Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am glad to return to the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011. Before the adjournment, I was about to embark on the detail of the Bill. The Bill marks the final part of the first of many steps to achieving the vision we have set ourselves for the public service and will in its own way make a positive contribution to restoring economic growth and sustainability to Government finances.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide the legislative basis which will allow for the formal establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform and for the transfer of certain functions from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for public expenditure and reform.

I will now briefly go through the sections of the Bill and give a brief outline of their content and purpose. Part 1 deals with preliminary and general matters. Section 1 deals with the short title, collective citation and construction. Section 2 defines certain terms used in the Bill. Section 3 defines "public service body". Part 2 deals with the new Department of public expenditure and reform. It transfers many of the general statutory functions of the Minister for Finance regarding the public service to the Minister for public expenditure and reform, and it puts specific public service reform and modernisation functions on a statutory basis. Section 4 provides that the Government may determine, by order, a day to be the "appointed day" under the Act. Section 5 provides for the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform and the Minister for public expenditure and reform in the English language and An Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe and an tAire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe in the Irish language.

Section 6 provides that the Minister for public expenditure and reform will have responsibility for the management of gross voted expenditure and the annual Estimates process, general sanctioning powers on expenditure and policy matters relating to the appraisal, review and evaluation of expenditure, while the Minister for Finance will retain responsibility for overall budgetary parameters.

Section 7 is a further provision for the transfer of functions to the Minister for public expenditure and reform. It contains a broad provision transferring the general public service statutory functions of the Minister for Finance to the Minister for public expenditure and reform. A number of offices currently under the aegis of the Minister for Finance will also transfer to the Minister for public expenditure and reform under this section. These include the Commissioners of Public Works, Public Appointments Service, Commission for Public Service Appointments, Valuation Office and the State Laboratory. A large number of remaining statutory functions which are appropriate for transfer to the Minister for public expenditure and reform will be transferred by way of transfer of functions order, which will be timed to commence immediately following the commencement of this Act. The Schedules to the Bill list the functions which will be exercised in co-operation with the Minister for Finance.

Section 8 details the specific public service reform and modernisation functions which are being put on a statutory basis to reflect the new reform function included in the name of the Department. The Minister will also assume responsibility for existing non-statutory functions of the Department of Finance and the Department of the Taoiseach in the area of public service modernisation, development and reform. The statutory functions will include the formulation and development of policies required for the modernisation and development of the public service and making proposals to Government on the implementation of those policies, along with the co-ordination and review of the implementation of these measures across the public service. The functions also include the promotion of value for money in the provision of public services and the development of policy and procedural frameworks in the procurement of goods and services by the State.

Section 9 provides for the transfer to the Department of public expenditure and reform of the administration and business connected with the transferred functions. Section 10 provides that if legal proceedings involving the Minister for Finance are in train in regard to a transferred function immediately before the appointed day, these proceedings will, following the appointed day, be deemed to relate to the Minister for public expenditure and reform.

Section 11 provides that any work commenced before the appointed day, by or under the authority of the Minister for Finance in regard to a transferred function, will be carried on and completed by the Minister for public expenditure and reform.

Section 12 provides that any legal document made by the Minister for Finance in regard to a transferred function will continue to have effect as if it had been made in the first instance by the Minister for public expenditure and reform.

Section 13 provides that any references to the Minister for Finance in regard to a transferred function in any legal document or in the memorandum and articles of association of any company shall be deemed to be references to the Minister for public expenditure and reform.

Section 14 provides that all property, rights and liabilities, moneys, stocks, shares and securities held by the Minister for Finance in regard to any transferred function will transfer to the Minister for public expenditure and reform without any further legal actions. Section 14 also provides that the consent of the Minister for Finance will be required in regard to the disposal of assets and the application of the proceeds from the disposal of assets of State bodies, where such assets exceed a value of €50 million.

Part 3 deals with the performance of certain other functions including those relating to the Estimates. Section 15 sets out the responsibility of the Minister in regard to the annual Estimates process. This provides that the Government will approve an "annual approved expenditure amount" which can be reviewed in the course of a financial year if circumstances require. The Minister for public expenditure and reform will have full responsibility for the management of gross voted expenditure as set out in section 6, within the annual approved expenditure amount or the revised annual approved expenditure amount. The Minister for Finance may make recommendations to the Minister for public expenditure and reform on the apportionment of the annual, or revised annual, approved expenditure amount as between current and capital expenditure.

Section 16 provides for appropriate changes to the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act 1965 to give effect to the powers of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to voted expenditure and to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform with the payments role of the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Finance will retain technical responsibility for payments from the Central Fund. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance will remain as Accounting Officer for both the Central Fund and the finance accounts.

Section 17 provides that certain functions relating to the promotion and co-ordination of economic and social planning for the development of the economy and the identification of policies for general economic and social development may be exercised by either Minister separately but that they shall consult from time to time in regard to those functions.

Section 18 provides that the functions transferred to the Minister for public expenditure and reform and referred to in section 7(2) and detailed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 may be performed with the consent of the Minister for Finance. These include provisions of certain Acts mainly relating to borrowings by State agencies. Section 18 also provides that the functions referred to in section 7(3) and detailed in Part 2 of Schedule 2 may be performed only following consultation with the Minister for Finance. These relate mainly to the review mechanism in the financial emergency measures in the public interest legislation.

Section 19 ensures that responsibility for matters relating to superannuation, remuneration etc., of bodies under the aegis of the Minister for Finance remains with the Minister. The Minister for Finance will perform these functions following consultation with the Minister for public expenditure and reform.

Part 4 provides for the necessary amendments to miscellaneous legislation to take account of the establishment of the new Department or to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the legislation with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 20 provides for the amendment of the Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act 1924 to take account of the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform.

Section 21 provides for the amendment of the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Act 1937 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 22 provides for the amendment of the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act 1947 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 23 provides for the amendment of the Ombudsman Act 1980 to take account of the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform.

Section 24 provides for the amendment of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 25 provides for the amendment of the Electoral Act 1992 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the Electoral Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 26 provides for the amendment of the Presidential Elections Act 1993 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the Presidential Elections Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 27 provides for the amendment of the Referendum Act 1994 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the Referendum Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 28 provides for the amendment of the Electoral Act 1997 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the Referendum Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 29 provides for the amendment of the European Parliament Elections Act 1997 to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the European Parliament Elections Act with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund.

Section 30 provides for the amendment of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 to take account of the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform.

Section 31 provides for the amendment of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 to take account of the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform.

Section 32 provides for the amendment of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 to take account of the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform.

Schedule 1 contains a list of excluded bodies for the purposes of the definition of "public service body" in this Act.

Schedule 2, Part 1, lists the functions of the Minister for Finance that are transferring to the Minister for public expenditure and reform which will be exercised with the consent of the Minister for Finance. Sections 7 and 18 apply.

Schedule 2, Part 2, lists the functions of the Minister for Finance which are transferring to the Minister for public expenditure and reform which will be exercised following consultation with the Minister for Finance. Sections 7 and 18 apply.

Schedule 3 lists the legislation governing payments of superannuation and remuneration from the Central Fund to link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform in relation to this legislation with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to the Central Fund. Section 16 applies.

I will also be introducing a significant number of technical amendments to the Bill which are similar in nature to the provisions in Part IV of the Bill and mainly link the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform with the payments role of the Minister for Finance in regard to other functions to be identified.

I ask the House to support and approve this Bill and, in doing so, provide a sound legislative basis to underpin the formal establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform and the transfer of certain functions from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for public expenditure and reform. This is so I can in my own right perform the duties I have been performing in a general way through the authority vested legally in the Minister for Finance and so I can be accountable fully to this House. This Bill is an important step on our reform journey and I commend it to the House.

I wish to share time with Deputy Michael McGrath.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I have a number of comments thereon. Before I refer to the notes I have prepared on the Bill, I want to comment on specific aspects of what the Minister said. In his first sentence, he referred to the creation of a revitalised and customer-focused public service. He stated twice more in the first page of his speech that he wanted a customer-focused public service. He insulted all the public servants in the country three times in the first page of his first speech by telling them they are not focusing on their customers.

We all know someone can improve but for the Minister to come into this House and use that phrase three times is as much as to say public servants have not been concerned about the people they are serving, whether it is a local authority or the Department of Social Protection.

That is a silly opening comment.

I was surprised to hear it referred to three times——

Does the Deputy not believe in a customer-focused service?

I do but if the Minister is saying it does not exist——

Nobody is saying that.

——I am saying he is attacking the public service.

I want to highlight some points in the Minister's script. I understand from where the people in the Department of Finance, who wrote this script, are coming. They use the phrase that we must all make better use our resources and draw more effectively on the potential that exists for improving and sharing public information. That is a worthwhile objective with which many of us agree but as the Minister is aware, public information can only be shared between public bodies if the Data Protection Act is amended substantially. The Minister is aware that housing officers do not have access to social welfare records, and the Health Service Executive does not share records for means tests with local authorities, whether it is for education grants or whatever. While there needs to be improvement in that area, the Minister can only do that with a significant change to the Data Protection Act.

The Minister stated also that there is an acceptance that we cannot afford the same level of services and that there will be further cuts. The Minister might explain before the legislation is passed where the cuts to which he is referring will be made.

The Minister went on to refer to the Croke Park agreement and stated the framework for how this challenging agenda can be delivered on is provided by it. I am delighted to see the Minister has been converted to the Croke Park agreement. When that agreement was being negotiated at length involving the public service, the staff representatives and the Government his colleagues in the Labour Party were mute on the issue. I am delighted to see the Minister's full conversion to what was a skilfully negotiated agreement. As he stated in his contribution, it is clear the agreement can serve as an effective enabler of economic recovery. We have been saying that for the past 12 months but the Minister never accepted it but now that the Department of Finance officials are writing his script I am delighted to see he is accepting it.

The Minister stated also that the report being produced by P. J. Fitzpatrick will be considered by the Government and published shortly. I welcome that. The Minister might confirm when concluding the debate — I do not believe it is mentioned in his script — that the report will be discussed in the Dáil. Will we get the report in the Dáil as published or will the Minister do a "Minister Bruton" on it in that he will receive it and then give his own version of it which will have a different perspective? I would like to get the report directly as published rather than the Department's interpretation of it.

The Minister went on to refer to the question of numbers in the public service. Everything I am saying are direct quotes from the Minister's script. He acknowledged that 16,400 people have left the service since the end of 2008, that between 18,000 and 21,000 will leave by 2014, with a further 4,000 leaving by 2015. That is 41,400 public servants the Minister says will leave the public service as a result of this measure. That is an exceptionally high figure. I recall during the election campaign both Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party had agreed that the combined total of people due to leave the public service from the start of this process would be in the order of 28,000. Now that Labour has signed up to the Fine Gael policy we are hearing a figure of 41,000. The Minister might provide some clarity on that because I felt the Minister's approach during the election campaign in terms of 28,000 was reasonable as it was approximately 10% of public servants but if the figure is increasing to over 40,000 out of the 300,000 he is pushing up the number of people who will be leaving the service and those who have already left the service. I am disappointed that the numbers are increasing to that extent.

The Minister also acknowledged that we had tremendous growth in the economy last year, and I appreciate his comments regarding the way the economy was managed last year on that issue.

In the final paragraph before the conclusion the Minister states there will be amendments to the Bill to deal mainly with the policy role of the Minister for public expenditure and reform and with the payment role of the Minister for Finance in regard to certain functions. It is clear now we have two Ministers with a finger in the pie on an issue. Every Deputy in this House is aware that if one goes to a local authority or the National Roads Authority, NRA, about a particular job it is doing it will say it came from the Department. We are now talking about enlarging the circle where blame can be shifted in the public service in that if there is a problem with the NRA it will blame the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Department of Finance which decided on the allocation will blame the new Department of public expenditure and reform for setting the policy.

In terms of getting something done through any of the State bodies, the circle is getting larger, there is less accountability and responsibility is being diffused. The Department of Finance will write the cheque, the Department of public expenditure will set the policy, the line Department will have a direct hands-on approach and then the relevant State body in the Department such as the NRA or some other body will do the implementation. That is a recipe to ensure that everybody is accountable but nobody is accountable. I would like that matter to be reassessed because the emphasis in the Bill is on improved co-ordination and efficiency. The Minister is adding a new layer of bureaucracy. He is adamant in his speech that there will now be a separate role for him regarding policy and that the payment will come from the Department of Finance. In that regard I have explained the way the circle is getting bigger with responsibility being diffused.

The most significant parts of the Bill are the Schedules on pages 19 to 23 which beg the question what power the new Minister will have. I would like to believe he will have significant power. The Minister's script refers to every section, very thoroughly in regard to Part 4, but the Minister referred to the Schedules in a skimpy manner.

There is a large table in Schedule 2, Part 1, which is headed, "Functions performable [by the Minister] with consent of Minister for Finance". The Minister, Deputy Howlin, will have no ability to perform those functions, if he chooses, unless he does it with the express written consent of the Minister for Finance. There are dozens of functions listed including the Inland Fisheries Act 2010, the Broadcasting Act 2009, the Charities Act 2009, the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, the Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (EirGrid) Act 2008, the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, the Pharmacy Act 2007, the Consumer Protection Act 2007, the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007, the National Sports Campus Development Authority Act 2006 and the Road Safety Authority Act 2006. The list covers three pages, all of which are functions the Minister will not be able to perform unless he receives the consent of the Minister.

Schedule 3 deals with functions the Minister for Finance will retain. It states the Minister for Finance can exercise these powers at the request of the Minister, Deputy Howlin. In other words, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, might want to do the job but he must ask the Minister for Finance to do it. It covers the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) (Amendment) Act 1999, the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act 1938 and other issues such as that. There is another full page of those which again the Minister has no authority to implement if he believes it is necessary. All he can do is ask the Minister for Finance to do it and that raises the question: in regard to what legislation does the Minister, Deputy Howlin, have power he can exercise?

There are three items of legislation in Part 2 of Schedule 2. They are section 10 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010, section 7 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009, and section 13 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. There are three sections of three different Acts for which the Minister will have "Functions performable [by the Minister, Deputy Howlin] after consultation with Minister for Finance". Regarding three small sections of three Acts out of a list of over 100 Acts listed in all the Schedules, the ones he can perform can only be done after he has consulted with the Minister for Finance. The Department of Finance seems to have won that battle in recent months and it has neutered this Department before it even gets off the ground.

The explanatory memorandum states: "Section 6 provides that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will have responsibility for the management of gross voted expenditure and the annual estimates process". The gross voted expenditure for this year, according to Government Estimates, is €57 billion. The net Estimate for the Government for this year is €46 billion and the difference is €11 billion, which is income that has been received. The Minister is in an invidious position. He will be theoretically responsible for €57 billion, but we have seen how the Department has already put caveats on his powers in most areas. Of that €57 billion, a total of €11 billion is income that will be generated through appropriations-in-aid, payments to central funds and so on. The legislation on this is very clear. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, will have no authority or even ability to open his mouth about raising funds and raising charges. He will be responsible for total expenditure in the Department, but will have no authority over the funds raised for the Department. For example, the Minister will be responsible for managing the Estimate for the Department of Education and Skills, but he will have no role under this Bill to set the allocation of ESF funding, determining third level fees, or the cost of school transport. That will be a job for the line Minister. He will also be responsible for the health Estimate but will have no right or authority to set accident and emergency fees, hospital and prescription charges. That income will come into the Department and will be part of the gross expenditure for which he will be responsible, but he will have no authority in setting it. How can somebody be in charge of something when he has no legal right to be involved in raising €11 billion of it?

The Bill also makes clear that the Minister, Deputy Howlin, has no right on deciding between capital and current expenditure. That job will be retained by the Minister for Finance. When he is examining his allocation to the various local authorities, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, will have no hand, act or part in setting the new household charge. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will want to do that. He will want to set the new water rates as well as refuse charges and the second home tax because the main Department for these charges is the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Deputy Howlin will have no say over these charges, even in respect of council rents, yet he is responsible under this Bill for the management of total expenditure.

This is a major inconsistency. It was dreamt up to put a Government together. It was not in the Fine Gael manifesto and it was not mentioned during the discussions until a row broke out on who would be Minister for Finance. The leaders of the coalition parties obviously decided that both sides should be kept happy, but now we have a situation where the two party leaders, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for public expenditure and reform will be assuming responsibility for all key decisions. When they get to Cabinet, decisions will have been agreed by the party leaders and the senior finance people in both parties. This will dilute the real contribution of the Cabinet to those particular discussions as things will be decided outside the Cabinet by these four people. This also reduces the power of the Minister for Finance. I have never seen something formalised to such an extent that the two party leaders are involved in a committee of four that is chaired by the Tánaiste. We are weakening the role of the Department of Finance. We are setting up a new Department with very limited powers and this must be taken into consideration during debate on the Bill.

The Minister will also assume responsibility for the non-statutory functions of the Department of Finance and the Department of the Taoiseach, so we are giving him legal power for something that does not need legal power in the first place. They are non-statutory powers and now we are creating a new restriction on something that is working at the moment. We are providing him with statutory powers for something that does not require such powers. It is a kind of made up Department to keep the Labour Party happy. People are happy to be in the Government and have chauffeur-driven State cars for colleagues in the Minister of State's constituency——

The Deputy is mixing us up with his party.

We will not go into that. We will pass on that.

I can understand why the Labour Party bought this hook, line and sinker. It is a fig leaf to pretend it has a role in the Department of Finance.

I thank Deputy Fleming for agreeing to share time. I am pleased to have the opportunity of making a contribution to the debate. At the heart of this Bill is the politics of forming a coalition. It is clear the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party reached a pragmatic compromise when it came to allocating Cabinet portfolios.

I would like to start on a positive note. I welcome aspects of this Bill. Setting up a Department to deal exclusively with the public service and which is charged with responsibility of driving through public sector reform is a positive development. Having one Minister and one Department in charge of that area will bring greater cohesion and co-ordination to the efforts to secure public sector reform.

In his opening remarks, the Minister for public expenditure and reform painted a sobering picture on the future of the public sector over the next few years. He highlighted that the cost of delivering public services must be reduced further, with fewer staff and tighter budgets, and that it must become better integrated and more customer focused, as well as being leaner and more efficient. That is a reality that we all acknowledge in this House. There will be difficult days ahead for the public service as we seek to get a better return for the investment that the State is making in our public services. As public representatives, we all have extensive experience of dealing with a wide range of public bodies and the different arms of the public service. I acknowledge that there is room for improvement. There are thousands of outstanding public servants working in this country who provide an excellent service to the general public, and to us as public representatives, but there are aspects of the system that are not working well enough. For example, it is not acceptable for us to write to public bodies and not even get an acknowledgment. Even if one receives an acknowledgment, there often can be no further response.

The issue is about using more efficiently the resources being put into the public service, working with the social partners, and bringing about improvements that will result in better public services. That is an enormous challenge and in the EU-IMF deal, there is a strict deadline for the achievement of the savings set out under the Croke Park deal. Those savings have to be achieved by the end of September and if that does not happen, the agreement is clear that compensatory adjustments will have to be made in the public sector pay bill. The truth is that it is in the interests of public sector unions, the Government and everybody involved in the process to ensure the Croke Park deal delivers on the improvements we are seeking.

Deputy Fleming highlighted the number of public servants who are going to lose their jobs, be it voluntarily or otherwise, over the next few years. This number is between 22,000 and 25,000, in addition to those who have already ended their employment in the public sector. That is a very significant number. We negotiated a complex agreement last year with the Croke Park deal. I welcome the late conversion of the Labour Party to that deal and its leadership is now highlighting it as the mechanism for achieving what needs to be achieved in the public service.

The key issue for me is about efficiency, value for money and accountability. I had the privilege during the previous Dáil of serving on the Committee of Public Accounts, and we saw examples every week of public money not being spent wisely or appropriately. One of the most frustrating aspects of that was that there were no consequences for anyone. People were coming in and giving statements that were not satisfactory. We were not happy with the answers, but there was no outcome to it. We issued our report and that is where the matter ended. In the Minister's new brief of public sector reform, the issue of accountability, not just at political level but also at senior management level across the public service, must be to the fore. At a time when resources are tighter than they have been previously, we need to ensure that every cent spent is spent wisely and that proper procedures are being employed. There must be consequences for failure to adhere to the policies that are set down.

The Government missed an opportunity by not opening the position of Secretary General in this new Department — and, in future, in the Department of Finance — to persons from outside the civil and public service. People should at least have been given the opportunity to apply and be considered for those posts. Much has been made of the intention to open up the public sector to people with expertise from the private sector, yet the opportunity to be head of a Department that is charged with the responsibility of public sector reform is closed off completely to those who have expertise in transforming organisations and leading organisational change in the private sector. They are not even being given the opportunity to apply.

Apart from the transfer of control of the public service and public sector reform to this new Department, some other aspects of the Bill, dealing with the transfer of functions from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for public expenditure and reform, are bizarre. They are a recipe for confusion, an increase in officialdom and a deterioration in accountability to the House and, through that forum, to the public. It is clear from reading the Bill and the explanatory memorandum that it is game, set and match to the Department of Finance. Any devolution of power to the new Minister for public expenditure and reform is heavily qualified and in many cases is conditional on the explicit consent of the Minister for Finance, in this case Deputy Noonan.

It is certain that the Minister for public expenditure and reform will play a subservient role to the Minister for Finance. At a time when we are trying to simplify procedures in the public service and make it more transparent and accountable, we are putting in place a system that is the antithesis of that. It does not provide the clarity about roles that should be available at first glance. It is essential that the Minister publish a timeline and clear details of the budgetary process that will be implemented in 2011 and 2012 if this Bill is adopted.

I will give some examples of what I am referring to. Sections 7(2) and (3) state:

(2) The functions conferred on the Minister for Finance by or under any of the provisions specified inPart 1 of Schedule 2 are transferred to the Minister [for public expenditure and reform].

(3) The functions conferred on the Minister for Finance by or under any of the provisions specified inPart 2 of Schedule 2 are transferred to the Minister.

That all sounds fine. However, section 18 states:

(1) The Minister shall not perform a function transferred bysubsection (2) of section 7 without the consent of the Minister for Finance.

(2) The Minister shall not perform a function transferred bysubsection (3) of section 7 without first consulting the Minister for Finance in relation thereto.

When one looks at Schedule 2 one can see in Part 1 a list of 78 Acts with regard to which the new Minister can act only with the consent of the Minister for Finance, and in Part 2 a further three with regard to which he can only act having consulted with the Minister for Finance. How will that work in practice? Every time the Minister proposes to perform a function regarding one of these 81 Acts, will an official from his Department need to write to an official from Deputy Noonan's Department across the corridor seeking explicit consent for the Minister to execute it? It seems to be a recipe for inertia and confusion. A whole range of the apparent powers being given to the new Minister are subject to such consent or to consultation. While on the face of it he may appear to have immense powers, when one probes the detail one sees that there are so many caveats that his real power lies only in the area of managing and transforming the public service through the reform agenda — powers that he certainly does have.

The Oireachtas Library and Research Service highlighted some of the effects of this Bill. For example, one of the 78 Bills referred to in Schedule 2 is the Inland Fisheries Act 2010. Given what is proposed in this Bill, section 43 of that Act should now read: "IFI may, for the purposes of the performance of its functions, borrow money but shall not do so without the consent of the Minister given with the consent of the Minister for Finance". It is farcical that this is what the legislation will have to say. The body can only borrow money with the consent of the Minister, who has the consent of the Minister for Finance. Why can the Minister for Finance not give that consent directly, as he currently does? I do not know, but it strikes me as an odd way to structure the business of the public service in these two new Departments.

There is a need to clarify how the annual budgetary process will work under this legislation. Who will be responsible for what, and when will that happen? Reading the research notes attached to the Bill, it is very unclear. We need more details of what the proposed legislation means in practice.

The Minister's opening speech on Second Stage mostly dealt with reform of the public service and the general economic environment. The latter was a regurgitation of the explanatory memorandum published by the Bills Office. What we need to hear are clear, concrete examples of what this Bill means in practice, particularly who is going to do what and who will be responsible and accountable for what functions. For example, when the Exchequer returns for May are published in the next few days, will we have a statement from the Minister for public expenditure and reform on the expenditure side and a statement from the Minister for Finance on the revenue side? The Minister for Finance will remain responsible for the overall budgetary framework. Is he the only person who will be commenting on the Exchequer returns, or will both Ministers deal with different aspects?

The Bill makes clear that the Minister for public expenditure and reform will be responsible for gross voted expenditure but, as Deputy Fleming pointed out, the difference between gross and net is significant. We need clarification on whether Deputy Howlin will be accountable, for example, for appropriations-in-aid, because if he is not, we will have a situation in which expenditure on passport services will fall within his remit but the fees will not; gross expenditure on school transport will be his responsibility but the fees, again, will not; and the cost of Met Éireann will be a matter for the Minister but the fees it charges will not. These are some examples of the possible confusion arising from the adoption of this Bill.

I welcome the setting up of a Department to deal exclusively with public sector reform. That is necessary and can be supported. However, the transfer of functions between the Minister for Finance and the Minister for public expenditure and reform set out in this Act is so cumbersome and confusing that it will result in less accountability and less efficiency in administration of both Departments, leading to greater difficulties than would otherwise have been envisaged. I hope we will receive some more significant answers in the closing remarks of the Minister on Second Stage and when dealing with the meat of the sections on Committee Stage.

Like other Deputies, I am pleased to speak in this debate. I must state it took a while and I am much relieved that the Bill is now before the House. I want to start by going back to basics, as they say, by reminding the House that the ultimate measure of any reform agenda in the public sector will be the experience of citizens seeking and accessing services. This will be the final jury as to the success or otherwise of reform in this area. There will be much debate in the House in the coming months and years about outputs and outcomes, expenditure frameworks and ceilings, and performance budgeting. We all know an agenda of modernisation and reform is significant and that it cannot be delivered overnight. There are no quick fixes. In the past, mistakes have been made. Half-hearted attempts at reform have failed. Often, public policy was shaped around self-interest and sometimes electoral gain. Civil Service pay grades for those at the very top have skyrocketed while pay at the bottom has nose-dived and, as we speak, 10% of those families in receipt of family income supplement are civil and public service workers. This pay gap is unlikely to change under the current administration since the Government has committed to basic salaries of up to €200,000 for top civil servants, including the Taoiseach and his Ministers.

A two-tier health system has been nurtured and actively encouraged, not by accident but by design. Many children are taught in damp and grotty prefabs. Those with special needs and their families have been utterly failed by the State. Carers are left to cope alone. All of this happened on the watch of Celtic tiger Ireland. We know now that the legacy of the "boom" as it was called was an increase in inequality. Unless this endemic and fundamental inequality in public service provision is removed, the Minister's commitment to reform is meaningless.

The Minister has promised to be more focussed on citizens. To be more focussed is not good enough. The people must be front and centre in the reform process. The public sector exists for one reason and one reason only, and this is to serve the public good. If the Government is to serve the public good, it must prioritise investment in services, in the good times and the bad.

Investment in public services is not something this or previous Governments have embraced. The OECD report of 2008, Towards an Integrated Public Service, notes that despite an increase in the number of public sector employees between 1995 and 2007 — and we must bear in mind that we were starting from a very low base relative to other OECD countries — Government spending and employment growth in the sector failed to keep pace with population and GDP growth.

As recently as 2005, Ireland still had the third lowest public expenditure rate as a percentage of GDP in the OECD, ahead of only Korea and Mexico. This is the record of the State on public services. Despite this, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, boasted earlier this month and again today in the House, that the "Government is making steady progress on reducing numbers employed in the public service. The number of posts has been reduced by 2,000 in the three months to end March 2011" and that "public service numbers have fallen by 16,400 since 2008", in case any of us had forgotten that fact. In celebrating this, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, finds himself in the dubious company of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and the like, who actively seek and celebrate increased unemployment during a recessionary period. This is a perverse position to take.

Public services are a real yardstick by which we measure our society's success. Equality in service provision illustrates how equal society is. In the boom times society became deeply unequal in most areas of public service provision. Undoubtedly, radical reform is needed but the reform agenda must not be used or abused to widen the chasm in society, run down services, hand over critical services such as health to the private sector or create an even greater level of unemployment across society.

To reform is to improve the experience for citizens,from the cradle to the grave, when accessing public services. The purpose of reform is to abolish bad practice and mismanagement. It is to change for the better how we do our business, keeping the citizen's well-being and rights at the centre of every decision we make.

The buck must stop with Ministers. The people want and deserve accountability. Disappointingly, there is no evidence of such commitment from the Government, quite the opposite. Recently, I asked the Minister for Finance how the Government intends to adequately deliver services to citizens while at the same time reducing public sector numbers. The Minister's response was interesting and instructive. He responded that it is a matter for local management to address service delivery issues with reduced numbers. This is not a case of joined-up thinking or accountability on behalf of the Government.

It is interesting to chart the journey of the Bill. The Labour Party's general election manifesto promised to establish for a limited time an office of public sector reform. As we know, reforming the public sector is not a one-off event, it is an ongoing commitment to excellence, as it must be. The Labour Party stated it wanted fewer management layers in the civil and public service, and more freedom for managers to manage staff and budgets, which is quite a challenge when staff and budgets are facing at least €3 billion worth of cuts every year.

The Labour Party further promised more modern management and staffing structures; more user-centred services delivery; to drive reform planning and implement the change agenda with performance indicators identified to allow progress on high level priorities to be monitored; more accountability; transparency; multi-annual departmental budgets; and a citizen-centred approach to public service reform. In other words, motherhood and apple pie.

By contrast, Fine Gael, the party of small government, promised a 10% cut in public sector numbers and an increase in workload for frontline staff, who are to take up the additional slack of those fired by Fine Gael over the coming years. It wants to do this while retaining the recruitment embargo. An office to be responsible for public spending and modernisation was detailed but with no reformper se, just a slash and burn approach to public service numbers and spending.

Both parties, which now form the Government, promised upskilling and retraining throughout the Civil Service in human resources, finance, economics, corporate services and information technology. What we got in the programme for Government public sector reform commitments was a hotchpotch of rationalisation and a mishmash of modernisation measures, with a promise to empower civil servants. Then there is the recently renegotiated EU-IMF programme, which makes a reduction of public sector numbers and public sector spending a condition of support. The bailout agreed to by the Government fundamentally shapes and undermines any serious attempt at public sector reform. This is if one understands reform to be about quality and universal service provision. It is in this context that we look at the structures and staffing of this new Department.

The new Minister will be responsible for managing public expenditure in the overall envelope set by the Government but he is not responsible for the budgetary parameters as the Minister for Finance has retained these responsibilities.

The new Department of public expenditure and reform is housed in the Department of Finance. Two thirds of the new Department's staff come from the Department of Finance — in fact, many will not even have to move desks as the Department of Finance divisions in which they worked are to remain intact within the Department of public expenditure and reform. The recently appointed Secretary General to the Department of public expenditure and reform first began working for the Department of Finance in 1993, despite the Minister's commitment last month to attract external candidates to top jobs such as this to create a fair and competitive process designed to find the best person for the job.

In light of all of this, the following question must be asked. In real terms, how new is this new Department? This Bill details a transfer of statutory functions from the Department of Finance to the Department of public expenditure and reform but ultimately there is nothing really new in its role, bar perhaps the Department's name. It is also worth noting that the only division being transferred to the Minister which broadly addresses real reform comes from the Department of the Taoiseach, namely, the public service modernisation division. However, it is not specifically mentioned in the Bill nor is its function being made statutory. Within the three divisions, there are worthy and important functions but surely if this Department is to be truly new and steeped in a reform agenda, reshaping its structure and autonomy will be key it its success.

Recent outreach efforts by the Department of public expenditure and reform are welcome. Involving academics, other heads of Departments and various relevant stakeholders in the process of reform is a positive move. However, the most obvious concern is that since the new Department is being led by old hands within old structures, then old habits will win out.

If the Department of Finance could not let go of its management and control of expenditure, which is now clear, then the Government had two clear options — to exclude expenditure from the new Department or instead move a restructured Department to an alternative site. As neither option was chosen, the Minister's decisions will always be undermined by the fact that he remains under the thumb of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and Department of Finance mandarins. Perhaps this arrangement and division of the Department of Finance smoothed the passage to forming a coalition government. However, there is a very real possibility that the incoherence and inertia that may arise from the confusion and overlapping roles will be a heavy cost in terms of any supposed reform agenda.

The Minister said now is an opportune time for the Government to engage in a new process of change. He acknowledged that many of the State's systems and processes are in need of radical reform. The Minister believes cutting numbers is key but so too is the citizen. A number of reviews are under way, including the comprehensive spending review, the capital spending review and the departmental review of the McCarthy report on the sale of State assets as well as the Croke Park agreement. We are told the public service will be more dynamic, integrated, transparent and customer-focused and that the traditional values of integrity, impartiality, diligence and commitment, which are all alive and well in the public service, will be built on. The Minister intends to foster a culture of openness, transparency and accountability, but again the real measure of his success will be the experience of the citizen accessing a service.

If all these reforms are to be achieved, the Government needs to walk away from its rationalisation model — its commitment to cutbacks. This model has already fundamentally undermined service provision. Current reductions in public service numbers have arisen primarily from a natural fall-off, or "wastage" — a word I do not like — which, in itself, is a natural process and one that does not ordinarily undermine a system provided the lost experience and skills are replaced and replenished, but this is not the case.

The Government's absolute refusal to lift the embargo means that experienced and fully skilled psychiatric nurses and gardaí — to give two examples — are not being replaced. This, coupled with increased demand on services as a result of this and the previous Government's commitment to stifling growth, is creating deeper inequities within the system and in wider society. This Government is falling at the very first hurdle.

Addressing the front line personnel deficit will deliver immediate benefits not only to our people, but critically to the economy. Austerity has failed spectacularly. Growth is down, unemployment is up and the public purse simply cannot shell out endlessly for private banking debt.

Implementing a full programme of modernisation across the public sector will take a number of years. Cross skill training across departmental management is vital but again it will take a number of years before we see the full benefits of this. Updating and integrating technology and online services again is key but it will take time.

Root and branch reform of the culture and systems within the Civil Service and public service which has led, in some instances, to outlandish wages, no accountability and bad practice among the highest paid requires a deep transformation. Changing the top-down culture from one that sees its role as one that serves the political class to one that serves the citizen can be achieved but even if the Government was committed to such a programme, this too would take time and we know time is not on its side. Unless Fine Gael and the Labour Party embark on a real programme of reform and modernisation across the public sector while critically bolstering front line services, this new Department, like the Government and the one before it, will have failed the people spectacularly.

In moving this Bill, the Minister reminded us of the harsh economic climate that exists. He signalled that productivity and value for money must be at the heart of public sector reform. He is absolutely right and I support his position on that. However, resourcing front line services must also be a foundation stone of real public sector reform. The Minister is in a state of denial or delusion or perhaps both when he claims that public services have been largely unaffected by the cutbacks, or budgetary consolidation to use the polite term, pursued by the last Government and continued by the current Administration. The Minister's assertion that we cannot afford current levels of services will send a shiver down the back of every person who has been short-changed by the current overstretched and under-resourced services.

Let me end as I began: the ultimate measure of any reform agenda within the public sector will be the experience of citizens seeking and accessing services. The people will be the jury and they will decide ultimately the success or failure of this enterprise.

I call Deputy Ross. Is he sharing with Deputies Mattie McGrath and Richard Boyd Barrett?

That is correct.

My immediate reaction to this Bill is one of approval because it is important that the idea of public expenditure is taken in isolation and addressed. Whatever the ideological view people take on public expenditure, there is undoubtedly a problem and a need to readdress those difficulties, which have been the cause of our deficit.

The Minister, Deputy Howlin's, speech was very strong on aspirations and very low on reality. It was peppered with the jargon I recognise from a lengthy period of dealing with the Department of Finance. It is rather odd that the person who has been asked to come in here has had the contents of his speech so greatly influenced by the problem he ought to be addressing. By that I mean that the Department of Finance has obviously had a huge influence on the break-up of the Department as proposed in the Bill. This is a clear conflict of interest, a difficulty which has not been overcome in the Bill but is obvious within it, and the Department of Finance, one of the great problems of public expenditure, is the victor in the battle between the old Department and the new. As other speakers have said, it is clear from the powers given to the new Ministry that the Department of Finance, on the whole and in general, retains a great deal of its old powers.

It is the Department of Finance, after all, which presided over the excesses in public expenditure we have witnessed for many years, particularly under the last Government. While the aspirations are there, the reality is that the Minister's speech is disappointing. There is a lot of familiar old hat in it, but history suggests there is not a great deal of hope that those aspirations will become reality. I say this as one who has done a good deal of work in looking at what has happened to public expenditure in recent years and at the extraordinary waste of public money that was tolerated in particular by the Department which is entrusted with seeing that public money is not wasted.

One of the great problems is not addressed in the Bill, nor in the Minister's speech, namely, that it is not just the Department of Finance itself but the model of social partnership to which we have clung for so long that is at the root of our difficulties. Social partnership, so fashionable for so long in this and the other House and among all political parties, bears a heavy responsibility for the mess in which we find ourselves and for the current budget deficit. There is absolutely no doubt that the runaway wages we saw in the period of the first benchmarking deal were a result of the social partnership model which virtually everybody worshipped for so long. There we saw a once-off deal which gave public servants an increase of 8.9% regardless of performance, although it was in theory tied to performance. History suggests that our aspirations to cut public expenditure, or to ask the public service unions to pull back their demands, will not be successful.

That benchmarking deal was won as a direct result of social partnership and of the social partners seizing power in this land over those who were democratically elected in this House. The deals were not ratified by this House but rather bypassed the House. The deals were excessive and we are now, partly through the Croke Park agreement but in other areas as well, trying to row back on them in rather obscure ways. There is no recognition in the Minister's speech that the social partnership model has failed. What happened under that model is still happening — to a lesser extent, perhaps, but it is still happening.

Successive social partnership deals were agreed from 1987 to 2010-11, but they did not begin as they ended. They began in 1987 with the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, agreeing a deal that was flagged between him and the unions. However, they developed into something much more sinister and dangerous. They developed into a programme for Government which interfered in the democratic rights of this House. The social partners became the Patricians in this nation, deciding on policies way outside pay deals. They decided on policies on foreign aid, policies to do with the Irish language — all of this was in social partnership deals of various sorts. Some of these agreements ran to 120 pages. The result was that the social partners got too powerful and started spending other people's money, that is, taxpayers' money, and this House ratified that public expenditure on the direction of the Government which negotiated the deals.

It is my view that the main culprit in social partnership was not the trade unions but IBEC. The unions did what they have always done and which it is their job to do, namely, to negotiate the best possible pay deal for their members. Unfortunately, they negotiated more than that because the employers were a busted flush who capitulated at the last minute on every pay deal, particularly those relating to public service pay. As a result the model appeared to flourish by ensuring industrial peace. It delivered industrial peace but at a cost the Exchequer could never have afforded and for which we are paying now.

After the Oireachtas was bypassed in this way the social partnership monster got bigger and bigger and a whole partnership industry developed which involved an enormous amount of public expenditure. Social partnership quangos developed in the form of all types of semi-State bodies. Trade union leaders were then appointed to the boards of these quangos and rewarded. Rights commissioners were appointed and given jobs at €470 a day in order to keep this particular engine on the road. At the same time the nation was spending money it could not afford in the grip of a social partnership model which is now discredited.

I would have liked to hear the Minister say more in his speech about the Croke Park deal. Nobody knows the status of that deal and whether the trade unions are in fact delivering on modernisation. Nobody could blame them for not delivering on modernisation because they have never been expected to do so. Every single time they have eyeballed the Government on this issue, the Government has rolled over and the unions have won. This legacy of social partnership is one of the reasons public expenditure is so high in this country. It would be more honest had the Minister said that the model has failed, that the Croke Park agreement is a legacy of that model and that we will now be moving in a different direction.

Instead he pussyfoots around with aspirations of reform but very little delivery. Why does he think we have seen such problems in bodies like FÁS, CIE and the HSE? Does he not recognise that FÁS was a problem structurally as well as being subject to inefficiencies, neglect, negligence and a great degree of malpractice both at board level and in its training programmes? Unfortunately, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has indicated that my time is up.

The new Department would be better titled the Ministry for cuts, slashing jobs and smashing our public services to pay off the bankers' gambling debts on orders from the EU-IMF. That is a longer title but a more accurate one. We all want to see reform. Reform is a beautiful word. Who could not want reform? Ordinary people are crying out for reform of public services. However, what they mean by reform is that they want better public services. They want more teachers in our schools so that pupil-staff ratios improve rather than get worse, as is currently the case. They want more special needs assistants and resource hours for the most vulnerable children in our education system. What they get is cuts and caps in those vital resources. Every community is crying out for more public service workers to fix the broken roads, the cracked paths and to get rid of the graffiti plastered all over the walls of estates. They want proper maintenance of estates and parklands but they cannot get it because there are not enough people employed in the public service to do these jobs. We need more public servants employed as community workers in vulnerable communities, where young children have nothing, no support, and desperately need such workers to help them get a decent start in life.

We need more public sector workers in our health service. We need more nurses in order to open the thousands of hospital beds that are empty because we do not have enough nurses and health workers to provide desperately needed health services, to deal with waiting lists and with those sitting on trolleys for days due to lack of investment in staff and facilities in our health service. We need to deal with the myth, the lie and the spin that the problem in the economy and our society is the public service and that the answer to society's problem is to butcher the public service, as this Ministry will set out to do at the behest of the EU-IMF. In public debate and the vilification of the public sector deployed over the past number of years since the economic crisis started, it never gets out that we spend less, as a proportion of GDP, on every single area of public service compared to our European counterparts. As a proportion of GDP we spend less than our European counterparts on health, education and other public services. We do not have too much public service, we have too little public service. We have fewer people employed in the public service than most of our European counterparts. Our public services are in a desperate crisis as a result of that, which is inflicting real suffering on the elderly, the sick, the vulnerable, the disabled and the young. It is shocking. This Ministry is a special Ministry set up to make a bad situation worse, to slash and carve our public services and to make more people unemployed.

That is not to say we do not need genuine public service reform. We certainly do need it but let us start with politicians' salaries. It is outrageous that the Taoiseach pays himself eight or nine times what the average worker earns. It is outrageous that Ministers are on €140,000 or €150,000 a year when people on social welfare have to live on less than €200 a week. It is outrageous that this is being cut and other charges are being imposed. If we want public sector reform, let us start with slashing the salaries of politicians and Ministers. Let them see the pay cuts. Let us start slashing the salaries of top civil servants, the Secretaries General who earn €200,000 or €150,000. What about the public servants in the banking sector? Some are still being paid more than the cap of €500,000 for bankers who helped to wreck our economy. It is obscene. How can we justify paying bankers who wrecked this economy with public money and paying them 20 or 30 times what the average worker earns? It is outrageous.

Deputy Ross referred to the waste of money in the public service and he is correct. However, the problem is that most of the money is wasted because the work done by local authorities and Departments was outsourced to the private sector. Massive overruns were not because of public servants. Previously, much of the vital infrastructure projects and public housing was built by directly employed public servants. There was no profit margin creamed off by cowboy builders and cowboy contractors. The waste in public spending resulted from the outsourcing of this to the mates of people working at the top in the public sector. They creamed it when they were working in the private sector. Private developers ripped off the public with massive overruns. The answer is not more privatisation and more cuts in public services but for the people now rotting on the dole, including skilled construction workers and teachers, to be employed in the public service to provide vital infrastructure. This can take the profit motive out of the equation. The profit motive was a corrosive cancer at the heart of the public sector. Why have we seen the obscene high salaries at the top of the public service? It is precisely because the people at the top of the public service benchmarked themselves against the bankers and multimillionaires in the private sector. If the CEO with whom the public sector worker was negotiating earned €500,000 or €750,000, the public sector worker believed he should earn at least €250,000 or €500,000. That is where the obscenity started. The EU-IMF deal and this new Ministry is about accelerating the problem that caused the crisis. We need to move in precisely the opposite direction.

A typical example from my area indicates the lack of willingness of this Government to listen to serious proposals for saving public money. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council passed a capital budget to build a new super library headquarters on a public space for €35 million. The council is controlled by Labour and Fine Gael and they passed the budget. We all like to see investment in libraries but no one asked for this library headquarters. People have asked for investment in public swimming baths but no money was allocated to that. Instead, they built a library headquarters because Labour and Fine Gael wanted a trophy project in Dún Laoghaire. Today, I pointed out that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport was supposed to be interested in saving public money and public sector reform. Beside the proposed site for the library headquarters, there is an empty building owned by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company. It is an office block and is perfectly suited for use as a library headquarters. It is owned by the public and has been sitting empty for several years. I asked why we should not put the library headquarters there and use the €35 million saved for other projects that are wanted by local people, that would create jobs, enhance tourism and so on. The council will not do that because it is more interested in its pet project than in spending public money sensibly in a way that would create jobs. There is no doubt that private developers will make up the architects and companies given the contract for this new library headquarters that nobody asked for and that does not need so much money spent on it. These developers will be paid exorbitant amounts to build a facility we do not need. All the activities that led to the property bubble are ongoing and there has been no serious attempt on the part of this Government to do anything about it. I will be opposing this new Ministry and the policies coming from it.

I am also delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011. This will see the Department of Finance effectively divided into a Department for spending and a Department for cutting. Everybody seems to be in favour of reform as it is the flavour of the month and the new buzz word. The problem is there is little agreement on what the reform should entail. Few can define it and despite various reports, nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. That is not a problem from today or yesterday but has been ongoing for a long time.

The new Minister responsible for public reform will have responsibility to figure this out, which will not be easy. I wish Deputy Howlin well in his new role as Minister, and he stated that the Bill is the first step towards the creation of a revitalised and customer-focused public service in the country and placing a stronger focus on how we manage our public expenditure to get the best possible impact for available resources. Along with the speech and the roadmap for this process, this is the mission statement.

Many hundreds of thousands of good and decent people work in the public service and I am not out to knock them today. The mission statement which should exist has been badly sidetracked and lost. The creation of a revitalised and customer-focused public service should be the goal, as most of the public service is not customer-focused. I do not wish to show disrespect to public servants but I have a hope and enthusiasm that we can get this country back on its feet. As an elected Member, I have the responsibility to argue that all public servants at all levels should perform.

In fairness, most of these people are career public servants who joined the service at an early age with the best of intentions but the system has worn them down. All public servants should have a "refresher course" where they could be put into private businesses for a couple of weeks every year to gain a basic knowledge of the need and demands posed on entrepreneurs and business people. I differ from the previous speakers, Deputies Ross and Boyd Barrett. I work with both of them in the Technical Group and although we share many ideas, we are broad enough to differ in many ways also. There are fundamental problems in this issue which should have been sorted out long ago.

The new Minister responsible for public reform must figure out what is wrong. I wish both him and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, well as they try to help our country's finances recover despite the heavy hand of our so-called friends in Europe. I have remarked many times that with friends like those, one does not need enemies. We must be more vocal in getting the message out that they are not helping us; at least the IMF provides money at a reasonable cost but those in the European Union are making a profit, despite the fact that their bankers caused half the problem. I am worried about the ideological differences between the Ministers and the two parties in coalition. There is an immediate clash.

There will be a cross-departmental body to implement all the numerous reports done on public sector reform. People were paid much money to produce these reports but we now have more of them than anything else. One politician will be accountable for the delivery of reform and although I wish him well, I also wish him God's speed.

On the negative side, the process will surely get bogged down before it even starts. The new Department will be staffed by the same civil servants that have not delivered much to date. I do not mean to be disrespectful but I am just talking about the system and how they are engaged. This can affect many Ministers or ideological people in a Department; I know people who left the service because they would have ended up in the insane house if they remained in it. They could not put up with the archaic systems.

Will there be a turf war between the two Ministers? The culture of civil servants must shift from providing exclusively for their own Minister to a more comprehensive view of the joint functions of the Department, which will be a significant culture shock. I have seen during my time in this House and participating in committees how civil servants defer to their Minister. I was disgusted, annoyed and shocked when the pension levy was introduced and fought within my party at the time against it. For whom was a U-turn done? It was not done for county council workers on the ground, librarians or ordinary people in classrooms but for senior civil servants.

That was a despicable move and I told the former Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, that he had been hijacked. I received no answer but when I challenged the measure, I was told that it affected 120 civil servants; in the end it affected nearly 700. The pension levy was expensive and punitive enough for the ordinary people but the fact that senior public servants could get away with a reduction in its effect left a bad taste in the mouths of ordinary workers. It was a retrograde step, of which there are more which we probably do not know about. Nobody can tell me such action is right.

Once the honeymoon is over there is a risk of division reflecting the points of divergence between the coalition partners. We saw that last week with questions on the Order of Business and elsewhere regarding efforts by another Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton. In fairness to that Minister, he is seeking a consultation period on the employment regulation orders and registered employment agreements etc. These systems were negotiated, as noted by Deputy Ross, by the so-called social partnership. It was a great idea when it was started by the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, but it got badly sidetracked and carried away. As Deputy Ross argued, there is no point in blaming trade unions, which had a job to do in representing members; they did it well and we should take our hats off to them for doing so.

I blame the likes of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Construction Industry Federation and the Small Firms Associations. They became removed from the ordinary people who could not afford to be members of such groups. People, including union members, were put on boards and participated in a gravy train. We saw what happened when quangos were set up with directors placed on boards; for example, money was put in place for training of ordinary workers in the HSE but it ended up in SIPTU and we have not yet heard where it has been spent. It was not put where it was supposed to go but spent on airline tickets and nights in hotels around the world. The media describe junkets being taken by politicians as well.

We must consider the roles of Secretaries General of Departments and chief executives of semi-State bodies. The wages of bankers are capped at €500,000 and we should have a maximum wage for public servants. I compliment the Government on returning the minimum wage to its former level, although that was not the problem. The employment regulation orders and registered employment agreements set a basic minimum wage at €20 or €25 per hour, with extra money for disturbance and upset etc. These facets were negotiated in a bubble which has burst, so we must try to attain real reform.

I wish both Ministers well but they must tackle such problems. Taxpayers and those with no jobs, as well as young people in our schools and colleges with enthusiasm and a good education, need a chance to deliver. They will do so if allowed, as will ordinary businesses which have been shackled with remnants of social partnership. We had legislation covering joint labour committees and bodies such as National Employment Rights Authority were set up; there is a problem in this country in that when we introduce new legislation we forget to get rid of the bodies created by older laws. There are quangos and organisations which have outgrown their usefulness as a result, leading to expenditure we cannot afford. We must sit up and smell the coffee.

We cannot blame the IMF and others for looking at such matters because we have closed our eyes to them for the past number of years. If we are to prosper again or get any sense of hope, such problems must be tackled head on.

I wish to share time with Deputy Tom Barry.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to this legislation and in particular the speed with which it was produced, given the fundamental change it brings to our most important Department. I have been impressed by the phenomenal speed with which this groundbreaking legislation has been produced. The nature of the provisions is testimony to the Government's determination to deliver on our most important pre-election promise, namely, reform of the public service. I regret that some of the previous speakers have left the Chamber because it seemed from what they were saying that they misunderstood the enabling nature of this legislation. It simply sets up a Department and transfers the powers to effect reform to the Minister, which is a necessary precursor to introducing reforms.

I am not sure who first coined the phrase that the public service is not fit for purpose but he or she caused considerable resentment among certain people. To resent that statement, however, is to resent reality and to confuse persons with process. The purpose of the public service has changed dramatically. Notwithstanding the current economic crisis, Ireland has grown and evolved, economically and socially, beyond recognition since the foundation of the State and the public service. Over that time, the country has been transformed from a low income, poorly educated and primarily rural based society into a modern, largely urban, highly educated and technologically smart economy. The public service has struggled to meet the changing needs of our people and economy but there has never been a fundamental restructuring, with the result that each new economic and social development was accompanied by a further accretion of procedures, practices and protocols, as well as bodies and agencies that offered well paid positions, particularly during the years of the Celtic tiger. Many of these bodies were appropriate at the time of their introduction but have lost their relevance over time and are now outdated and no longer serve the needs of the public.

The old ways of the public service strangled initiative and sapped the enthusiasm of thousands of capable and dedicated public servants. The time is ripe for change. Nobody wished for this economic crisis to happen but it brings into focus the need to renew our public service in a way that transforms administration rather than merely paying lip-service to the idea of reform. This legislation will enable such a transformation. The public service is not responsible for the economic crisis but it contributed to it through its deficiencies and shortcomings. It did not recognise the crisis when it first emerged and it lacked the flexibility and expertise to take corrective action to minimise the impact. Reforms can be made in many ways but the establishment of a new Department which allows an immediate and ongoing focus on the performance of our public service is essential. While changes are needed immediately, reform has to be an ongoing process. It is only through the ongoing questioning and scrutiny of every single function and penny spent that we will ensure the best delivery.

Nobody can deny that the Department of Finance has more than enough on its plate without taking on this massive task of reform but it will not be able to address these issues without change. However, I suggest the Minister should be wary of denuding the Department of Finance of its expertise and experienced staff when officials are transferred to the new Department of public expenditure and reform. Never has there been a greater need for the best available expertise than during this critical period of our history. Many comments have been made in the media and elsewhere about the lack of economic expertise in that Department and this may be part of the reason nobody shouted "stop" when the banks went on a borrowing spree to fund the building boom. It is probably futile to say what might have been but we must never leave ourselves exposed to that risk again.

The Department of Finance is not the only Department which was found wanting. The myriad of independent agencies, whether the HSE, the NRA or the NTMA, which mushroomed in recent years denuded parent Departments of their senior and best staff, who left for these well paid agencies. The programme for Government commits to bringing in new talent and skills not only to the Department of Finance, but all Departments by ensuring all posts at principal officer level and above are open to external competition. At least one third of all appointments over a period of five years will be reserved for those who are outside the traditional Civil Service structure. However, I am concerned about how this commitment will be achieved in the context of an embargo on recruitment. If ever we needed fresh thinking and new ideas, it is now. We need to hire these people now rather than when the crisis is over. I ask the Minister to ensure that, at the very least, the revenue raising and expenditure Departments, which are the core of the public service, are resourced and staffed by our best and brightest.

A commitment has also been made on cutting the number of State bodies, or the so-called quangos, which grew like Topsy during the Celtic tiger years. This should be one of the first tasks of the new Department. Some of them can be amalgamated or reabsorbed into their parent Departments but others are simply redundant because their functions have already been taken over by other agencies. There can be no room for sentiment in abolishing the latter. Costs may initially be associated with abolition because many of them have committed to leases and other agreements but these difficult decisions will have to be taken. Every agency, programme and spending line will have to be examined for relevance, necessity and efficiency and for every euro spent we must ask whether the expenditure is necessary and if there is a better or cheaper alternative. Crucially, we must ask whether the expenditure achieves its objectives. The overall objective of reform is to guarantee the best service possible to the public, be that in education, fishing or vaccination programmes. This will be a huge challenge in itself and we are all aware of countless examples of where aspiration and delivery diverged. Only recently we learned that people who took State sponsored training programmes had a lower chance of finding employment than those who did not take them. These improved services have, of course, to be delivered by fewer public servants. Even if money was not an issue, our public service is too big and has to be reduced. This will place great demands on existing staff. Change is never easy, although the fear of change often stifles progress. However, changed practices, flexibility and rotation of workers between Departments and bodies, as well as greater responsibility, autonomy and openness of Government, can enhance work satisfaction and opportunities for advancement. The current system does not reward excellence and that has to change.

Given the limited time remaining to me, I will briefly address the subject of procurement. I am aware of one example of procurement in the health service in which a child's walking appliance had to be imported through a single agent at a wholesale price three times the retail price. Surely somebody is in charge of procurement in the HSE who can search out value for taxpayers' money.

I have not had time to deal with the area of local government. While this may be slightly controversial, there is no excuse for the number of local authorities we have. There are approximately 117 and there is no way that can be justified. They should be a target for reform by the new Department.

I welcome the Bill, which provides for the establishment of the Department of public expenditure and reform and the transfer of functions from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for public expenditure and reform. It sets out three main functions, which will transfer under the remit of the Minister — the entirety of functions relating to the public service; public service reform functions which will, for the first time, be placed on a statutory footing; and responsibility for managing public expenditure within the overall envelope set by the Government.

It is necessary to put the public service on a statutory footing because the Bill comes about after we learned an expensive lesson from the mistakes of previous Governments. The legislation ensures the public service will be correctly matched in terms of size and skills to the business at hand. As populations change, domestic need and other external influences change and the public service needs to be flexible over time. It also needs to mirror what has always been done in the private sector. Flexibility and cost awareness are the two foundation stones on which all business is based and they have been strengths of the private sector up to now.

However, a new approach comprising flexibility and cost awareness will also have to be applied to the public sector, which will have to be run with an efficient and delivery-based approach based on business acumen. Change is never easy and it is always resisted but we are in a position where we cannot play semantics. Change will happen one way or the other. Some elements of the public sector might not like it but, unfortunately, the message is that if change does not happen, those who obstruct it will have to move aside and allow those who will undergo change to do their job.

What about the Labour Party?

The total number of employees in the public service increased rapidly from 295,000 to 347,000 between 2000 and 2010 or by an astonishing 18%. Strangely, during this period, I did not hear any Minister or senior public servant crying, "Halt".

Nor any Opposition Member.

Public sector employee numbers per head of population are still growing faster than the EU average in Ireland. Armed with these figures, the appointment of a Minister to oversee the public sector and expenditure is vital if we are to work our way out of this financial crisis. Let us not forget why we are here. This crisis was caused by a reckless Government which acted with callous abandonment and ran the country on to the rocks while surrendering our economic sovereignty 80 years after gaining independence. I am trying to run a business on cash flow without the support of the banking sector and conditions are absolutely terrible. I am not prepared to listen to those who say this just happened and we are where we are.

The increase in public sector numbers between 2000 and 2010 equated to false employment and a non-productive growth area. It was a costly way to reduce the unemployment figures but, sadly, it was not targeted or sustainable. The facts bear this out. The Exchequer pay and pensions bill more than doubled from €8.32 billion in 2000 to €18.75 billion in 2010. Let us examine the arguments on both sides. We have the argument that we have a bloated public service that needs to be reined in and there are many examples in this regard while the opposing argument is the public service delivers an efficient and vital service to keep our country running on a daily basis. In 2010, however, the health and education sectors accounted for 43% and 32%, respectively, of total public service expenditure. These two sectors are vital.

Section 7(4) also transfers a number of services currently under the remit of the Minister for Finance to the Minister for public expenditure and reform, including the Commissioners of Public Works, Public Appointments Service, Commission for Public Service Appointments, Valuation Office and the State Laboratory.

Under section 8, the Minister will assume responsibility for existing non-statutory functions of the Departments of Finance and the Taoiseach and play a role in public service reform and in the promotion of value for money in the procurement of goods and services. Procurement is important because every company has two ways to survive the mess we are in. One is to buy more competitively and the other is to provide a more efficient service. This Bill in the longer term will prove valuable to the creation of an efficient public service of which we all can be proud. Public service bashing has gone on for too long. We are a great country to create divides among various sections of our small population.

Like political reform, public sector reform is being approached in a systematic, businesslike fashion by the Government. Detractors berate the Bill as creating duplication and additional layers of bureaucracy. However, it provides a tightened management structure in the public sector which, in time, will help to lift the morale of public servants and allow the public sector to become more transparent, thereby providing value for the taxpayer, which is its job.

I hope the Bill will also address the outsourcing of work, which would be done by public servants, to private sector companies. The potential of the legislation is vast and it is important to get value for money to allow the economy to grow and to ensure sustainable growth. I come from the private sector and the advantages it has will be mimicked by the public sector, which will make it competitive. It is important to look forward and to make the public service an attractive place to work for our brightest and best youngsters. This Bill will prove that in time.

I wish to share time with Deputy McGuinness.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. The legislation has been much discussed and it formed a central plank of the policy of change the Government sought to spin to the public during the election campaign. Sadly, this is a bit of a fudge. The establishment of the Department is a solution to a political problem, one which arose previously when Fine Gael and Labour were last in power. At that time the Labour Party leader believed he should be Taoiseach and sought to create the machinations that went with that. The Office of the Tánaiste was established. It was an expensive extension to bureaucracy to which Deputy Barry alluded in terms of the growth of the public sector. At the time that was one such example. A Department was created purely to fulfil the ego of the Labour Party. The belief was that there was a necessity to establish the Office of the Tánaiste.

The same has happened on this occasion. The thinking of Fine Gael prior to the election is clear. Its manifesto promised an office modelled on the office of the ministry for children, not a Department. That was a copy of the example in the UK. The Government can spin all it wants about the high-minded commitment to reform which underlines the Bill but the simple fact is that the Department is being created because Fine Gael and Labour could not agree on who would be Minister for Finance. Those are the facts. The approach the Government is taking underlies that.

That is something on which Deputy Dooley would never agree for the next 50 years because he would never be in the position.

To some extent I was taken by Deputy Barry's right wing rhetoric. He referred to the necessity for change, how change would be forced through and that people need to be moved aside. I remind him that he is part of a Government that involves the Labour Party.

Stay in fairy land.

If they could not even manage to decide who would be the Minister for Finance at the outset of the negotiations it is highly unlikely that they would be able to instil that across the 340,000 staff who work in the public sector. It is not an easy job to introduce change. I caution the Government on taking a high-handed approach or using bully-boy tactics to pursue its agenda. I hope that is not the agenda the new Minister is going to pursue. I doubt that it will be. With the greatest respect to the Minister, Deputy Howlin, I have every confidence in his capacity to manage the change that is necessary within the public sector.

We all recognise the necessity for change. In a situation of much reduced public expenditure as a result of a much tighter fiscal position there will be a requirement in some cases for fewer services. At a time when we had a greater buoyancy in the economy increased services were possible but the finances are no longer available to the Government. The change must be managed in a fair and equitable way. It must try to meet the most obvious and basic needs of society. The jackboot approach will not work in that regard. Change must be managed in a careful way.

The role that has been created for the Minister is confusing. As my colleague, Deputy Michael McGrath, indicated, there is a necessity to deal with the public reform agenda. That in itself is a broad brief. I am not sure that confusing reform with the review of public expenditure is a good combination. Deputies Michael McGrath and Seán Fleming are my party's spokespeople in the area. They have carried out a detailed analysis of the Bill and believe it will lead to greater confusion rather than greater certainty and less oversight rather than more, which is to be regretted.

Reform of Government fiscal policy and control is clearly needed. Various parties have published their proposals in that regard. Fine Gael's proposals did not include a new Department when the matter was discussed prior to the election. It suggested an approach akin to the UK chief secretary system which involves a Minister sitting at the Cabinet table with responsibility for public expenditure but who is subservient to the Chancellor and has no separate Department. While the Deputies opposite are correct in identifying the necessity for greater political involvement in the functions of the Department, there should not have been a requirement to create a separate Department. It will add to confusion rather than simplify matters. To some extent having two people at an equal level may bring about a greater level of conflict and make it more difficult for decisions to be made. As those of us who have worked in the private sector know full well, where there are two managers rather than one it can often prevent progress.

Was that when Deputy Dooley was collecting money from various premises?

Indeed. Deputy O'Dowd would be familiar with that. The Bill proposes a split in responsibilities and mixed competencies, which is not to be found anywhere else in the world. All claims by the Government to the contrary are untrue. Independent expert reviews of the Department of Finance recommended major reform, which is supported by all parties, but also explicitly advised against splitting the Department. The more one looks at the detail, the more confused it becomes. It is a recipe for conflict, bad policy and reduced accountability. It marks a backward step, not a positive one towards reform.

I am confused that the normal procedure associated with a policy position such as this was not followed in terms of the publication of a White Paper which would show exactly how the new fiscal and economic machinery of Government is supposed to work, including Estimates and timetables. That is an unacceptable oversight, in particular because neither party mentioned it prior to the election. In terms of accountability, it is not even clear who is responsible for the Bill that bears the name of the Minister for Finance. The press release was from the Minister, Deputy Howlin. The proposed change impacts deeply on the roles of both Ministers but it does not appear that both will be involved in the consideration and amendment of the Bill.

A total of €11 billion in revenue is included within the Estimates. That makes the difference between the gross and net Estimates. One cannot, for example, determine the gross spending on higher education without determining fees and the allocation of ESF funding yet according to the Bill all revenue decisions remain in the hands of the Minister for Finance. Considerable confusion could result from the confused manner in which the Bill was brought to the House.

Will I explain it to Deputy Dooley a second time?

Deputy Dooley might be the only one in the House who is confused.

Certainly not.

Does Deputy Dooley want the ABC version?

The fact that the Bill has been brought to the House in a rushed manner to resolve the political concerns of the Government parties——

The Opposition has been looking for it for weeks.

We were because we knew the proposal was not properly planned. I refer to the fact that a White Paper was not published and that the parties had not talked about it in advance of the election.

The Minister, Deputy Bruton, talked about it.

It did not form part of the proposals of either party prior to the election. It emerged late in the plans for the programme for Government. It was clearly about resolving the difficulty of the coalition partners on who would become Minister for Finance. Neither side was prepared to capitulate which resulted in the confused Bill before the House. While the desire to deal with public sector reform is laudable, necessary and welcome, the fact that it has been established within the confines of a new Department clearly shows that the Bill was not necessary.

I look forward to the pursuit of his agenda by the Minister, Deputy Howlin. All Members of the House can contribute through various debates to the public sector reform agenda. I am concerned that we will find ourselves dealing with some of the difficulties the Government will encounter trying to bring together the views of both Fine Gael and Labour in what is clearly a difficult agenda. We look forward to contributing to that. I will conclude on that note and hand over to my colleague.

I wish to make a distinction between the Bill as presented and the intention of the Bill. The Bill as presented gives rise to a number of questions which need to be addressed. I hope that some of them will be addressed in the context of Committee Stage amendments. I refer in particular to the functions of the Minister for Finance and the new ministry held by Deputy Howlin. Looking through the Bill it is apparent that one must ask the other for permission to act. I foresee a great deal of tic tac and correspondence between civil servants on proposals. That must be clarified. The management and delivery of what is intended in the Bill must be sorted out to provide for day to day issues.

It was interesting to hear the Minister, Deputy Howlin, refer to the fact that we now have a system that is not fit for purpose. He also referred to the fact he will create further reductions of between 18,000 and 20,000 in the number of civil servants over a period. That is an unusual departure for a Labour Party Minister, and I wish him well in his crusade.

The Minister went on to say how important is the Croke Park deal. I respect that deal is important, but let us hope it does not turn out like social partnership, where most of the deals relating to the State and its management are carried on outside of the House.

Fianna Fáil did that.

Yes, and I respect that. I would like to correct Deputy Barry who said no Minister spoke out in that regard. I did. I spoke out in 2008, but nobody listened. Deputy Varadkar spoke out in the past few days and he was chastised too. There must be a certain freedom in this House and on the Government side for people to have a different view and people must be listened to in the context of the great debate currently under way about fixing this country. I do not accept Deputy Barry's conclusion that it was all our fault. Fine Gael does itself no service by continuing to blame Fianna Fáil for all of the ills of the country.

We blamed the Government and the Deputy was part of that Government.

Any business person would admit that other world issues had an impact. I accept we in this country managed badly and did not respond to issues when we should have in 2008. Fine Gael is now in government with a huge mandate and I wish them well, but they must take the necessary decisions and not postpone them. They must not put them off for another day and must not cloud the issue by presenting poorly worked out legislation such as this.

That said, I would like to address the reform issues included in the Bill. Reform is not about reducing numbers from 18,000 or 20,000. That is reform in terms of numbers. The reform required in the public service and Civil Service is about culture change, a change of management and a change of attitude towards a job that is being undertaken. Reform is not necessarily about those on the front line, because they deliver every day by the sweat of their brow and under serious pressure. It is about delivery in terms of management of the public service and Civil Service. It is about the 2,000 to 6,000 extra people we are told are in the HSE. It is not so much about getting rid of them, but about reducing the numbers of middle and senior managers who take significant money out of the system.

I said previously that the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, took a reduction in his salary, as did the rest of the Ministers. That was a reasonable decision to make, but the bigger and harder decision is to turn to the Secretaries General and tell them that their salaries need to be reduced to a level below €200,000. That is a fact. As Fianna Fáil leaves office and Fine Gael comes into office, the latter is faced with the same set of bureaucrats and civil servants at that level who assisted the previous Government, as put in Deputy Barry's terms, to affect negatively the growth and development of the economy. They are still in place. Should they not be reshuffled also? Should they not take a reduction in their salaries? I believe they should and the Government should have the ability, perhaps under this ministry, to reshuffle those square pegs that are in round holes. They should not be removed, because that is not compassionate or good management, but should be put where they fit best elsewhere.

The Government must also bring in measures of payment for lower paid civil servants that will recognise their worth. It must create a culture, value and enterprise system within the Civil Service that will lead to a seamless transfer from the public sector to the private sector or from the private sector into the public sector. We can count on one hand the number of people from the private sector who over the past few years went for jobs in the public sector but failed to get in. That is the challenge that faces the Government.

It is as much a challenge as that put by the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, when he said we should eliminate all the quangos. When quangos are eliminated those who are on the boards disappear, which is maybe what should happen, but those employed simply go back to the parent Department. That is where they are. Therefore, there are no savings in doing that. There are no savings unless the Government asks those serving on the boards, whom it will appoint, to do it for nothing in the interest of the country. What is wrong with asking them to do it for free? Is that not reform? Get rid of the quangos and put them into a single quango. Let them administer a number. There are many examples of how management in the private sector can be applied to the public sector and of where it will work. It comes down to a culture change and an acceptance, within the Croke Park deal or outside of it, that things must change.

How much has changed since the Croke Park deal? I would say very little, but I do not want to say that without having the information on it. Therefore, I will ask some parliamentary questions in that regard. However, when one will ask each Department what has been achieved, whether it has met its targets, how and where, and the numbers and savings involved, it will reply that it cannot answer the question and will refer it to the Department of Finance. As Deputy Stagg continually repeated when in Opposition, Members should be respected and when they ask a parliamentary question, they deserve a full, comprehensive and honest answer, with nothing taken from it. Then the Member can act on the response if he or she so wishes. However, that does not happen. Currently, when one puts questions on this issue to Ministers, who had so much to say when in Opposition, those questions are then referred to Deputy Howlin. He must be the one who will be the bad news Minister for the Government. I ask for change in that regard.

It is easy to have reform, without the Bill or the Minister, although I am happy to support the Minister with stronger legislation. To have reform, just ask officials to answer their phones. Ask them to answer their letters and to have respect for the Members of this House. Ask the HSE to deal constructively with the carers we saw in that programme this week on television. Just ask them to respond to it. Ask them to go out publicly and tell their story. Ask for the issues that are presented at the Committee of Public Accounts to be addressed substantially so we do not have the overspend going on and on, regardless of who is in Government. I am not being political on this, but am putting this forward in the interest of Ireland and of getting it right. What gets counted gets done. If we achieve that, we will achieve value for money and will give those in the public service and Civil Service the opportunity to get promotion based on their ability rather than on their longevity or time in the system.

These are some of the few things, in terms of reform, the Government could do that would make a huge difference to the ordinary citizens who elected us to this House and gave the Government an overwhelming majority. The challenge for that overwhelming majority is not to ignore democracy. There is an Opposition, regardless of what the Government thinks of us. We deserve that right, just as the Government did in its time in opposition but we did not give it to it. Do not prolong that approach to politics, because we now have a new politics and new approach to business. It is a new approach to public sector management that will take us out of this.

I wish to share time with Deputy Donohoe.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I acknowledge the Bill is an effort to transfer functions from the Department for Finance to the Department of public expenditure and reform. I wish to comment on Deputy McGuinness's contribution before he leaves the Chamber. He has been very frank and I agree with much of what he has had to say. When his party was in Government he was a lone voice and it is a pity that he was not listened to when he was speaking out about the reforms that were necessary during the Celtic tiger years because clearly the horse has bolted to a large degree. We now find ourselves with our economy almost €20 billion in debt on public expenditure over the revenue that is coming into the Exchequer. This follows a property boom that was propagated by consistent Government policies over a 15-year period that blew the property boom into a property bubble. Many agreements were made in that period that we are now finding very difficult to sustain. People spoke earlier about social partnership. I have always believed that while social partnership may have been very good in many ways, it also had many negatives. I publicly criticised the role of unions and the lack of oversight of Government and employers in allowing many of those agreements to be implemented into what we now find is an unsustainable economic model.

Disaster has struck in economic terms and we now realise that old ways will simply no longer work and that there is an urgent need for public sector reform. If we do not act now, we will be left with no choice. Whatever choice we have now is diminishing all the time and with the EU-IMF bailout agreement, unless we act urgently and swiftly we will have very little choice over our economy and the future of our country and we will certainly be controlled by outside powers.

I will give some examples of what I regard as unsustainable practice. As a Senator in the Upper House I raised the issue of bonuses to county and city managers and directors of services that were paid by agreement under the Better Local Government programme. These bonuses were paid for the achievement of objectives to which the mayors and the elected representatives of those councils were not privy, which was a disgrace. While I know they are no longer being paid, when I and others questioned them at the time we were stonewalled by the Department and Government. We wanted to know for what those large bonuses were being paid. We were told initially they were being paid for the achievement of objectives in the very local authorities where the elected members were not aware of them, which is not the way to do business. I understand that these bonuses were a trade off for increased pay and that the bonuses would be paid quietly. I believe almost 100% of the bonuses were paid across the country.

Local authorities have already taken a big hit and their front-line services have been reduced considerably. However, we do not see the same impact across the Civil Service. I agree with Deputy McGuinness that there are many senior and middle managers in the Civil Service who now need to bite the bullet and accept that serious and urgent reform is required at those levels.

While I am not being populist in saying this, one should consider the money wasted on e-voting and the PPARS system in the health service. How many heads rolled when that waste of public funds happened? More than €50 million was wasted on e-voting and €100 million on PPARS. Not much notice was taken at that time because there was plenty of money in the Exchequer, but if that happened now there would rightly be a public outcry. We must now have accountability where public funds are wasted. I hope the reforms the Bill will introduce will bring those levels of accountability. Unless we have accountability across the public service for the levels of public spend, we will not see responsible expenditure on behalf of the taxpayer.

I recently discovered that the Waterford branch of the Family Mediation Service, which is supposed to assist vulnerable people who suffer family break-up and operates under the Family Support Agency, was forced to close temporarily for a number of months owing to the embargo on recruitment. When I investigated further I discovered that the Family Mediation Service is paying €1,000 a week for offices to deliver its services, which is unacceptable in this day and age. I do not know how those contracts are entered into. There should be an examination of all rental and contractual agreements of public services and agencies, and how they are expending taxpayers' money. There is no reason those agencies could not operate in community centres or in less costly facilities. That is only one example of which I am aware and I am sure it goes on in public agencies across the country. They certainly need to be tackled.

There is great scope for change, but we need to bring society with us. I agree that it must happen from the top down. The Taoiseach has taken pay cuts as have Deputies and Senators and there may be more in the future. Anybody earning more than €200,000 — there are thousands of them — needs to look seriously at that level of income.

We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. Some semi-State agencies have already achieved great efficiencies. For example, the ESB underwent an enormous transformation in the Celtic tiger years. In the early 1990s it employed more than 14,000 and it now employs only 7,500. It still manages to deliver its service even though there was a much bigger demand on connections and network refurbishment during the Celtic tiger years. However, owing to a transformation agreed between unions and management, voluntary redundancies took place throughout the organisation. It managed to achieve efficiencies and continue to deliver its services and remain profitable. It can be done and it has been done. We must remember that the ESB used to be one of the most militant organisations from a union perspective. We must set the bar at a particular level and look to where achievements have already taken place. That is one area where there have been achievements. If similar models or similar systems of progress are used in the public sector, we can generate new efficiencies.

Another issue that has arisen in my constituency, Waterford, is the closure of the local authority motor taxation office in Tramore, which is the second largest urban area in the county. I have not come out publicly and argued that the motor taxation office should be retained, because I understand that the local authority resources are now greatly diminished and it does not have the staff numbers it used to have. However, I have called for the examination of alternative practices such as access to motor taxation renewal through the post office network, similar to what is available in the UK. There is no reason not to use existing State services and infrastructure such as the post office network to make it easier for people to complete motor taxation renewals or any other renewals. We need to think outside the box. I accept we should use the Internet, but we must realise that not everybody has access to the Internet.

We also need to achieve new efficiencies through shared services. There is no reason for each local authority, VEC and every other State body to have its own payroll centre. We could have regional shared services to deliver payroll services that are similar, if not identical, across local authorities and VECs. We need to introduce shared service-models and new efficiencies. I hope the Bill will give the power and functionality to the new Minister and his Department to achieve those efficiencies in the best interest of the taxpayer because we simply do not have any alternative at this moment in time. If we do not act and implement those reforms, that power will be taken out of our hands.

I welcome the Bill. I want to put it in the context of some of the issues that have been raised in the House during the week concerning the great difficulty being experienced by people who are caring for people who are vulnerable or ill. The real tragedy is not just that this terrible social difficulty arises now but that it also arose when the State was flush with money. During the so-called tiger economy years, in spite of expenditure across so many different areas we continued to see high levels of social need and evidence of money not being spent well on delivering on the target for which it was authorised. Everybody in this House will have experience of the various areas of expenditure to which I refer.

All of us on the ground noted how much of the money spent by the Department of Education and Science during the period in question was spent on paying for additional prefabs and rented accommodation. It was supposed to be spending it on something sustainable and delivering an asset the people would own. In the health sector, which presents the clearest example of what I am referring to, the money being invested when funding was abundant in the State increased by almost a factor of two. During that period, however, we still saw people on trolleys and waiting lists for those seeking operations lengthened. We received considerable feedback in our communities from people who were finding it very difficult to access services that would make a considerable difference to their health and well-being.

Social welfare expenditure increased greatly when money was available but so much of this money was being obtained fraudulently. People were receiving money who should not have been receiving it and they were receiving it in ways that were not proper for our country. At a time when we had so much money, we saw waste, and social need was not being alleviated. It should be no surprise to us all that we see an intensification of the need to which I refer at a time of real difficulty. However, this should not blind us to the fact that the need existed when so much money was available to the State. This is the rationale for the new Department.

I was struck by the comments of Deputies McGuinness and Coffey. Many of the points Deputy McGuinness made were included in his bookThe House Always Wins. Many of the reasons for the House always winning, Deputy McGuinness believes, comprise the justification for the putting in place of the Department. It is a case of having a soulless Minister and Department whose job is to tackle the forces that ensure systems do not use the money invested therein in the most efficient way and ensure it is managed to miss the target. The target is often the vulnerable, the people who experience terrible difficulty when the country is in crisis.

As we talk about the need that exists, we must bear in mind that between 1997 and 2004-05 taxpayer-funded expenditure in the State nearly doubled. The increase was unparalleled in Irish history and is nearly without parallel in many countries across Europe and the developed world. Despite the unparalleled increase, social need was not being addressed and there was unacceptable waste.

When the new Department gets up and running, there will be four areas in which it would do well to spend its time delivering a return for the taxpayer. The first is a soft area but it is very important to the success and leadership of the public service. I refer to training. The Wright report, which considers the capacity of the Department of Finance to carry out its role, contains very clear figures regarding the level of training for staff in that Department. It states:

However, 39 economists in the Department of Finance is extraordinarily low by international standards. Even excluding the public service cadre of 135 people, this represents less than 10 percent of the total staff complement in the core of Finance. In contrast, 60 percent of the Canadian Department of Finance are economists trained to Masters level or higher; and about 40% of staff in the core areas of the Dutch Finance Ministry are trained to Masters level or higher.

This is an extraordinary point of difference. I hope that as we put in place a Department that is focused on public service reform and expenditure, it will allow its staff to develop their skills, education and qualifications so they will be able to do their job exceptionally well. We must bear in mind that the challenge of obtaining good value for expenditure is as old as the first nation state. There is considerable learning available on what can be done and I hope the new Department will tap into it.

The second area on which I want to touch, which was referred to by Deputy Coffey, concerns the role of semi-State bodies and the salaries of some of their staff. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, commented on this area yesterday and they were reported on today. I want to touch also on the level of wages for very senior staff in the public service. It is evident but essential to note that there should be very few examples of public service staff earning more money than the people elected to lead the public service, namely the Taoiseach or Minister of a Department.

The lack of coherence on the aforementioned point was brought to light in two different areas in the past 12 months. The first concerns the application of the wage cuts and the pension levy. Staff at the top of the public service saw their wages decrease by a smaller percentage than those in the middle and lower ranks. The second concerns the application of the pension levy. Many organisations were exempt from having their staff pay the levy because of the nature of those organisations.

Let me consider the salaries of staff at the top of the semi-State organisations. The ten chief executives of the main semi-state organisations are paid €4.4 million between them. If we are to have a sense of national solidarity as we pull through the collapse — it is a sense that is fraying greatly already — we must tackle these inequalities. I hope the new Department will play a lead role in this regard.

The third area on which I will touch is the role of social partnership. I very much hope the Croke Park agreement can play a role in delivering costed savings to ensure the number of staff in the public service and their wages do not have to be examined further. Deputy McGuinness gave an example of when we will know when the Croke Park deal will be working: it will be when the answer to the question as to how much is being saved within a Department by a particular plan being either implemented, changed or cancelled can be given on the floor of this House through that Department.

My final point concerns the comprehensive spending review, a new initiative announced by the Government. This process, on which the Government wants to deliver, should be ongoing. It should involve an ongoing, strong, detailed review of how taxpayers' money is being spent because the length of the budgetary process that leads to the budget in December has proven to be too short. The report on the capacity of the Department of Finance states the Department did not provide enough time and space for a rigorous process.

This legislation and the new Department can make a very important contribution to our State navigating its way out of its difficulty and, if it does so, to a very important softer element of our society, our national solidarity. They will do that by ensuring big and tough decisions are made in a fair manner.

I wish to share time with Deputies Catherine Murphy and Maureen O'Sullivan.

The Deputies have approximately seven minutes each.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill. I believe the purpose of this Bill and this Department is to fundamentally undermine the public service, destroy jobs and undermine the availability and the provision of public services to the general public. That process started under the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and is now being continued by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government. Effectively, the public service staff are being blamed for this recession. They are a soft option and are seen as easy targets. They are being blamed for a recession in which they had no hand, act or part in creating. The provision of public services is being undermined, delayed and in some cases is not available at all. We saw in the recent "Prime Time Investigates" programme some of what is happening on the ground as a result of the various cutbacks in public services.

As usual, it is the lower paid and the middle ranking public servant who is facing these cuts, the undermining of the service, and the pressure of work. The senior public servants who are very well paid and have very good conditions escaped scot free. If their jobs become vacant they will be filled, unlike those of the middle ranking and lower grade public servants.

I have worked in the public service for approximately 30 years and I have also worked in the private sector. In my experience staff in the public service work above and beyond the call of duty on an ongoing basis. There is no doubt that is the case, even more so in recent years.

I refer to an independent evaluation by an international organisation which examined the public service. In the OECD report, Public Management Reviews: Towards an Integrated Public Service in Ireland, it is clear that the Irish public service compares very favourably with other public services in the European Union. The report states:

A policy since the mid-1990s to limit non front-line service employment has meant that public sector spending and employment growth have not kept up with population and GDP growth. [In other words, it has failed to keep pace with population and GDP growth]. Ireland's real average annual growth rate in public expenditure between 1995 and 2005 was 5.1%, significantly slower than real GDP growth of 7.5%.

That is seriously falling behind the growth in GDP.

The report goes on to state:

Government policy therefore has actuallydecreased the total number of public sector employees as a percentage of the labour force and decreased the overall public sector wage bill as a percentage of GDP. As compared with other OECD countries ... government employment in Ireland represents around 14.6% of the total labour force, which is relatively low among OECD countries and is significantly less than the level of public employment in Norway, Sweden, France, Finland and Belgium.

That is an international independent organisation telling us that we have a public service that started from a very low base and has provided good quality public service and compares more than favourably with our partners in Europe and with other OECD countries.

What has happened since then is that further cutbacks have taken place. As the Minister stated, we have lost 16,400 public servants since 2008 and this Government proposes to destroy another 25,000 jobs in the public service in the coming years. What does that mean for service delivery and for staff? It means no replacements on any vacancies that arise due to the moratorium. It means there is no cover for maternity leave, sick leave or annual leave. It means there is huge pressure on staff, and staff are becoming ill from the pressure of the daily grind that is forced upon them. It also means that in respect of the services, if one applies for a carer's allowance or a disability allowance one will wait 20 weeks for a decision. That is in circumstances where those staff are working above and beyond the call of duty. If one appeals a carer's allowance decision, one will wait 12 months for the appeal to be heard. That is the position across all the services including special needs assistants, resource teachers, home helps and care assistants, as we saw on our television screens in recent nights. In addition, there is a six months waiting list for medical cards, etc.

What we need is support for the public sector and the provision of good quality public services for people who need them.

This Bill clearly gives legal effect to the division into two Ministries of the role formerly held by the Minister for Finance. There is a need for a Minister with a public service reform agenda. As that did not happen in the good times when the money was available it makes it more difficult to do it in the bad times, and I acknowledge that. It is something of a blank cheque at the same time because we all know that public service reform is needed but it is a tough chestnut and it depends on the way that public service reform is done. It is important that this measure is not simply code for cuts but that there is a modernisation programme. It is important to have a Minister with that exclusive focus and a modernisation agenda at the Cabinet table.

I support the need for public service reform but that should not be code for cuts or for privatisation. The service must be rebuilt in a way that is efficient, makes best use of the limited public funds available and is much more citizen focused which as we all know it is not currently.

We should acknowledge also when there are successes. Brendan Gleeson, in his contribution during President Obama's visit last week, said we should stop looking at the ground. He is right, but if we are to do that there must be some balance. Those in the media have a role to play in that because there tends to be a latching on to a failing or some crisis in the public service and no acknowledgement of the contribution made.

Many civil and public servants are working harder and for less pay. They are constantly being told they are lucky to have a job. If we are all to put on the green jersey and if we are to stop looking at the ground, then there needs to be some appreciation for the work done by the vast majority of public servants. The majority of them have a desire to see a modernisation of the service in which they work. They want to see a service that they can be proud of, but I do not think it is that service. Even if we had all the money in the world, a modernisation programme would be required.

There is an obvious deficiency in the Croke Park agreement. The voice of those who avail of public services is largely missing. I do not see a master plan and this is a concern. We may end up with a smaller public service but we need to rebuild a service that can deliver the maximum with the money we can afford to spend. It is in everyone's interest that we design and rebuild a service that takes account of the needs of those who use it, and not just those who deliver it. This is absent at present.

I attended the launch of the report of the Ombudsman for Children this morning. Mr. Austin Currie launched the report and he was the first Minister of State with responsibility for children. He said his concern at the time was the lack of co-ordination. It was interesting that the case studies in today's report referred to the same lack of co-ordination. As public representatives, we do not need to be told about this because we see it every day. People approach us with their child with special needs who have just been given a diagnosis. They do not know which way to turn. That is the reality for many people. It falls back on the parents and only those who have the wherewithal to do so can provide for them. If I go into a house that has a child with special needs I will always find a big bundle of folders, as the parents will have become permanent lobbyists. That is because of a failure to have a seamless approach to the delivery of services, where the health and education services interlink and talk to each other. That does not happen and it must be part of the programme.

I posed a question to the Ombudsman about the Croke Park deal and her input. She was positively disposed to engaging with the issue. This is somebody who knows the failings because she deals with the cases, yet we are not using her as a resource. I know it is a statutory agency, but I would like to draw attention to this. If we are to go through this modernisation programme, we must have the output that we all desire, which is a better service.

We need to simplify the service. We need to define what constitutes a front line service and we need equity in the delivery of services, including their geographical location. Deputy Durkan on that side is a constituency colleague and he will know exactly what I am talking about. Areas in the outer part of Dublin have experienced rapid population growth but we have not received the corresponding public services to match that. We were the first to feel the cuts in the public service because they were low from the beginning. Embargoes represent a blunt instrument, so there needs to be some tolerance within the reformed system to account for that. For example, we have the lowest ratio of gardaí to population size. Kerry County Council has twice the number of staff as Meath, yet Meath has a slightly bigger population. All those things matter to the quality of services delivered and they need to be taken into account when dealing with public service reform. It is unacceptable that there is an inequitable distribution of services.

We also need to work smarter. An ICT system cannot be designed in a fragmented way, or else one system will not communicate with the other. That has happened in the past and it has been very wasteful. It cannot be done in a piecemeal way, but it can only reflect the system that exists. We must design our public service systems and work smarter by using ICT but we must design the systems with a plan that delivers on the potential of modernisation using smarter systems.

Change is in the air and reform is very much on the agenda, especially with the debates in the House this week and the Private Members' motion from the Technical Group. The Minister tells us that the Government is committed to fundamental review, reform and the overhaul of all aspects of government and administration in Ireland. The programme for Government also envisages a renewed focus on a range of related reform issues to facilitate more open, transparent and better government, giving citizens a greater choice and input into service delivery. Our Private Members' motion is about rebuilding Ireland's political system into an effective, accountable, transparent, representative and participatory institution. We have so much in common — desire for change, effectiveness and accountability — that we might all be voting the same way tonight.

The Minister identifies the kernel of this as leading to "a changed, more effective and less costly public service". Doing more with less seems to be the prevailing theme. There is no doubt that money has been squandered in the good years but we need to promote values besides money, and not just value for money, important as that is. We need a public service ethos to serve and empower the public and not institutionalise the system in an inertia that degrades people. I acknowledge that there are great demands on our public service.

I also attended the launch this morning and the Ombudsman for Children made the point that a recent analysis of the office's casework provided supporting evidence for the need for public service reform. She pointed to a lack of awareness of the impact of civil and administrative decision making on the lives and rights of children and their families. She made the point strongly that, as she put it, "individual children appear to be largely invisible in the decision making process, the result being an excessively bureaucratic approach to public decision making and a disconnect between the administrative decision makers and those affected by their decisions". Bureaucratic decisions can be made but those decisions should not lead to harm for the child where the child's needs are not met

We need a culture where children are treated properly, and the Ombudsman for Children makes the point that law, policy and practice should reflect the value of treating every child "no less than we would want the child we love treated". I hope that value is at the core of this reform, along with value and respect for the dignity of each citizen, especially when dealing with challenging behaviour from some citizens. The system has to serve the people and not the other way around.

In yesterday's edition ofThe Irish Times Fintan O’Toole wrote an article entitled “Gravy train still stops at all the right stations”. He wrote about a bubble of comfort and self satisfaction. It is a kind of “let them eat cake” mentality that exists when we consider the gross inequalities in our society. So when I look at section 7 of the Bill, which refers to chief executive officers, is the Government really going to grasp that nettle and cap the salaries of those at the top? Will it commit to eliminating bonuses and will it at the very least reduce expenses by 50%? Can we have a penalty for those who use bigger cars, rather than the other way around?

In the interests of justice and morality, we cannot expect those on low income continually to take the hit. We must commit to the principle that those with more surrender more to reduce inequality. I hope such a principle will be at the core of this. The universal social charge, water charges and property taxes may have been acceptable in a time of plenty, but not at a time of struggle because they will lead to further inequalities. It will result in a massive on low and medium income homes and make them more dependent on public services when in difficulty. The DPP's office, corporate enforcement and pursuing alleged wrong doings in financial and business affairs cannot be sacrificed at the alter of employment number reductions, nor can essential front-line services.

The Minister mentions traditional public service values of integrity, impartiality, diligence, commitment and the ability of public servants. As a former teacher in the public service, I can testify that those values were in abundance among my fellow teachers. I hope the extra-curricular work that has always been done is acknowledged because that extra hour being sought could do more damage, as many teachers give much more than it, be it in sports, debates, school productions or school tours.

The Croke Park agreement is seen as an opportunity to drive forward public service modernisation. However, there should be an extension in respect of retirement, so that those in public service with vast experience and with the ability and the wish to continue work should not be forced into retirement because they will be at considerable financial loss if they do not retire by next February.

Another point I want to make is that I resent recent moves to pit the poor of this country against the poor of countries in Africa. It is immoral to go down that road.

Reform is key, but it must be thought out, based on expert advice and centred on people in need. I had a letter from a friend which has reminded me of the differences between these groups. It states that the optimist believes in the continuous march of progress, without really getting into how that is going to happen, the pessimist is usually so disengaged that his pessimism protects him from having to do something by projecting the idea that nothing can be done and the realist has a rational belief in the human capacity to solve and cope, provided the action is realistic. Realistic action needs to be daring and radical. That means starting from the top and keeping the needs of the people in mind.

I am glad to have an opportunity of speaking on this Bill. As you and I know, a Cheann Comhairle, we have had public service reform in the past, we even had a dedicated Minister for the public service in years gone by. However, over the years, the mission statement has become clouded and we have arrived at a situation in which major public service reform is required. It is also demanded by the public. As previous speakers said, there is an expectation among the public that services will be delivered from whatever Department. Even in difficult financial times such as those in which we are living, there is still such an expectation.

We must examine the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the services we provide and how they are delivered. A problem that has arisen over the years is that Governments have devolved responsibility to outside bodies that were previously attached to Ministers, who, in turn, were responsible to this House. How often have we heard, over the past years, that the Minister has no responsibility to the House for something? Sitting on that side of the House, we were told again and again that X, Y or Z was not the responsibility of the Minister, despite the fact that all Ministers had budgets from which they took sums of money that they handed over to bodies that were not accountable to anyone. We have now come to a juncture at which we must ask ourselves some questions. How efficient and cost-effective are the services we have, and are they delivered on time and in a responsive way?

I compliment those who are dedicated public servants, of which there are massive number. Ninety-nine percent of all public servants are dedicated public servants who wish to do a good job but are often frustrated for various reasons, find themselves hamstrung and cannot respond in the way they want to. Whether we like it or not, we have handed over responsibilities to various quangos, to use a word I do not resort to very often — unelected and unaccountable bodies that have taken upon themselves a great deal of autonomy in the way they do their jobs. That must finish.

What is proposed here is the transfer of responsibility from the Minister for Finance in respect of a number of services, including the entirety of functions relating to the public service. These transfers include the functions of the Minister for Finance with regard to a number of offices currently under the remit of the Department of Finance, including the Commissioner of Valuation, or the Valuation Office. This has been the subject of some discussion in recent times, with particular reference to how valuations are arrived at in determining rates, in view of the fact that ratepayers are having great difficulty meeting these demands in a recession. Other functions transferred include those relating to the State Laboratory, the Commissioners of Public Works, the OPW, the Public Appointments Service and the Commission for Public Service Appointments.

As Deputies know, there was reform about seven years ago in which the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission, which we had lived with for many years, was changed to a different system. Many of us spoke against that at the time, and we were right, because it did not improve efficiency or the quality of life of those within the service and did not at all address the issue of job satisfaction, which is important for those involved in the delivery of services to the public.

The first thing we must recognise is that the public expect a response. Sometimes the response is fast, efficient and effective but sometimes it is not. There are various reasons for that failure. It may be because of a lack of staffing, a lack of focus, or a lack of responsibility or shared responsibility. My experience has been that where responsibility is shared between two, three or four bodies, eventually nobody accepts responsibility. Everybody has authority, everybody has power, but nobody accepts responsibility. That is how it has been for a long time. I hope the Bill will address this in a meaningful way.

Another proposal is to place public service reform functions, for the first time, on a statutory footing. In other words, the legislation is there to back it up, and all that is needed is to refer to the legislation and follow up accordingly. How often have we seen legislation of a creeping nature which evolves of its own accord, or the appearance of rules and regulations that take on a life of their own and have progressed to the extent that one would scarcely recognise the original legislation?

The Bill also transfers the responsibility for managing public expenditure within the overall envelope set by the Government, while the Minister for Finance will retain responsibility for overall budgetary parameters. Many years ago, the copious application forms that were required to be filled out for a simple tax return were a source of irritation in the House. Form 11 was devised as a simple answer to what was a frustrating problem for many people. Over the years, however, that has evolved as well. A couple of other forms and a couple of other pages were added on, and eventually we arrived back to where we were 25 years ago. A simple local authority housing application form used to have two pages. My belief is that it should be possible to fit onto two A4 pages, printed on both sides, information about an applicant that is sufficient to give the adjudicating authorities a clear impression of who the person is, his or her family circumstances, and his or her entitlement to housing of whatever nature. However, it is now no longer possible to do this.

We now have forms of 27 pages and more, some of them in duplicate, with the same questions asked again and again. I cannot understand the point of it but I know it causes people to spend more time perusing them. It now takes four people to do the job that one person did previously because of the volume of correspondence that is placed in front of them. We all know, as Members of the House, that when one gets a copious document one looks at it once or twice and then pushes it to one side. If there are 40 or 50 pages in it, one will push it to one side a second time or a third time. The problem is that the content within the document may need urgent attention, which it would have got if it had been simplified in the first place. A situation has evolved in which shovelling paper from one desk to another has become so laborious that it occupies people's time in such a way as to deflect from their original mission and the job they are supposed to do.

As legislators, we are supposed to know about legislation. Most in this House have a fairly good idea of what legislation entails, what are people's entitlements and how the law should function. However, we regularly get lectures from everybody on what the law consists of, or we find that perhaps somebody went to court about something. We know that all legislation is subject to court decisions and so on, but there was a time when any public representative was able to tell a constituent in five minutes about his or her entitlement to local authority housing, a medical card or social welfare payments of one kind or another, or about issues of planning permission in urban and rural areas, and could walk away in the clear knowledge that good advice had been given.

What happened? Evolution, through changes many of which were introduced by that august body, An Bord Pleanála, and others on the recommendation of local authorities or the County and City Managers Association, the combination of which leaves us requiring a PhD to study some of the documents placed before us to find out what exactly they are supposed to do. One would need somebody to carry around the various documentation and such a person would be gainfully employed — and seriously, laboriously and physically employed — in the course thereof.

Reform of the public service must have at its core a determination to reduce the volume of duplication, cross-referencing and repetition of the same performance by four or five people when one person is all that is required to do the job. This Bill, coming as it does at a very difficult time, has been brought upon us out of necessity. If it had been introduced eight or ten years ago the necessity now would not have arisen because the problems would have been resolved or would never have arisen and we would have a much more efficient system operating cost effectively, rapidly and in a far more satisfactory way from the point of view of the people we represent.

Something for which I try not to blame myself, although it has become popular for everybody to blame themselves for everything, is shirking responsibility. If we as elected representatives shirk responsibility because of a dislike for doing the unsavoury, we hand over responsibility to somebody else. People who are not elected will gladly take it upon themselves and they will evolve what they see as legislation-based rules and regulations for perhaps the betterment of the community or perhaps not. However, this is what happens when public representatives and legislators opt out and resile from the responsibilities they have been given and the job is taken over by somebody else.

What we now have on a regular basis are people presuming to have responsibility and authority, and acting thereon in a way which raises serious questions, is laboriously repetitive and which eventually grinds down the system to make it entirely dysfunctional. A classic example is the wisdom of the House a number of years ago in creating a new body called the HSE. Like many people at the time, I was very reluctant to do so. We saw it as an offloading of responsibility by the powers that be, namely, a Department, and handing it over to a private body, which is what the HSE is. A private body took over full responsibility and the Government of the day and the Department handled over the money lock, stock and barrel. This body runs the services according to the way it sees fit.

At this stage, it is no secret that things have not run in a satisfactory fashion. The reason for this is because there was no accountability. It is in respect of accountability that the major part of reform has to focus in the time ahead. If we do not have this focus, the legislation we propose to pass will have no effect and in a couple of years we will find ourselves in the same situation and people will ask why the services do not work, why services are not available to the public which wants them and why things do not happen when they are supposed to. This should not happen because once we put in place legislation we should accept responsibility for it. We should try to ensure it works in accordance with the wishes of the legislators and not in accordance with somebody's interpretation.

I am not a legal practitioner and nor do I wish to be but I remember a time when often in the courts a Minister's Second Stage or Committee Stage statements were quoted as a means of determining what the Minister's intentions were at the time the legislation was passed. Nowadays, one could have somebody else's intentions; it could be a second-hand or third-hand interpretation of what the Minister's intentions were at the time. Regularly, people suggest they know what the Minister was thinking when he introduced legislation. I have been around the House for quite a while and most of the time I find it difficult to understand what anybody is thinking. How can somebody once or twice removed come to the conclusion they knew what a Minister was thinking when legislation was introduced without ever making reference to the debates in the House during which the legislation was passed?

I hope this legislation is effective and that it sets a new standard of accountability for those areas in which we do not have accountability. We have accountability in some areas and we have good and efficient delivery of service. However, standards have slipped over the years. As we all know, when I was first elected to the House when one tabled a parliamentary question one thought about it and those to whom the question was addressed read it carefully. They did not come to a conclusion as to what one was thinking when one tabled the question, they answered the question exactly and precisely as it was asked and they were right to do so because that is the way it should be. Over the years, this became vague. I do not blame the present Administration because it is addressing the issue.

I remember when I was in Opposition tabling questions to which I knew the answer. People might wonder why I tabled a question if I knew the answer but there are always benefits to getting confirmation that the person to whom the question is addressed also knows the answer and is prepared to put it on the record of the House. Once upon a time, if a Minister gave a misleading or inaccurate reply to a parliamentary question his or her resignation was called for. Over the years, we have slipped because we allowed everything to pass and slide. Now, we have a convoluted system that is hugely bureaucratic and repetitive, and many systems are at cross-purposes to each other and have multiple responsibilities or no responsibility at all. This is a sad scene.

The way we have evolved the delivery of services is not in accordance with best practice, the wishes of the public or, in very many cases, with those engaged in delivery of those public services. For my sins, I served on local authorities and on the old health boards, as did most other Members for their respective sins, of which there are many I have no doubt. Over the past ten or 15 years, reform has taken place in the local authority system and today nobody can honestly say with hand on heart this reform has benefited anybody. It has made it more unworkable and created more bureaucratic enterprises in the system than ever before. The old health boards were faulted and a previous Government decided to change them. As I stated, it introduced the HSE. Prior to that, it increased and reduced the number of health boards and eventually ended up with a mishmash which was unaccountable, irresponsible and had to be changed.

Debate adjourned.