Civil Service Reform Top Priority, Minister Says

Civil Service reform and efficiency savings will be crucial in delivering the Executive's Budget priorities, the Finance Minister emphasised today.

Peter Robinson told members of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy at their annual conference in Newcastle, that government should be prepared to do more to produce tangible dividends.

This should include establishing an all-powerful scrutiny body to seek out efficiency savings and ensure delivery throughout the public sector.

The Minister said: "I believe we need to become more radical in our approach to identifying ways of improving the efficiency, performance and delivery of the public sector in Northern Ireland.

“For that reason I want to suggest today the creation of a new high level efficiency taskforce – the Performance & Efficiency Delivery Unit (PEDU) – supported by a small number of staff, to re-examine the scope for generating cash-releasing efficiencies and improving delivery and performance within Departments and across the wider public sector.”

Mr Robinson said that while its composition would have to be finalised, it must have clear objectives.

He said: “The PEDU will have authority to scrutinise and review, critically, the nature of spending in all areas. It will be asked to identify radical options to produce deliverable efficiency savings over and above the 3% level already set by direct rule Ministers. It may be that differential savings levels across the public sector will result from this.

“What I want from the process is challenging recommendations as to what we should and should not be doing within the public sector, as well as plans to ensure that those services we must deliver are provided cost-efficiently."

Mr Robinson said that Civil Service reform is a top priority for government, including the reduction of administrative costs and absenteeism.

Meanwhile, it was reported today that the Civil Service has cost the taxpayer an approximate £25 million during the last financial year due to sickness absence.


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