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Saturday 20 September 2014

Brendan Howlin sanctions firing of bad civil servants - but reforms on hold until 2016

Fionnan Sheahan Group Political Editor

Published 10/01/2014 | 02:30

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Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin

THE Government plans to move to a 'carrot and stick' approach with civil servants, offering bonuses for good performance and the sack for bad workers.

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The Coalition is drawing up a new plan for public sector reform, aimed at making civil servants more accountable.

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin said he was in favour of the reintroduction of payments to reward high performance.

But he said this could not happen until at least 2016 when the Haddington Road Agreement expires.

Mr Howlin also said that underperformance would be addressed.

The minister said disciplinary procedures, including being fired, will be used to a greater extent in the civil service in the future.

REDUNDANCY

Department of Public Expenditure secretary general Robert Watt said there were laws already in place to allow compulsory redundancy of public servants, as part of a suite of disciplinary procedures.

"We are repeatedly told we can't fire people. That is not true," he said.

When Mr Howlin was asked if the Government plans to use such sanctions to a greater degree in the future, he said: "Of course we are."

The new plan is aimed at putting mechanisms in place that will set out what is expected of civil servants, therefore allowing good and bad performance to be measured.

Mr Howlin said qualified public servants are not applying for jobs at the top of the public sector because of the "gotcha mentality" of blaming people for failures.

He said the body in charge of appointing top-level public servants has found a number of qualified people are not applying because of the culture of being targeted in public.

The Public Spending Minister also said the country wouldn't have got out of the bailout without the Haddington Road Agreement.

Mr Howlin said getting Haddington Road across the line was the "most difficult challenge" facing his department.

The Labour Party minister said there wouldn't have had a budget without the Haddington Road Agreement.

"I don't think we could have exited the troika deal without it," he said. The new plan will seek to strengthen accountability and performance in the civil service by setting out:

* Clarity between the role of ministers and civil servants.

* Devolved responsibility.

* Assignment of responsibility.

* Assessment of delivery of policy targets.

The minister has set up a group to engage in public consultation and he hopes to have recommendations by the summer, which he can act upon by the end of the year.

Irish Independent

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