I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 to 120, inclusive, together.
The Government is making good progress in realising all of our targets and priorities, as articulated in the Government Programme. We are also achieving all of our objectives by delivering on all the conditions and targets set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with our external partners in the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF. We are bringing public expenditure back to a sustainable level and driving forward the public service reform agenda to ensure that efficiencies and reformed work practices play a full part in contributing to the overall budgetary consolidation effort.
This Government's approach has been clearly set out in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014 published on 5 December last, the Capital Infrastructure Plan published on 10 November 2011 and the Public Service Reform Plan published on 17 November 2011. The Implementation Body’s Public Service Agreement Progress Report published on 13th June this year found that sustainable pay and non-pay savings have been successfully delivered.
The Medium-Term Fiscal Statement, published in November last year, set out the Government’s economic and budgetary assessment for the four year period 2012-2015 including the estimated level of fiscal consolidation that is required to bring the General Government deficit below 3% of GDP by 2015, as the Government is committed to doing. The aforementioned Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014, set out the Government’s position as to how the aggregate expenditure would be split across individual Departments for each of the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Officials from all Departments are currently working to identify the appropriate policy measures to give effect to the medium-term budgetary adjustment while minimising the impact on public services. In this regard, I would remind the Deputy that as part of the ‘whole of year' budgetary approach in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014, I wrote to all Oireachtas Select Committees in January of this year inviting them to actively engage with the relevant Departments during this year’s Estimates process. Committees now have an opportunity to engage with the relevant Ministers in relation to the 2013 allocations. I am happy to report that a number of Committees have informally indicated that they intend to do so. I would encourage all Select Committees to give serious consideration to this approach as it will ensure a much wider engagement by all members of the Dáil in the annual Estimates, in advance of the allocations being agreed at Government level, and not afterwards as has traditionally been the case.
The Public Service Reform Plan was published in November, 2011. While there are more than 200 actions over 14 areas in the Public Service Reform Plan, the Government's commitments to change are set out under five main headings:
(i) Placing customer service at the core of everything that we do;
(ii) Maximising new and innovative service delivery channels;
(iii) Radically reducing our costs to drive better value for money;
(iv) Leading, organising and working in new ways; and
(v) Strong focus on implementation and delivery.
In order to meet the challenge of delivering ‘better for less', the Public Service Reform Plan has a real focus on supporting citizens and businesses where and when they need it most, making the interaction with the State as simple and seamless as possible and improving the customer's experience in engaging with Government.
To ensure a strong focus on the delivery of reform, we have established a dedicated Reform and Delivery Office in my Department to coordinate the various reform initiatives and plans across the public service and to ensure a strategic and concerted implementation programme. This Office is led by a Programme Director with experience of implementing large scale change in the private sector. We have also put in place strong governance structures and reporting mechanisms in order to ensure progress and to integrate reforms at central, sectoral and organisational levels. The key driver in the reform process is the Cabinet Committee on Public Service Reform, which provides political direction and accountability for reform.
The Reform and Delivery Office is working closely with organisations across the Public Service and good progress continues to be made. To provide just a few examples, we are:
continuing to reduce Public Service numbers which were around 28,000 lower at end Q1 2012 than they were at end 2008;
expanding the use of eGovernment through the new eGovernment Strategy, the establishment of a CIO Council and rolling out the Public Services Card;
reforming how we are organised by having a strong focus on business process improvement, considering innovative new business models for the delivery of non-core services, increasing the use of aggregated procurement and developing new shared services (for example, I have recently announced plans for the establishment of a Human Resources Shared Service Centre for the Civil Service);
reforming how people are managed through the introduction of new working arrangements, including new rosters, redeployment and workforce planning, a greater emphasis on performance management and development of the Senior Public Service; and
reforming the management of expenditure through the introduction of Performance Budgeting, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the new Value for Money Code.
As well as the overall Reform Plan, all Government Departments have produced their own Integrated Reform Delivery Plans. These plans incorporate the cross-cutting reforms being led by my Department, with other organisation and sector specific reform initiatives, many of which are derived from the Programme for Government.