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.