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 Header Item National Children's Hospital Expenditure (Continued)
 Header Item Departmental Reform
 Header Item Community Sector High Level Forum

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] I am unsure of where the Deputy is getting the view-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The housing projects are not built directly.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe -----from that we have ruled out the State delivering projects, given that it does and we are supportive of doing that. I remind the Deputy that the one time we tried to set up a new State body whose only job it was to deliver infrastructure, that being Irish Water, he fiercely opposed it.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The Deputy opposed it.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The councils were already doing that work.

  Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 47.

Departmental Reform

 52. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the extent to which he expects reform to feature in respect of policy affecting various Departments with particular reference to the need to ensure equity throughout all Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10629/19]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan This question is self-explanatory. To what extent do the reforms that were evident in recent years continue to be exercised across all Departments, without exception?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I thank the Deputy for his question. I launched the current framework for public service innovation and development, Our Public Service 2020, in December 2017. This plan is a whole-of-public service initiative that has been designed to build on the success of previous reforms, while also expanding the scope of reform to enable more collaboration, innovation and evaluation.

Ensuring equity and consistency in the application of reform across the entire public service is central to the framework. I expect this to be achieved through a robust and innovative governance structure, namely, the public service leadership board, PSLB, and the development of key indicators and metrics that are designed to track performance across our entire public service.

The PSLB was established to lead the delivery of Our Public Service 2020. For the first time ever, civil and wider public service leaders will share ownership and work jointly to drive the reform programme. This governance structure provides a platform for officials at the most senior level and from across the gamut of public services that we provide to ensure the even and consistent application of reform. Furthermore, Our Public Service 2020 contains an added focus on evaluation and the importance of building an evaluation culture. This will be achieved in part by developing indicators that support a focus on outcomes. For this reason, my Department established a reform evaluation unit to monitor and evaluate the reform outcomes and to create greater links between expenditure and reform.

Our Public Service 2020 seeks to deliver better outcomes for the public by ensuring that the citizen is at the centre of all policies and services that we deliver. There are always ways to do things better when it comes to the delivery of public services, but I am confident that my Department and those involved in the delivery of public services look to find ways to improve continually.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I thank the Minister for his reply. Are Departments encouraged to compare their results with a view to achieving the best possible outcome for the taxpayer? Has that happened in the past? Can that be done and is it likely to be done in future?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe They do that through the PSLB, a new organisation that we have put together. What is notable about it is that it involves leaders from our civil and wider public services. For example, it has the Garda Commissioner as a member in addition to the Secretaries General of Departments. This is the first time that we have brought leaders from across the entire public service together with a view to seeing what they can learn from one another. In the delivery of, for example, IT projects, there is a far greater sharing of knowledge and services across Departments than was the case previously. Local authorities are a leading example of this. A number of them have taken on responsibility for the discharge of particular services on behalf of all local authorities across the country. This is a good development.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Given the obvious success of that policy during the downturn, does the Minister remain satisfied that the same benefits can accrue in a growing economy, as ours is? Will the reforms that are in place have the same effect or be even more beneficial in our current economic climate?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe That is a relevant question. During the economic difficulties, there was a necessity for change in how we did things. Indeed, those difficulties provided a burning reason for why things needed to change quickly. It is fair to ask how we can maintain the same impetus for change when, thank God, we do not have those awful circumstances around us any more.

I am satisfied that there is the enthusiasm and drive to do this. That comes from two factors, the first of which is digitisation. There is a demand from citizens to be able to access services in a new way. Our public services must respond. The leading example of this is Revenue and the work it does in terms of the filing and use of tax information online. Second, those who provide our public services every day come into work and find ways to perform their jobs differently and better. There is an attitude for change there that will not go away.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I thank the Minister.

Community Sector High Level Forum

 53. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if the community sector high level forum has met recently; the progress in regard to pension provision for supervisors and assistant supervisors of community employment schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [10450/19]

 78. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if the total amount of providing pension entitlements to community employment supervisors in line with the Labour Court proposal has been costed; if funding will be made available in the coming period to deal with the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10622/19]

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I suggest that there be no introduction to these questions, with the Minister to respond. The Deputies will have 30 seconds each for just one supplementary question apiece.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 78 together.

  As the Deputies will be aware, this issue relates to a claim by community employment, CE, supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme. The matter was the subject of discussion at the community sector high level forum that was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the CE sector and, in particular, to ensure that the matter was fully examined while having regard to costs and precedent.

  A detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to examine and assess comprehensively the full potential implications of the issues under consideration. That exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presented significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost to the State of between €188 million per annum and €347 million, depending on the size of the sector, which is difficult to ascertain, in respect of funding to enable an employer pension contribution in State-funded community and voluntary organisations. This excludes any provision for immediate ex gratia lump sum payments of pension as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

  It continues to be the position that State organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not for the State to provide funding for such pension scheme provision. The employees in question are, or were, employees of private companies, notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, in receipt of State funding.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran I thank the Minister for his reply. He knows that this issue has been around since the Labour Court recommendation of over a decade ago. The high-level forum that the Minister mentioned has been examining it. However, the matter must be resolved at some point. These people have spent years providing a significant service as supervisors and assistant supervisors, yet we are not making the level of progress that we should be.

I chair the Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which is examining the issue of bogus self-employment. There are parallels with what has been done to this group of people by saying that they are employed by private companies. They had no autonomy. Their sole funding came from the State. We must accept a level of responsibility and deal with the issue. It will not disappear.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith It is ironic that the Government is constantly warning about pension time bombs and the need to force or cajole workers into pension schemes, yet here it is refusing to acknowledge the State's responsibility to provide these workers with pensions despite effectively being the agency that hired and paid them. These workers have taken strike action as a last resort in an effort to persuade the Government to negotiate with them. Their claim for a pension has been supported by the Labour Court and Dáil Éireann, which passed a motion calling on the Government to put in place pension arrangements for these workers. The Minister is now saying that it will cost too much even though we do not know the size of the sector.


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