The Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, published in November 2011, is based on five core commitments to change, which include "Placing customer service at the core of everything we do". To this end, the Reform Plan includes a range of actions to improve the citizen’s access to, and interaction with, Government services.
No one has a monopoly on good ideas and a broad range of voices, opinions and perspectives should be used to inform and enhance the decision-making and planning processes. In terms of public services, it makes sense that the views of service users are sought and valued, and I welcome all constructive input and feedback in this context. For this reason, I regularly meet with the relevant Oireachtas Committees to review progress on the Reform Plan and outline planned initiatives.
Engagement with the citizen and improving customer services are important and ongoing considerations for all Government Departments and Agencies. As part of this, the Customer Charter initiative involves a process whereby Departments and Agencies are required to consult with their customers, to set service standards, to measure progress against those standards and to report on that progress in their annual reports. To assist organisations in this process, my Department published revised guidelines for the Preparation of Customer Charters and Customer Action Plans last year.
Consultation on specific policy issues is undertaken by the relevant Department or Agency. For example, in the context of my own Department, members of the public were invited to submit suggestions for savings and efficiencies as part of the Comprehensive Expenditure Review in 2011. More recently, my Department has undertaken consultation processes on issues such as the regulation of lobbying, Whistleblowers legislation and proposals for changes to the Civil Service Accountability framework.
The overall reform programme also sets out to make Government more open, transparent and accountable. Significant progress is being made in this area, for example, the extension of the Ombudsman’s remit, establishing a legal framework for Oireachtas inquiries, reform and extension of Freedom of Information, regulation of lobbying and the introduction of comprehensive whistleblower protections. In the context of being open to a wide range of voices and perspectives, I would also make reference to the Convention on the Constitution, which is a forum of 100 people, including 66 randomly selected citizens.
Overall, we are making good progress on the implementation of our ambitious programme of Public Service Reform. In this context, our objective is not just a leaner and more efficient Public Service, but also a more integrated, responsive and customer-focused Public Service.