Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Finance
Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
Question 86: To ask the Minister for Finance the criteria by which a Department will decide that an agency board is to be abolished. [17389/11]
Michael Noonan (Minister, Department of Finance; Limerick City, Fine Gael)
The Government is committed to examining all aspects of public expenditure under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure with a view to ensuring where state programmes do continue that all resources are used in the optimum manner to deliver services to citizens. One aspect of this review will be the rationalisation of state agencies. The Government expects that this will go beyond simply abolishing agencies and also consider issues such as how existing agencies might be reformed, how functions might be reallocated among them, and how different bodies â€“ within or beyond individual Ministersâ€™ remit â€“ might be brought together on a repurposed, streamlined basis. The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, in its Report of July 2009, set out a number of guiding principles that should in its view inform the Governmentâ€™s approach to agency rationalisation. Taking account of these principles and developing them in light of the Governmentâ€™s priorities, the key principles to which the Government will have regard in this overall context are as follows:
1.Citizen focus: The relationship between citizens and the State is the key relationship in any democratic society. Proposals should respect and enhance this relationship, in particular by ensuring that agencies are designed to deliver quality public services, and to contribute effectively to the business of public administration whether directly or via their parent Department.
2.Policy formulation: In the Irish system of public administration, Government Departments are and should be the primary locus of public policy formulation, evaluation and analysis. Policy evaluation and advisory functions should not, as a general rule, be carried on by external State-funded agencies. Specialist advice and consultancy may be availed of from time to time by Government Departments, subject to the tightened Government strictures on the budgets for external consultancies.
3.Specialist agencies: Decisions should take into account whether it is appropriate that a separate agency carry out particular functions in areas where specialist skills may be required, and where independence in the performance of functions requires functional separation from Government Departments.
4.Streamlining: Decisions should be cognisant of duplication, overlapping and similarities of functions and roles of agencies, and the synergies from bringing together separate bodies within cognate areas.
5.Service sharing: Even where bodies should remain separate from one another, or from a â€˜parentâ€™ Department, the possibility of sharing services, including back-office functions, should be explored to the maximum extent possible.
6.Agency life cycle: Decisions should consider whether the goal for which an Agency was originally established has been achieved (or has been found to be unachievable) and whether the original objective remains relevant today having regard to developments in society, changes in Government priorities, and the much more limited availability of resources.
7.Performance focus: Citizens are entitled to expect that every State agency has a clear mandate, clear benchmarks for the level of services that they are expected to deliver with their resources, and an appropriate governance structure that delivers accountability for results and performance.
8.Respect for staff interests: Finally, in relation to the staff employed in the various agencies, the Government will abide by the commitments given in the Croke Park Agreement in considering and implementing specific agency rationalisation proposals, subject to the necessary flexibilities, in particular on redeployment, being delivered.