I’m now the Green Party’s spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform. Here’s what I had to say at our Press Conference in Buswell's Hotel on the first anniversary of the Fine Gael - Labour Government being formed.
The one area where the Labour Party is in control is in the management of the public service, but what real reform have we seen there in the last year? The response to the crisis seems to be to make cuts across the board, rather than prioritising spending in some areas and changing work practices in other areas, to make the same overall saving. Such an approach might encounter greater resistance from particular vested interests but this is a time for taking courageous decisions. If the Government can explain and justify why they are doing it I think they will even get certain opposition support, including our own.
It is time to move on from the Croke Park Agreement. The Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 was a cautious document that failed to grasp the nettle of institutional reform.
Rather than relying exclusively on a voluntary redundancy scheme, why did they not tell the small number of people who are not able to do their jobs, that they would have to be among the ones to go? Public Servants must be promoted on merit, not seniority. Performance must be better measured, competence rewarded and under-performance penalised. Michael Bloomberg mayor of New York said: “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it” Mandatory redundancy is better for the State, better for the tax-payer and better for the individual.
The culture of mediocrity is some of our public services has to go. Automatic pay increments must also be reconsidered, and root and branch reform of productivity and performance in the public sector is now required. It doesn’t automatically follow that someone is better at their job after doing it for fifteen years. I suspect that in may instances the reverse is true. We need innovation, new ideas and out of the box thinking. That can be difficult if you’ve been working from the same cubicle for a decade or more. I’m delighted that the new Secretary General in Finance ran juice-bars in the south of France, we need more of that kind of background and experience.
Why does it still have to take an age to move people across departments and agencies, to the shore up the critical areas where we need them most?" There needs to be greater horizontal movement of staff between Government Departments and between the Civil Service and other State agencies.
This is a hard time to be in Government, but also a good time to be a Minister. You have a unique chance to show you can manage your department well, using limited resources to still achieve great effect. I don't know what the Taoiseach's Ministerial score card looks like, but at the end of the first year, I am not sure any of them can be sure of an honours grade.