manner that is in accordance with the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act, 1993, with a view to enabling the matters referred to....

This will make the Secretary General the accounting officer. On almost a daily basis a Secretary of a Department encounters proposals from the Minister with which he or she does not agree and deems to be a misuse of public funds. For example, a Minister may wish to appoint a teacher to a school in his or her constituency, even though the school is not entitled to the appointment. Who ultimately makes such decisions?

Where a Minister decides to overrule a Secretary General by sanctioning the expenditure of money and a subsequent investigation, say by an Oireachtas committee, makes it clear that the money should not have been spent, who takes responsibility? This is a crucial question because issues surrounding the allocation of resources are vital to building understanding and trust in the operation of a Department.

The Bill makes it clear that the Secretary General is to take direction from the Minister, which should be the position. However, while serving the Minister he or she is also the accounting officer. I fail to understand how he or she can be responsible for the finances of the Department when he or she could be overruled by the Minister when it comes to the allocation of these resources. This issue must be clarified.

I disagree with my colleague, Senator Dardis, in that I do not object to special advisers being covered by the legislation. That is the most honest, open and transparent way to deal with the matter. There was a case in the past where a special adviser, who apparently was appointed for the lifetime of the Government, was made permanent by the outgoing Minister in the interregnum. The Bill will ensure that does not happen in the future. People will be reassured by that and respond positively to it.

I spend much of my life working out the relationships between different groups in terms of who is in charge of what and who takes responsibility. When I wear my manager's hat, I insist that if people have responsibility, they must discharge it. However, there is a conflict between the roles of the special adviser and the Secretary General. Under section 4(1) (a), the Secretary General is charged, among other things, with monitoring Government policies. Under section 11(2) (a) (ii), the special adviser is responsible for monitoring the achievement of Government objectives.

Two people will have the same job, and I learned a long time ago that does not work. Who is the chief monitor? Who is in charge? That is a benign example, but I do not understand the relationship between the Minister's special adviser and the Secretary General of the Department. The Bill states the Secretary General is in charge of the day to day management of the Department and all that involves. However, I do not understand what function or control the Secretary General will have over the special adviser. Will he or she have the same control over a special adviser as he or she will have over assistant principal officers or assistant directors in the Department?

If the special adviser is directed to do something by the Secretary General, can the adviser tell the Secretary General that he or she is not their boss? Is the Secretary General of the Department the special adviser's boss? The fact that the special adviser is advising the Minister does not add to or take away from that point because many people advise others in different areas. For example, officials in a Department are secretaries of various committees or commissions but they are still answerable to the Secretary of the Department.

Under the Bill the secretary general of a Department will manage all matters pertaining to the appointment, performance, discipline and dismissal of staff below the grade of principal officer or its equivalent in the Department or scheduled Office. Does that extend to special advisers? This should be made clear in the Bill because we need to know what it involves. I want to ensure that special advisers are not a type of satellite state or independent republic within Departments. This aspect is not clear and it should be addressed in the Bill.

Another matter relates to the broad principle of how the Bill will affect this House. I have repeatedly raised the need for the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas to have its own budget and responsibility for its destiny. I am sure the Minister of State will correct me if my sequence of logic is incorrect but the Bill states that Ministers of Government includes, in relation to a scheduled officer specified in the Schedule, the person who holds the office. The first reference in Part I of the Schedule is to the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the person who holds a parallel position to a Minister is the Ceann Comhairle. He will have the same control over the Houses of the Oireachtas as a Minister will have over a Department.

This causes me concern. What control will it give the Ceann Comhairle over the Seanad as a House of the Oireachtas in terms of its budget, operation and personnel? A constitutional issue arises in this area which must be considered. It is a matter of concern if the legislation gives the Ceann Comhairle management authority of some description over the operation of the Seanad in the same way as a Minister has over a Department. This needs to be addressed. There should be a clear understanding that the discretion and autonomy of the Seanad as defined in the Constitution needs to be protected.

If conflict arises between a Secretary General and a Minister, who has the final say about the spending of money, particularly if it is unacceptable to the Comptroller and Auditor General? What is the relationship between ministerial advisers and the Secretary General? Is the Secretary General the boss of political advisers or are they independent free spirits? Given the Ceann Comhairle's position under the Bill, will he have authority over the operation of the Seanad? I ask the Minister of State to clarify these matters. I am sure other conundrums will arise but none of these aspects is insurmountable or reasons the Bill should fall. However, they should be addressed and clarified.

I welcome section 4, which relates to the responsibility and accountability of Departments and Offices. Apart from the aspects I mentioned, there is a good balance in terms of the relationship between the Minister and the Secretary General. It is obvious the Minister must take responsibility and this is a crucial point. I hesitate to raise the example of the Blood Transfusion Service Board but in terms of advice, it appears the Minister of the day takes the best advice available and makes the correct decision. It may be that he or she takes the best legal or economic advice but, having taken it, he or she must say they are the Minister and they want to include a political input or his or her own judgment. The Bill makes that possible. I am particularly encouraged by the provision which requires the Secretary of the Department to prepare and submit a strategy statement to the Minister. I have had many rows with officials in the Department of Finance; I have castigated certain Departments for what I described as their lack of vision and on occasion I have said that there is a danger of senior departmental officials becoming visionless and missionless. This strategy statement requires people to think at least for the medium term, to have vision and objectives and to assess the outcome of their strategies. That is good management and should be encouraged.

It is also important that the secretary general, as the chief executive of the Department, should have responsibility for the appointment, discipline and dismissal of officials of the rank of principal officer or director down. That is correct, and it is not before time that it became part of the responsibility of that office. A reference to correct procedures, even if they are implied or understood, should be put into this section, especially after reading Delivering Better Government and listening to the Minister's speech.

Appointments should be considered, especially the appointment of personal advisers. We should recognise what the personal adviser does. He or she understands the Minister's role and has probably worked with the Minister. We should be open about this: it is a political appointment and should be dealt with properly. The Minister and her advisers should look at the Employment Equality and Equal Status Bills with relation to how special advisers to Ministers are appointed. Those appointments must also be open, transparent and follow procedures. If the same procedures are not to apply, that should be written into this Bill.

The proposal that it would be the duty of the secretary general to see, on behalf of the Minister, that particular tasks and responsibilities are performed by an appropriate officer of an appropriate grade or rank of the Department concerned is heartening. This is important because, in my ten years in the House, no party, including the Minister of State's, has not condemned Ministers from the Opposition benches for blaming civil servants when matters go wrong. My view is that if a person makes a mistake, it does not matter whether that person is a civil servant, Member of the Oireachtas, Minister, Ceann Comhairle or Cathaoirleach. That person should take the responsibility for the mistake and should not hide from that responsibility. It is better for people's understanding of their roles that they be given responsibilities they take seriously.

My theory of management is that I would not appoint people who would not make mistakes. I do not trust staff who do not make mistakes because they are not stretching themselves to their full potential. This is not about finding people out but getting them to work to the limits of their potential. It may not be appropriate to include this in the Bill, but the two most significant aspects of management are the recruitment of appropriate staff and the development of staff to their potential. A major error in the Civil and public service is the appointment of people on the basis of what they have achieved rather than on the basis of their potential.

The great trick of appointments is to select people on the basis of how they can develop. If people were appointed on what they had achieved to date, they would be at their zenith before appointment and the best appointments would not be made.

The Bill is unclear on the relationship between the secretary general, the accounting officer and the Minister. Who decides where the money is spent if the Minister says yes and the secretary general says no? Who is responsible if, at a later stage, a committee of the House or the Comptroller and Auditor General decides that the money was spent incorrectly? The Minister's duties are clear, but the responsibilities are not as clear. What is the relationship between the special advisers to the Minister and the secretary general of the Department? Are they part of the Department and answerable to the secretary general in matters of dismissal and discipline? The Ceann Comhairle's office is now correctly nominated in the First Schedule as being parallel to a Minister. That gives him control of the Houses of the Oireachtas and there may be a constitutional point at issue here if the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil has certain controls over the operation of the Seanad.

I endorse without qualification the Minister's speech on introducing the legislation and I also endorse, if not entirely without qualification, the Bill's contents. I query whether the actions measure up to the lofty and commendable statements. Who could gainsay the Minister saying that these proposals transcend partisan interests and go to the core of constitutional democracy? Any student of consti-The Government's purpose in introducing this new management structure and promoting proper roles for advisers and programme managers is to "transcend partisan interests in the interests of constitutional democracy".

That is an extraordinary statement with regard to the role of the programme managers, who are now concerned only with partisan interests. Anyone in Leinster House will see those advisers and programme managers scurrying around with two priorities: the electoral success of the Minister for whom they work and the success of the Government on which they depend. Nobody would accept that their role is wholly one of transcending partisan interests when that very role is partisan. Lofty statements have been characteristic of this Government, from the beginning declarations of openness, transparency and accountability, and there is an apparent notion that if one says something often enough, people will accept that this is what is happening. The opposite has been happening in many ways.

The Minister said that the very idea of responsible public service is to be responsible to the public, a statement with which I have no problem. Has anyone listened to the public reaction? Are they satisfied that the activities of the public service are responsible to them? Have they any doubts on that front? Do they accept that the only role of programme managers is to be responsible to them? The Minister must think the people are extremely gullible. They know that the managers, consultants and advisers which have been a feature of this Government are responsible only to the electoral interest of their particular Minister and the Government. Is it suggested, in this readable script, that spending £34 million on consultants is being responsible to the public, that it serves them and no one else and has nothing to do with the partisan interests of Government? Does the Government think the people are so naive that they will swallow something simply because it has been stated as a lofty principle? Of that £34 million my constituency colleague, the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, had the benefit of £12 million. He would have authorised those payments. Is it seriously suggested that this was first, foremost and exclusively a matter of responsibility to the public? Does anyone think the people are that gullible? When the performance is vastly different to the lofty statements and loudly proclaimed commitments, the programme managers and advisers scurry around the corridors of Leinster House, as they are doing at present, to prepare their Ministers for the best possible presentation in the forthcoming election. It may not be unreasonable or extraordinary, but to present it in another light is the ultimate in political hypocrisy.

The Tánaiste is mentioned in the Constitution. I served under a number of Tánaistí who held significant offices, whether in the capacity of Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Transport and Power, Minister for Finance, etc., and had private offices to enhance their role. However, for the first time in the history of the State this Government has a Tánaiste who was not satisfied with the extensive, sophisticated, professional services and back-up of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In his vigorous support for reform of the public service he introduced a new element, a separate Office of the Tánaiste. This cost the taxpayer well over £1.7 million last year and we are supposed to be grateful that it has been reduced to £1.3 million this year. The Minister for Finance is also mentioned in the Constitution—I was one such Minister. May a future Minister introduce a separate Office of the Minister for Finance, separate and distinct from the normal Department office? May he or she add another layer and back-up group to look after his or her interests?

These bland, lofty, high sounding commitments are exposed as hypocrisy when we see what is happening in our public service. I have no trouble supporting the principles in the Minister's statement; but having regard to my experience of members of this Government, the Tánaiste in particular, I find it impossible to find a shred of credibility in this approach. The Minister for Finance said:

In recent years we have seen how effective judicial tribunals have been in exposing certain aspects of major issues of public interest and importance.

Have we, indeed? The Tánaiste, when in Opposition as Leader of the Labour Party, demanded that the beef tribunal have power to send for persons and papers. As Minister for Agriculture and Food, I agreed to that demand and built it into the tribunal's terms of reference. That same gentlemen, along with the other great proponent of openness, transparency and accountability, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, refused to disclose their sources and provide papers. They may not have been the only Ministers to do so. Deputy Rabbitte referred to an anonymous banker who could not be found. These same people wanted us to send for persons and papers, and after all that we are supposed to believe this speech. The Tánaiste who demanded the power to call persons and papers and, as Leader of the Labour Party in this Government, expanded his office at great cost to the taxpayer, is the same person who failed and refused to act on his own demand. Let us have some honesty and consistency in public life.

This presentation is meant to be plausible and is full of high sounding principles. The Minister who presented it in the House is one for whom I have regard, but this is not a matter of personal judgment. In practice we see the opposite to this statement. Let us give an example of what the programme managers are doing in Government —the Minister currently in the House knows this better than anyone. In 1980, in my capacity as Minister for Finance, I introduced a budget. Not one hint, whisper or vague signal of what was in my Budget Statement emerged beforehand. The first anything was known about what it contained was when I spoke. That was a great tribute to the public service. I was so impressed that I asked the then Secretary of the Department to bring everyone responsible, from typists to advisors, to my office so that I could formally thank them. I saw it as a recognition of their service. The following day over 40 public servants came to my office. In those days one could rely on the public service to behave confidentially, responsibly and with total commitment to the Minister.

Can one not do so today?

One certainly cannot —the Minister of State's colleague, the Minister for Finance, will acknowledge the change which has occurred as a result of the programme managers we are asked to build into this legislation in the interests of the public. Was it not obvious that the last budget was known in all its detail because every programme manager and special adviser had only one interest, which was to promote the persona and image of his or her Minister? The difference between the service we had and the service now is vast and the Minister for Finance will confirm this.

Perhaps it was not worth leaking.

That comment is typical of the snide remarks to be expected from this Government. The plethora and growth of programme managers and special advisers has undermined the status and confidentiality of the public service. I never had a PR adviser—the Minister might say that that was obvious. We believed that our primary responsibility in Government was to promote the welfare of the public and not the image of the Minister. The present Government have turned away from this concept, and yet Ministers have the gall to come to this House saying that all they are doing is serving the public.

I agree with the Minister that "the notion that every Minister can even know about, let alone direct and manage, every action everyday in his or her Department is absurd". I endorse that view. Will somebody tell the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring and the Minister for State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Rabbittee, that this is the view of the Minister for Finance, because they attacked me day after day when I Minister for not knowing what every individual officer or vet in every single factory was doing. This was the basis of their attack on a daily basis. The ultimate hypocrisy is that now they realise that the basis of their attack was spurious, unfair and unreasonable. If they check the Dáil Official Report they will find that the present Tánaiste has cost us more in terms of expenditure than anyone else and that, as Deputy Burke said in the Dáil yesterday, he still has not presented his bill—in which his brother will have a major input—for the beef tribunal of over £1 million, that he is waiting until the election is over, and we are asked to accept that this is above board.

I believe in Government accountability, ministerial and collective responsibility and confidentiality. When in Government I not only believed in confidentiality, I practised it and never even hinted to journalists in corridors about confidential matters. We hear about "sources close to Government" but it would have been a betrayal of the trust placed in me as a member of Government to try to improve my image at the expenses of others. Unfortunately, that practice has long been discontinued. There is now competition for sources of information rather than attributions. I regret that that has happened and I hope it will be corrected, but not simply by statements like this.

Yesterday in the Dáil the Taoiseach said Ministers in the Government in which I served were responsible for causing problems by not being ready to disclose to the beef tribunal information it required. I was ready to disclose everything I was asked. Unlike the Tánaiste, we cannot be criticised for not co-operating. It is not a breach of confidentiality to say what was not decided or discussed by Government because that does not come under the heading of collective confidentiality. I am saying that the Government of which Deputy Ray Burke and I were members, never decided to introduce what some people call a management policy for the beef industry confining export credit to two companies. Saying this is not a breach of confidentiality and I am happy to say this now in support of what Deputy Ray Burke said in the Dáil yesterday. We will not be accused by the Taoiseach of concealing information when we were ready to say what we did not do, which was presented to the tribunal as being of importance. Perhaps the tribunal was frustrated in that we were not allowed to answer honestly and openly what did happen.

Confidentiality and collective responsibility, bedrock principles of the Constitution, should be restored to the Civil Service thereby ensuring a happy and healthy relationship with our public servants. Every day we fail to do this we drag the public service into the political mire with us. Let us look hard at our Constitution and act accordingly.

The Minister made no reference to management. As an ex-Minister for Finance I know the problem of traditional linkages in the public service which result in a proliferation of inflationary wage claims. This problem, which involves considerable sums of public expenditure, should be addressed.

I endorse the idea of mobility within the public service. I served in more Departments than anyone—Education, Transport and Power, Agriculture, Labour, Finance and Foreign Affairs. Nobody has a similar record. Mobility is essential within the public service. One regards the Minister for Finance and his Department as the chief custodian and everybody else has to be watched, guarded, controlled and regulated. Going around the country I hear Government candidates saying that the Department of Finance is responsible for not providing, for example, matching funds for the green £ adjustments rather than the Minister.

That is a strange concept of public service management. Mobility within the service is essential. Each Department needs to have a much better understanding of the function and role of other Departments rather than a selective, suspicious or guarded notion of other Departments. No Department should think that it, and it alone, is the custodian of rectitude in the public service. I was privileged to serve in some senior Departments and I would greatly encourage mobility within the service so that the people in the Department of Justice would not think they are the only ones who can deal with the security of the State, people in the Department of Finance would not think they are the only ones who are responsible and prudent, people in the Department of Foreign Affairs would not think they are the only ones who are enlightened, informed and sensitive, and people in the Department of Agriculture would not think they are the only ones who can look after the interests of our basic economy. Mobility, to which the Minister makes no reference, is an essential ingredient in good public service management. I commend the principle in the Minister's statement but I do not accept the practice.

I have not had the opportunity of devoting the degree of attention to this Bill I wished to as it comes in the same week as the Committee Stage of the Universities Bill. That Bill is a matter closer to my heart than this one.

I welcome the principle of the Bill and I welcome the Minister's acknowledgment in his speech of the unreality of Parliament's role in terms of its relationship with the public service. Every Member of the Oireachtas knows that the constitutional relationship, in terms of hiding the bleak and brutal realities of the influence of the Oireachtas on the bulk of legislation, is a cosmetic one. There is a lovely phrase in the Minister's speech which refers to "bringing the collective wisdom of the Oireachtas into the process of administrative reform". I have my doubts as to how many civil servants consider wisdom as emanating from the Oireachtas.

There is a sad paragraph—I am not saying it is an inaccurate one—in the Minister's speech which reads:

Let us make no mistake about it. There are those who do not wish reform to touch their official lives. There are others who regard it as a passing fad... Reluctant travellers along the road to reform need to be jolted out of their lethargy and complacency.

That is a very sad comment to have to make on parts of the public service 75 years into independence. It is fair to say that the recruitment process, which followed very carefully thought out lines, succeeded by and large in attracting high quality candidates into the Civil Service and carried out its part of the task reasonably effectively. That must mean that a significant number of people were recruited into the Civil Service without their potential being realised once they were in it. One has to ask why this is so. If what the Minister says is correct—I am not in a position to challenge him on it, nor would I want to— then it is a sad commentary on the quality of personnel management. Given that it is accepted that there is enormous potential within the Civil Service, the question arises as to how one succeeds in releasing and optimising that potential. Does this Bill achieve the objective of releasing latent energy in the public service and will it go further to energise those members of the service who are, apparently, lethargic and complacent at present? Will it allow those who are not lethargic or complacent to fly higher without being dragged down by those who are? I do not know the answer to that question. I would like to think it will, because anything which brings the constitutional situation closer to reality would hopefully result in improved performance. I can see how the Bill might achieve that and I can also see where it might fall down.

I welcome the introduction of the concept of outputs, however repellent the term itself may be, into the criteria for assessing performance. The Minister is correct in saying that inputs and service, which were not designated in any specific way, constituted the public and self image of what comprised a good Civil Service performance.

I am concerned about the issue of providing policy advice, which is the highest function one associated with senior civil servants. That seems to take a subordinate role in the Bill or seems not be highlighted in the way it should be.

I am glad to see some rationale in the Minister's speech for the use of the term "secretary general". This is another piece of verbal inflation to bring us into line with our European colleagues. Perhaps the Minister is correct in saying that the term has more than a cosmetic significance, I hope it has. I do not like to think that we would do something simply because it is the norm elsewhere.

Whereas the secretary general and other officials are responsible for providing policy advice, special advisers simply provide advice. The word "policy" has been dropped. There is no upper limit on the number of special advisers who may wish to contribute their individual or collective wisdom to Government Departments. It would be interesting to know how many special advisers it is envisaged to have for particular Departments at particular times. Special advisers are to monitor, facilitate and secure the achievement of Government objectives. They are going to have to have considerably different skills for monitoring in addition to the political skills upon which their appointments will be based. While their terms and conditions of employment will be such as will be determined by the Minister for Finance, it seems to me that no particular recruitment criteria are applied to special advisers. There are certain standards required for entry into the normal Civil Service but this seems to be left completely open in regard to the qualifications of special advisers. Perhaps this is a good thing. I am not suggesting one has to have a particular set of qualifications to be an effective special adviser, but it would be nice to have some sort of description provided as to what the requirements for the job are. The Minister's speech is strikingly vague on the special adviser section of the Bill.

With regard to strategy, the secretary general must prepare a strategy statement. Who can be opposed to strategy? At present, every institution in the country is producing a strategy statement. I suspect that many of us are so busy writing strategy statements that we have very little time to get on with the work on which we are producing the statements. I am not opposed to strategy statements in principle but I would like to see mechanisms of co-operation and co-ordination with other Departments or agencies to be specifically required in strategy statements. We have a huge problem in regard to the fragmentation of decision making. That cannot be helped in certain respects. Increasingly, State organisations do not correspond to the type of problems which arise. Problems do not slot easily into the pigeon holes, which are the designated Departments of State.

The mechanisms for securing sustained co-ordination and co-operation should be among the main issues we should address in terms of public administration. While there are interdepartmental committees and a host of mechanisms in place, we need, as integral part of any strategic management for the public service, a statement or strategy on how co-operation can be optimised between Departments on an ongoing basis rather than on a type of bush fire basis or by setting up an ad hoc task force, although they naturally have a part to play.

The Bill refers to cross departmental matters and the assignment of responsibility in that regard, which is welcome. The mechanisms and implications of that need to be teased out and thought through in a more sustained and systematic way. Many of the problems which fall between Departments, or even between different sections in the same Department, are borderline ones where the key quality of decision making must be improved. The Civil Service performs extremely well, although it must work in inherited problem areas. In terms of adapting to change, it is a rather different matter. In so far as structures can help adapt to change, that is where the focus should be in this Bill.

Responsibilities should change rapidly. How much are incentives and salary structures changing? What is proper remuneration for senior civil servants? If civil servants are to take on more explicit responsibility, how will they be recompensed? One may say that if they take blame where it is due, they should be given praise where it is due. It is, however, human nature for politicians to want to take the praise. There is a danger that civil servants will be left to take the blame and politicians and others will siphon off praise where possible. How will civil servants be compensated for these extra responsibilities? Senior civil servants doing their job properly are grossly under-remunerated while those doing their job badly are probably grossly over-remunerated, but then most of us who do our jobs badly are grossly remunerated anyway. I echo Senator O'Toole's concern, if his understanding of the Bill is correct. His concern would be a serious matter for this House and would have to be looked at closely on Committee Stage.

Most of what I wanted to say has already been said. This Bill will not result in the most important legislative changes since the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. It will give extra status to some in the Civil Service and will make them more accountable than heretofore. In recent years the Civil Service has contributed greatly to the development of the State. This country is now referred to as the Celtic Tiger as a result of the success which has been achieved by the State. That would not have been possible without a dedicated public service.

There is no doubt the image of the civil servant has changed dramatically. People with certain leaving certificate results entered lower grades of the Civil Service and moved up the scale. Regardless of whether they were good at their job, they were promoted. Thankfully, that has changed in recent years and civil servants must perform their duties like those in other sectors. The image of Flann O'Brien and the Scotch House and civil servants leaving with nobody knowing where they had gone has disappeared. They were badly paid and in jobs for which they were not suited. The situation has changed and this Bill addresses those issues.

Changing titles will make no difference to what happens in the Civil Service and the Minister was naive when the suggested senior civil servants abroad are called chief executives officers or secretaries general. That is no reason to change the title of a Department head from Secretary to secretary general and Assistant Secretary to assistant secretary general. In the past when changes in titles took place there was an increase in pay. Changing a title will not change people's attitudes and create a more efficient Civil Service than that in the past.

Today people entering the Civil Service are specialists and I hope they continue to work in the service for the good of the public. I agree civil servants must be adaptable and that we must remove anonymity in the Civil Service. We must ensure the public has access to an open Civil Service.

I, like other speakers, am a little worried about the role given to people, whether we call them spin doctors, managers or otherwise, brought in by Ministers on short term contracts. The Bill does not specify how these people will be recruited other than to say the Minister has the right to choose them.

The Minister appoints them.

In every other sector of the public service people must have certain expertise before being appointed. This Bill enshrines the idea of temporary contract public servants whom the Minister may appoint. The reason for such appointments is not spelled out other than to say the Minister may appoint such people and is responsible. There is no criteria other than the fact they may be friends of the Minister.

This Bill will not deliver better government. I am not sure the reason for its introduction other than to change titles. While the Bill does nothing to attract people from the private sector into the public sector, I hope it will help public servants to assist the public. I hope amendments will be tabled on Committee Stage stating the manner in which short-term contract staff may be brought in by Ministers. Everybody is dismayed at the cost of such workers. In addition, they might be employed by one Minister and, if his or her portfolio is changed, he or she will bring them with him or her to the other Department. That will do nothing for continuity in a Department in terms of expertise. Perhaps the Minister of State will address this problem, as the public has grave reservations about it. She should also outline any other criterion for appointing temporary public servants other than that they should be friends of the Minister.

The Bill is welcome. It not the most important Bill ever brought before the House, even if the Minister claimed it was the most important legislative provision affecting the administration of central government since the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. He is free to believe that, but it will not change anything.

I thank Senators for their considered contributions on this legislation. It is the most important legislation affecting central administration since the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. I do not claim it is the most important legislation ever brought before the House but, in terms of legislation which affects administration, it is and I support the Minister, Deputy Quinn's, assertion to that effect.

Senator Roche surprised me with the vehemence of his attack on the special adviser system and his characterisation of it as a pernicious development. I do not agree with him and neither, in practice, does his political party. Special advisers have been part of the administrative landscape for some time under Governments of all persuasions and they have performed a useful role. My party, perhaps more than any, was opposed to the concept of special advisers and programme managers, which was introduced by a Fianna Fáil led Government. However, we have come to understand how important these people can be in an Administration, so we are not playing politics with the issue. It might have suited us to be consistent in our message but we have come to accept the Fianna Fáil view. I am amazed to hear Fianna Fáil Senators criticising a concept which they initiated some time ago.

The Minister of State is in a generous mood.

I will concentrate on the sections to which Senator Roche took exception. The section relating to special advisers provides that the Government may do, at the request of a Minister, what is currently done by Ministers themselves through the use of unestablished appointments under the Civil Service Acts. It specifies the duties of those appointed and excludes them from exercising functions assigned to others under the Bill or functions assigned to Ministers under any other Act. It avoids confusion about their accountability for tasks assigned to them. They are accountable to the relevant Minister or Minister of State and they do not, as would be the case without this provision, fall within the category of staff who will derive their functions from the secretary-general or head of an office and be accountable to him or her. A number of Senators in addition to Senator Roche wondered if they would be accountable to the secretary-general. They will not.

The section does not put an obligation on the Government to make such appointments and it does not preclude the appointment to such posts of serving civil servants, as was the case under Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in the past and as is currently the case with the programme manager in the Department of Social Welfare. The section should not give Senator Roche and other Senators who queried it grounds for concern. I can allay the Senator's fears that it was a stroke pulled by the programme managers in the Minister's advisory group. It was not. There is no compulsion in the section and its presence does not mean that future Governments will have to appoint special advisers and programme managers. It simply regularises the de facto position.

I agree with Senator Roche that ministerial responsibility has been a constraint on public service reform. Whether it should have been so is questionable. Considerable time has elapsed since Senator Roche escaped from what was the Department of Economic Planning and Development and it is even longer since he left the former Department of Transport. Things have changed for the better and are still changing. He was correct in identifying the crucial importance of the concept of ministerial responsibility. He identified a number of its malign consequences which include giving the Civil Service an excessively centralised structure, an overly bureaucratic system, an oppressively secretive culture, an impenetrable anonymity and ways of doing business which are not adequately client oriented. I agree; I could have written the same list. The purpose of the strategic management initiative, which was formally launched under a Taoiseach from the Senator's party, is to address these issues.

The objective of the new management structure provided for in this Bill is to raise performance, increase efficiency and deliver better quality services to citizens. However, the legislation is only one part of this ongoing process. Issues of performance management, quality services and best practice in human resource management cannot be dealt with fully simply by changing the law. This Bill is not the last word on this issue. It provides the foundation for the new structures and empowers agents of change within the public service. It should be seen as a first step towards making accountability more real, developing better management practices and giving the taxpaying public a better deal from the public service.

Senator Roche expressed concern about the centralisation of administration. The Government has appointed the devolution commission to examine specific functions of central Government which could be considered for devolution to regional or local authorities. The culture of secrecy is being dismantled through the enactment of the freedom of information legislation and the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Bill, 1995, Report Stage on which will be held in the Dáil next week. The impact of the new management structure provided for in the Public Service Management (No. 2) Bill will amplify the benefits of these legislative changes and add to the increasing openness of this Government.

We are not trying to provide Ministers with a charter for opting out of responsibility. I can give Senator Roche the assurance he sought about the constitutionality of the Bill in this regard. The Minister will remain legally responsible for everything done by or within his or her Department. The Bill prescribes the elements of the operation of a Department which must by statute involve the Minister. The Minister, either as the holder of a portfolio or as a member of the governing collective in Cabinet, will determine policy, approve or amend the strategy statement prepared by the secretary-general at regular intervals, have the authority to amend its amendment and or require its amendment in light of changing circumstances, have the power to give a direction in writing to a secretary-general and retain authority for performance and discipline of senior staff at his or her Department. On each of these issues the Minister will legitimately and personally be answerable to the Oireachtas. A strategy statement cannot be presented to the Oireachtas without the Minister's approval. If a strategy goes wrong there is no hiding place for the Minister. If it is not properly adjusted to changing circumstances, he or she must intervene. If action is taken or not taken where needed on foot of a ministerial direction, the Minister can be called to account.

In practice it will take time for Deputies and Senators to evolve their response to the new structures and how they will operate the machanisms of accountability within the Houses of the Oireachtas, such as parliamentary questions or committee debates. The relationship between the answering of parliamentary questions with the changed areas of responsibility was mentioned by several Senators.

Senators Burke and Calnan and others made excellent contributions. I cannot emphasise enough that this is the first legislative step in a wider process. We have targeted the Civil Service as the first institution where we will apply a new management system. We have given it priority because other Government services link into various Departments. As the impact of change is felt in Departments, the process of extending it to the health service and the local authorities, as Senator Burke proposed, will get underway accordingly.

Senator Daly referred to the Minister for Finance's reference to possible amendments. Only one part of the Bill may be left aside. Our intention was to provide a short section to allow for the establishment by Government order of executive bodies to take on executive tasks of Government. The model we had in mind was that provided for local government and health boards in the Corporate Bodies Act for these areas. Our legal advice is that this broad brush approach, covering everything from prisons to ordnance survey, could encounter constitutional difficulties. Rather than delay the other mainline provisions in the Bill, we decided to proceed with them alone. If the Attorney General's Office finds a solution before Committee Stage, we will deal with it by amendment. If not, we will deal with it on our return to Government in the series of Bills arising from the strategic management initiative.

A return to Government in the next century.

Senator Dardis said this Bill does not meet the scheme set out in Delivering Better Government. I only partly agree with him because it is one of a mosaic of measures, some statutory and in preparation, others being progressed with administratively at present. It does not stand alone. It sets out a basic framework which, if enacted, accelerates the culture shift now taking place within the Civil Service. Senator Dardis cited another measure, the Freedom of Information Bill, which is also part of that mosaic. He commented, as did Senator Roche, on our high level of centralisation. We recognised that problem shortly after coming into Government and established a commission on devolution to tackle the problem in a root and branch way.

The Senator also complained about the Ministers and Secretaries Acts not being repealed. These Acts, relating to the powers of Ministers, do little more than replicate fundamental obligations on Ministers deriving from the Constitution which specify that they be in charge of Departments. If Senator Dardis favours repeal, he must go the hard road of constitutional amendment.

Senator O'Toole, in his broad contribution, asked whether the secretary general would have authority over programme managers and special advisers. They will not. The Ceann Comhairle similarly cannot have authority over the operation of Seanad Éireann. Senator O'Toole mentioned the Schedule. The Ceann Comhairle is specified in it because most staff in the Houses of the Oireachtas are joint staff and the Ceann Comhairle is the appointing authority under the Houses of the Oireachtas Act, 1959. The accounting officer for the Houses of the Oireachtas is the Clerk of the Dáil.

Senator Quinn identified the three words used in this Bill as "management", "strategy" and "customer". It comes as no surprise that a person intimately concerned with the management of a large organisation, who must continually develop commercial strategies to meet intense competition and who has a justified reputation for putting the customer first, should see these core issues so clearly. These are the words in the Bill which stand out for him. It is no accident that these terms appear in the context of this Bill. The philosophy which drives my determination to organise an effective process of public service reform is encapsulated in these three terms, to which I add "action". The Government's determination to make progress on these fundamental issues is exemplified by our action in bringing these proposals before the House today. I share Senator Quinn's enthusiasm for what these three terms imply. I am determined to see that the changes they promise in the business of the public service comes into effect.

Senator O'Kennedy's contribution was a single transferable rant and I wonder what it had to do with the Bill. Given the charged atmosphere, I understand his position on it. He mentioned that the link between public service groups should be addressed. Legislation is not the solution to this problem.

Senator O'Toole made an important point in referring to section 4(1)(f) on the responsibility of the secretary general for value for money. The provision in the Bill parallels the obligations imposed on Secretaries by the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, 1993, concerning regularity of expenditure and value for money. Where a Secretary regards some expenditure as not conforming to his or her obligations, he or she so indicates to the Minister and will undertake it only on specific written direction from the Minister and the Secretary is entitled to disclose the written direction to the Committee of Public Accounts.

Senator O'Toole suggested that dismissals should be carried out in line with procedures. The Bill links this new power to the Civil Service Regulations Act, which is being revised. All disciplinary matters, including dismissals, are dealt with under law as enunciated by the courts and principles of natural justice. Any change made will retain these characteristics. On the same issue, Senator Dardis may be assured that the changes we propose should allow issues of breaches of the law or fraud by civil servants, on which Governments have always taken a rigorous line, to be dealt with more expeditiously than at present.

Senator Dardis suggested that a secretary general has little input under the Bill, which suggests he thinks that preparing and implementing strategy statements is a minor activity. One of the complaints made against the Civil Service in the past has been its failure to plan ahead, to be proactive and to anticipate. The strategy statement provision compels secretaries general to do this. I see it as a matter of fundamental importance.

Senator Lee expressed the hope that high fliers in the Civil Service will be supported by the arrangements provided for in this Bill. He referred to people whose potential was not realised. I am tempted to remind the Senator in a jocose way of Sir Humphrey Appleby's comment that high fliers are just low fliers held aloft by occasional gusts of wind. Bearing in mind the spirit in which he made his remarks, I respond by saying our proposal is designed to provide a new series of arrangement which releases the energy and potential of civil servants and channels it into the betterment of society. I agree with Senator Lee on the importance of policy advice. It has always been regarded as the holy grail of top civil servants. However, we spend vast resources on staff and service delivery and it is essential to ensure that this function is accorded a balancing importance in any statement of a secretary general's functions.

I thank Senators for their contributions. It has been a wide-ranging debate on what the Minister for Finance and I consider to be the most important legislation to impact on the administration of governance since the 1924 Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 16 April 1997.