Public Sector Reform

I have been reading the pin for a long time but only recently registered and paid my dues ( Dail protest and EU Commission complaint).

The issue of public sector reform exercises many people (myself included). But
the lack of hard information on public sector expenditure and scope for reform is frustrating.
The public sector unions repeatedly defend the expenditure and service levels of our public service.
One of the most often repeated assertions is that the OECD report on the public sector -
" OECD Public Management Reviews - Ireland: Towards an Integrated Public Service"
vindicates their position by proving that government spend and size of the public sector in Ireland
is at the lower end of the OECD country average.

I have heard this argument repeated often and in an attempt to further my understanding of the
argument decided to read the report.
The OECD report measures the size of the public sector by the size of the GDP in OECD countries.
By this metric we are indeed at the lower end of public sector sizes and spend.
However if you look at the report in detail - it also states that using
GNP as a metric we are right at the OECD average level of public sector
size and expenditure.

If you look at the executive summary of the OECD report hosted on the site:
-On page 14 of the report (reference by footnote number 6) it states :
“Once one accounts for the financial flows (profits and other revenues)
entering and leaving the country, however, the level of public expenditure
expressed as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) is much closer to
OECD average levels.”
Footnote 6 at the end of the chapter states:
“Public expenditure as a percentage of GNI in Ireland was 39.8 % in 2004.”

Now also note that these figures are for 2003-04. I bet that if you ran
the calculations for 2007-08 we would be substantially above the OECD
average - given the excessive growth in public expenditure in the last 4
years. This would be an interesting exercise to do.

The other major contentious issue is Benchmarking. I have been told (by friends employed in the public sector)
that an impartial expert group administered the benchmarking process and decided that the public sector was
substantially under-payed relative to its private sector counterpart. I find this hard to believe. Does anyone have
access to the weightings used by the benchmarking authority to value job security, defined pension benefits,
holiday entitlement, etc ? Also how “expert” and impartial were the group ?

The issue of public sector reform exercises me as it appears that the government backs off from
the well-funded, well-organised public sector unions and choses instead to
cut funding from the less well-organised marginalised sectors.

Is it not the case that the distinction between public and private sectors
is outdated now ? Would a sustainable long-term solution be to
abolish the public sector in large part and to create a professional class
of administrators that can be privately contracted by government
departments and moved between departments in response to the changing
pattern of demand across government departments?
Obviously this would not be a suitable model for front line staff involved in policing, health and
education, however administration skills are surely reusable across departments.

So how about a thread specifically related to public sector reform ?
I don’t necessarily mean as a collection of anti-public sector posts but rather as a focus point
for data on the positive and negative aspects of our public sector and on suggestions for reform/improvement ?

(Note I dont wish to be presumptuous in a first post. I have searched to see if this post belongs in an
existing thread - but didn’t see one) If it does or indeed if the topic has already been covered in detail
then please move as you see fit)

Worthwhile quangos need to be clustered together, the remainder abolished.

This will entail people losing their jobs, people being demoted, people having to compete in a much bigger pool to gain promotion and new work practices being brought in.

Nobody has the balls to stand up to the unions. Nobody has the balls to change the 9-5 mentality (complete with 1-hour lunch, 11’es and flexi-time). If I walked in and said I’ll work till 6 instead of 5 every evening and take 2 days off each month, I’d literally be laughed out of it.

The fudge/kick-into-touch solution is to pay for a consultant’s report and leave it sitting on the shelf gathering dust to be dealt with at some unspecific time in the future, beyond the memory-span of a goldfish. Meanwhile, the brown government payslips roll off the printing presses.

I agree, I think there are not enough public sector workers in Ireland. If we are to progress as a country we need more public sector workers. The problem that we have is that a lot of public sector workers are too highly paid, (too many many chiefs, not enough indians) compared to other countries, this has helped to fuel the property bubble even more. A lot of the increases in public sector pay were awarded because of rapidy increasing property prices, and these pay increases have helped fuel the property bubble even more!!

The public sector pay bill needs to be reduced by 10% at least, I think pay cuts are the best way to go, but i’m not sure if I was a public sector worker whether I would agree to that though. Maybe 10% at the top and 5% at he bottom might work, or else voluntary redundancies

More than reform is needed.
Why not dissolve all departments except
justice and defence. This should reduce
all taxes by about 80 % .Combined with
no bailouts / rescues we will have a
thriving efficient society.
Why should we fear liberty ?

Dear AnTusail welcome, you state some interesting information. I was surprised that our Government tackeled the old, medical card people and the young childrens teachers and class sizes. They omitted public sector reform. There are departments that can be reduced during times of recession, which I would be afraid to mention here and others need to be increased - dole office personnell. Post office Thursday queus for instance (different of course). However, decentralisation could have been abolished as it will be impossible for the Civil Servants to sell their properties (in heaven) to move to another place and buy properties in the otherplaces (hell). Is it absurd!!

Lots of Infrastructure projects could have been severly curtailed and 50% of the expenditure on New Class rooms could easily have been put back for a year or two. The expenditure on University Buildings seems to be Extraordinary and Incredible. Massive new structures at the expense of the taxpayers and most of the buildings lying idle during 35% of the year. Departments could have been amalgamated. They are all in different large buildings. I am sure 3 or 4 buildings could house the lot of all the Government Departments and the Farmleagh Park Building area could house 20% of the people of Dublin!! Its accounts time now im off.

As I always believe there is a 3rd way.

I proposed this sometime back, an A / B solution.

A = Current Public Sector
B = New unpopulated Public Service (will have different name and new ground rules)

I believe there is no point in tackling the current administration.

Best thing to do is create a whole new one from scratch with no participants.

Lay the ground rules and offers people terms & conditions to move over (plus outside candidates).

The highly motivated people who know what really needs to be done move across because they are fed up but see this as a great opportunity to cut out the layers red tape finally! You anticipate this by having same pay scale for all. No hierarchy either and some other basic rules. Not to many, simple ones. What you don’t’ want to do is start anticiapting what people should do excluding the initial setup mandates. Taking the organics nature of the pin for example. Its a working model so very much is the entire internet in terms of generative communities who do it all for the love of it and far better than any government or corporate body.

A could easily lose 10% of its workforce to B while B begins the necessary restructuring which does not initially disrupt A. Eventually others would see the positive progress over at B gradually A begins to break down having lost it top 10% and the flow form A → B as its increases eventually equilibrium would ensue and hopefully a top notch public sector!

I suppose its a bit like modern day genetic reconstructive surgery where they build a holding frame form a special material (I forget right now) which facilitates human cells lets say nose cells gorw into a new nose. The cells populate and grow as they know how around the artificial scaffold to eventually become the completed article ready for transplant to the patient.

Abolishing large sections of the public sector en-masse might be an attractive idea but its probably not going to happen.

OpenWindow I like the concept of the A/B solution but it would have to be done in a manner that there were no dependencies between the two.
I was doing some contract work for one state agency (X) some time ago when a request for some data was made by another state agency (Y) with an overlapping role. I remember the management of X thought it was a great “stroke” to pull in acceding to the request by printing the data using an old line-printer and sending 3 or 4 boxes of paper printouts which was practically useless to Y - instead of just providing the data on disc (excel spreadsheet data in the main). So I don’t believe there would be any cooperation in the event of an A/B solution.

Ok so I think there are sufficient grounds to argue that we do not have a small public sector spend relative to the OECD average.
However the report also suggests that the numbers of public sector-employees is small relative to the average.
TheHiddenHand - maybe we do need more front-line staff in the public sector and to cut the wastage in the middle and upper management,

So where can the savings be made :
Brendan Drumm has admitted that 25% of the HSE backroom admin staff should be made redundant. I think this is one of the few departments for which any information on scope for cost-saving has been acknowledged ?

Does anyone know of similar statements relating to possible savings in different departments ?

The litany of public sector failure is impressive:
PPARS farce (A friend who worked in Deloitte in London told me that the Irish project was the jewel in the crown at the time)
E-voting and Integrated-ticketing fiascos.
HSE shambles, dirty hospitals, systemic failure in patient diagnosis, failure to provide decent front-line/community care resulting in continual overcrowding of A/E departments, trolleys, etc, (personally experienced spending a night on a trolley in A/E surrounded by junkies, drunks, and regular people - later being admitted to a ward with a blocked sink full of stagnant water, blood on floor of toliet, compounded by the hospital loosing my records and asking me later if I could remember the exact details of my injuries!)
OPW purchase of Thornton Hall at multiples of market value, etc
Massive costing overruns in road and luas projects (arguable that we needed to “learn” howto manage these contracts - through fixed-cost pricing etc.)

Public Sector Success
IDA attracting record levels of inward investment.
Not much else springing to mind here.

So before this turns into a rant - can a detailed case be made across departments for efficiencies ? I know this is the govt’s job to provide this data but the current level of debate in the media seems to be stuck at commentators suggesting to public-sector representatives that we need to make savings and being challenged irately about where the savings should be made - and having no concrete suggestions.
So can we move the debate on ?

(One caveat to blaming the public sector for all our woes is that the insanity of the govt bank guarantee could yet be the thing that finishes Ireland Inc. Be kind of ironic if the greed/stupidity of the private sector banking industry ably abetted by the incompetence of the Finance department brings us all down in the end.)

as crazy as nationalising everything.

why not privatise justice and defence while you’re at it.

O K .Be really brave. Also lets have private
coinage, fixed to gold.It worked in u.k. in 19 th
century.With no currency monopoly inflation
(theft from the working man ) can end .More
freedom and less government is our solution .

No. It’s your solution and what the feck are you typing in? Wordpad? :question:

Lets be really brave and abolish the state entirely

see Somalia

I remember walking down Patrick’s St. in Cork a few years ago and a spikey haired bloke handed me a flyer. It read, “Don’t vote, the government always get in”. Funnily enough have haven’t seen too many of these learned folk around for a bit.

Indeed without question. They woudl be two entirely separate entities.

There woudl be a figurative barrier between both accepting the rules as you enter either A or B. Initially people will flow to B since its empty, some my drift back but the majority probably won’t and it will be a free decision of each participant. There is always a job in A or a place in B for them.

I’ll flesh it out agian some time and dig up the old post but I can see no alternative but to create an alternative Public Sector with initally no employees working along the more open principles of the very suvvessful and generative internet.

B would consist of equal pay for all, a desk/PC with loads of bandwidth and the freedom to self organise using simply those tools. I’m not sure we’d even need much paper if ya follow. I’d expect the first task would be for the early settlers to decide how they want to improve on what should now be a remote tyranny. Innovation and in recent history the US was the benefactor of such an approach, the results speak for themselves. Its goes in cycles and there are point where it become degeneration but then you simply need to restart the process in a similar manner, but that my friend is the nub of the proble,m :slight_smile:

How the public sector responds to a recession is different to the private sector. Just today I was talking to someone in the local county council about work that the Councillors directed the council to do over a year ago and hasn’t been done yet. I was told that due to lack of budget nothing would be done.
Questions like why didn’t you do it while you had a budget, what exactly are you doing to occupy yourself since you have no budget to spend spin around in my head but of course saying what I think doesn’t help me as then he’ll do nothing at all for me ever and he isn’t answerable to me anyhow.

In my company on the other hand, Management know revenue is dropping and they organised the organisation to be flexible so that labour isn’t a fixed cost allowing them to let go contractors, terminate contracts with vendors of services and balance work between those who remain so that the business keeps running and we come out the other side of the recession.

Problem with public sector is that labour is a fixed cost and Government will not address it. We will be billions more in debt on the far side of the recession because we can’t adjust the number of people to our needs. There are definitely people under-occupied in the County Council at the moment because they have no money to spend but they won’t be taken off payroll.
Infrastruture has been cut back but we can’t throttle labour in the same way.

T U G plese xcuse me grammar and defishince in komputur
In our predikamint we shurely need to think outside
de bocks. I think its wordpad. Embras liberti and fele de
breeeeze. Gracyas.


Hey TUG:
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… … / … - / … .- -… / … / -.-. .- -. / .-. . .- -… / - … .- - / .-- … - … — …- - / .- / - .-. .- -. … .-… .- - — .-.? :nin

Tempting and all as year zero is, the history precedents for it are poor. Somewhere around Brumaire, there tends to be a coup and a short artillery corporal takes charge. It ends badly for all concerned, including the corporal, although Josephine is frequently saved from having to wash.

I think government needs to get back to basics (to use that awful phrase) and decide what its trying to do on a macro level and then stick to the macro level. To me there seems to be too much micro from all aspects of government. So I would get rid of all the consultants who write macro policy into micro details and I would just work from the macro and let best practice and experience build up from use. I would move away from defining the rules beforehand to making them up as you go along, changing your mind several times and then publishing the best practice once you think you’ve got the hang of it. This is what seems to happen anyway, but without the tedious rule writing bit at the front.

To get costs under control, assign a budget to each macro policy and then that is it. If the money is used up, the policy doesn’t happen. This seems to be the way things work anyway, so why not enshrine it and just let people get on with it.

There is also far too much interference from politicians. This is probably best expressed in the “local TD get me a passport” thing. How anyone is supposed to do their job well when there is a chance that Jackie Healy Rae (to pick a semi-random example) will pop along to see how Mary’s passport application is doing is beyond me. If that was an isolated example, it wouldn’t be so bad. So I propose an ombudsmans office to encompass all aspects of open government. If you need something done talk to the ombudsman, they will talk to the relevant department. Sort of like a big helpdesk for the government.

So anyway, after a while you will have some really successful people who have made their macro policy work and you then promote them onto bigger policy with a bigger budget and a bigger salary. They get to pick a couple of their team to go with them, but the majority stay running the previous policy.

In the A/B scenario, you can start off with something small and build up the alternative organisation this way with the new organisation gradually taking the functions of the old as it builds up experience.