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Ceisteanna – Questions. - Strategic Management Initiative.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 1. Mr. Kenny Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny  asked the Taoiseach Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern  if he will report on the implementation of those aspects of the strategic management initiative applicable to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24779/02]

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern The modernisation programme in my Department supports the achievement of the Department's goals, as set out in the strategy statement. A draft strategy statement for the period 2003-05 has been prepared for my consideration. The new strategy statement will specify the objectives to be met in relation to each strategic priority, emphasising expected outcomes. The objectives for the Department are operationalised through the business plans developed at division-section level and the objectives set for each individual staff member, agreed as part of the performance management and development system.

My Department has developed significant expertise and experience in all aspects of the public service modernisation programme through its involvement in the strategic management initiative since its inception. The Department has a dedicated internal change management unit and is also developing the capability of its internal support services through the recruitment and training of expert staff and the implementation of modern management processes and information systems.

In accordance with the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, my Department submitted performance indicators for its modernisation programme to the independent Civil Service quality assurance group and reported on progress made to 1 April 2002. The staff of my Department were awarded the pay increase available under the programme by the quality assurance group in recognition of the changes that have taken place.

My Department has set itself a new set of modernisation performance indicators which will guide the next phase of the change process in the Department. These will be updated, as required, in light of developments affecting the public service as a whole, such as the outcomes of social partnership discussions, the benchmarking process and the follow-up to the independent evaluation of the strategic management initiative.

To help ensure an excellent service to our customers as part of the modernisation programme, a customer action plan for 2001-04 was published and made available on my Department's website, informed by the results of customer surveys. Customer surveys are carried out on a regular basis and the results have tended to be very positive.

My Department has been involved in providing central co-ordination and impetus to the information society and e-public service agenda. Internally, it has prepared its e-strategy and is engaged in a number of e-Government projects, notably the e-Cabinet model which will be introduced during 2003. Work is ongoing on a number of human resource management initiatives, including the re-orientation of the human resource function, the upgrading of training facili[1358]ties and the development of an integrated human resource strategy and staff development plan. A gender equality policy for the Department has been agreed as part of the partnership process and circulated to all staff and most of my Department's staff have received equality awareness training this year.

My Department is among the leading Departments in implementing the new management information framework. A new financial management computer system was implemented in July last. The approach used by my Department has since been adopted as a model by a number of other Departments. To date, I am satisfied with my Department's contribution to achieving the Government's objectives through the implementation of its strategy, including the modernisation objectives.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am not sure what questions were asked in the customer surveys. Significant increases have been allocated to health and education in recent years without a corresponding increase being achieved in terms of value of service provided. Does the Taoiseach propose to introduce new value for money criteria for managers in key services, either in his Department or generally, to ensure the level of service provided matches the level of resources allocated?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern I will answer only for my Department. Although all Departments are part of the strategic management initiative, each has its own strategy. The answer with regard to my Department is yes. The staff dealing with this issue have tried to put down performance, not just to units or sections but to individuals, to ensure everyone has objectives. The last pay increase was performance related and performance was analysed on an individual basis. I accept it is a little easier to do this in my Department because it is smaller and more focused on specific areas in comparison to many other Departments.

Human resource management and training has proved very useful for staff. Given its strong orientation towards what they are trying to achieve, it has made staff more interested in their jobs. It works in a Department such as mine, while in others where there are different pressures, such as the Departments of Health and Children and Education and Science, this is not easy to achieve.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Who in the Taoiseach's Department is driving the monitoring of the implementation of the SMI? Is there a specific person or entity to whom the Department is responsible in terms of achieving its targets and objectives? Will the embargo on public service recruitment affect its implementation and outcome, in other words, as there may not be further recruitment, can the objective of the SMI still be achieved?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern The committee of the Secretaries General of the Departments drives the overall [1359]process, while each Department has an internal committee which drives it. The position with regard to numbers is that front line positions, as has already been stated, will not be affected. Within that, it is a matter for the Departments to manage overall numbers and the reduction required of them. In my case, the numbers are not significant. It may be more difficult in other Departments. The process is centrally driven by a co-ordination group.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Does the Taoiseach have a figure for the overall cost of the strategic management initiative? Is he aware that the implementation of the strategy in the Department of Health and Children appears to have produced a proliferation of boards and agencies? One example, with which the Taoiseach is probably familiar, is the change in the former Eastern Health Board which has produced an additional three health boards in the greater Dublin area.

Many people in the front line health services are deeply distressed—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison Zoom on Séamus Pattison A question, please.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton —at conditions in hospitals compared with the cost of the management structures in the health boards brought about by the strategic management initiative. I have in mind the luxury of the health board offices in terms of buildings, carpets and so forth compared to conditions on the ground in the hospitals. Has the process in a number of Departments – not the Department of the Taoiseach – not run away with itself in terms of the administrative burden and cost it has imposed?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison Zoom on Séamus Pattison The Deputy will note the question relates specifically to the Taoiseach's Department.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I would like to know how the Taoiseach has managed to control costs with no public benefit in his Department and not others.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern The SMI process is not the cause of the difficulties outlined by the Deputy. While I note her point, I do not want to get involved in the affairs of the Department of Health and Children or the health boards. I do not have figures on the cost of the SMI in my Department, but I hope its work has produced a saving and believe that to be the case. Under the PPF, performance indicators were set for the modernisation programme in all sectors, including the Civil Service, health and education.

The Deputy is, I understand, referring to the independent quality assurance group, which was represented centrally and drove the process. The SMI process and the various aspects of it outlined in my reply are beneficial. Other Departments will benefit from adopting the model in my Department. I do not wish to ignore the Deputy's question, but it is a broad one and several of the [1360]points she made will be examined in the health strategy in the context of reform of the health boards. The Minister for Health and Children will return to them next year.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent Is rud fiúntach é ath-bhreithniú a dhéanamh ar aon straitéis bainistíochta ach taobh amuigh de chúrsaí costais agus riaracháin, atá an-thábhachtach, b'fhearr liomsa díriú ar cheist eile. Tá suim faoi leith agamsa i gconas a déanfar freastal ar dhaoine atá ag iarraidh a bheith dátheangach, nach bhfuil Gaeilge líofa acu agus atá ag iarraidh Gaeilge a fhoghlaim.

Cén tionchar atá ag an SMI, ina Roinn féin ach go háirithe, ar an gceist seo? Roimhe seo bhíodh an dá theanga taobh le taobh in aon cháipéis ach anois feicimid cáipéisí atá i mBéarla nó i nGaeilge agus an dá theanga scartha óna chéile. An féidir leis an Taoiseach a rá go mbeidh an SMI ag díriú ar an dá theanga a bheith taobh le taobh seachas Gaeilge a bheith ar cháipéis amháin agus Béarla ar cháipéis eile? Bíonn daoine ag iarraidh Gaeilge a fhoghlaim ach ní bhíonn an téarmaíocht Gaeilge acu i gcónaí.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern My Department has done precisely that. All recent documents and submissions under the SMI are bilingual. There has been a policy in the Department for the past 18 months, which was not in place heretofore, whereby all submissions and documents are bilingual. All correspondence in Irish is being dealt with as quickly as that in English, although we had some difficulties in that regard. Some 90% of members of the public who wish to deal with the Department through the Irish language are being dealt with within 15 seconds. We have genuinely tried to deal with this issue. I cannot speak for other Departments but I assure Deputy Sargent that all our new customer action plans and relevant issues will be bilingual. The issue is taken seriously in the Department.

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