As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Service Reform Plan published by the Government on 17 November 2011 outlined a series of rationalisation measures relating to agencies and other public bodies. Some of those measures related to a certain number of the bodies funded from my Department's Vote Group. In this regard, my Department conducted a critical examination of the structure and operation of the institutions included in the Public Service Reform Plan and developed a comprehensive and practical approach to the implementation of the various Government Decisions in this area. This was endorsed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. An overall total of €20 million in savings was targeted in the Public Service Reform Plan from enhanced service efficiencies and value-for-money. It is expected that approximately €1 million of this will be achieved initially across the institutions involved in the reform programme which are funded from my Department's Vote Group, with further savings to be identified as the various cost saving measures are implemented.
In the immediate term, savings are being made primarily in three ways:
- Through the ending of payments to Chairpersons and members of boards or advisory councils;
- Through a programme of shared services between institutions, including, for example, in retail, security, marketing, procurement and storage; and
- Through the provision of services by my Department to some institutions, including human resources services and financial services, thus relieving those institutions of the need to incur a cost in accessing these services.
In that regard, the functions of Culture Ireland were merged fully into my Department during 2013 and the Board was replaced with an Expert Committee whose members provide their time on a pro bono basis. In addition, the term of office of the Placenames Commission expired in October 2012 and was replaced by an Expert Committee which also operates on a pro bono basis.
Furthermore, a formal Framework for Co-operation and Improved Services between the National Gallery of Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Crawford Art Gallery was developed and endorsed by Government. Arising from that, the three Galleries signed a formal Service Level Agreement outlining a number of specific measures to share a number of services across the three Institutions. Legislation has been prepared to give effect to these changes and to reduce the number on boards, enshrine pro bono service and also gender equality on each board.
In December 2013, a new Human Resources Shared Services Unit was established in my Department to provide HR support to the National Museum of Ireland. Work is continuing between the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland to improve co-operation between these institutions and to progress shared services. Legislation to formally enact these changes and changes to board structure is being progressed. I am satisfied that this programme of change has made a significant contribution to achieving the savings targets set out in the Public Service Reform Plan, while at the same time enhancing the operations of the bodies concerned.