Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Deputy Tom Barry: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. While it may be referred to as a technical Bill, it is very important. As an entrepreneur who runs an SME, one might expect my attitude towards the public service to be tough but that is not the case. We need an effective and efficient public service because that is where much of our growth will be initiated. This Bill was initiated in the public service reform plan 2011, which had five major commitments that are worth noting. They were placing customer service at the core of everything we do; maximising new and innovative service delivery channels; radically reducing costs to drive better value for money; leading, organising and working in new ways; and placing a strong focus on implementation and delivery. All these are being done and could be placed over the door of every private business as well. This is common sense and the proper way forward and everyone recognises that.
While it is similar to the private sector, it is important to have a commitment to change. We must increase skills in the public sector. In particular, I would look to see those skills being changed with regard to SME growth and innovation. In the past number of years, these have been areas within the public sector that have not received the attention they should have received. At times, I see issues relating to planning. We know all the issues relating to planning but we are now talking about planning for where jobs will be – these are common sense issues. We need people who will look at how we can get the job done and not how we can put an impediment in the way. Every time, we create a job, we keep another family in this country, particularly in rural areas. I cannot emphasise this point more.
There is a new challenge here. We should incentivise public servants who contribute to major savings or figure out how we can enhance the wealth of our citizens. One does not get the best out of people unless one provides them with incentives. I hear people talking about semi-State bodies with which I have close connections. These bodies have been doing this successfully for many years. I do not think we could merge the two straightaway because it will take a while for everybody to bed down in this system. Perhaps it can be addressed at a later stage.
It is very important in whatever walk of life to match people with their interests and to encourage the public sector to keep an up-to-date register of the skills status of its members because there are many people with an interest in a myriad of things but we do not know what they are. Once we find out what people are interested in, we know the areas they can serve best. We certainly need buy-in from everybody concerned. The third report of the organisational review programme in 2012 was an interesting read for anybody who struggled through it. It highlighted a lack of skills in some Departments. There is no point in wondering why people do not have the skills they should have. The onus is on us to make sure that they are re-skilled and that is happening. Other people who may be in different Departments have those skills so we could move them around. Retraining needs to be there for those who are willing to put in the effort out of hours.
I was not and am not a great fan of the outsourcing policy. There was a time in this country when we thought we could outsource everything, including the dirty work. The problem is that when one outsources to so-called experts they will, like Members on both sides of this House, argue all day yet there will be no defined conclusion. This outsourcing became quite common and the document even mentioned the risks of policy capture. That is a very dangerous place to be. Policies can be implemented based on favouring one group of people over another rather than for the benefit of the State.
Moving people into different places must be viewed by all in good faith and not as a way to extract more remuneration. It should be viewed as a skills build-up. If people move around the system and get experience through different Departments, they have a fuller knowledge, understand the running of the public service much better and become eminently more qualified in many areas because it is general knowledge that sometimes pieces together a conclusion of many of our problems.
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Deputy Tom Barry: I will continue my contribution to the debate on the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Bill 2013. This is an opportunity to avail of the skills in the public service. I also feel we should incentivise the public service, as is the case with the private sector, because it is very important that people feel they are contributing and that their contribution is valued. It incentivises them to provide more.
I would encourage the Minister not to forget the SMEs and to use this as an opportunity to become familiar and engage with them. We have often heard about the public sector that its members will have their wages at the end of the week while an SME owner will not.