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Minister 'powerless' as Government has yet to pass necessary laws

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin came under fire last night as it emerged that he had still not been given legal powers during the Government's first 100 days in office.

He is heading the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which was created to drive through changes in the public service -- but does not have any legal status.

Fianna Fail senator Thomas Byrne said yesterday that Mr Howlin was effectively Finance Minister Michael Noonan's deputy "but with a full cabinet salary".

"The Irish taxpayer needs Minister Howlin to have his full powers," he said.

The criticism came after Mr Howlin said yesterday at the launch of the first report on the Croke Park public sector deal that he was not "waving a stick" -- and wanted instead to thank public servants who had made savings.

"We're doing well . . . and the suggested savings for this year have already been achieved. That doesn't mean we're going to stop," he said.

But Mr Howlin is waiting for the Dail and Seanad to pass the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011, which will allow his new department to be formally established. He will take over responsibility for all pay, conditions, pensions and hiring in the public service from Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the aim was to pass the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill to give it full powers by the end of July.

Irish Independent