Seanad Éireann - Volume 90 - 30 November, 1978
Public Service Advisory Council Report: Motion.
Mr. W. Ryan Mr. W. Ryan
Mr. W. Ryan: I move:
That Seanad Éireann welcomes Report No. 4 of the Public Service Advisory Council.
Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service (Mr. MacSharry) Ray MacSharry
Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service (Mr. MacSharry): One feature of the administrative system to which, perhaps, we do not always give as much credit as it deserves is the contribution to the community made by voluntary bodies whose members, eminent in their own fields, provide specialised advice on particular problems or areas of administration. The Public Service Advisory Council is one such body. It resembles many others in the voluntary nature of its membership and in providing advice to a particular Minister. It differs from them only in the extent of its concern; for its remit covers  not, as is usually the case, part of the work of a single Department but our entire public administrative system.
The council was set up under the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1973. In consequence of its statutory functions, which are set out in detail in its fourth report, it is concerned with advising the Minister for the Public Service on organisational and personnel matters in the public service. The council has a membership of eight, of whom four—including the chairman—have, since its establishment, been drawn from the private sector and four from the various parts of the public service. This arrangement provides for the exchange of ideas and the interplay of experience from the public and private sectors.
On the establishment of the council, it was decided that, for practical reasons, the “public service” would, for the purpose of its deliberations, initially be the civil service and it is on that basis that the council has since functioned. The council is now giving thought to the desirability of having its remit extended to other areas of the public service.
In the four reports which it has made so far, the council has laid great emphasis on public service reform and, indeed, this concern is central to the council's existence. I think it might be appropriate, therefore, to dispel any misconceptions to which the term “reform” may give rise. The integrity of our public service is above question and the abuses which were the targets of the 19th century reformers have long since been remedied. We have reason to be grateful to have a public service whose standards of honesty and sense of fairness and equity are of the highest. What is at issue is the process of restructuring and reorganising the existing civil service to create a new civil service which will be a more flexible instrument of public policy.
However, the structures, systems and procedures of public administration in this country were designed for the most part to answer very different needs from those of today. They were geared to an environment in which the tasks of government were less numerous and less complex, in which the demands made by the community or government were less  onerous and in which the rate of change—social, economic and technological—was but a fraction of what it is today. The kind of reform we are talking about, therefore, is the development of institutions and of the people who give them life to enable them to meet the challenges of the future. Such are the challenges that we must try to bring about a major change in the role of public institutions and in the way they relate to one another, to Ministers and to the Oireachtas. Some of the changes would, therefore, affect the political process as well as the administrative.
The main thrust of the programme of public service reorganisation derives from the recommendations of the Public Services Organisation Review Group which reported over nine years ago. Successive Governments have accepted the group's analysis and prescriptions in principle. However, as pointed out by the Public Service Advisory Council in its third report, progress has been slower than expected and the council's recommendation for accelerating progress on reform was to concentrate on four main areas out of the many dealt with by the review group. In its fourth report, which is the subject of this motion, the council has drawn attention to some areas of difficulty which are now more clearly discernible. These difficulties are, in the main, related to the political dimension and I propose, after outlining the present state of the reorganisation programme and the Government's policy and actions in relation to it, to raise the fundamental issues identified in the fourth report of the Public Service Advisory Council.
As announced by the Tánaiste on the publication of that report, the Government are concentrating action in four main areas as recommended by the council. There are, of course, many other features in a programme such as that now in hands and though, not all of them would be pursued in the full glare of public interest they also have a significant bearing on the value to the public of its public service. The four main areas to which I have referred are the development of specialised staff support systems for finance, planning, organisation and  personnel; the separation of responsibility for policy and execution; staff mobility; cost effectiveness in the public service.
In the first, third and fourth of these areas, the solutions are mainly technical; there are problems in changing ways of working, in training staff in new systems and in developing new and progressive attitudes by people who have for so long been working in traditional systems and structures. The political effect of change in these areas is not great. However, the second area which I mentioned—the separation of responsibility for policy and execution—has fundamental consequences politically.
Before going on to discuss these consequences, I would mention briefly what is being done in the other three areas. The first area is the development of the staff support systems for planning, finance, organisation and personnel. This is a technical change in management which is necessary apart altogether from the main structural changes contemplated, although the structural changes themselves could scarcely be effected without development of these staff support systems. These systems will provide the mechanism to ensure unity of purpose and a common standard of excellence in the new civil service.
Steps have already been taken to have those systems installed where they do not at present exist. The Government have given top priority to the creation of planning units in all Departments so as to give practical effect to their commitment to planning as the key to national development. In line with this commitment, one of the Government's first steps was the institution of the Department of Economic Planning and Development and the planning units now being set up will institutionalise the planning process throughout the whole public service.
The fourth area mentioned concerns the relentless pursuit of cost effectiveness, or least-cost administration. It is both more important and more difficult to highlight this type of programme in an organisation which does not have the discipline of the profit and loss account to focus its mind on the value it  is getting for money. There is no single approach. Organisation and methods surveys, the development of operational research, the extension of computerisation and mechanical aids to efficiency are some of the means used. In addition, the surveys of expenditure by the Department of Finance and the refinement of the planning process by the Department of Economic Planning and Development also make their contributions to the overall goal of cost-effective administration.
Going back to the third area of action mentioned by the council—staff mobility—another aspect of the programme which does not have a high public visibility is the development of public personnel policies. Whatever new structures may be created, there will be no “new civil service” in the sense visualised by the Public Services Organisation Review Group unless the barriers which at present restrict the movement of personnel between the different parts of the public service are removed. Progress in these areas, which so immediately touch people and their interests, is inevitably slow. Much of the way lies through negotiation with staff associations whose understandable vigilance on behalf of their members may sometimes lead them to see opportunities as dangers.
While these matters are important and are being pursued by the Government, they have not the political implications of the major change recommended by the Public Services Organisation Review Group—the separation of responsibility for policy and execution, The group identified two basic roles of the public service: assisting Ministers in the determination of policy, in the review of that policy and in the overall management of the public service, on the one hand; on the other, the execution of settled policy and the detailed management of executive operations. Under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, both of these functions were assigned to Government Departments, which, of course, in law do not have an existence separate from that of their Ministers, This, the group saw as having two unfortunate effects.  First, since Ministers are accountable to the Oireachtas for every single action of their civil servants, they are inevitably involved in much of the detailed business of implementing policies and providing services to the public—and so, of course, are their senior advisers, This leaves them with insufficient time to devote to such essential matters as the review of policies and the development of new policies, while officials, harassed by the sheer volume of day-to-day business, have difficulty in giving advice of the quality which is needed on the big issues.
The second effect of combining the two distinct roles in Government Departments, as seen by the review group, is that the relationship, attitudes and behaviour appropriate to officials whose job it is to advise Ministers on sensitive matters of policy are not always those most needed in people who have to provide a flexible and imaginative service to the public. One way in which we in Ireland had sought to resolve this dilemma in the past was by the creation of State-sponsored bodies; but this solution, while well suited to the State's own commercial enterprises, was seen as involving too complete a cut-off from ministerial and Oireachtas coordination for the administration of public policy in non-commercial public bodies.
It was to provide a fully co-ordinated public service while at the same time overcoming the disadvantages of having two somewhat incompatible functions discharged by Government Departments that the review group proposed a fundamental restructuring of Departments and the creation of what they called “the new civil service”. The Minister and a small number of officials would constitute the “Aireacht”. They would be concerned with the determination and review of policy and with the overall management of the public service. The execution of policy would be entrusted to executive units whose actions would no longer legally be those of Ministers. These executive units would encompass the executive work at present done by Government Departments as well as the operations of non-commercial State-sponsored bodies.
 The restructuring of Departments of State on this basis has been accepted in principle by successive Governments since 1972 and the concept is now being applied on an experimental non-statutory basis in the Department of Health and Tourism and Transport. The application of the concept in the Department of Industry and Commerce, however, ran into politicial difficulties and paragraph 2.1.7 of the third report of the Public Service Advisory Council sets out the results of the council's communications with the then Minister for Industry and Commerce on the matter. When this Government took office in July 1977, they accepted the analysis of the advisory council that a new approach was needed and they accordingly decided to take steps to secure the application of the concept of separation of policy and execution to all “line” Departments of State—that is those Departments, outside the central Department, which provide services to or for the community. In this approach, the active co-operation of each Department was sought in developing a structure which, while based on the general concept of separating responsibility for policy and execution, would take account of the particular circumstances of each Department. A special project team has been set up in the Department of the Public Service to lead the development of the new structures in Departments. It is intended that this development will be progressive rather than attempting to apply a total restructuring immediately.
For a start, each Department will, during the coming year, have the basic elements of the new structure applied to it. First, the functions of Departments will be grouped into related areas with clear organisational reporting arrangements; any unclear and crossing arrangements which have developed over the years will be eliminated. Second, the staff support system will be developed in each Department. Third, any functions which can be devolved without difficulty to accountable units of administration will be so devolved. When this stage is reached, the remaining problems of devolution to executive units will be dealt with systematically. The Government  have decided that it is best to proceed on these lines leaving over, for consideration at a later date, the question of whether legislative provisions are desirable or necessary.
The question of devolution to executive units is at the heart of the political issue, and is perhaps the main question raised in the fourth report of the advisory council—section 3.2 of the report is relevant. In fact, the council has suggested that there should be a political debate which would take for its text paragraph 13.3.11 of the Report of the Public Services Organisation Review Group which drew attention to the fundamental change involved in their recommendations. That paragraph reads as follows:
We must, at this stage, stress the fundamental nature of the change involved in our recommendations for the division of each Department into the Aireacht and the executive units. Within the Aireacht, the concept of the Minister as a corporation sole, introduced by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, will be retained. The actions of the officers of the Aireacht will remain the actions of the Minister. The Department as a whole, as hitherto visualised, will be completely changed in that in the executive units the actions of officials will not be the actions of the Minister and it will be necessary for Ministers to confer by statute on newly created executive units all relevant and necessary executive powers and responsibility on the same lines as those on which statutory bodies have been set up in the past. Within executive units, a formal delegation of power of decision will also be necessary to officers of appropriate rank. Our proposals, therefore, involve, over wide areas of the public service, the ending of the concept of the Minister as a corporation sole. At the same time, the Minister, as in the case of State-sponsored bodies in the past, will be responsible for laying down policy for all executive units and replying in the Dáil to any queries relating to the discharge of those policies.
 Having drawn attention to the difficulties involved in the concept of separation of responsibility for policy and execution, the council expressed the opinion that, until there is an attempt to provide a statutory basis for the separation of policy and execution, it will not be possible to assess the degree to which Ministers would be required to delegate their powers and functions to administrators.
As I have indicated, the more difficult areas of delegation will be considered by the Government as the present exercise in restructuring proceeds. There is one main principle—some way must be found by which Ministers are relieved from the mass of detailed executive decision-making while retaining the essential control and direction required by their Constitutional and legal responsibilities. There may, however, be different means by which the ends can be achieved.
The Public Services Organisation Review Group envisaged that the delegation would be achieved by statute which would effectively amend the Ministers and Secretaries Acts. In effect, this has been done to an extent in the case of non-commercial State-sponsored bodies. A system of this kind operates in Sweden where most of the executive work of Government is assigned to statutory agencies outside the Departments whose activities are mainly co-ordinated through detailed annual budgets and complicated systems of appeals. A different approach was taken in Britain by the Fulton Committee in 1968 which recommended that large areas of work should be assigned to accountable units with clear-cut responsibility and commensurate authority within the civil service. An approach intermediate between these examples is operated in Norway and Denmark where delegation to executive agencies is operated on a non-statutory but generally-accepted administrative/political arrangement.
We must, however, work out a solution consistent with our own political traditions. The Public Service Advisory Council has performed a valuable service  by focussing attention on the need for a debate on the political issues raised by this change. The Government welcome such a debate and particularly this opportunity to have the issues debated in this House; Members of this House have a special awareness and experience of political realities which is denied to the community at large.
The political dimension of the particular change being attempted manifests itself in a number of questions. There is, for example, the question of the appropriate balance between ministerial and parliamentary control, on the one hand, and operating freedom, on the other, in the case of the executive units, which will include the present non-commercial state-sponsored bodies. The apparent decrease in ministerial accountability to the Oireachtas for substantial areas of executive work must raise questions about the provision of a formal system of appeals for aggrieved citizens; and this matter is under active consideration at present. Central to the whole political debate, however, is the question of the role which the public expect Ministers to play: is it right or feasible to create whole new areas of public business in the discharge of which Ministers would not be directly involved? And if it is, how can the arrangement be made to work? To begin to answer these questions we need to look a little more closely at the reasons why Ministers are expected to be involved in administrative matters at the moment. I would hope that the debate which is about to take place will illuminate the issues to such an extent as to enable definitive answers to be more readily discerned.
The first reason derives from the ultimate responsibility of Ministers. For example, a Minister may have responsibility for an area of Government or for some facet of governmental activity which gives rise to apprehension or indignation among a particular group. Having exhausted the normal channels of communication, such groups invariably request a meeting with the Minister. Since, under the present dispensation, civil servants are known to keep their Ministers informed of discussions  or actions likely to generate a politically embarrassing response, the purpose of such meetings must simply be to emphasise to the Minister—or to the Press—the strength of feeling or level of support which the group enjoys. To this particular problem the Aireacht/executive separation can offer little solution; it is, for example, evident not only when the activities of Government Departments are involved but also where concern is aroused by State-sponsored bodies like the IDA, or, indeed, by factory closures by private enterprises. What it can do, however, if there is general political acceptance, is to ensure, over time, that Ministers are not required to deal with an inordinate volume of individual cases.
We have, in this country, a tradition whereby civil servants, conscious that they act in all things as agents of their Ministers, remain, in their official lives, anonymous. One effect of the arrangement is that, even in the mind of the informed public, the Minister is the sole visible tip of the departmental iceberg and the Minister is often resorted to as the only person known to have power to resolve difficulties. One approach to this problem, which has a certain appeal, is to allow—even encourage—senior civil servants to adopt a higher profile. The resultant situation would be one where decision-making civil servants, rather than their Ministers, would be identified with and engage in public defence of their decisions. This is already the practice in certain of our State-sponsored bodies and has been a feature of the local government service. It would be extended by the Aireacht/executive unity system.
One special point is, I think, worth making in this debate. It is that, novel as the concept of the separation of policy and execution may be when applied over the whole spectrum of public administration, it has already been achieved to some degree in certain governmental activities. Many of you have, like myself, served a political apprenticeship as members of a local authority where clear lines of division exist between the powers of elected representatives and of the county manager and his officials. Some  of you will, in your business or professional lives, have been involved in discussion—or possibly dispute—with other executive areas of Government, the State-sponsored bodies. All of you will, I think, recognise that, within the civil service framework itself, bodies exist with a statutory autonomy which precludes, or restricts, ministerial or political involvement with their day-to-day operations. The example with which I, as a Minister of State, am most familiar is the Civil Service Commission which falls within my Department's portfolio and is unfettered in its selection of candidates for civil service posts. I think we have all encountered equally independent bodies like the Revenue Commissioners. It is, I think, significant that these bodies operate in areas of perhaps greater sensitivity than do many branches of Government Departments and that politicians of all persuasions have, by and large, accepted their exclusion from the normal scheme of ministerial control. Obviously, the feelings of Senators, Deputies and the general public about the strengths, weaknesses and general operating conditions of these bodies have lessons for us in devising the framework within which new executive units will be established.
In opening this debate, I have quite deliberately concentrated on what is clearly an area of difficulty and have made it clear that we are open to suggestions from this House and elsewhere as to how those difficulties may be overcome. This should not be taken to indicate any wavering on the central issue of restructuring our public administration on the general lines already agreed by the Government. We accept the basic scheme of a public service organised on Aireacht/executive unit lines, but our experience in and out of Government has convinced us that modifications to it will be needed in individual Departments and possibly to mirror the obligations of Ministers to the Dáil and public representatives. The nature of the modifications required will, I hope, be brought into clear focus by this debate.
The subject of our debate today is vast. I believe it is a matter of the highest significance for the nation in its present  stage of development. I am confident that the debate will add considerably to our wisdom and confidence in resolving the issues which confront us, and I therefore welcome the fourth report of the Public Service Advisory Council for its valuable contribution to the development of our institutions.
Mr. Cooney Mr. Cooney
Mr. Cooney: I was very pleased to hear the Minister say, towards the end of his speech, that the Government are convinced that modifications to the Aireacht/executive concept are needed and that the Government are open to see that it is considerably modified. I hope that this and other debates will focus on the problems and suggest the modifications which are necessary.
The report falls under two headings. There is the report on the changes that have been taking place within the public service to date and there is the invitation to debate the political implications in the Aireacht/executive concept.
I must confess that I am always apprehensive when I see vast changes being proposed and also when we have problems in modern society and the answer seems to be: “Let us reform the structure, let us change the organisation, let us rejig the whole thing; it is old-fashioned; it was set up for a different day, age, environment and so on.” I often wonder are we into a situation in many areas of modern life where we are rushing headlong into change without being sure what we want to achieve or sure of what answers we are going to have when all these vast changes have been implemented.
I am justified in being apprehensive and I pin my justification on the report we are dealing with. It gives the areas in which changes are being made. The Minister in his speech outlined them as the development of specialised staff support systems for finance, planning, organisation and personnel, separation of responsibility for policy and execution, staff mobility and cost effectiveness in the public service. All of these are big areas in themselves. Take the first one—the development of specialised  staff support systems for finance, planning and organisation—I understand from the report that this means setting up within each Department specialised planning units which will help in the preparation and review of plans in that Department's area. Then there will be a co-ordination of all those planning units by the Department of Economic Planning and Development.
Similar support units will be set up in each Department under the heading of finance, organisation and personnel and these in turn will be co-ordinated by other units in the other central Departments of Finance and the Public Service giving a whole new structure and re-organisation. Who will be involved in this? Will it be the people who are already in Department X dealing with finance? Are they now going to be reorganised into the staff support system for finance in that Department? What difference is their role going to be within their Department? What difference is their relationship going to be vis-a-vis the Department of Finance henceforth after this apparent re-organisation? There is a great danger of looking for change for change sake. What difference in practice will there be within Department X after setting up a specialised staff support system for finance? There will still be the same problems of framing the estimate and administering the spending of it. That is not going to change. The same people will be involved with the same problems.
In the area of planning it will be the same. A few top civil servants will be ultimately responsible. Suppose one sets up in Department X a staff support system, whatever that means. This is another problem in the area of re-organisation with its own esoteric language which on the first reading means something and looks simple but, when it is looked at closely, what does it mean? A specialised staff support system means, I presume, a small group within a Department to deal with a speciality which will have some staff to support it and which in turn, will support the staff of the Department, but I do not know. If it is a group like that which will make plans for the working of that  Department, who will be on that group is the first problem. What level will they be? Having regard to the way the Civil Service is structured at the moment, there would have to be people of a very high level on that group. If there are not, when the recommendations of the group come out, they would have to go to people at a very high level for acceptance, rejection or rejigging as the case may be. The system which we have will not be realistically changed.
We have a pyramid structure within the Civil Service. The people at the top of that pyramid have and must have responsibility for all the activities lower down on the pyramid. I cannot see any alternative to continuing that system. If a secretary or assistant secretary is to have ultimate responsibility. The alternative is to undo that pyramid system totally and have a lot of co-equal staff support groups with autonomy to make final recommendations to the Minister as the case may be.
I would like to know how the work that is going on at the moment is fitting in with the established practices and current procedures of the Civil Service. Does it mean that there will be a totally new structure within Departments and that responsibilities will be changed and so on, or is this part of the executive Aireacht that we are being told about?
One of the developments that is going on at the moment to which the Minister refers and which is one of the main areas for action, is the ascertainment of the cost effectiveness in the public service in terms of the service being provided. Are we living in a real world when we are talking about these things? I sometimes wonder when I read these reports with the specialised language and all the planning for changes and new structures and so on.
Page 19 of Report No. 4, paragraph 2.6.1., reads:
The Department of the Public Service has been trying to review the effectiveness of the Aireacht experiment in the Department of Health by applying and developing techniques including the finding out and evaluation  of the perception of the people involved.
The sentence before that reads:
The review of the effectiveness of public service activities involves complex methodological problems.
When I translate that into simple English I take it to mean that in the Department of Health the Aireacht executive experiment has been in operation. It is the one Department where it has been fully implemented, according to page 17 of the report, where it is stated:
The experimental organisation is fully operational in the Department of Health where the first stages of an exercise to measure the effectiveness of the new system in that Department have been completed.
Here we have a Department where the new concept is fully operational and the first steps in measuring the new system have been completed. We are then told: “The review of the effectiveness involves complex methodological problems”.
The Department of the Public Service has been trying to review the effectiveness of the Aireacht experiment in the Department of Health.
On their own admission, they are unable to review the effectiveness of this new Aireacht executive experiment. They are trying to do this by applying and developing techniques. What techniques? We are told the techniques include finding out an evaluation of the perceptions of the people involved. What does this mean in plain English? What is going on in the Department of Health? What sort of evaluation of the perceptions of staff officers, assistant staff officers or assistant principals? What sort of a regime is there in the Department of Health? I am puzzled by the whole gobbledygook of this and I have come to the conclusion that much of it is spoof. Spoof is the word for it because it is not for real. It is a self-generating, spoof-making and gobbledygook-making process that is involved in much of this restructuring. The whole jargon: vertical integration,  horizontal orientation—bears this out. One could invent words, “sub-structuralempathy”. That is something I have just invented yet, it sounds perfectly right for this area.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: It is probably there.
Mr. Cooney Mr. Cooney
Mr. Cooney: It probably is. One could nearly define sub-structuralempathy in that one could have sub-cultures within a department having transitional conflict. But, if examined in more detailed rationality, they could be found to have an inherent empathy with each other. We are not living in a real world and the proof of it is that the Department of the Public Service, in the appendix to this report, solemnly say they are trying to review the effectiveness of this experiment in the Department of Health by applying developing techniques, including the finding out and evaluation of the perception of the people involved. I am sceptical about this sort of change and this sort of reform for reform sake. It has an inherent momentum of its own. One lapses into this language automatically. The idea of seeking change has an inherent momentum and one report begets another report, and the thing snowballs. We end up not knowing where we are going or what precisely we are doing.
I do not think the public service has worked or is working so badly, so inefficiently or so ineffectually as to demand all this sort of nonsense. From my experience of it, the people in it are people of integrity and great personal capacity who are dedicated to ensuring that they give a fair, humane, effective and efficient service to the public. That is the first essential for good administration or a good job being done by any institution whether it be the Department of the Public Service or a private operation. The personnel concerned must be interested and dedicated. The people I came in contact with in the public service, not merely in the Department with which I was concerned but in other Departments, had this dedication. The integrity of those in the public service is well known. This is something that is very valuable. We must be very careful, if any rejigging is being attempted, that  we do not in any way damage any of these very valuable attributes and qualities.
The Minister is asking for our political views on the changes proposed. A lot of us did not pay enough attention at an early stage to what was being proposed, the Aireacht/executive concept, with the result that it has advanced dangerously far. I am as guilty as anybody else. We all saw the documentation at various times but did not realise its importance or its far-reaching effects. At this stage it must be fairly clear to the Government that the concept, as originally proposed, is not going to work. It is not being accepted at either political or public service level with the necessary enthusiasm to make it work, even if it could work. We will leave that out at the moment. I do not think it can when it has produced the results mentioned here earlier. There will obviously be institutional agreement with the concept. It has been accepted by the Government and by the public service. These bodies will find it difficult, at this stage, to say they were wrong and that the whole system is not practical. It is leading to nonsensical situations. The nature of the system is that we do not admit publicly that we have been wrong.
I would like to know from the Minister what are the views of individual civil servants, in areas of responsibility in the various Departments, on the idea of Aireacht/executive responsibility. Do they want to see a situation where the executive responsibility becomes a statutory body where they will get into the public forum, where they will be engaged in “aggro” and controversy? Do they want to see that situation? Do they think that it will lead to a more effective and efficient discharge by them of their responsibilities? What are the views of the individuals as expressed within the civil service establishment on the grapevine? What views are coming back? Let us know honestly what these are. From what I hear through the grapevine the views of senior civil servants are that the Aireacht/executive concept is not feasible and is not something that can work as originally conceived.
What are the views of the politicians?
 We have all made our institutional vows of acceptance towards this Public Service Organisational Review Report. Again are there individual rebels? In the Government of which I was a member there were individual rebels. One rebelled quite openly—Senator Keating when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce. This is referred to in the Minister's speech. He looked at the Aireacht/executive concept, heard what was proposed to be done in his Department and would have none of it. How many Ministers in the present Government are of the same frame of mind when it comes to their door and they have to implement this within their own Department? The Government may feel that they are bound to go further because of various statements that have been made by the Taoiseach and by the Minister for Finance with regard to reforming the public service. I respectfully suggest that they do not have to accept the Aireacht/executive concept, as proposed in order to justify making those statements. It might add more credibility to those statements if they were prepared to look again at these proposed reforms.
The reason why there is back-tracking and less enthusiasm for this Aireacht/executive concept is the practical difficulties touched on by the Minister in his speech. We have to look at the political system here. The political system is multi-seat PR. Whether a person gets elected or not depends on two things: first, whether the party he belongs to has a sufficiently attractive policy and, secondly, whether he is giving an adequate service to his constituents in their problems within the administrative machine. There is nothing wrong with that. I know it is criticised as turning politicians into messenger boys. In some ways it does that but, on the other hand, the politician is the only familiar face between the citizen and the rather impersonal bureaucracy of the State. He has a definite role to play in ensuring that contact between the citizen and the State is not abrasive but sympathetic. There is nothing wrong with that role. It is part of the democratic process. I wonder how that role will  change or what its position will be if the Aireacht/executive concept is implemented and Ministerial responsibility is abrogated in so far as executive actions are concerned. I read it as meaning that if there is a question arising from the administration of a particular Department it would not be dealt with by the Minister in the way that he will not now deal with matters relating to a semi-State body on the grounds that it is autonomous and he has no responsibility for it.
I cannot see this meshing into the present political system. It would lead to a deteriorating situation as far as the citizen is concerned. The fact that there is ultimate political responsibility publicly on the floor of the House, or publicly between the Minister and his deputation, or publicly in correspondence between the Minister and an Oireachtas Member ensures that the system so far as it bears on an individual will have to bear justly and fairly. There would be the danger that, if we gave autonomy to the executive-making part of the Department, the individual may be forgotten about and the implementation of the policy would be all. It would be the citizen's hard luck if his particular circumstances happen to rub off roughly against the general policy implementing machine. This is the danger, if an autonomous statutory body is set up to implement policy without having any political control or political responsibility for its day to day working. There will be political responsibility in the sense that the policy has been made and is to be implemented. There will be political control in that the purse strings and the amount of money that will be available will be retained by the politicians. In the other way political control will be gone and there will be an autonomous body. The complaints of citizens concerning the activities of some semi-State bodies who are providing public utilities, and the less than satisfactory response they get to their grievances with regard to these bodies, adds force to my argument that it would be a retrograde step to take administration completely away from political responsibility.
The Minister mentioned the Civil Service  Commission, the Revenue Commission and the Land Commission. These are three areas that are separate for a special reason. The special reason is obviously that they are areas which if not separated could be suspect of improper activities or being under the influence of patronage. It is important for the Civil Service Commission to be totally unfettered from the Executive of the day and likewise with the Revenue Commissioners and the Land Commission. They must be autonomous.
I do not think that they are a fair example of something that is already happening. Local Government is not a good example either. It is not a good analogy to say that because it works there something similar could work on a national basis. It is wrong that separation to the extreme extent that is proposed in the Aireacht/executive concept should be implemented.
The tradition of anonymity in the civil service is a good one. It enables civil servants to be totally frank in what they report to their Minister and it is up to him to decide whether to accept or reject their reports. The public and political consequences are his and that is part of the system. He is a volunteer. He has to take any flak as well as any praise that comes his way. The quality of the advice coming to him would be affected if the people giving the advice were going to be put on a public pillar in the same way as a politician is. Human nature would make them trim unpopular advice and would want them to take the easy or popular way out which may not be the best way out. It would be wrong if the tradition of anonymity were changed or done away with. I recognise that the change would be in the executive area but we cannot separate the executive area from the planning area to such an extent that people in the executive area will not become attacked and pilloried for any faults that may be seen in the political planning area. There would be a danger that people in the public eye would seek to popularise themselves. This could cause antagonism and difficulties of personality within a particular grouping. This would not be a  desirable development. The tradition of anonymity has worked well. The number of people in the public service who do not want to be anonymous and who like to be seen as being the real master, in the sense that the press think the system works, is extremely few. A lot of people realise the value of the tradition of anonymity.
The working of the present system depends essentially on how energetic a Government may be in seeking out new policies within the various Departments, how energetic they may be in implementing those new policies and, above all, how they manage the economic affairs of the country to provide money for the implementation of these new policies. This is the kernel of a good, efficient Government, and rejigging the Departments will not get away from this basic requirement. The effectiveness of the public service and the good it can do in the country as a whole gets back to the capacity of the Government of the day and the individual members of that Government to initiate demand and implement new policies, and to the effectiveness of that Government as a whole to provide the necessary finance to see that these things can be done. The case has not been substantially made that the present system is so bad that it requires the revolution proposed by the Public Service Reorganisation Review Committee. The present system has worked quite well. People tend to become bored by anything that is with us for a long time and they like to see changes. We are possibly suffering from a bit of that attitude in the demand for changes in public administration.
There are areas in which changes could be made. I would like to see the ombudsman come in immediately. If the Aireacht/executive concept is implemented in the way its authors want, there will have to be not only one ombudsman but a whole staff of ombudsmen to ensure that an autonomous executive remembers that the citizen is king. There are no such faults in the public administration system that require the whole system to be the subject of revolutionary changes. The evidence we have to date of what these changes  are doing not merely do not encourage us to go further, but when one reads page 19 of Report No. 4 paragraph 2.6.1. they are cogent arguments for stopping now before we end up in a whole bog of gobbldegook reform.
Professor Hillery Professor Hillery
Professor Hillery: I welcome Report No. 4 of the Public Service Advisory Council and hope that future reports of the council will be debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is timely and appropriate to express gratitude to the council's distinguished former chairman, Professor Patrick Lynch, who retired last year under the rotational arrangements. His personal commitment to public service reform is widely known, he brought his many talents and immense experience to bear on the work of the council during its formative years. He has set a very high standard and I wish the new chairman, Mr. Seán McKone, every success in this important work in the future.
The Minister in his opening statement underlined that our public servants have a splendid record of service to their Ministers and to the nation. Their probity, integrity and independence under successive Governments are amply documented in Dr. Ronan Fanning's recently published book, “A History of the Department of Finance 1922-1958”. The year 1958 signalled the beginning of a new era in our economic progress towards which our fellow Member, Senator Whitaker, played a key role, through the publication of his book “Economic Development”, and his excellent work in the Department of Finance. From 1958 through the sixties and especially into the seventies the role and work of the State have been growing in complexity, placing new demands on our civil service. These new demands require new expertise in the civil service. Not only are new techniques required but our civil servants need training in disciplines such as economics, industrial relations and political theory. I am not suggesting that our top civil servants should become involved in party politics, but I am saying emphatically, that a civil servant who does not have a grasp of political theory or the political implications  of his Minister's policies must of necessity be defective in serving his Minister.
Today's debate marks a new departure. The report of the Public Services Organisation Review Group, the Devlin Report of 1969, lay the foundation stone of public service reform with which the motion today is also concerned. The Devlin Report was never debated in either the Dáil or Seanad. The pace of public service reform has been adversely affected because of Governments' preoccupation with apparently immediate and pressing problems, a situation which happily has changed for the better since the return to office of the present Government. How could we expect our public servants adequately to respond to change when they did not see any explicit political initiative being taken by a Minister for reform or change? The present Minister for Finance and the Public Service, Deputy Colley, made a fundamental statement in October 1977 when he said that the present Government were totally committed to public service reform as one of their most urgent tasks.
Before leaving office in 1973 the Fianna Fáil Government had paved the way for the establishment of the Department of the Public Service. Sadly, however, very little was done on public service reform between 1973 and 1977. To be fair to the last Government, their lack of political commitment to public service reform was not so much due to opposition to economic planning as such, but rather to lack of agreement on the form of planning that should have been pursued. As a further important indication of the present Government's desire and political commitment to advance reform in the public service, the present Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service, Deputy MacSharry, was appointed. The enthusiasm and energy he has shown in his new office are most welcome.
Deputy Vivion de Valera on the Second Stage debate of the Bill on the Department of the Public Service in 1973 raised fundamental issues and was one of the few who appreciated the political dimension of public service reform.  While I do not necessarily agree with all the arguments he used at that time, Deputy de Valera recognised that public administration cannot exist in a vacuum, and appreciated the political dimension in public administration. He correctly stressed that power must ultimately reside in Ministers and the Government and the civil servants must always be subservient to their political masters. The Devlin Report fully accepted this proposition but correctly, and I emphasise correctly, explained that the daily strain on a Minister was intolerable unless he could be relieved of routine matters and delegate to his civil servants. Consider then the demands on a Government Minister today, who has responsibility not only for his own Department but also, as a member of the Government, is collectively responsible for Government policy generally. Added to these responsibilities is the usually very heavy workload involved in representing his constituents and, since 1973, a new and further imposition resulting from our membership of the European Community has been added to the ministerial workload.
I share the view that if economic planning and development are to be effective, public service reform must be achieved as a matter of urgency. While the progress on reform to date has been very modest indeed, the Government's programme together with the very important statements by the Minister for Finance and the Minister of State in support of reform have resulted in a new and welcome impetus for the Department of the Public Service to push ahead with the administrative machinery which they have already developed so that the Department can cope with further developments.
The latest report of the Public Service Advisory Council which we welcome today, confines itself largely to the changes necessary in Government Departments if early and practical reform is to be achieved. The Aireacht experiment is concerned with the separation of policy and execution and is a sufficiently flexible concept—and here I would clearly disagree with Senator Cooney—a flexible  concept not merely to reduce the load of daily work on Ministers, but could be adapted, if the Government so decided, to resemble the French Cabinet system. Such a model might be thought necessary as increasing harmonisation of our institutions with those of other members of the EEC becomes useful or desirable.
If there are any two features of the latest report of the Public Service Advisory Council that I would particularly like to stress they are the emphasis on the need for monitoring the cost effectiveness of public sector programmes, since the cost of our public service is so vast, the need for planned staff development and the encouragement of mobility within the public service so that the immense pool of talent within the service can be appropriately utilised.
I acknowledge the contribution made over the past 25 years by Administration the journal of the Institute of Public Administration, to the scholarly study of public administration and its problems. I wish to pay tribute to the first director of the institute, Mr. Tom Barrington, who retired last year, and to successive Ministers of Finance and the Public Service who had the vision to provide financial support for the institute. The Institute of Public Administration continues to support in a practical way in its training courses the case for public service reform so powerfully made in the Devlin Report.
I hope that the Public Service Advisory Council will in its future reports be as emphatic as it has been in the report before us, on the need for enabling Ministers to concentrate on policy, leaving public servants to implement it. Ministers must be protected from being occupied with what seems urgent today, and such may be no more than administrative detail, instead of being able to address themselves to what may be important as a policy issue in the future.
Mrs. Robinson Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Robinson: I, too, welcome this opportunity to debate the Fourth Report of the Public Services Advisory Council. The issues underlying reform of the civil service are very fundamental and would have a very significant impact on the  whole political and administrative life of the country. I therefore welcome the opportunity to debate the fundamental problems and issues involved and the openness of the Minister's contribution to the debate where he sought the views of the House.
In its various reports, and in this Fourth Report the Public Service Advisory Council has referred to the need for political debate. It says at page 9:
The former Chairman, in his introduction to the last report of the Council, indicated that a political debate was overdue.
This is right. It is necessary that there be a political debate and that there be much more attention by politicians and by the public generally, through their representatives, to what is proposed, to what is happening and to what is planned for the future. Senator Hillery is right that there was no debate on the Devlin Report, but a number of seminars were given to Members of both Houses to try to educate them and interest them in the proposals of the Devlin Committee. As I recollect, those were not very successful for one reason or another and eventually they were just phased out.
Ever since the Devlin Report was published I believe that there has been a one-sidedness in the approach to this problem, which is a basic defect. A very elaborate and detailed report was prepared on reform of the civil service and this was followed by the establishment of this Public Service Advisory Council which see themselves as having the function of constantly keeping the subject of reform of the public service under review, of reporting on progress in various Departments, and on the overall position. The one-sidedness is because similar attention is not being paid to the other side of the coin, reform at the political and parliamentary levels. This is a very serious defect and may be part of the reason why there has not been greater progress in achieving reform in the public service. The only equivalent study was the all-party Committee of the Dáil on reform of procedure. This was a most minimalist report, a very brief  document which dodged the main issue of the extent to which the Oireachtas, the structure of Government and its relationship to Parliament, was adequate and appropriate to the needs of a modern State. I have not got a copy of that report in front of me but I recall that in the introduction there was a reference to the need for such a major study but that it did not seem to be within the terms of reference of that all-party Committee who simply addressed themselves to the kinds of amendments to Standing Orders and the question of Private Members' Business and so on, which would be ad hoc and very short term improvements.
The first step that ought to be taken as a political response to the various measures which have been taken and which are proposed for reform of the civil service is to establish a similar authoritative review of the operation of the Oireachtas and the way in which Members of both Houses are able, under present circumstances, to discharge the basic democratic functions of control of Government and of contribution to the legislative process and of representation of the electorate which is their public duty and mandate.
In looking at the various references in this report to the need for better management techniques and the need for the kind of thing that Senator Cooney—with whose approach I do not agree—was rather critical of, it struck me that there is such a drop between the level of support, the facilities which civil servants have, their access to information, their access to technology, to office equipment, and the general situation of Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas who share small inadequate accommodation, the basic means of communication like a telephone, who have completely inadequate secretarial assistance, and have no support in relation to their constituency work. In a way it is almost amusing that this Public Service Advisory Council should seek a political debate on the implementation of reform in the public service from the unfortunate politicians who are in such a disadvantaged position in comparison with the civil servants, and who are expected  to fulfil their part of the democratic process, an equally important part in our democracy, without any of the attention being paid to the very substantial need for reform, for changed working conditions, for the same kind of reorganisation of their workload and their responsibilities. This is equally urgent and equally important in this kind of country. This cannot be said often enough.
I do not agree at all with Senator Cooney's approach. He believes that we underestimate the present structure and the contribution of the civil service as it stands at the moment and that rather than rush ahead with change we should assess the contribution of the present system and more or less with some reforms here and there, rest content with that. The civil service, like so many of our other structures, evolved and was inherited from another country with its traditions and its approach to administration. It had certain values: it was reasonably well structured for the kind of society we were for an ageing declining population, a conservative people and more limited areas of operation of government. Since the late fifties the framework and structure has been increasingly less adequate and less appropriate to the increasing complexity of government administration, to the increasing pressures of industrialisation, to membership of the European Community, to the youth and increase in size of our population which will demand much more radical change from us than we are still prepared to recognise. We still do not recognise at the most basic political level, the kind of country we are and the kind of country we are becoming.
Against that background I certainly welcome substantial reform of the public service and I welcome the opportunity to debate it and the various reports, particularly the Fourth Report, here today. Chapter 3 of that report containing the general observations of the council refers to certain difficulties which the council would like to see debated at political level. The first of these is the political dimensions of reform. I have already  touched on this to some extent. The proposals for reform are contained in too one-sided a context and are not balanced by the need for political and parliamentary reform, not to follow upon reform of the civil service but to go hand in hand with it. This would un-doubtedly—and I am sure this is what the council would like to see—require thinking by politicians about their present role and ability to discharge their responsibilities, the problems which they encounter and which stem from the political culture which has evolved and what kind of changes are possible or desirable in it. There is a need to release both Government Ministers and politicians more for the responsibilities of control of government and assessment of legislation and legislative and policy making initiatives of that sort. This is not to say that politicians should become more remote from the people they represent, but that they should have the normal assistance which any civil servant would certainly expect to have, if asked to discharge the kind of work and responsibility which politicians are asked to discharge. One has to look at the workload and ask “would a civil servant really be content to operate on his or her own, on the basis of the salary of a Deputy or Senator or indeed of a Government Minister?” It would be inconceivable that a senior civil servant with the same kind of range of responsibilities would swap his position where he has back-up staff, secretarial assistance, various types of duplicating machines, technological equipment and all the necessary resources to discharge his function, for the deprived position of a Member of either House of the Oireachtas trying to do a job. There is certainly as much need for examination of the general ability of Members of the Dáil and Seanad to perform their task. There is much less willingness to pay for the cost of this.
We are willing to examine and invest in reform of the public service, to cost that and to take the kind of steps we see as necessary for the public service to discharge their role in the complexity of a modern state, but we are not willing either to investigate thoroughly or cost  or introduce the kind of changes which would be necessary in order that those who represent the people, those who are therefore in the frontline of what we mean by our democracy, can discharge their functions properly. It is in this context that it is very difficult to respond to the request of the Public Service Advisory Council, to respond by being helpful to the council about the political difficulties which may be encountered in the various proposals, for example the separation between the Aireacht and executive functions. I would be much more disposed to favour that kind of change on a statutory footing, if there was a balance in the response at the parliamentary level.
At the moment I would see the grave danger that the hiving off of the executive functions would lead to less responsiveness, less accountability, less knowledge of what was going on, and that it would be impossible to penetrate the lack of accountability and potential remoteness of this unit because the politicians and the public generally would not have the resources and ability to do that. There would not be a balance. A lot of the fear and caution of politicians is because we are so badly served and equipped for the job which we are supposed to do. It is difficult to give an unqualified or an enthusiastic welcome to these kinds of reforms which are not being balanced by an improvement and a modernisation of the political process and the role and status of politicians.
Certainly if a statutory basis is to be given to the separation of the Aireacht and executive units this would have to be paralleled not only by dramatic reform at the political and parliamentary level but also by a structure of accountability to the public for abuse of administrative power, either an ombudsman type structure which would have to be not so much the single person ombudsman but perhaps a local ombudsman available in the relevant regional units and the introduction or the possibility of the introduction of administrative processes for complaints against the administration which do not exist at the moment.  As well as that, there would have to be a great deal of development of advice and communication to the public by a much better structure of advice bureaux both funded and staffed with the support of Government money so that the public could be much better informed, much better aware of the kinds of functions which were being carried out at this executive civil service level and not in the previous context of the political culture that ultimately all the responsibilities were under the political scrutiny and overall responsibility of the Minister and ultimately the Minister was the person who could be approached or written to or to whom representations could be made, or who could be accountable in the Oireachtas.
There is not the developed awareness of the need for that kind of balance: there is not the same attention being paid to the need to create this kind of process for redress by the individual against any abuses or maladministration, or against any undue delays or failures to administer matters which might have been raised before at political level. This would be aggravated by a lack of knowledge of what is happening at the departmental level, a lack of information for the public generally.
To illustrate what I mean I can think of some very obvious examples in the Department of Social Welfare. The lack of public accountability there, particularly towards the most vulnerable sections of the community, the lack of any formal structure of appeal under the system of supplementary welfare which was raised in the House recently, the fact that the citizen when making an application or filling in a form for appeal so often hears nothing and knows nothing of what is going to happen or, if the person does have an appeal before an appeals officer, that may be to the individual a very unsatisfactory kind of procedure in which it is very difficult to combat the “no” by the particular civil servant which is not accompanied by any necessity to give any detailed reason for it. The person concerned has nowhere else to go and feels that this is wrong and therefore immediately contacts  the local politician saying that he has been badly treated in the particular situation. At that stage there is the possibility in our culture of raising it right up at the highest level, at the level of the Minister, saying there had been an unsatisfactory situation in the particular case. The danger is that if so many functions are to be hived off to become executive functions of civil servants, we would not have adequate processes and procedures for citizens, ways of finding out adequate information about what was going on, ways of providing adequate redress for maladministration or defects or delays in administration.
Having raised those basic criticisms about the present one-sided nature of the proposals for reform of the civil service I would like to turn to some other issues which are raised in this report. There is a very brief reference to the influence of membership of the European Community. At page 21 of this report there is a brief reference to the fact that:
The major review of the organisational arrangements for servicing and co-ordinating the response of Departments to Ireland's membership of the European Communities (referred to in the Appendix of the last report of the Public Service Advisory Council) was advanced considerably during the period. While a number of Departments remained to be surveyed before the exercise can be completed, it has been possible to reach preliminary conclusions on a number of issues which will help not only to achieve the objectives of the exercise but also in the re-structuring of Departments already surveyed on Aireacht lines.
The Third Report which is referred to there dealt in only slightly more detail with this question of the impact of membership of the EEC. On page 18 there is reference under the heading “Implications for the Public Service of EEC Membership” as follows:
One of the main areas of change affecting the public service has arisen as a result of Ireland's entry to membership of the European Communities. The working patterns and  quite often the time scale for decision making, particularly of the areas affected have been profoundly changed. It is highly important that Ireland's administrative response to the institutions and decision making processes of the European Communities be adequate for the task of helping to formulate policy and shape decisions at the European level. The Council is thus glad to note that the Department of the Public Service has under way, in conjunction with the relevant Departments, a fundamental review of the arrangements and operation at the administrative and executive levels for conducting business with the European Communities, and in particular the scope there may be for decentralising this work. The Council believes this review to be welcome and that it will be especially valuable in the light of Ireland's experience so far as a member of the European Communities.
The Third Report refers to the kind of review that is going on. The Fourth Report says it is continuing, but we do not know as politicians what is going on at all. This is not a review that is accessible to us. We do not know in what way there is serious consideration within the Civil Service of the many responsibilities and challenges placed on us by membership of the European Community. It is a one-sided approach. For members of the Oireachtas it is equally a fundamental challenge as to how Members have access to information, to an understanding of the complex issues, to an awareness of how many of these issues are being decided in Brussels rather than in Dublin.
Perhaps I could refer to the example of the proposal that Ireland would enter the European Monetary System as a good example of an apparent lack of an adequate role for the Dáil and the Seanad in the circumstances. It seems to be almost impossible to get adequate information on which to form a political view of the implications for Ireland until it is too late to influence the decisions being taken at Government level with the assistance of the officials of the various Departments involved. It would be of interest  to Members of both Houses to know a great deal more about the kind of review and assessment that are being carried out in relation to the adaptation to membership of the European Community and this review should be carried out more openly.
On the question of the traditional anonymity of the civil service, I disagree with Senator Cooney's assessment of this as being one of the great values and something which should be retained as a feature of the civil service. There has been in any case some change in this and senior civil servants are speaking out more in public and are associated with particular views. I welcome this. We are much too small a country to have the silent and completely anonymous advisers behind certain individual political figureheads who would be responsible for the views. This is an impoverishing of the general public debate and understanding of public policy and administration.
I have personally welcomed the contributions that various officials from Departments have made at seminars where, for example, there were topics arising out of Ireland's membership of the European Community or discussions about social policy and planning/or whatever it might be. To have silent civil servants taking notes there and then departing is not in the best interests of improving the public understanding, including the general communication between what is happening within the Departments and the public at large and the relationship between the politicians and the officials of departments.
I welcome the progress that has been made in the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. It has, in my opinion, established a very constructive working relationship with the relevant Departments of the public service whereby the officials from the Departments attend sub-committee meetings of that Joint Committee and discuss, in a very helpful and very often in a frank and open way, the particular problems which draft proposals of the European Communities may pose for Ireland. The initial hesitations and the initial fears of civil servants  have now gone and the possibility of sitting around a table discussing these matters has greatly helped members of the Joint Committee and has, from time to time, also helped civil servants by giving them the response and views of politicians of different political parties to the particular problems which they are trying to cope with in a working party context, or advise the Minister with a view to a decision at the level of the Council of Ministers.
I am not in favour of carrying on with the present framework. There is a very substantial need for reform of the public service. I do not have the personal experience to comment in a very definite way on whether the basic strategy in the Devlin Report is the best way of approaching the problem. I am aware of the serious ideological criticisms of my colleague, Senator Justin Keating, when Minister for Industry and Commerce. I think that his criticism was that the particular approach would not achieve the kind of radical reform in the public service which he would have wished; would not allow for a change of policy and implementation of that policy rapidly enough when there was a change of the political head and when a Government coming in wished to implement very different policies from those of its predecessor. His concern was that this might be effectively blocked or nullified by this framework which might not have the flexibility which the council has referred to and which Senator Hillery was referring to in talking about the Aireacht as being a very flexible kind of structure. As I have said, I do not know enough about the internal workings of a Department to be able to make a final assessment on that. I look forward to hearing the views of other Members of the House and also to the response of the Minister.
I am certain that this cannot go ahead on a one-sided basis: it would be wrong for us to introduce radical reform of the civil service; restructure it to hive off the Aireacht and executive unit, to introduce the kind of reforms that have been talked about without having the same kind of fundamental concern for the need for radical reform at the political level and  without having the fundamental concern to improve the access of citizens to procedures and processes to redress wrongs that they feel may be done, to get more information so as to be able to feel that the administration is responsive to their needs and to their aspirations.
I should like to make one last point on the question of expertise and mobility in the public service. Certainly, it is highly desirable that there should be the greatest degree of both expertise and planned mobility within the public service that there possibly can be. The challenges are immense. The kind of planning which we are going to have to implement in the next decade in Ireland is of an immensity and proportion of which we have never had any experience before. There does not seem to be much evidence of this happening in what I would have regarded as very obvious and logical areas.
I should like to take some examples from my personal experience and put them to the Minister. It seems incredible that there are no lawyers in the Department of Agriculture at the moment and yet officials from this Department go over very often to attend working group meetings and management committee meetings in Brussels and the whole subject matter is an immensely complex corpus of laws and regulations relating to the common agricultural policy. I would have thought that there should be an immediate need to have the expertise of lawyers in the Department who would acquire both an in-depth knowledge of the area of the agricultural policy and understand the fundamental basis of it and also to be able to advise other officials of the Department in this area. This is the composition of the working party groups from other countries. There are plenty of lawyers in the Department of Agriculture in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and so on.
I do not understand why we do not have much greater potential for law reform in the Department of Justice. I do not know what the intentions are in relation to this Department—it is not one of those covered in the present documentation—but I believe that one of the  reasons why we have had such little reform in basic areas of law down the years under successive Governments and successive Ministers is lack of capacity within that Department; the lack of expertise and therefore the lack of the kind of fundamental research and study which would produce the reforming measures I have already referred to, certain basic fundamental criticism at the moment of the structures within the Department of Social Welfare. One of the things that could be an improvement in this area of using expertise and having this kind of expertise available would be for the civil service to reach out more to the kind of expertise which is available in the community generally, in our universities or in our research institutes, for example.
Again, I am struck by the lack of use being made of this expertise. I know of examples such as attendance at various conferences or working parties drafting conventions in areas where we have expertise. I am thinking of the area of conflict of laws. There are lecturers in the universities in this area of conflict of laws who would themselves have a very good academic contribution to make in this highly difficult and advanced area of law and would also benefit greatly from the experience of attending the various conferences as part of the Irish Government's representation there, the Irish team, if you like. I am aware that other countries use their expertise and have drawn from the Community generally. I wonder whether the Minister would be able to respond to the possibility of a much more open relationship between Departments and the kind of expertise which is available in the Community and whether he might see the development of mobility as being one of greater shortterm mobility of people into Departments or an ad hoc basis representing Ireland at various specialist working party levels in various international organisations. I am aware that this does happen to some extent especially with economists and in the areas where we need new specialisation in relation to, for example, the Department of Industry, Commerce and Energy, where there is some bringing in of expertise of this sort, but it seems that it should be developed  much more openly and in a much more planned and thoughtful way.
I believe that there is a very radical need for reform of the public service but that it would be a mistake to try to push ahead with that kind of reform without balancing it by the same kind of approach to the need to reform our parliamentary and political structures and without ensuring that we introduce what is a great lack in the protection of the citizen at the moment, a lack which is to some extent made up by the fact that politicians fill a role as a sort of ombudsman, grievance man—whatever you want to call it—for the citizen who feels that he or she has been aggrieved by the operation of the public administration. That is a gap that we urgently need to fill. As it is under the present system where a person can seek a direct political accountability for every action of the administration, it would be far more urgent and would have to be parallel with the kind of changes which are envisaged which would remove a whole area of the administration from the scope of direct political responsibility.
I conclude by welcoming this debate and by locking forward to hearing the views of other Members of the House on the subject.
Dr. Whitaker Dr. Whitaker
Dr. Whitaker: I would like to begin with a word of thanks to the Minister and the Department for the consideration they have shown for Senators by circulating in advance such a comprehensive brief to facilitate debate. The Minister also was kind enough at the beginning of his speech to praise—I have no doubt that he did so in a genuine spirit—the integrity of the public service. I am sure my former colleagues in the public service will share with me a sort of wry smile on hearing that compliment so often—I do not mean from Ministers or from Members of the Oireachtas—from members of the public. I have often suspected that it was a sort of charitable refuge of those who would have preferred to say nasty things about the state of efficiency or courtesy or other attributes of the civil service.
 I would like to begin a discussion on reform by expressing the basic personal view that the objective of all specific proposals for reform must be to have a civil service consisting of well-qualified. diligent and courteous persons committed to promoting the public interest and operating in well-led teams responsible to Ministers. I say that to emphasise that persons and their qualities—no less than their qualifications—are at least as important in having a good public service as structures or any kind of specific organisational reform.
We have seen published, since the Department of the Public Service was set up in November 1973, four reports of the Public Service Advisory Council. In the very first report the council threw down a sort of challenge to the Department by saying that unless the Department saw its role as innovatory rather than regulatory the reorganisation and revitalisation of the public service would not be achieved. I think it is fair to say that running through all the four reports that have appeared there is a note of impatience at the pace of reform, of doubt as to the active and sustained commitment of Ministers and public service organisations to reform. The council do not deny, and neither do I, the genuine commitment of the Ministers directly involved and the Department of the Public Service, but there is a doubt about the degree of commitment of Ministers generally and of the public service at large. The council, when it had arrived at its Third Report, had a moment of exasperation when it said “Exhortations have not sufficed to bring about significant change”. As far as I can see, there has been virtually no movement in the area of greater integration of the public service as a whole. Mobility is still lacking, even, as the Fourth Report says, within the higher levels of the civil service. Of course, it is even more lacking at other levels of the civil service and between the civil service and State bodies.
A few years ago, when I was chairman of Bord na Gaeilge, the Department persuaded us to appoint persons to that new State body who would be in the category of civil servants  of the State rather than civil servants of the Government. We were one of the first, if not the first State body, to engage persons in such a category. The idea, which was a good one, was that this particular category, which transcended departmental boundaries, could be used to promote mobility within the public service. The one or two that we had of that species, having waited a while for mates to appear in other places, flew away and I am not sure how many of the species outside the Houses of the Oireachtas staff are still extant. Perhaps the Minister, when replying, would indicate what has been the fate or the success of this particular experiment.
The major reform which was suggested almost ten years ago in the Devlin Report was the separation of policy and execution—the Aireacht idea. On this there has been very little progress either. I was never fully convinced that it was the right approach. However, I admit there was a reasonable presumption that justified its getting a fair trial on the results of which it could either be extended, corrected or abandoned. I do not think anyone can say that a wholehearted or full-blooded trial has taken place. Four Departments were initially selected for trial, the Departments of Health, Industry and Commerce, Local Government, Transport and Power. Defence was added later. The experiment never got off the ground in the Department of Industry and Commerce because of the then Minister's opposition. The extent of progress in Local Government is obscure. We are told in the latest report that the restructuring of the Department of Tourism and Transport is now operational. The Department of Health was restructured by the end of 1976 on the basis of the report included in our compendium, which was produced in 1973.
That report advocated that there should be a monitoring of the experiment, that it should be given 18 months' trial, but there is no hard information available as to the result of this trial. There is a sentence in the last report to which attention has already been drawn in this debate. It is a sentence about the first stages of an exercise to measure the  effectiveness of the new system in the Department of Health having been completed. But there are questions still in the air about the ambivalence of Ministers and, perhaps, also civil servants towards the whole idea of the Aireacht. I can quite understand that in our present political system Ministers do not wish to surrender in any significant way responsibility for the execution of policy. The dilemma referred to by the Minister of State still remains, that is of finding some way by which Ministers can be relieved from the mass of detailed executive decision-making while retaining the essential control and direction required by their constitutional and legal responsibilities.
He goes on to say, very wisely, that there may, however, be different means by which the ends can be achieved. But we will not know whether the Devlin idea of Aireacht, of separation in that form, is the right means until there is an objective analysis of the results of the experiment in the Department of Health and elsewhere.
I confess I am surprised that in spite of all this obscurity about the results of the experiment to date and the doubt that still exists about the commitment of Ministers and civil servants to the idea, it appears that the idea is now being extended to Departments other than those involved in the original experiment, and that they have been asked to submit outline plans for their restructuring on Aireacht/executive lines. That this should happen before there is any well-considered evidence as to the results of the experiment in the Department of Health, or the Department of Tourism and Transport, does not make a great deal of sense.
I can say that I would have a strong feeling in favour of Ministers being relieved of executive responsibilities in particular Departments, but I have been surprised, since this experiment was initiated, that it has not extended to certain Departments where one would think that that separation could most effectively be done. For example, there is the Department of Social Welfare, where there is a large body of detailed administration governed by precise law from which  Ministers could very well be separated provided—and this is an important proviso—the public were assured of access to some form of administrative tribunal which would expeditiously and effectively look at any grievances they might have, not against the faceless and nameless civil servants at that point, but the identifiable and recognisable figures who would be responsible for the exercise of these well-defined executive functions.
As regards the Department of Health, I would think from my own experience as a member of a couple of hospital boards that whatever restructuring has taken place has not made much public impact. It is not clear to any outsider dealing with the Department that there is any particular person responsible for the discharge of particular functions. There is nobody who can be nailed down precisely for responsibility on any particular aspect of health administration one is interested in. I should have thought that that was something that should be coming across if the separation of policy-making from executive functions were being effectively achieved.
Another pillar of reform was the introduction of support systems in every Department in the areas of planning, finance, organisation and personnel. It is not clear how far this has gone. It is clear that the Government are giving priority to the installation of planning units in every Department to provide the back-up service for the new Department of Economic Planning and Development. Perhaps the Minister could say how far the installation of these planning units in Departments has gone.
On the general question of efficiency, much depends on the spread through Departments of a greater degree of specialist skill and professionalism. There are still marked deficiencies in the responsiveness of Departments to their clientele. Some are still far from observing the prescription of the Minister of State in his speech last June that they should be sympathetic and understanding. In my view courtesy and efficiency are very closely linked. Where  one is absent the other tends to be missing too. It is good for me, having spent so long in the public service, to be on the outside for a while and to experience the frustrating lack of courtesy which one can meet with from particular Departments, even when one is engaged in activities of a public sector character. When speaking on the Bord na Gaeilge Bill I gave instances of this here in the Seanad in relation to a particular Department which were quite inexcusable.
At the beginning I said that I attach great importance to the qualities as well as the qualifications of the persons engaged in public service so I think that what is called personnel development is a vital reform. It is essential that the civil service be equipped with all the skills and expertise to do an effective and economic job of administration. The era of the so-called gifted amateur is over. We need administrative personnel in all Departments—not just in Finance, Economic Planning and Development, or Foreign Affairs, but in all Departments—who have a variety of managerial and operational skills. In this context it is very disappointing that the idea of mobility has not progressed at all. I am not just interested in mobility within the public service. I have now had experience of being in the civil service and the public service, of being chairman of three State bodies and also a director of two private sector companies. I have seen how they all work at least at what one might call the Aireacht or policy decision-making level.
I have been impressed both by the degree of similarity that exists between operations in that area in all branches of the public service and the private sector, and also by certain respects in which the private sector, the enlightened well managed part of it, is superior to the public service. It is superior in training personnel in oral presentation of their views and opinions, in doing the sort of job that the civil service never had to do in the past but now have to do in the European context, making oral presentations that are effective. That is a skill in which both the private sector companies in which I am involved are training their  personnel. They also have a much more highly organised long-term personnel development programme than I have seen operating in the public service.
They try to discern at an early stage, in middle management, the people who have a capacity to get to the top and they provide them not only with outside training, such as the Harvard Business School may give, but more importantly with the inside training of moving them to centres of responsibility or profit-making centres within the firm so that they acquire at an early stage a sense of responsibility for making up their minds on their own and a capacity to establish the justification for their decisions and proposals to the head board of the company. Perhaps it may not be as difficult to arrange exchanges for a period of years between the top reaches of the civil service and the top reaches of the better organised businesses as it has proved to be to organise exchanges within the civil service itself or between the civil service and state bodies. I commend that idea to the Minister and the Department for further consideration.
Finally, as one aspect of the division of functions, the separation of policy from execution, there is something to be learned from the operation of the State bodies and in particular one has to learn the importance of giving as high a prerogative as possible to these bodies to operate independently. I commend it as one of the reforms of the public service introduced by this Government that in the two pieces of legislation setting up State bodies which have come before us since June 1977, there has been direct recognition of the need to give to State bodies the discretion to appoint their own staff, a matter which had previously come under restriction. This is a vital prerogative and no body which has not got the discretion to appoint its own staff, as to numbers and grades—admittedly they have to consult the Department about pay in order to avoid leap-frogging—any body which has not got this primary discretion to decide how many and what kinds of staff they need to carry out the functions allotted to them have no business being in existence at all.
 I congratulate this Government on recognising that fact. They did so in relation to the National Board for Science and Technology and Bord na Gaeilge. I conclude, a Chathaoirligh, by welcoming this report but with a feeling that the note of impatience that runs through all these reports ought to be taken more seriously and that reforms, particularly major reforms in administration, should be tested and objectively analysed to a greater degree than has so far taken place before one plunges ahead to apply them to the public service as a whole.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: I am very pleased to follow Senator Whitaker and his remarks on the reform of the public service because the difficulty that most of the Members of this House operate under is that our knowledge of public service structures is essentially limited. The people who have more detailed knowledge of public service structures and who can comment about them are people who have had direct responsibility for a sector of the public service, such as Ministers, Ministers of State and previous Parliamentary Secretaries. Senator Whitaker's remarks seem to me to be of more importance than those of previous speakers because he has had precise and considerable experience of dealing with the problems of specific Government Departments in his capacity as a public servant and also in his capacity as a member of boards of semi-State bodies. The danger for me and for other speakers is that our remarks on the difficult Aireacht concept can really take place in a vacuum without the specialised knowledge that one needs to be able really to assess this concept, to judge it and to make some worth-while comments on it.
I should like to follow some of the remarks that Senator Whitaker has made. One of them is the importance of cross-fertilisation in our civil service. The civil service must not get this totally enclosed form. It does need, and can benefit greatly, from cross-fertilisation with the private sector. I am a member of a number of private sector bodies. One in particular is the Rehabilitation Institute, a voluntary organisation which does a great deal of business with the  Departments of Health and Social Welfare. We are not a small body by any means. Our annual turnover, mainly through our own fund-raising, through the Brussels social fund grants and through grants from the Department of Health is now working out at about £5 million per annum. It is rather a large organisation with centres for handicapped people around the country. One thing I am absolutely sure of in the operation of this body is that precisely because we are voluntary and are always pressed for money and have to do our own fund-raising we can do our specific job considerably more efficiently than the Department of Health would be able to do if it were suddenly landed with the business of taking over our 20 or 30 centres throughout the country. Of course liaison and cross-fertilisation between the private sector and the public sector is important. I believe that the independence that semi-State bodies must have if they are to operate properly as commercial organisations, which they are, must be more than maintained. Our view as legislators should be to try to increase the independence of the semi-State bodies so that they can operate as commercial organisations when they require to do so, in other words, in the case of commercial semi-State bodies. We should jealously guard the independence with which they were founded and bitterly resist any attempts to restrict their independence.
My final comment would be that the question of mobility is absolutely of crucial importance. All of us must have come across areas of the public service in which there are people who are doing jobs for which they are too talented, people who can get their work done in half the time. One comes across instances of this all the time. Either the jobs are too boring or too mundane. People of talent and potential should be given more opportunity, encouragement, training and personnel development to move into positions which to them are more challenging. One of the things one does need in life if one has some potential and some ability is to be in an occupation which provides a challenge and from which one will get some satisfaction.  There are so many examples of people in the public service who have potential and ability and who are not using this because the posts they hold do not sufficiently challenge. One of the areas that has been stressed is that there must be more personnel development, more mobility and a better chance for people who have potential and skills to develop them in terms of in-service and out-of-service training and by moving to posts more suitable to their own potential and ability.
Mrs. Cassidy Mrs. Cassidy
Mrs. Cassidy: I do not intend to become bogged down in the morass of gobbledygook that Senator Cooney talks about. I should like to give a brief, general bird's eye view of how the ordinary person in the street sees the Minister, in particular, in his dual function as the chief executive of his Department and in his role as a policy maker. First, as the chief executive of his Department, the Department is entirely his responsibility, although he will delegate authority to a civil service established by law with a system of officialdom, a hierarchy of its own, where individual civil servants have, by statute, practice and custom, certain functions to discharge. The Minister will not interfere with senior civil servants in the exercise of these duties. He will leave the regulation and the discipline of more junior civil servants to the more senior ones.
I was rather alarmed by the recent statement of a Member of the House in which he described a certain Minister as having become the prisoner of his Department. I suppose it all depends on the Minister. The Minister must decide policy. If he is a strong Minister he will see that his policies are implemented. By strong, I do not mean to represent him as a jackbooted tyrant jumping all over the Department. To be strong he will need intelligence. He will need to be well informed. He will need to be able to create and to foster a good relationship with his public servants. There will need to be mutual trust between the Minister and his civil servants. He will be fully advised. He will be able to listen to advice and will know when to accept and to reject it. He will know what the public  wants and, more important, when to give it. He will quietly avail himself of prominent social functions to tease out his policies so that by the time they come to be implemented their necessity will have been accepted. Above all, may the good Lord preserve any Department from a Minister who confuses strength with stubbornness.
I should like to comment briefly on some of the recommendations of the public service organisation review group. They suggest, for example, that the welfare functions of the Departments of Health and of Social Welfare should be combined in a single Department because these welfare functions overlap. In this area the face of bureaucracy should be a very benign one. This is something we had the opportunity of discussing last evening with the Minister for Health. For most people, contact with Government is confined to either the Department of Health of the Department of Social Welfare when they apply for benefits. The image they get of the Department and of the Minister is the manner in which they are treated by the officials they meet. People are often confused about their rights. As confusion often breeds aggression officials need patience and understanding to cope.
Another recommendation of the review group, and one that I would regard with a great deal of foreboding, is the creation of a Department of National Culture. “Culture” is a very hard thing to define. Neither the Oxford Classical nor the Concise Oxford Dictionary attempts to define it. But whatever it is, it is a very delicate plant and I think it would find the winds of bureaucracy a little harsh. If cultural activities in any society are to flourish, then patronage of the arts should come from the top, particularly from our political leaders. In so far as I would go along with the idea of a separate Department, I think it should be a subsidiary of the Department of the Taoiseach. As the Minister has said, the range of debate is vast. I tried to confine myself to the view that ordinary people have of the system in so far as it affects us in our relationship with the various officials that we meet.
 Business suspended at 1.05 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.
Mr. Mulcahy Mr. Mulcahy
Mr. Mulcahy: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. Public service development is at the heart of the future of the country because the political will and leadership provided by the political side of the organisation of the country is one arm of what must be a very strong partnership with a permanent service. With the introduction of the now famous Devlin Report we had a basis for development, a few new ideas, a few scenarios which were a target for everybody to work towards. However, I think this development is taking place too slowly. Therefore, what we should be looking at in this motion are the reasons why the development is taking place too slowly.
One reason would be the natural inertia of an organisation which will tend to resist change. If one brings this down to its grass roots, what it means is that an individual who is about to have promotion to the next level is never very keen to see the whole thing being changed just when his long-awaited promotion is about to arise. There is a natural inertia there. There is also a natural inertia in that any manager in a system managing a particular unit will be very slow to see that unit subdivided or passed over to some other area which he might not want to belong to. The approach one takes to bring about change in that situation must be very sensitive and sophisticated. As well as that one must have a fair amount of organisational power behind it.
In the situation where the final decision about these matters rests with Government obviously the power which will be fed into the system to help to bring about change must derive from political power. It must derive from the political will of the political leaders to bring about change. My contention is that on both sides of the House there has not been sufficient political will to bring about the change. There are reasons for that. When an individual takes on the duties of Minister, in some cases he may be new to the job in that he might not have been a Minister before. In other cases, he may be new to a particular  Department. He has lots of problems to deal with and they come at him from all directions. He is willing to turn to any corner that will give him help and he is surrounded by willing aides. He very quickly develops a working relationship with those people, and this in itself establishes patterns of behaviour which it is difficult to change. Equally it is difficult to change by changing structures across the board. Over a period of years after the Devlin Report, a number of progressive steps were taken in different Departments. There were pilot studies and so on. We have had these reports circulated to us and we know what took place. We know of the failures and of the successes. We seem to have had fewer successes. In the Public Gallery today we have an eminent professor who has written on this subject recently.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: There should be no reference to people in the Gallery.
Mr. Mulcahy Mr. Mulcahy
Mr. Mulcahy: How do I unrefer to it?
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Continue on.
Mr. Mulcahy Mr. Mulcahy
Mr. Mulcahy: Comments have been made about the reactions of certain people to the development of the notion of the Aireacht. This is a central concept in the Devlin Report. Some Ministers, present or former, may have had the view that the Aireacht concept was not a good one. Commentators may have had that view and may still have it.
I wonder at this stage, whether or not the concept still stands up or whether it is not more of a deterrent to further reform? Should we have a review of that concept by another outside group? The Devlin Committee called on an eminent international consulting body, which was accustomed to operating in industry and in some Government service departments—mostly in the United States— to help them in their studies.
It might be useful now to think of reviewing the Aireacht concept in the context of present day requirements. Possibly this could be done with the aid of a consulting group drawn from our own shores—those who know the difficulties  we have in Ireland and who are sophisticated enough in organisation to be able to provide expertise and to bring in from published literature and research, any findings that would help in this regard.
In conversation with one ex-Minister, who is said to have blocked one of the pilot studies, I was told that he would be quite happy for me to say in the House that it was not so much the Aireacht concept as it was proposed that worried him but the fact that advice would be coming to the Minister less internally and more externally. There would be a balance of external advice which would be organised through some system to come to him as well as the advice that would come to him through the Aireacht, through the assistant secretaries and secretaries of Departments and the other staff functions. That leads us to the notion of the cabinet system that operates in other countries. There was a tendency to develop a cabinet system in the last Government, and in the present one, in the sense that some new people have been introduced close to the Minister to advise him on particular matters. It might be that that should be extended. My fear is that the inertia of the existing public service system would not want it. It is well know that they did not want the individuals that were coming in. They may have given some unenthusiastic support for the idea.
We need enthusiasm about this. We need a fruitful, enriching partnership between a temporary group attached to the Minister, in the sense that a cabinet is attached, for instance, to a commissioner in the EEC, and the existing fulltime public servants operating in particular Departments. I would see the Aireacht concept being extended to include an outside group, not one individual but a number of individuals. I am disappointed with the progress towards an Aireacht system. One of the reasons may be that the concept was not fully worked out and needs review. It should be reviewed by Irish consultants who understand the Irish scene and who are experts in the area of organisation behaviour.
The other area I would like to comment  on is the problem of staff functions that were built in as part of the Aireacht. I made this point both in public and in this House before. I believe, regardless of the difficulties of the Aireacht concept, there is nothing across the board to stop the introduction of the four main staff functions of personnel, organisation, finance and planning in every Department. Each of these functions would, working directly with the secretary of the Department rather than the assistant secretaries, have closer access to the Minister and could influence him in relation to those specialties. It would also play the basic role of co-ordinating the work of those functions, co-ordinating the planning from Department to Department back to the Minister for Economic Planning and Development, co-ordinating organisation from Department to Department back to the Department of the Public Service, co-ordinating the finance and budgeting from Department to Department back to the Department of Finance and co-ordinating the personnel side back again the same way to the Department of the Public Service. That was the idea. It was a good idea. It should not be necessary to carry out pilot studies on it. It should be done immediately. There is nothing new about that. It is not cutting across Government lines. It is based on my consideration of this over a period of time as somebody who takes some interest in the design of organisations. This is not moving fast enough and should be speeded up.
The other area is still a continuous cancer in the system and can be categorised under the dual role aspect. The Service is made up of people who are professional civil servants in that they specialise in administration as the main activity of support for Government. It also contains another body who are the professional or technical group. The old theory of this was that the professional and technical group provided advice to the administrators who made the decisions or, working with the Minister, made the decisions. We had, over the years, the extraordinary situation of people who were skilled in the literary arts and in administrative  studies trying to grapple with problems that were basically technical. Advisers spent years in professional training to enable them to understand what was going on and were held at one point removed from the decision-making process. This may not be as bad today as it used to be. The reason for this is the reluctance in the system to allow the professionally qualified people— architects, engineers, accountants, medical people—to come through into what is technically known as the line management position in the Service.
If we look at the Report on the Restructuring of the Department of Health, the Separation of Policy and Execution, July 1973, we see that the views of representatives of the Department of Health on dual structure were summarised in this way:
Our view is that while the nature of the medical input into policy making would normally be a primary determinent in decision making
—In other words, knowing something about medicine would be important in taking the decisions—
it was not realistic to suggest that the medical expertise should and can be totally built into line management for the purposes of the experiment.
—I do not know what that means—
This view was taken because (a) the medical and related aspects, though very important, are but one of the factors involved in the discharge of line management within the Aireacht.
—What are the others?—
(b) the development of sufficient numbers of officers with both the specialist skills and the management training and orientation to discharge the total responsibility through integrated job organisation could not be arranged within the time scale proposed for the experiment.
—I have been talking about this since the middle of the fifties. We are now in the middle of the seventies. When are we going to start?—
 (c) from the Working Group's interviews it would seem that the doctors and related professional personnel in the Department see the provision of specialist objective input as their primary contribution. Consequently they, unlike some of the other professions in other Departments, are generally interested in line management as such.
The doctors do not see how important it is that they should occupy the line function. Nobody will educate them so that they will see this. All one has to do is look at what has been done in other countries, particularly in the way medicine is organised in the USA, to see that this is a lot of nonsense.
I would hope that since 1973 things have moved on. I understand that in one or two areas they have. It is symptomatic of the attitude underlying the stance taken by the established administrator system in the public service. Something should be done about it.
Another example of where this has caused problems, and will continue to cause problems, is in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. There are 22,000 people employed there. The raison d'être of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs is to provide a postal, some banking and telephone systems. In one particular area there has been complete failure. My contention is that one of the reasons for the failure is that the technical people in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs have not been running the structure for the past two decades.
This was patently clear to anybody who was involved in the early fifties. I remember being on a course many years ago and asking somebody from the Department what structures they had in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to enable them to forecast the requirements of telephones over the next couple of decades. The person who was in charge of that at the time was a civil servant who had no technical knowledge whatsoever of that was going on. He was not an economist and had never studied forecasting. We all know the position we are in today. This is because of the dual structure problem, which  could have been rectified. The reason it was not rectified was because the inertia of the traditional administrative system stopped it.
The other area where problems of that kind have arisen is in the local authority system, the objective is to provide road services, sanitary services, community services and housing. Other than the community services, for which people should study social science as a back up. the other three areas require technical training. We have a dual structure where, on the one side, you have people providing advice and going out now and then doing the work and, on the other side, you have the people taking the decisions. That system has led to the problems that we have at the moment with the local authority engineers. They are a frustrated group of people and, as such, their problems come out in terms of pay claims but they run much deeper than just payment and income. The difficulty is that, by the time they break through the system their spirit is broken. They do not want to stay there. In some cases they got positions as county managers and left them.
I am not saying that where that happened it was as a result of broken spirit. The inclination to do that kind of thing is present in the younger engineer who is qualified in engineering and possibly also in administration. He has the orientation, enthusiasm and motivation to do it. It does not arise by the time he gets to that stage because he has developed other interests and says: “What the hell.” That is part of the difficulty too.
A lot of good work has been done. For instance, the setting up of the Department of the Public Service was a very good thing. That type of recommendation was implemented by the existing system for obvious reasons. A lot of good work is being done by the Department, but the underlying philosophy and lack of commitment and inertia is stopping progress taking place fast enough. The Department's concentration would appear to be more in the area of wanting to control salaries. for instance, those of the chief executives of semi-State bodies and so on. Seán Lemass's idea about semi-State bodies, and the earlier ideas that came from  McGilligan and others, was to provide some freedom of action for a board to meet the basic objectives of its existence whether it was for the generation of electricity, the saving of peat for generation purposes, the provision of jobs in Gaeltacht areas, and so on. All of these are very definite raison d'être and the idea was to give them freedom to get on with their objectives.
There is some emphasis—it is only a matter of emphasis but it comes across that way—that every time the Department of the Public Service appears in comment it is about restricting something. Despite all the good work that appears in the report, it is about wanting to have the last say on who is hired by particular councils. A National Council for Education Awards is set up and the DPS says: “You cannot take somebody on unless we approve.” The same applies to Bord na Gaeilge, Udarás na Gaeilge or any board that is set up. I know that there must be some co-ordination and some general system within which this kind of thing has to happen, but it seems to be coming across in a very restrictive, negative way. I have no ready answers to give on it and I want to highlight it.
I do not think that keeping the cap on the top group is the way to keep down income increases. Income increases ought to be kept down because they should be down in terms of the development of our economy. If one wants to keep incomes in order one should say: “Let incomes increase in the public service at a rate not greater than the added value generated in the economy in the previous year.” Negotiations would have to take place around that, but that should be the basis. The fact should be recognised that the people who work in the public service have guaranteed jobs. They have good pensions in most cases. They are not subject to the buffeting that goes on in times of recession in industry. One person in a company that I have some connection with said to me recently: “We had to get rid of 1,500 people during the recession in order to keep alive.” How many people disappeared out of the public service in that time? A value has to be put on that. It was  always put on it before and it has to be put on it again. It must come through also in terms of structuring and developing the service.
The other good thing that I should like to highlight is the work of the operations research group which has been looking at the way things are managed and the way systems operate in different Departments. I remember reading a very good report on manpower planning for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs produced by the operations research unit of DPS. I cannot help, at the same time, thinking that while they were doing that—and it was a very good job—the Department were getting into more and more trouble in terms of their basic forecast of the number of telephones. I wonder if the expertise that is available in the Department of the Public Service is going in the right direction. Is it always going downwards and not upwards? I would like to see the operations research group having a look at what goes on from the assistant secretary, secretary and Minister level. Look at the top. That is where a lot of the decisions go wrong in the beginning. I remember a few years ago, in a debate that I had on the same subject, somebody, defending the stance taken by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. He said: “We are getting consultants now”. I found out afterwards that they had got in some work study consultants to look at the methods used on the switchboards. I thought that they were getting in consultants to look at the organisation of the whole system, but that did not happen.
Obviously, because of my interest in this, I could talk for the next couple of hours but I will not take up the time of the House. I have been watching the system for a number of years and I worked in it. In the fifties I worked as an assistant engineer in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. I am not talking through my hat. It is not theoretical stuff I read in a book. It is the pain that I experienced over the years that is coming out now in the Upper House of the Oireachtas. I am glad that I had this opportunity to speak. The slowness of the development is inherent in the attitudes of the existing system and the Minister now has the opportunity, as the Minister  in charge, to provide the political will to make it happen.
Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service (Mr. MacSharry) Ray MacSharry
Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service (Mr. MacSharry): First of all, I would like to thank all of the Senators who have contributed to the debate. They have made very good points. I might start with Senator Mulcahy, the last speaker, who suggested that a further group examine the system proposed by the Public Services Organisation Review Group. I do not think that that is necessary. The Group's report was published in 1969 and nine years is a relatively short period in the context of what is envisaged. One cannot say the concept has failed unless it is given a fair trial. As I said in my opening remarks, we are taking into account the particular circumstances of each Department in developing appropriate new structures. Senator Mulcahy talked of an Irish group this time. In a way this suggestion does less than justice to the Public Service Advisory Council which is a group of expert Irish people who do a very good job and keep a continuous eye, and make recommendations and suggestions, on the reform programme.
Mr. Mulcahy Mr. Mulcahy
Mr. Mulcahy: I meant organisation consultants.
Mr. MacSharry Mr. MacSharry
Mr. MacSharry: The problem of the dual structure of administrative and professional staff which Senator Mulcahy mentions is undoubtedly a major one. He quoted the views of the Department of Health members of the Task Force on the Dual Structure but the report from which he quoted also contains a report by the Department of the Public Service representatives on the way in which we can begin to resolve this problem. I would emphasise that we will continue to seek a solution to these problems in spite of the great difficulties involved.
Earlier in the debate Senator Cooney, who opened the debate, referred to the language of reformers and he used the word “spoof” in this connection. He described the language as “spoof” and “gobbledygook”. I would like to say two  things in this regard. First, I endeavoured in my opening statement to avoid all technical language and to state clearly, in words everyone would understand, what we intend to do to secure the adaptation of the public service to the needs of today. Secondly, there is no doubt that the language of the academic practitioners of organisation science tends to be somewhat technical. In its own way, in its own place, the language of the academics is undoubtedly necessary to describe highly technical concepts. It is easy but perhaps not very useful to parody it. For my own part, however, I have used and will continue to use plain words to describe the clear aims of the Government in relation to public service re-organisation.
Many Senators referred to the Aireacht/Executive separation and the political will that might be necessary, is necessary to bring it about. Senator Cooney and Senator Robinson referred to the fact that civil servants might not be prepared to accept public responsibility. No such evidence exists. I am sure that they would be prepared to accept these responsibilities. It is the existing system which has tended to make civil servants faceless men, not any inbuilt disposition on their part towards being anonymous. We have yet to find evidence of any people who would be involved saying that they were not prepared to accept the challenge—and challenge it will be.
In regard to the Aireacht/Executive separation, the question of the ombudsman was mentioned. I can assure the House that this matter is at present under active consideration. Even in advance of the completion of the Aireacht executive unit restructuring, the existence of such a facility would be highly desirable. The Government fully realise the importance of this reform in our public service system. I hope that we will be hearing quite a lot more about that in the near future.
On the question of mobility, several Senators expressed views about public service mobility and I was very glad to hear their views. They were unanimous in recommending that increased mobility should occur. I fully agree with this. Much of the way towards mobility lies  through negotiation with staff associations. My Department have, for a very long time, been in almost continuous negotiation on mobility with the organised staff interests who do not see clearly enough the immense possibilities which greater mobility would have for them. The public interest in this matter has been expressed and I would hope that due note will be taken of this by the public service staff associations. In regard to the points mentioned by Senator Mulcahy on professional and technical people, with greater mobility the problems which he foresees can be resolved. We would hope that steps forward can be taken in that regard.
Several speakers have referred to the political consequences of the separation of responsibility for policy execution which is the central issue raised in the Fourth Report of the Public Service Advisory Council. Although some speakers have expressed reservations about change, there seems to be a general consensus that some change is desirable subject to certain safeguards. I very much welcome this. This was the purpose of this debate. I want to make it quite clear, because it was suggested by Senator Cooney and other Senators that this whole exercise was an exercise for change for change sake, that this is not so. I do not think that anybody who works within the system, elected or otherwise, would argue with me when I say that the administration of the public service has changed enormously in the last few years. It has changed within the past five years, and it is changing every day. Nobody can suggest that some change in the structure is not necessary.
Neither, as Senator Sooney suggested, are we only putting forward these ideas because people were bored with the present system and just did not like it. I do not think anyone could accept that. To take one example, if one were to accept what Senator Cooney said, that we are making change for the sake of change, one could say taking the retail business 15 or 20 years ago that the old shop on the side of the road did the business efficiently and effectively at that time. Should we then have stopped the arrival of the supermarkets or the cash and carry?  No, and that is an example that we should look at when we talk about the necessity for change. I want to emphasise the point that there is no question of having changes for the sake of change. We want to ensure that the structures that are required will be there.
Some Senators were confusing this aspect of what we were at with the question of reform in the Oireachtas. It is a matter, of course, for this House and the Dáil to make their own arrangements to deal with the parliamentary control of the business of the State. Some Senators have expressed reservations about the role of the public representative within the new scheme but within the new civil service and within the Aireacht Executive unit structure the role of the public representative will not be changed in any respect. That is not envisaged by anybody nor has it been suggested by anybody.
As regards the administrative arrangements, the Government are determined to push ahead on the broad lines outlined in the report of the Public Services Organisation Review Group and to achieve reorganisation of our public service which will make it an effective instrument of public policy and national development. Once again, I thank Senators and also the Public Service Advisory Council for initiating this debate. I hope that as progress is made with restructuring and reorganised systems developing in the various Departments, if the Public Service Advisory Council feel it necessary we could again have a similar type of debate in the future.
Question put and agreed to.
Seanad Éireann 90 Public Service Advisory Council Report: Motion.