Written Answers. - Departmental Appointments.
262 Mr. Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the steps he is taking to ensure that posts in the administrative stream of the Civil Service requiring financial and accounting skills are being filled by persons with the appropriate knowledge and experience. [27765/01]
263 Mr. Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the abolition of the structural barriers which prevent accountants in the professional stream of the Civil Service from competing for principal officer posts in the administrative stream. [27766/01]
264 Mr. Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance if accountants in the professional stream of the Civil Service will be allowed to apply for inclusion in the next interdepartmental principal level scheme. [27767/01]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 to 264, inclusive, together.
Responsibility for ensuring that administrative stream posts are filled by persons with appropriate skills, including where necessary, finance and accountancy skills, rests primarily with individual Departments. Their selection and training policies must be directed towards ensuring a satisfactory supply of suitably skilled staff. On some occasions the needs of the work may require the hiring of accountants and other specialist professionals. On other occasions it may instead be more appropriate to utilise or update the skills of general service personnel. My Department of course does have an important support role to play in this area. A key contribution in recent times has been our lead role in the design and launch of the performance management and development system. This system, which is aimed at securing improved employee performance and career development, places a strong emphasis on training and upskilling, allowing managers and staff to continuously update job-relevant knowledge and capabilities.
With regard to cross-stream promotion, I know that many civil servants in professional career streams, including accountants, may wish to compete for promotion to general service principal officer posts, in particular by means of the interdepartmental principal officer scheme. In 1997 my Department entered talks with IMPACT, which represents these professionals, and with the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants which represents equivalent general service personnel. The talks focused on a possible new interdepartmental promotion scheme which would allow officers in either category compete for some principal-level posts in each other's career streams. Despite commitments to the idea of such cross-stream movement from both unions under theProgramme for Competitiveness and Work 1994-1997, it proved difficult to get agreement on a scheme which would be acceptable to both sides, and in 1999 IMPACT withdrew from the talks. In the circumstances, my Department then had little option at this time but to proceed with an interdepartmental principal-level scheme whose candidature did not include accountants or other professional grades.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department remains committed to the concept of cross-stream promotion and will continue to work towards the removal of existing structural rigidities and divisions. I might add however that the current absence of cross-stream movement between professional and general service grades at interdepartmental level does not mean that such movement cannot occur within departments, but any such initiative would be a matter for individual departments in the first instance.