Thursday, 18 April 2013

Ceisteanna (6)

John McGuinness


6. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for the provision of individual coaching to senior civil servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17863/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Public)

The Senior Public Service, SPS, was established with the aim of strengthening senior management and leadership, initially across the Civil Service. Membership of the SPS comprises all Secretaries General, deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries, directors and related grades in the Civil Service. Over time, the SPS will be extended to senior levels of the wider public service. The SPS is overseen by the SPS management committee, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. A secretariat was established within the Department to provide support to the committee and to support the drawing up and implementation of SPS initiatives.

A leadership development strategy for the SPS will be published shortly. It sets out a number of programmes for supporting leadership development. In this context, executive coaching has been identified as a means of improving leadership capacity and individual performance at senior management level. It is widely used in the private sector as an effective leadership development tool. A successful pilot coaching programme, which had a beneficial impact on participants, was run last year at assistant secretary level. Following the programme's evaluation, the management committee decided that the proposal to extend a further coaching programme to all SPS grades had merit.

A tender process to enlist a panel of experienced coaches to service the programme is under way. The intention is that the coaching panel will remain in place until the end of 2015. An invitation to members of the SPS to apply to participate in the programme will issue in the coming days. It is envisaged that contracts will be awarded in May and that the programme will commence shortly thereafter.

I thank the Minister for providing that information. I welcome this initiative and hope that it can be rolled out further. The Minister might clarify a few points, but I understand the initiative to apply to Secretaries General, deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries and directors. According to a recent publication, there are 28 Secretaries General, 12 deputy secretaries and 209 assistant secretaries, a total of 249. Will the Minister provide us with the list of the 28 Secretaries General? I did not know there were so many, only that there were a few extra in one or two Departments.

What monitoring procedure will be put in place to determine whether this is a good system? That would be helpful. Will members of the wider public service undertake similar courses, for example, management at the HSE, which handles a large budget, local authorities, the Garda and so forth? There is no reason to wait until the civil servants finish. What are the Minister's plans in this regard?

I thank the Deputy for welcoming this initiative. One of my first acts was to establish the SPS. We took this opportunity shortly after the Government was formed. At that point, we had summoned all of our ambassadors back to Ireland so that we could give them a briefing on the programme for Government and our economic strategy, allowing for a joined-up international presentation. All assistant secretaries and above were together and I used that forum to discuss the SPS and to build an integrated unit.

My two main concerns about the areas of the public service that I have examined relate to quality of management and proper evaluations of performance. We must improve these elements, albeit not necessarily in a critical way, that is, by pointing the finger at those who are not up to scratch. We should give them the capacity to be up to scratch. There will be coaching and evaluation systems and I will shortly produce a comprehensive paper on restructuring and instituting proper evaluations in the Civil Service. When my Department finishes its work in this regard, we can discuss the matter, perhaps in committee.

In the spirit of welcoming this approach, it should be introduced extensively. The Minister mentioned that people would be asked to volunteer. There should be no volunteering. Secretaries General and assistant secretaries, who are on salaries of more than €100,000, should be shown the door if they are unprepared to take the course. The Minister should focus on those people in his targeted redundancy programme.

There has been enthusiasm about the course. I want to roll it out beyond the most senior grades to middle management and the wider public service.

What about coaching for Ministers?

Perhaps we could consider that suggestion. I know that I should not digress on a Priority Question, but I have always been concerned about the level of coaching for Opposition spokespersons, Ministers and Deputies. Often, people become Members and find themselves needing to make their own way.

That would be a great idea, especially for the Opposition.

Who would provide the coaching?