Written Answers. - Strategy Statement.
Mr. J. Bruton
if he has satisfied himself with the progress on the key issues for the implementation of his Department's strategy statement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. J. Bruton
the progress, if any, made to formulate the legislative and administrative priorities of his Department for 2000; and the achievements of the 1999 programme.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 14 together.
My Department's strategy statement covering the period 1998-2001 was laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 1 May 1998. The major goals for the Department set out therein may be summarised as follows: facilitating the efficient functioning of Government; working to achieve a lasting peace in Northern Ireland; developing a strategic focus for this country's interests and image at international level; working with the social partners to develop and implement national programmes of economic and social development; and the ongoing development of an efficient public service. Work is ongoing on the basis of divisional business plans to achieve these goals.
As part of the overall strategic planning process in my Department, a series of presentations of the business plans to the management advisory committee is currently under way. This will assist in the process of prioritising the work of the Department and the associated resources required. In addition, work is currently under way on a progress report on the strategy statement, as required under section 4 of the Public Service Management Act, 1997. It is anticipated that this work will be completed early in the new year and that copies of the progress report will be laid before both Houses for their information.
On a related point, the strategic management initiative division of my Department is charged with the ongoing development of an efficient public service which delivers excellent services and in which authority, responsibility and accountability are clearly set out at all levels. The SMI is now moving from design to implementation, and a number of key priorities have been identified for current and future work. These are: deepening the quality customer service initiative; the regulatory reform action programme; freedom of information; new financial management systems; human resource management issues, including performance management and recruitment; and gender equality.
I am happy with the progress which is being made with regard to all of these areas.
In addition, my Department has undertaken a comprehensive programme of financial management reform during 1999. This programme includes the implementation of the reforms set out in the strategic management initiative and approved by the Government during 1999, an examination of how greater value for money can be obtained from administrative expenditure, and an assessment of how information technology can be better deployed to improve the service provided by the finance unit. Professional advice has been engaged to assist with the reform process.
In response to the legislative priorities of my Department for 2000, drafting on a Bill to place the National Economic and Social Council and the National Economic and Social Forum on a statutory footing is at an advanced stage. It is expected that this Bill will be published early in 2000.
Overall, I consider that my Department has made a significant contribution to moving the agenda forward in relation to the key areas set out in the Department's strategy statement and I am very satisfied with its performance in this regard.