Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Quango shake-up is on course

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said abolishing and merging quangos paves the way for a more efficient public service

The Government has pledged to complete its so-called bonfire of the quangos by the end of September.

It claimed significant progress had been made on its programme to abolish or merge state agencies, with work to end duplication of services across 44 bodies already complete.

But the latest report from Government on public service reform stated that another 172 bodies are yet to be fully dealt with.

"Measures involving a further 63 bodies are at advanced legislative or administrative stages," the Government said in its second progress report.

"Further measures, involving 109 bodies identified from the critical review process undertaken in 2012, are also being implemented."

The national training and employment authority Fas was among the 44 agencies that have already been dealt with.

It was dissolved and replaced with the new body Solas in October.

Sixteen new Education and Training Boards (ETBs) were set up last July, which replaced 33 Vocational Education Committees.

The ETBs were given an expanded role in delivering further education and training across the country.

"The most important benefit from this rationalisation of state bodies will be a less crowded administrative landscape, resulting in greater democratic accountability, less duplication of effort and clearer lines of responsibility for the citizen," the report said.

The Department for Public Expenditure and Reform detailed work on a string of other commitments which it has already lined up for reform over the next three years. These include:

:: Plans for all second level schools to have 100 mbps broadband installed by the end of 2014, with 216 schools being connected in 2013.

:: Private sector investment partners to fund housing for 136 homeless families in the Dublin region.

:: Implementation of the new postcodes system, aimed at helping emergency, postal and other service providers to locate all households.

:: Roll-out of a standard bank account across the country to improve financial services for service users who do not have a typical bank account.

:: Laois County Council to begin provision of shared payroll and superannuation services on behalf of all local authorities. Once operational, this is expected to make annual savings of 4.3 million euro (£3.5m).

:: New public procurement to save 500 million euro (£415m) over the next three years.

In an attempt to improve engagement with citizens and their access to the public service, there are plans for the use of "plain language" through public service guidelines, training and other supports.

The Government is also to call on all public bodies to use plain language in their letters, application forms and leaflets to make information more accessible.

Publishing the progress report and Public Service Reform Plan for 2014 to 2016, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said it paves the way for a more efficient and responsive public service.

"The new reform plan will set the basis for a new public service, one that is focused on delivering better outcomes for citizens and business customers," Mr Howlin said.

"One that is efficient and responsive, and one in which public servants are empowered to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future."

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said as part of the merging and abolition of quangos 46 of the 48 measures to cut waste and duplication of public services have been complete.

It noted that a number of agencies were saved from the cuts - the National Cancer Registry and the Commission for Aviation Regulation and the Irish Aviation Authority.

It warned that significant legislative changes will be needed to finalise some of the rationalisation but steps to ensure the administrative changes are being made in advance.

It also said the abolition of the country's 80 town councils was part of the reduction in state bodies.

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