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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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New plan will make it easier to sack civil servants who are doing a bad job

While staff in the civil service who do well will be recognised – but not with bonuses.

Robert Watt
Robert Watt
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

IT WILL BE easier to sack under-performing civil servants under new plans launched by the government today.

The Civil Service Renewal Plan is outlines a three-year strategy to improve the civil service and will cost between €1-2 million to implement.Its broad aims are making the civil service workforce of 35,000 more unified, professional, responsible and open and accountable.

It includes plans to reward civil service workers for good performance, but this will not be in the form of bonus payments. Instead staff who do a good job will receive awards and recognition for good performance.

“We’d have a day where we recognise them, thank them for their efforts and achievements,” Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, explained today.

The civil service’s performance management system is to be streamlined having come in for criticism from some of the 2,000 civil servants who were surveyed in the course of the plan being devised.

Watt admitted today that the civil service has been “historically very bad at managing people, managing their performance, investing in them, making sure we have the best people in the appropriate role”.

He added: “The process under which we can exit people is too burdensome, there’s too many steps.”

Under the plans announced today it will be easier to sack a civil servant if they are found to be consistently under-performing with workers not doing a good job given an opportunity to improve performance but being “exited” if they fail to show any improvement.

‘Not written in stone’

DPER official Dr Orlaigh Quinn said that people “have been removed and are being removed” from the civil service and insisted the idea of the sector being “permanent and pensionable” isn’t “written in stone”.

In the first 200 days of the plan, the government intends to establish a Civil Service Accountability Board, chaired by the Taoiseach, and set up a performance review process for secretaries general in government departments.

Other measures to be implemented include conducting the first civil service staff engagement survey and an end-to-end review of the disciplinary code.

The plan launched today is part of the government’s response to an independent panel on civil service reform that was chaired by DCU professor Kevin Rafter.

Though 90 per cent of the Rafter panel’s recommendations are being implemented there are no plans to establish the role of Head of the Civil Service. Watt explained today that the government has “an open mind on this issue” but said the coalition had decided to leave the current structure as it is.

He said: “We’ve assinged collective responsibility to all securities general, that’s the model we’ve decided upon, but we haven’t closed off the idea of bringing a new person to take on board some responsibilities.”

As part of the reforms Watt will become a spokesperson for the civil service who will communicate to the media on its behalf.

The Association of Higher and Civil Public Servants broadly welcomed today’s announcement though said the failure to establish a new Head of the Civil Service is “a missed opportunity”.

Its general secretary Ciaran Rohan added: “The decision to appoint a spokesperson and to establish a communications unit for the Civil Service, is a long overdue and will hopefully allow for greater understanding and comprehension of the work of the men and women of the Irish civil service.”

Read: This top civil servant wants to talk about making it easier to sack public sector workers

Top civil servant: Public sector workers who don’t perform should ‘of course’ be sacked

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Hugh O'Connell

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