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What have been the key elements of Public Service Reform in the Irish Public Service to date?
The modernisation programme of the Irish Public Service over the last 15 years was grounded in the 1994 Strategic Management Initiative (SMI). This set out the broad agenda for change, primarily in the Civil Service, although its broad thrust was intended to impact across the entire Public Service.
In 1996, Delivering Better Government outlined a blueprint for reform within the Irish Civil Service. It contained a vision of a Civil Service as a high performance, open and flexible organisation with a mission and culture of quality service to government and to the public at every level, and making the maximum contribution to national social and economic development and to competitiveness.
This vision has been advanced both centrally and by individual organisations since that time through initiatives in human resource management (through the Performance Management and Development System), Quality Customer Service, financial management systems, regulatory reform and e-Government.
The implementation of the modernisation agenda has been, and continues to be, driven by the various partnership agreements across the Public Service. The current social partnership agreement, Towards 2016 builds on the progress made under previous agreements and ensures continued co-operation with change and modernisation initiatives as well as improvements in productivity right across the Public Service.
In 2006, after over a decade of reform and ten years on from the publication of Delivering Better Government, it was considered timely to take stock of progress on the modernisation programme and to map out a new phase, building on the significant change which had already occurred.
The OECD Review of the Irish Public Service ‘Towards an Integrated Public Service‘ was published in April 2008. It benchmarks the Public Service in Ireland against other comparable countries, and makes recommendations as to the future direction of public service reform. It is a comprehensive assessment of the Irish Public Service which confirms the many strengths of the system and identifies challenges which need to be addressed.
The Task Force on the Public Service was established in May 2008 by the Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D., to develop an Action Plan for the Public Service drawing on the analysis and recommendations of the OECD Review of the Public Service.
Implementation of the TPS Programme is being overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Transforming Public Services, chaired by the Taoiseach.
The Public Service Agreement 2010 -2014 (Croke Park Agreement) ratified by the Public Services Committee of the ICTU in June 2010 represents an agreed agenda for change across all sectors of the Public Service and provides a framework within which greater efficiency in delivering for the citizen can be secured, while providing a basis for confidence about pay levels and security of employment in the Public Service for the future.
In March, 2011, Minister Brendan Howlin, T.D., was appointed as Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform. The Government announced a comprehensive review of all areas of public spending to ensure that there is value for money in delivering public services. There will also be a requirement to improve productivity and performance in the context of significantly reduced staff numbers.