News Irish News

Sunday 8 December 2019

Clamp down on lazy public service staff -- President

Workers should be assessed

Anne-Marie Walsh

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese has called for a clampdown on underperforming public servants.

She called on the Government to "rigorously address" the issue by setting up a "robust" system to assess the performance of state employees.

Addressing an audience of public service managers at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday, Mrs McAleese said a performance management system should deal with state employees whose work was below par, while rewarding those who deserve it. She said this was particularly important at the moment as the public wanted a bigger return for its taxes.

"It really ought to be possible to devise and implement a robust structure or framework that recognises and rewards good performance and at the same time tackles underperformance where it arises," she said.

She said people knew from their experiences of the public and private sectors that it only took one "careless" or "nasty" person, or someone "in a permanent strop", to give their entire team a bad name.

Mrs McAleese said this was "unacceptable" and should be rigorously addressed.

"At a time when the public is rightly demanding greater accountability for its tax euros, any tolerance of underperformance is really damaging to the service in reputational terms," she said. "It is also corrosive of staff morale among those who are doing the job well."

She said the Taoiseach's Excellence Awards for public servants did not get much attention despite being a great way of recognising achievement.

Speaking at the same Institute of Public Administration conference, the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey, warned that if the Croke Park agreement did not result in better public services, the public and he would not support another agreement again.

Secretary General of the Department of Finance, Kevin Cardiff, admitted that the perception of public servants had worsened.

He said even though a lot of this was due to misunderstanding, those in responsible positions should have an open mind about the "extent the stereotypes are reinforced by the reality".

Mr Cardiff said his department had sailed through "stormy waters" and its performance over the last 10 years, in relation to the current crisis, was being assessed by an independent review group.

"But the big test will not be in being reviewed, it will be in ensuring that the organisation changes in response to it," he said.


The senior civil servant said the public service will always be a poor second choice for those who want glamour and fame, but warned it would be a "bit of a slap in the face" to those who suffered most in the recession if they did not see public servants "do more with less".

He said even with economic recovery, a "significant hole" will remain in the public finances and public services must change.

Although it was difficult for colleagues whose pay had been cut and budgets curtailed to "go the extra mile", he said there must be savings made by sharing services.

"But if you are waiting for some bloke in the Department of Finance to tell you how to address value for money, cost reductions, service improvements, real reforms to protect services in that environment, then you are wasting time," he warned. "Start now."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News