independent

Monday 21 April 2014

We need to sack bad civil servants – Varadkar

Leo Varadkar,TD,the Minister for Transport,Tourism and Sport  at the announcement of the  Government's 150 million Euro investment in Infrastructure and Jobs  at a press brefing held in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday.Pic Tom Burke 5/6/13
Leo Varadkar

MECHANISMS should be put in place to make it easier to fire under-performing civil servants, a senior government minister has said.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar believes it is too difficult to “squeeze out” people who aren’t up to the job or who have a “chip on their shoulder”.

He said that the next stage of public service reform will involve delivering better services with no more pay cuts planned.

His comments came after the Irish Independent revealed plans to introduce a bonus scheme for high-performing civil and public servants, including teachers and nurses, which would involve them being paid more than colleagues if they were deemed to be delivering better results.

A plan for future reform of the public service, which is due to be published early this year, is expected to include details of a performance management scheme to reward high achievers.

Mr Varadkar said he agreed with junior minister Brian Hayes who said that workers needed to be rewarded if they were found to be making a difference in their working lives.

However, he added that it was difficult to remove under-performing workers from their positions and that Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin would be responsible for making the changes.

“I think there’s merit in that (a bonus scheme),” he said. “One of the difficulties we have in the public service that we haven’t really changed is there isn’t an adequate mechanism to reward people who are doing a really good job, and it’s very hard to squeeze out people who aren’t doing a good job or not performing or have a chip on their shoulder or whatever.

“It’s absolutely the case that there are mechanisms in place in the public service to promote people, promotion is now done on merit. And there are mechanisms in place to squeeze people out, but it’s not the same as it is in the private sector. We  don’t have the same tools that exist in the private sector but that’s a matter for government.

“The next stage of public sector reform isn’t going to be about pay cuts, it’s going to be about better services for people and, in that context, Brian Hayes’s proposal to reward people who are doing a very good job is a good one.”

Bonus schemes were a feature in the pay of some public sector workers during the Celtic Tiger era, and have been criticised amid concerns they do not properly assess the work completed by civil servants.

Last month it emerged that the majority of civil servants were ranked as “exceeding the required standard” in 2012, with fewer than 1pc assessed as needing improvement.

Any proposals for a performance scheme would require negotiations with unions and could also leave the Government open to allegations that the measures were being introduced as part of an election campaign ahead of next summer’s local and European elections.

Fianna Fail claimed the move was an attempt by Fine Gael to “win votes” in advance of the local elections, saying the move smacked of electioneering.

Paul Melia

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