Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 15 June 2022
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach
Secondment Policy in the Civil and Public Service: Engagement with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Mr. David Moloney:
I thank the committee for the invitation to attend the meeting today and I am happy to have this opportunity to discuss the Civil Service secondment policy and related matters with the committee. In this context, it is important that the committee is aware that the secondment circular issued by my Department last year is for the Civil Service. I will comment on certain other secondments but my Department’s role in sanctioning secondments under this policy is only within the Civil Service.
In relation to secondment, the Civil Service secondment policy and associated terms were introduced in December 2021. They were designed to complement the Civil Service mobility scheme, which is for permanent moves between Civil Service organisations, in that it enables the filling of positions concurrent with a strategic project/placement that require specialist knowledge and skill sets for a defined period. The policy recognises that a number of administrative arrangements had evolved across the Civil Service over time and was not intended to replace such sector-specific arrangements.
Secondments facilitate the release and movement of staff and may provide opportunities for staff to broaden their skills and continue their professional and personal development while retaining the right to return to their substantive or equivalent position. It is a valuable arrangement that facilitates shared learning, good practice and new ideas.
Currently there are 17 staff of my Department that are seconded in from the civil or public service and there are 19 staff of my Department that are seconded out to the civil or public service. Included in these numbers are two staff members who are seconded out to administrative roles in the third level sector. One member of staff is seconded to Dublin City University and the other is seconded to the Technological Higher Education Association.
Also included is one staff member who is seconded in to my Department from National University of Ireland, Galway as a researcher as part of the Science Foundation Ireland programme.
While the policy applies for secondments in the Civil Service, the policy also provides that the same principles should apply to secondment arrangements between a parent Department and a non-Civil Service body. It is not a requirement for public service bodies, as distinct from Civil Service organisations, to seek sanction from my Department to fill a position through secondment. That is a matter between the public service body and its parent Department.
Correspondence from the committee referred to recent secondments to third level institutions. In respect of the recent secondments of two former Secretaries General to posts in third-level institutions, on the expiry of his term as Secretary General, Dr. Fergal Lynch moved on secondment to NUI Galway. On the expiry of Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú’s term as Secretary General he moved on secondment to NUI Maynooth.
These appointments were in line with Government decisions dating from October 2011 regarding the offer of an alternative position in the civil or public service or an international institution at a salary equivalent to Secretary General until preserved pension age and that retirement before that age would not be the norm. These terms are reflected in the advertisement booklets for Secretary General posts. Both secondments are time-limited, for periods less than five years.
Responsibility for third level institutions is a matter for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science in the first instance. More generally however, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is involved in a number of ongoing cross-sectoral initiatives that aim to strengthen links between the Civil Service and the university sector in the area of public policy development. In this regard, I draw the joint committee’s attention to a number of such initiatives being pursued by the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, IGEES. IGEES operates under the aegis of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and its collaboration with academia is facilitated through the IGEES external advisory group, which consists of representatives from universities, the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and the Nevin Economic Research Institute, NERI.
IGEES seeks to further foster knowledge transfers and skills development of IGEES policy analysis by building more extensive networks across academia, through collaborative research, a research fund and various different events.
The secondments of Dr. Lynch and Mr. Ó Foghlú support, inter alia, progressing the work programme in this policy area, including links to the work being carried out under the Civil Service Renewal 2030 Strategy, led by my Department, and the recently established joint initiative of the Department of An Taoiseach and my Department, Strengthening Policy Development and Strategic Foresight in the Irish Public Service, which is a project being supported by the OECD.
Previous correspondence of the committee also referred to the proposed secondment of the Chief Medical Officer. On this matter, my Department received a sanction request from the Department of Health on 31 March. As part of this request, the Department of Health indicated the outgoing CMO would be moving to Trinity College Dublin to take up a professorship on a long-term secondment at the end of June and that it was expected that the secondment would continue until his retirement. No further detail or material was provided in relation to that secondment. As is usual with such requests, there was subsequent engagement at official level between my Department and the Department of Health in relation to it, and in relation to the funding aspects of it. Following the announcement of the CMO of his intention to retire in July, the proposed secondment and associated arrangements were not of relevance to the sanction request for a replacement CMO and a letter of sanction for the post of the CMO issued from my Department on 21 April. The subsequent report prepared by the Department of Health acknowledges that elements of the arrangements were not communicated well. The independent review commissioned by the Minister for Health into the process related to the proposed secondment is ongoing and is a matter for that Department.
I trust this is of assistance to the committee and I am happy to take any questions members may have.