Describe about purpose of public sector reform in Ireland and administrative reform?
Public sector reforms are necessary for every government to change the course of its operation. The areas of the implementation of the public sector reform are welfare, the healthcare sector, government administration and those areas where the government has substantial stake. The reasons for such public sector can be multidimensional. It can be due to budgetary reasons, political reasons, or because of the need to improve the service of the government. The public sector reform are often implemented and launched by the politicians who are in charge of government service. (Nolan, 2001) Such ideological public sector reform is for putting a stamp of the political party. This can be explained by an example. A government whose main focus is on business then it would aim to reduce the operation of a healthcare department or enable companies to control issues like useless spending, immigration and many more issues related to the government. Then again a government can act in a different way by encouraging the health service department or nationalize whole industries. Our report aims to explore the Public Sector reform implemented by Ireland. (Killian and Eklund, 2008)
Purpose Of Public Sector Reform In Ireland
Before we start analyzing the need for the public sector reform in Ireland, we must gain knowledge about the country. Ireland is considered to be a small country having a population of about 4.6 million. The government of Ireland is dependent on the Westminster and Whitehall public interest and follows common tradition of law. It has a written Constitution and the president of Ireland is an elected one possessing limited powers. The ministerial responsibility is the link of accountability between the political and administrative arena. The other form of government is the local government which also performs limited functions. (Guthrie, 2005)
Over the last five years, Ireland had witnessed significant alteration in the public services. There has been reduction in the working staffs by 10 percent. Other changes that had occurred n the public services is cut in wages and also changes were brought about in the terms and conditions of employment. In this regard, a public sector reform was most needed and the government of Ireland has implemented one such reform. The objective of the reform is improving the public service efficiency and upgrading the quality of public service to the residents of the country. (Mazars.ie, 2015)
The international and national fiscal crisis had created an atmosphere for reform in the public administration. The direction of the public sector reform prior to fiscal crisis was different than the environment of public sector reform after the fiscal crisis. The National Recovery Plan (2010) stated that the GDP and GNP was 11 percent and 15 percent below the rates in the year 2007 (in real terms). The rate of employment had fallen by 13 percent from its previous year 2007 which depicted a peak in the level of employment. Accordingly there was a rise in the unemployment rate from 4.6 percent to 13.5 percent. (Curristine, 2008)
The response of the government to the financial crisis by the end of the year 2010 was by signing a memorandum of understanding with the European Union for financial support of €85 billion to Ireland through the European Financial stability Fund. The government also took loans from the UK, Sweden and Denmark and through the Extended Fund Facility of IMF requested to them to support Ireland. This programme of support meant that Irish government was limiting their fiscal factors and framework for a period of three years. This phase of Ireland forced them to reassess its priority by reforming the public services and general operations and functions of the public administration. (Andrews, Downe and Guarneros-Meza, 2013)
The first step that the government of Ireland had taken to mitigate the crisis is the reduction in employment and pay cuts in public service. The main aim of this reform was to control the government expenditure which was already under distress due to the support programme that gave financial hand to the Ireland. The Public Service Agreement in 2010 planned to cut down workers and their wages and also to revise the terms and conditions of work. This agreement was again extended by the title Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 which was implemented by the Labour Relations Commission 2013. The basic framework of such extension was to increase savings for the public service payments and pension bill of €1 billion by the year 2016 for the purpose of achieving fiscal targets. The result of the reform and its extension was significant. The employment of the residents of Ireland was at its peak in 2008 and dropped by 10 percent which was from 320,000 to 287,780 in 2013. Due to the reduction in the wage and employment, the public service expenditure also reduced from €18.7 billion to €16.6 billion in 2013. But due to the ever increasing population of Ireland, the employment-population ratio has dropped from its stable position between 70-73 public sector employees per thousand populations in the year 2008 to 63.2 per thousand populations in the year 2013. (Birrell, 2010)
The next step taken by the Irish government apart from pay cut and employment removal was redeployment of workers within the public administration. This was because of the removal of employees the functioning of departments was the cut was high, was not able to function properly. So, the reshuffling of employees and their functions was required. In this context it was necessary for the public service officials to improve their flexibility, productivity and mobility to perform tasks in different sectors, organizations and boundaries in professions. The Public Sector Reform implemented by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2011 that aimed at reorienting the operations and functions of the public service. (Boyle, 2014) The plan identified five areas of priorities which are improvement in the customer service, innovation of service delivery channels, reduction in cost, improvement in leadership skills and organizational skills and upgrading the implementation of services. Other issues that were included in the reform are the developing the shared services, outsourcing and procurement procedures. The reform may have witnessed progress but significant problems still remain in this plan. The pool reduction of employees below the age of 30 was indicated as an issue which must be catered soon. The problem can be solved if proper monitoring and individuals with desired caliber are hired for the betterment of the future of the public service. (Birrell, 2012)
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform announced another reform initiative in January 2014. It named it Public Service Reform Plan 2014-16 which focuses on rendering advanced outcomes, reform dividend by which the savings must be utilized to invest in innovative services, digitalization and openness and accountability. (Jacobs, 2001)
Evaluation of Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016
The public service has complemented the national recovery of the country and thus it has always played the central role in combating the challenges with strategic management. The new public service reform was set out with the ambition of new phase in the reformatory world.
There are four priorities of the plan which are discussed below: (Reformplan.per.gov.ie, 2015)
1. Improved outcomes- the previous plan focused on the reduction of cost of public service whereas this plan also follows the same rule but with the view to implement improved outcome delivery by using alternative models of service delivery, commission on particular outcomes, services being more digitalized and improvements in the delivery of service at sectoral as well as organizational levels.
2. Reform dividend- the new plan focuses on the issues of protecting and enhancing public services and its emphasis is on releasing resources by delivering cost effective and efficient delivery with the help of savings that will eventually be invested for the better.
3. Digitalization- with the advent of technological upgradation the public service by maximum utilization of the technology to digitalize and use open data to deliver quality service and bring about innovation in information. The government has initiated a new ICT Strategy that aims at government using the emerging technologies and ensure eGovernance to improve its functioning. (O’Donnell, 2015)
4. Openness and accountability- the functioning of the public service must cater to the openness, aspect of transparency and accountability in order to gain the trust of the of the citizens. This also focuses on maintaining improved governance. In this regard a consultation paper has been released that concentrates on the strengthening the accountability and performance of Civil Service.
Apart from these issues the Public service reform also focuses on implementing models of share service, reforming the procedure of public procurement, rationing of properties, improving aspect of leadership in the governance of public service and also bringing reforms in the Human Resource Department. (Action Plan for Public Service Reform 2014 - 2016, 2015)
The public service is of three tier - the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary which works to serve the welfare of the citizens of the Ireland. The public services of Ireland include civil, health, education, local government, prison, courts, defence and other non commercial services. Among the public servants are teachers, nurses, doctors, planners, welfare officers, defence forces, engineers, tax collectors, economic regulators, police and many more. Since a large number of human resources are engaged to the public services, this gives importance to the sectoral reform for the proper implementation of the Public service reform. (https://www.accaglobal.com, 2015) We have discussed what are reformed in this context and the reason behind such reform. Some sectors that contribute to the sectoral reform are: (Reformplan.per.gov.ie, 2015)
• Civil service- the contribution of civil service in Ireland is important. It deals with advising the government in times of economic distress and challenges, formulating important policies and programmes, regulating services, catering to the interest of the Ireland outside the country and serving the common people. Since the population is increasing which exerting an upward pressure on the economy, hence the need to renew the mission and strategy of the civil service must be on the run. The reformatory phase enabled the civil service to be transparent and open so that the change in the sector can impact the needs of the Ireland in a positive way.
• Health service- the human development index of a country takes into account the life expectancy rate. This means that the health service must be improved. The recovery of Ireland also includes the health aspect which is supported by a scheme of Universal Health Insurance (UHI). With the huge debts of Ireland, the government aimed to cut down cost from all sectors including the health. Thus, the financial as well as the increasing demand pressurized the health system to step towards reform. The health reform focuses on four key elements: wellbeing, service reform by implementation of Positive Ageing Strategy, structural reform by revising the model of healthcare to UHI and tax funding model.
• Education- during the financial distress of Ireland education had played a significant role in knowledge building and improves the financial condition of the country towards economic growth. Hence, the need to improve the education and the training sector was much needed. The four central theme of the educational reform are: learning for life to provide education universally, improve the quality and accountability by rendering high quality education and training, inclusion and diversity in the sector which focused on including disable children, children with different culture, language, social status must also be included, building infrastructure to accommodate sufficient children and also educate children with the use of technology. In this regard National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy aimed to achieve improvement targets by 2020.
• Local government- the need for reforming the local government is because for the recovery of Ireland overall economic development, funding from taxation, efficient delivery of services and all other public services are to be performed by the local government. So the reformation of the local government is based on Putting People First, which is the action plan of the Irish government which emphasizes on four aspects which are: focusing on economy, organization and local community by promoting economic development, creating jobs and improving the community status, to strengthening the local government system so that efficient performance is delivered to the society and building good governance, improving leadership and maintaining accountability by developing policies and ethics.
• Justice and Equality sector- the judiciary system of a country impacts the lives of the people by protecting life and property, preventing crimes, delivery justice, promoting and fair and equal justice and many more aspect. All these play an important role in Ireland which requires this sector to reform. In order to perform justice efficiently and effectively and to solve the problems related to demography, social changes and significance reduction in budgets, the Ireland Minister of Justice and Equality implemented a reformatory programme that aimed at: focusing the citizen’s welfare, valuing money, maximum usage of ICT and utilize shared and common service. They key reforms that are taken are tackling crime by incorporating National Anti-Crime Strategy to achieve target by 2018.
The detrimental realities of Ireland can be detected from the rise in the debt which was around 124% of GDP in 2013 and it is expected that this debt will reduce by 2015 which will be around 122% of the GDP. (Northernireland.gov.uk, 2015) In this regard the public sector reform plays a crucial role in combating the challenges. The public sector reform requires concentrating on the service levels of the residents of Ireland. It is also important to review the reforms from time to time so that the efficiency and effectiveness of them are measured and if required can be amended with extensions. (wiseGEEK, 2015) From the report we find that the public sector reform was much needed by Ireland due to its economic distress after the financial crisis. The Public service reform has focused on all the sector s of the country in order to distribute the reformation throughout the country. (Hardiman, n.d.)
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