Dáil Éireann - Volume 454 - 14 June, 1995

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Strategy Statement.

[832] 6. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach the strategic management changes, if any, he is undertaking within his own Department. [10731/95]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mrs. Doyle): The Department of the Taoiseach prepared a preliminary Statement of Strategy in 1994 in line with the decision taken by our predecessors in Government.

In common with those for all Departments, this Strategy Statement was presented to the SMI co-ordinating group of secretaries for evaluation. The statement is now being reviewed to take into account the observations made by the co-ordinating group, the Government's decision that statements be reviewed and updated in light of A Government of Renewal and the discussions taking place at present within the Department in relation to its key goals and objectives.

In particular, as with all departmental strategy statements, it is being revised to translate departmental and divisional objectives into specific action oriented strategies with accompanying measures of performance. This process will be completed by the Department of the Taoiseach for end July.

The Government has decided that strategy statements will be published and I expect that the statement for the Department of the Taoiseach will be published in September.

Structural changes within the Department to facilitate a strategic management approach will be considered in the light of the finalised strategy statement and any changes made will be designed to ensure the Department can carry out its mission and meet its objectives as set out in the strategy statement.

The Department of the Taoiseach, in common with all Departments, will be part of the wider public service renewal process. In this context, the Government decision of 2 March, arising from the first report of the SMI co-ordianting [833] group of secretaries, mandated the co-ordinating group to: review existing systems for making decisions, allocating responsibility and ensuring accountability in the Civil Service; and bring forward for Government consideration, by end June, 1995, proposals for an integrated programme to modernise the systems and practices in question and for the consequent modernisation of existing personnel and financial management in the Civil Service.

The second report of the co-ordinating group, which will make recommendations on these matters, will be finalised within a month for consideration and decision by Government.

Miss Harney: Every time a question arises about the strategic management plan it is answered in such a way that I am more confused after the answer. It happened on the previous occasion also and I am not blaming the Minister. Obviously, the Government, the Minister or the Taoiseach in this case set out the policy in this case. Will public servants be given specific targets and objectives in the implementation of that policy? The Minister referred to the need for accountability among civil servants. How does she envisage that will happen?

Mrs. Doyle: If it is any consolation to the Deputy, she is not alone in finding the language in many of the concepts involved difficult. It is new in many cases. I hope to have the opportunity fairly shortly to speak with all my colleagues in the House, not just Government colleagues, to bring them up to date on this process launched by Deputy Albert Reynolds, the then Taoiseach, in February or March 1994. There are many matters to be dealt with. In terms of accountability and changes of responsibility, both for Ministers and civil servants, this will require amendments to the Ministers and Secretaries Act and to the Civil Service Regulations. Those matters and those referred to by the Deputy in her question are being dealt with separately at a [834] central level — not Department by Department — by the SMI co-ordinating group of secretaries who have yet to submit a second report. We hope to have that report by the end of June. Any changes in functions or responsibilites of civil servants are not specific to the Department of the Taoiseach. The Deputy is aware of the story about accountability and there are many changes in legislation particularly in the freedom of information legislation and the Ethics in Public Office Bill, which is going through the House. There are many areas in which we will open up the whole issue of accountability. The Deputy must know by now exactly where this Government stands on accountability and, indeed, the Taoiseach's commitment to it. That must be clearly understood by now.

Miss Harney: Will the strategic management plan apply to the offices that come under the Department of the Taoiseach, for example, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions? I know about the Office of the Attorney General.

Mrs. Doyle: Yes, but offices as such will have their own strategic statements separate from the overall strategic statement of the Department of the Taoiseach. I will be delighted to answer specific questions on the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, or any others if the Deputy wishes to table them. They are separate from the Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Lenihan: The Minister is a courageous lady.

Mr. Cullen: In the context of the strategic management initiative, is the Minister aware that many civil servants who are professionally qualified and are members of professional bodies are disbarred from competing for promotion within their various Departments? In many cases, they are making decisions and writing the reports for people who [835] are senior to them but not as well qualified. This issue arises in the case of members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Is the Minister aware of this and, if so, does he intend to deal with it as it pertains to how civil servants operate, achieve promotion and how the best people can fill the top positions?

Mrs. Doyle: That is a separate question but I am pleased to give a short answer to it. That, along with many other matters in relation to Civil Service recruitment and promotion opportunities, is being dealt with in the overall public sector reform consultations which are also being taken on board by the SMI co-ordinating group of secretaries who will report to Government. It encompasses all Departments and is not specific to the Department of the Taoiseach, as the original question was. I am aware of the problems and they are being considered.