Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (218)

Seán Fleming


218. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on introducing a public accountability act providing for individual public servants to be held accountable for their actions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36440/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Service Management Act 1997 sets out in law the duties for which civil  servants are responsible and accountable in their Departments and Offices. The Act empowers Ministers to assign specific responsibilities to Secretary Generals and Heads of Offices. These responsibilities include: advising the relevant Minister; implementing government policy; monitoring these policies and delivering on agreed outputs with the relevant Minister; developing statements of strategy; managing risk; discharging their statutory role as Accounting Officer for their Vote; and managing the performance of staff at all levels. Individual civil and public servants are held accountable to their management under the performance management system and civil servants  are also subject to the Civil Service Code of Conduct.

I would refer the deputy also to the Consultation Paper on ‘Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance’ which was published by the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform in January 2014.  This stemmed from the commitments in the Programme for Government to strengthen accountability obligations that applied to all senior civil service personnel.  An extensive public consultation process was managed by an Independent Panel which recommended establishing an Accountability Board for the Civil Service with external oversight.  This Board would review and challenge senior management performance as well as monitoring progress in the delivery of strategic priorities.  

The Panel also recommended

- designing a performance management system for Secretaries General

- the publication of ‘who does what and to whom they are answerable’ at the level of Assistant Secretary and Principal Officer and

- the reintroduction of Organisational Capability Reviews to provide an objective assessment of the capacity and capability of Departments.

The Civil Service Renewal Plan, launched in September 2014, committed to a significant programme of reform across the Civil Service.  Equally, successive Public Service Reform plans have been introduced and are being implemented across the public service to build capability and to deliver high performance.   The Civil Service renewal plan included 25 headline actions, the first of which was to establish a Civil Service Accountability Board to strengthen accountability and performance across the Civil Service by introducing greater oversight of delivery.  The Civil Service Accountability Board is chaired by the Taoiseach and has met four times to date.  The Board’s terms of reference are: 

- to have an overall governance role across the Civil Service and

- to advise on and support the development of the Civil Service's capabilities

- to review proposals for a new performance management system for Secretaries General

- to implement this performance management system across the Civil Service

- to review the new programme of Organisational Capability Reviews. This includes implementing recommendations arising out of these reviews

- to oversee the Civil Service's capability to implement priorities, or other system-wide issues, set by Government . This may involve considering individual case studies to promote the learning of best practices

Other actions included in the Civil Service Renewal Plan in response to the Independent Panel’s recommendations are

- the design and implementation of a robust performance review process for Secretaries General and Assistant Secretaries (delivered);

- the publication of an assignment framework that describes who does what and to whom they are answerable for senior managers  (delivered)

- the implementation of a programme of Organisational Capability Reviews (in progress).

All of these measures are designed to ensure that there are robust systems in place to ensure that civil and public servants deliver high performance and are held accountable for their actions. 

At present there are no plans in place for changes in legislation in this regard.