Dáil Éireann - Volume 530 - 20 February, 2001
Ceisteanna–Questions - Departmental Correspondence.
Mr. R. Bruton Mr. R. Bruton
17. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Taoiseach his views on whether the Government is giving sufficient attention to the delivery of prompt responses to queries which arrive via departmental websites; and if he will consider setting a service standard and requiring Departments to publish regularly their performance against the standard. [3554/01]
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: The issue of prompt service delivery in the Civil Service is addressed through the strategic management initiative – SMI – under its quality customer service – QCS – initiative. Under this initiative, a set of QCS principles was adopted in 1997, and revised last year, requiring Departments and offices to respond to queries in a timely way and with minimum delay.
There is also a requirement to set out standards for meeting this requirement in departmental customer action plans, which are currently being revised.
The QCS initiative also urges Departments and offices to make the best use of available and emerging new technologies to improve access and choice for customers through the development of more online services. Departments are required to address service delivery issues in their statements of strategy and to make progress reports annually on implementation. In addition, Departments must set performance indicators in their new customer action plans to allow for the assessment and measurement of how targets and these standards have been met.
In 1999, I launched guidelines on public service web publication prepared by an interdepartmental group set up to examine good practice principles for public service websites. Its report contains a range of recommendations. Recommendation 10.3 stipulates that:
 Correspondence received by e-mail should be answered as quickly as possible. Procedures for answering e-mail, including targets, should be set out in customer service statements.
This issue is being addressed in the context of quality customer service. The issue of setting specific standards in relation to queries arriving by e-mail or through departmental websites is currently under consideration by a sub-group of the QCS working group.
Within my Department, under our QCS standards, staff aim to provide a substantive response to 70% of correspondence, including e-mails, within 15 working days of receipt. Where it is not possible to issue a full reply within 15 working days, it is my Department's policy to advise the correspondent as to when it will be possible to issue such a response. In practice, most e-mail queries received by the webmaster in my Department are responded to on the same day.
Mr. Shatter Mr. Shatter
Mr. Shatter: In the context of the targeting to which the Taoiseach referred, will he clarify who in his Department targeted the former Minister of State, Deputy Ned O'Keeffe? Will the Taoiseach indicate whether that targeting was to put pressure on the Minister of State to resign and whether that was a subject addressed on the Department's website or whether e-mails relevant to it were distributed in any other media?
An Ceann Comhairle Séamus Pattison
An Ceann Comhairle: That is a separate matter which does not relate to the question. We will now proceed to Priority Questions.
Dáil Éireann 530 Ceisteanna–Questions Departmental Correspondence.