The Strategic Management Initiative (SMI) was launched by the then Taoiseach, John Bruton, in February 1994. The stated objective of the SMI was to present Public Service management with an opportunity to make a substantial contribution to national development, through the provision of quality and effectively delivered services. It should be noted that while the focus of the SMI was primarily on the Civil Service, parallel initiatives took place in the other sectors of the Public Service.
In 1996, the Delivering Better Government report expanded on the framework set out in the SMI and presented a vision for the Civil Service built around six key organisational themes. These were greater openness and accountability, quality customer service, the efficient and fair operation of simplified regulations, improvements in human resource management, better financial management and enhanced information systems management.
Under the SMI, progress was made across the six organisational themes in areas such as the introduction of more rigorous strategic planning and reporting; the introduction of a legislative programme including the Freedom of Information Act, the Public Service Management Act, the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Immunities, Privileges and Compellability of Witnesses) Act, and the Prompt Payments Act; the introduction of Customer Charters and Customer Service Action Plans; the introduction of the Performance Management and Development System for the Civil Service; the development of Regulatory Impact Assessment; the introduction of the Management Information Framework; and a greater focus on cross-organisational ICT provision.
Notwithstanding the progress made under the SMI and other reform programmes since, when this Government came to office it was clear that we needed a new, radical and far reaching reform programme, to contribute to economic recovery as part of the Government’s strategic response to the crisis. This was reflected in the commitments to reform made in the Programme for Government, which set the basis for the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, published in November, 2011.
The Reform and Delivery Office in my Department was established to lead and coordinate delivery of the reform agenda. Under the Reform Plan, we are implementing a series of reforms under the following five key commitments to change: placing customer service at the core of everything we do; maximising new and innovative service delivery channels; radically reducing our costs to drive better value for money; leading, organising and working in new ways; and strong focus on implementation and delivery.
The Reform Plan has a particular emphasis on strong governance and programme management structures, in order to drive and monitor the implementation of reform across the system. The Public Service Reform Plan is complemented by Integrated Reform Delivery Plans produced by all Government Departments and major Offices. These plans outline the reform programmes at organisational and sectoral levels, as well as central initiatives.
A more effective and sustainable Public Service is in the interests of all stakeholders, including public servants. We are working hard to build a Public Service of which we can all be proud and a Public Service that values its most important asset – its people. Increased flexibility, mobility, development and up-skilling are key aspects of reform that will provide public servants with greater opportunities for more fulfilling, rewarding careers in the years ahead.