Government vows to save €20m with final cull of quangos
THE GOVERNMENT has pledged to complete the so-called 'quango cull' with some 63 state bodies earmarked for merger or rationalisation by September.
A raft of agencies, boards and other state functions have been flagged for amalgamation as part of proposals aimed at saving €20m. The measures are contained in the Government's ambitious public sector reform plan, which aims to significantly improve services provided in areas of health, education and local government.
Among those flagged for merger are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, while the Financial Services Ombudsman is being amalgamated with the Pensions Ombudsman.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has also published legislation for the merger of the National Roads Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency.
The newly merged agency will remain a non-commercial state body and will be given the operational title Transport Infrastructure Service (TIS) to reflect its expanded functions.
A number of other bodies will be rationalised or subsumed by individual departments as part of the Government's rationalisation programme.
In total, measures involving 63 bodies are due to be completed by September, on top of the 44 bodies that have already been successfully merged. Measures involving a further 109 bodies, identified by a review in 2012, are still being finalised.
Publishing the Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said it switched focus on to the "delivery of outcomes".
A reduction in hospital waiting times and giving parents a greater say in the location of schools are among the targets outlined in the plan.
Mr Howlin and Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes pledged to significantly improve services provided by hospitals, state agencies and local authorities as part of an ambitious phase of reform.
Among the targets outlined in the report include:
* A new approach to public procurement aimed at saving €500m.
* The introduction of post codes by the summer of 2015.
* The establishment of a patient safety agency within the structures of the HSE.
* The delivery of broadband to all secondary schools by 2016.
The plan details a series of reforms in different sectors of the public service.
It places a major emphasis on digital services and the introduction of shares services throughout the public sector.
In the area of health, the plan will see a greater rollout of the public service card, which may be extended to a series of new transactions.
In education, it is aimed to deliver broadband to every secondary school by 2016.
The reform plan also aims to free up more gardai from administrative duties as well as increasing the use of video links in courts.
A number of functions look set to be outsourced to private firms, such as the area of debt management.
Mr Hayes pledged a greater focus on property management, adding that the State's rent bill had fallen below €100m for the first time and two years ahead of target.
Sinn Fein spokesperson for Public Expenditure, Mary Lou McDonald, described the Government's plan as being "heavy on spin".
"Far from delivering better outcomes for citizens and business, Brendan Howlin and his cabinet colleagues are presiding over services in crisis," she said.