Oireachtas Banking Inquiry

Questions (15)

John Browne

Question:

15. Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on whether an Oireachtas inquiry into the banking collapse represents the most effective way of uncovering all the relevant information in a timely manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42476/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The initiation of a banking inquiry is a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas to determine. Under the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013, authority rests with the Houses of the Oireachtas in determining the requirement for a formal inquiry, the terms of reference of an inquiry, the appropriate committee to conduct an inquiry and the procedural and organisational aspects of an inquiry. This Act provides a statutory framework to assist the Houses of the Oireachtas in conducting inquiries into matters of public importance in an effective and efficient manner within current constitutional parameters. Detailed arrangements and procedures to be followed are to be laid down in Rules and Standing Orders.

Performance Management and Development System

Questions (16)

Seán Kyne

Question:

16. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the progress of the implementation of phase two changes to the performance management and development system that are currently under way; the take-up of additional skills training courses across Departments as a result of PMDS reviews; and his views on overall progress in renewing the PMDS system. [42508/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department is engaged in the ongoing review and reform of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) in the Civil Service with enhancements to be introduced on a phased basis in the context of the broader objective to develop and strengthen the management culture across the Civil Service. In light of these objectives my Department's strategy is to:

- improve the design of PMDS and streamline the PMDS process; and

- work with management across the Civil Service to strengthen the operation of PMDS.

The PMDS process will be significantly streamlined by the introduction of an electronic PMDS system – ePMDS - to make the completion of PMDS forms possible online. My Department is working to develop this system at present so that, in January 2014, it will "go live" for those Departments that have moved to PeoplePoint - the new HR Shared Service Centre for the Civil Service.

The Phase 2 changes, agreed in July 2012 by my Department, together with management of the Civil Service and the unions, are being introduced for the current 2013 cycle. These changes seek to address issues concerning the perceived lack of fairness and consistency in the application of PMDS. The most important of the changes in Phase 2 is the introduction of a formal system of calibration for the review of performance. The process involves managers at the same grade-level meeting to discuss the performance of their jobholders with the aim of making sure that they apply similar standards for all jobholders and it should help to ensure greater balance and consistency in the award of ratings.

My Department has also implemented other changes to the system aimed at improving fairness and consistency, including:

- A new grade-based Competency Framework has been introduced, together with a revised rating scale with improved descriptions of performance levels.

- A more comprehensive process of internal review of ratings, and access to external review, are under way. The revised review procedures are being actively advanced with a view to early discussions with management and unions in the Civil Service so that these too will be in place for the final stages of the 2013 cycle.

- Finally, a rating of "Fully Achieved Expectations" is required for the award of an increment.

Turning to the take-up of additional training courses across Departments as a result of PMDS reviews, this is a matter for each individual Department and Office on the basis of its own assessment of training and development needs. My Department expects to have more detailed and comprehensive information available on take-up of training and development opportunities in the context of Learning and Development Shared Services Project which is currently under way.

Progress is being made in renewing PMDS. In 2012, compliance with PMDS rose to 85% - the highest level to date - up from 77% in 2011. My Department will continue to work with all managers across the system to continue to ensure full compliance with PMDS as part of an overall focus on strengthening managerial performance. A particular focus of attention for 2013 is the distribution of ratings with the aim of achieving a distribution of ratings that more accurately reflects performance across the system. Although there has been some movement towards greater alignment with the expected statistical distribution, there remains relatively high levels of awards of the higher categories of ratings overall and very low levels of ratings in respect of underperformance.

A key challenge for senior leadership across the Civil Service is to demonstrate their own commitment to delivering a high performance culture and to fully engage line managers in the management and improvement of performance. My Department will continue to review how we manage performance in the Civil Service and on the basis of this we will continue to make changes aimed at improving PMDS as it is the primary tool for managing performance in the Civil Service. My Department is committed to the ongoing strengthening of performance management to enable people to achieve their potential.

State Bodies Numbers

Questions (17, 22)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

17. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the level of rationalisation of State bodies undertaken since the Government came into office to date. [42294/13]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

22. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the reduction in the number of State boards and agencies; the savings that will be achieved from this in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42486/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 22 together.

As the Deputies are aware, the rationalisation of State bodies is a key deliverable of the Public Service Reform Plan. My Department is currently monitoring the implementation of the measures on a quarterly basis. The latest tables which detail this progress to end Quarter 3 2013 can be found on my Department's website. In summary, the tables show that significant progress has been made by Departments on implementation. To date, rationalisation and amalgamation measures involving 44 bodies have been fully implemented, most recently the abolition of the VECs, which were replaced by a much smaller number of Education and Training Boards. Measures involving a further 63 bodies are at advanced legislative or administrative stages.

Further measures, involving 109 bodies, were identified under a critical review process undertaken in 2012 as part of the Public Service Reform Plan and are currently being implemented. The Public Service Reform Plan aims to secure €20 million in enhanced service efficiencies and value-for-money from the rationalisation programme, a target that will be achieved. The bulk of the savings are derived from a reduction in the number of public servants working in the merged entities and from other administrative efficiencies.

From the outset I have maintained that the lasting and most important benefit from the rationalisation of State Bodies will be a less crowded administrative landscape, resulting in greater democratic accountability, less duplication of effort and clearer lines of responsibility for the citizen. Moreover, the rationalisation programme needs to be understood as just one of a package of reform measures that will allow for the continued delivery of critical services against the backdrop of reducing public service numbers. There will of course be other cash savings realised over time as organisations, financial systems, office accommodation etc. are rationalised into leaner, more coherent structures. These savings, some of which will be once-off, will be factored into the overall budgetary framework as they arise.

Within my own area of control the Commission on Public Service Appointments was merged into the Office of the Ombudsman with effect from October 2012. Arrangements are also currently underway for the merger of the Valuation Office, the Property Registration Authority and Ordnance Survey Ireland; and the measure concerning the State Laboratory and the Forensic Science Laboratory is progressing.

Public Sector Pensions Issues

Questions (18)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

18. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to review the cost of lump sum payments to senior public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42490/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Retirement lump sums are payable to Public Servants in accordance with the terms of relevant legislation and Superannuation Schemes. Lump sum benefits on retirement were introduced in the Civil Service in 1909 with a commensurate reduction in the accrual rate for actual pension from 60ths to 80ths – most pension schemes in the Public Service now provide benefits on the same basis.

It is to be noted that the substantial pay reductions applied to date under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Acts have the effect of reducing the cost of retirement lump sums throughout the Public Service. It should also be noted that retirement lump sums in excess of €200,000 are subject to tax on the excess amount while the Standard Fund Threshold for an individual's overall pension benefits is now €2.3 million, reduced from the previous level of €5.4 million.

The Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012 introduced a new Single Public Service Pension Scheme which commenced on 1 January of this year. The Single Scheme provides that new entrant Public Servants appointed on or after that date, including Members of the Oireachtas, will be members of the Scheme and will have their pension benefits based on career average earnings as opposed to the current final salary basis. The Scheme also provides for a new minimum pension age of 66, rising to age 67 in 2021 and age 68 in 2028 in line with changes to the age at which the State Pension (Contributory) will become payable. These changes will lead to a substantial reduction in the cost of overall superannuation benefits, including lump sum payments, in the Public Service into the future.

I assure the Deputy that Public Service pay and pension costs will be kept under review as part of the Government's ongoing strategy to bring the public finances to a sustainable level.

Open Government Partnership

Questions (19, 44)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

19. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date on which Ireland will join the Open Government Partnership. [42522/13]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

44. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when it is intended that Ireland will join the Open Government Partnership. [42519/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 44 together.

Following Government approval, I submitted a letter of intent for Ireland to participate in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) on 15 May 2013 and Ireland therefore joined the 4th cohort of new countries who will formulate an Open Government Partnership national action plan. The OGP is a global multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. It is overseen by a multi-stakeholder International Steering Committee consisting of Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as civil society representatives.

Recognising the critical importance of the full participation of civil society interests in this process, proposals for inclusion in the action plan were discussed at three public meetings of a network of civil society and other interests held over the summer months, as well as through online contributions. This public consultation process was coordinated by Transparency International Ireland following a tender process undertaken by this Department.

The Report of a Consultation with Civil Society Representatives and Citizens on Ireland's Participation in the Open Government Partnership process was submitted to my Department on 1st October. Development of Ireland's first national action plan is therefore now well under way. It is anticipated that Ireland's draft action plan will be submitted for final approval by Government before the end of 2013. Countries become full members of the OGP when they submit their action plans by posting the final versions on the OGP website and endorse the Open Government Declaration. It is expected that Ireland will become a full member no later than 31st March 2014.

I wish to highlight that developing the action plan is just the first step. Officials, together with colleagues in all relevant Government Departments will continue to work with civil society in monitoring the implementation of the plan over the coming years. Action plans cover a two-year period and we will report on progress on an annual basis. Action plans are living documents and can be updated as needed.

Public Sector Staff Redundancies

Questions (20)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

20. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reduction in public expenditure numbers that will be achieved in 2013 and 2014 from targeted redundancy and early retirement in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42503/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Government decided in late 2012 that voluntary redundancy can be introduced in certain targeted sections of the public service where staff surpluses are identified by management and where redeployment is not suitable. The purpose of the scheme is to assist Government in implementing restructuring and reform in a strategic and targeted manner. Greater efficiencies in the way the public service is going about its business means that some posts have and may be identified by Departments as surplus. VR can be offered in such circumstances.

In terms of my own Department, there is currently no VR scheme in operation and none is planned. There is no incentivised scheme for early retirement in the public service.

Construction Contracts

Questions (21)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

21. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the code of practice for adjudication under the Construction Contracts Bill will be published. [42521/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, Minister of State Brian Hayes worked closely with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator's private members' Construction Contracts Bill into a robust piece of legislation. I believe that there is considerable support both inside and outside the Dáil for these reforms. The Act, which is subject to a Commencement Order, to allow for the development of a comprehensive code of practice was signed into law on the 29 July 2013.

The key objective of the Construction Contracts Act is to ensure that cash flows down the supply chain on all construction contracts. This issue is addressed in the Act by providing statutory arrangements in relation to payments under construction contracts, including providing for interim payments. This will reduce the subcontractor's exposure to non-payment. The Bill also provides the means for subcontractors to enforce these rights, by suspending their labour and by introducing a new mechanism for the swift resolution of payment disputes through a process of adjudication.

This is an important piece of legislation aimed at creating a more level playing field between contractor and subcontractor in the construction sector. This legislation is a priority for Government. In this regard, my officials are currently working on the code of practice that will deliver a timely and cost effective adjudication procedure and to give effect to the legislation.