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'A lot done, more to do': Reform plans promise more public services cards and better procurement

Launching new public service reform plans today, the Minister of State Brian Hayes said there has been “a lot done, more to do, to borrow a phrase from the past”.

Brendan Howlin and Brian Hayes launching the government's reform plans today
Brendan Howlin and Brian Hayes launching the government's reform plans today
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT HAS committed to increasing the number of Public Service Cards to over one million this year, saving €500 million through better procurement practices over the next three years and ensuring that any new service it launches is, by default, based online.

Ministers today launched the coalition’s Public Service Reform plan from now until 2016 which sets out an “ambitious new phase of reform” as well as acknowledging the progress made in a report on the reform plans published at the end of 2011.

Launching the document today, with Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin, the Minister of State Brian Hayes said there has been “a lot done, more to do, to borrow a phrase from the past”.

Among the document’s main proposals are for the rationalisation or ‘bonfire’ of quangos – organisations to which the government has devolved power – with the aim of having this completed by the end of this year.

Quangos

The government committed to either scrapping or merging some 48 quangos in November 2011 with Howlin claiming today that 46 have now either been abolished, merged or absorbed back into a government department. The two which haven’t been are the Irish Cancer Registry and the Irish Aviation Authority.

The government also wants to introduce one million Public Services Cards – for the free travel pass and to claim social welfare payments – by the end of this year and explore what other services they can be used for such as drivers’ licences or as an age card for adult teenagers.

Figures released earlier this year showed that around 263,000 have been issued but the government said today that some 500,000 cards are now in use.

There will be a big push to promote the delivery of services through online which the government says will be achieved through “greater digitisation and use of open data”.

With an estimated 1.8 million smartphones in Ireland and the usage of tablet computers doubling in the last year, the government intends to publish an ICT strategy in the first half of 2014 and as it deploys new services it will ensure that the default will be that they go online.

Between €450 and 500 million is invested in ICT across government departments every year.

State properties

There will be further amalgamation of functions such as payroll and pensions in shared services initiatives with the government saying that 18 administration and payroll centres have been reduced to three.

It is hoped that better procurement practices could deliver savings of €500m over the next three years by, in Hayes’s words, “procuring better, procuring more centrally”.

The government has established a new chief procurement officer under the Office of Government Procurement and Hayes said that 60 per cent of all state spending on goods and services can be done centrally “by better buying and better procurement”.

Hayes also said that the Office of Public Works has cut its bill for the management of State properties to below €100 million, reaching that target two years ahead of schedule. The total bill for rental and maintenance was €97 million last year.

The document also outlines a target to have broadband in every secondary school by 2016. Ministers have already committed to having this goal completed by the beginning of the new school year in September.

Read: Over 263,000 Public Services Cards issued to social welfare claimants

2011: Decentralisation scrapped and over 23,000 public sector jobs to go by 2015

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Hugh O'Connell

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