Monday 22 October 2018

Civil servants' job reviews held up for a year by election

Department officials blamed the general election and change of government on the delay in setting up a separate scheme for secretaries general. Stock picture
Department officials blamed the general election and change of government on the delay in setting up a separate scheme for secretaries general. Stock picture

Anne Marie Walsh

The first "robust" probe of the most senior civil servants' performance was delayed for a year - and the results may not be made public.

Official documents reveal that a new system to rate the work of secretaries general, the centrepiece of a Government reform plan, was not rolled out until last year.

A Civil Service Renewal Plan had proposed that a "robust" performance review for secretaries general and assistant secretaries general would be implemented in January 2016, with targets published annually.

The department did, however, manage to roll out a new two-tier performance system for assistant secretaries and other grades that year, and has released the results.

This system, which rates staff as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, replaced a more complex one with five ratings.

A total of 99pc of assistant secretaries general of 93pc who took part were given a 'satisfactory' rating, although one individual was not rated because they were on long-term sick leave.

Department officials blamed the general election and change of government on the delay in setting up a separate scheme for secretaries general.

A note to the Civil Service Management Board said the government change made it difficult to impose the "full year cycle". "2017 provides an opportunity for full implementation on a credible basis," it said.

The department began the "process" in 2016, setting ­objectives and mid-year reviews.

It added: "In light of the change of government following the general election and the development of a new Programme for Government, it was agreed that the initial steps taken in 2016 would be used to inform the finalisation of the performance review system for implementation in 2017."

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the results for last year will be finalised later this year.

He said it has not been decided if the outcome for secretaries general will be made public, although it was unlikely to identify individuals.

The review process is overseen by an accountability board, chaired by the Taoiseach.

A Performance Review Group, drawn from the board, carry out the individual reviews. It is made up of two secretaries general - Robert Watt of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and Martin Fraser, secretary general to the Government - and one external member, HR consultant Bernie Gray.

Irish Independent

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