As mandated by Government, my Department’s statutory functions include responsibility to formulate, develop, and coordinate the implementation of policies to further modernise and develop the public service and enable the efficient and effective provision of services by public service bodies. I can therefore assure the Deputy that this reform agenda will continue to be an integral part of the policies administered by the Department.
The Deputy will be aware that a new phase of public service reform is already underway, as set out in the framework document Our Public Service 2020, which I launched at end 2017. Our Public Service 2020 seeks better outcomes for the public, to support innovation and collaboration and to build public service organisations that are resilient and agile. It contains an added focus in particular on evaluation and on the importance of building a reform evaluation culture. A newly established Reform Evaluation Unit within my Department will work closely with units focused on performance budgeting and spending reviews to strengthen the links between expenditure and reform. A Public Service Leadership Board comprising Secretary General and CEO level participants from across the civil and public service has been established to drive this reform agenda and lead on its implementation and it has already met on six occasions since it was established in March of last year.
In the case of the Civil Service, the Deputy may also be aware of the ambitious programme of reform under the Civil Service Renewal Plan aimed at creating a more unified, professional, responsive, open and accountable Civil Service providing a world-class service to the State and to the people of Ireland. The fourth Progress Report on the Plan, which I published recently, shows the important steps that have been taken since 2014 and the range of reforms that have been put in place to improve the service for those who work in the Civil Service and those who depend on it. Work is now underway on developing a refreshed plan for the next phase of Civil Service Renewal which will align with Our Public Service 2020 .
The Department’s People Strategy for the Civil Service 2017-2020 sets the strategic direction for Human Resource Management across the Civil Service (while recognising that each organisation is unique and has its own challenges) while the Department’s Office of the Government Chief Information Officer leads the implementation of the Public Service ICT Strategy in cooperation with departments and agencies across the Public Service.
At the same time, the Department is progressing a far-reaching programme of reforms aimed at delivering open, accountable and ethical government. Key initiatives completed or underway under this programme include the second Review of the 2015 Lobbying Act, progression of the Public Sector Standards Bill and transposition of the EU’s Open Data and Whistleblowing Directives.
As Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, I must ensure that our fiscal and public expenditure policy is prudent and sustainable. There are a number of budgetary reforms introduced in recent years to guide my decisions on overall fiscal policy in this regard, including fiscal rules, expenditure ceilings and spending reviews. The actions in Our Public Service 2020 will ensure that the focus of the public service is very much on delivery of quality public services, while operating within these prudent limits.
I am confident that the implementation of the actions contained in Our Public Service 2020 , as well as the other elements of my Department’s broader reform agenda that I have outlined, will have an ongoing positive impact on economic performance and improved service delivery to the public in the future.