I acknowledge the extraordinary response of our public servants and their organisations to the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. We can all be proud of the great work that is under way during this unprecedented public health emergency.
A number of reforms that have been introduced under the Government’s public service reform agenda, such as the build-to-share ICT infrastructure, the progressive digitalisation of services, a streamlined and centralised Government procurement system, shared services and centralised strategic HR capability, have greatly facilitated our civil and public services in responding rapidly to the challenges emerging from the pandemic. The current framework for public service reform and innovation, Our Public Service 2020, launched at the end of 2017, builds on earlier programmes of reform while expanding their scope to accelerate the digital delivery of public services, deliver better services to customers, drive innovation and develop our people and organisations. The Minister of State, Deputy Smyth, who has responsibility in this area, is very keen to continue and develop further that ambitious programme.
Our Department has begun consultations on developing a successor framework to Our Public Service 2020 and similar work is well advanced in framing a renewal plan for the Civil Service. The vision and strategy underpinning this will focus on large-scale, ambitious transformation to support greatly enhanced digital service delivery, developing our data infrastructure and building the workforce and workplace of the future following the extraordinary changes that have taken place during the pandemic.
On staffing levels, as the Deputy will be aware, significant increases in Government expenditure have allowed for the recruitment of additional staff across the public service since 2015. Over the past four years alone, the number in the public service has increased by more than 30,000.