White Paper on the Public Service

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We  welcome the publication  of the   White Paper,  “Serving  the  Public  Better”   which was  launched on September 11th last  by John   Boland, T.D.,  Minister for the  Public Service. The  Minister  is to  be congratulated  for  the  scope   and  content of the  document  and for  his promise that its  publication  heralds a comprehensive and  substantive  initiative  to  overhaul the machinery  of  public   administration   and the  introduction  of enabling legislation to see  this  through.

In  March   of  last  year  we  wrote   to  Mr. Boland  and  referred to  anomalies that result   from   divisions  of  responsibilities for  environmental  health   among several government  departments.  We  indicated that   the  general system of  resources allocation   in  relation  to  environmental health   related programmes was  grossly inadequate  and  inefficient  and  that  the public   not  only  had to  bear the  high  cost, but   had also  to  suffer  the  consequences of  poor  environmental  health   protection. The overwhelming need to coordinate and control  functions  in  relation to environmental and/or   health   duties   of different  government  departments  was explained, and  the  need  to  ensure Environmental  Health   Officer representation  on  relevant study  groups was  outlined.

The White Paper echoes our concerns and proposes changes to remedy some serious defects. The Minister is to examine areas of overlap and duplication among government departments, and the Government is to draw up a programme of priority   areas for detailed examination so as to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. These measures are proposed as part of a fundamental and coordinated reappraisal of the machinery of public administration. The Department of Health  is referred to as having  special  priority   needs  and accordingly  a departmental  unit  for  the coordination of policy  and the control  and development  of  information  technology services in the  sector   has  been  set  up. The  report   acknowledges  the Governments  responsibility  to  protect life,  property and  community  rights,   and refers  to the  difficulty  of no one  Minister being  responsible  for  management delivery of the services provided by some 220,000 public service members. “Better coordination of overall policy”   is seen in the report   as a prerequisite for the delivery of a better   service.

The report accepts the need for  an input  of experience  and  expertise from sources outside  the  public   service and accordingly  proposes to  forge  a partnership  of  interest with   outside bodies. The  Public  Service Advisory Council are  to  investigate  and recommend  on  how  such  an arrangement  can  best  be achieved. In the  Association’s   Submission  on the proposed White    Paper we  highlighted the  importance  of such  expertise and referred to  the  unfortunate consequences  of trying   to  implement recommendations  which,   in the absence of  such  an input    can  prove  to be  impractical  or  inappropriate  in relation to  the  professional  staff involved  in the  delivery of a service.

The  Minister  for  the  Public  Service has expressed his  appreciation  to  us for  our Submission  and  it  is with   some satisfaction  we  report  that  our recommendations  have  been considered  and  are  in some  substantial part  dealt  with   in this  White   Paper.  In launching the Report the Minister indicated that   its impetus arises from the Governments wish to have a public service in Ireland which   is second to none.  We welcome the White   Paper and now look forward to the progress promised.