The Civil Service
The Civil Service, in the narrow sense, is a much smaller category than the public service. Civil servants are employed directly by a government department or other state institutions under the Constitution.
Members of The Civil Service are selected by the Public Appointments Service. Ministers appoint Civil Servants in such numbers and grades as are approved by the Department of Finance. 2004 legislation established a Public Appointments Service and the Commission for Public Service Appointments.
The Commission for Public Service Appointments regulates recruitment into the public service. The Public Appointments Service act acts for government departments while the Commission for Public Service Appointment deals with recruitment on public service bodies It publishes codes of practice.
The Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointment) Act and the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Acts 2004 and 2005 have changed recruitment and given more responsibility and flexibility to secretaries-general. They have greater responsibility relating to appointment, performance, discipline and dismissal. The latter Act permits disciplinary procedures for performance. The Public Service Management Act requires the preparation of Strategic Statements.
The 2004 legislation was designed to modernize recruitment to the public service. Methods of recruitment may involve examination, interviews, and appropriate tests.
In the case of appointments to technical positions, prescribed qualifications may be required. An interview board or panel will usually consist of three members. Lobbying and canvassing is prohibited. The Minister formally appoints but, by convention appoints the person recommended, there being no alternative name.
Some noncompetitive appointments are filled directly by the Department. Some limited roles are appointed directly by government departments, outside of the Public Appointments Service. The Minister obtains consent of the government and publishes notice in the official gazette. The Minister may be questioned by the Dáil .
Technical officers perform specialized work and will generally have special qualifications for it. For example, Chief State Solicitor’s Office, doctors in the Department of Health, et cetera.
Positions in the Civil Service are divided into pay grades by the Department of Finance. The general service comprises grades common to several departments. Clerical grades holders rely substantially on experience in undertaking their work.
Departments may have several units headed by principals, who may be engaged in broad policy area. Some areas are dealt with by assistant principals. The division may be by way of responsibility or may be geographical, depending on the nature of the role.
The area of work controlled by an assistant principal is a branch. An assistant secretary will have greater and more frequent access to Ministers. An assistant secretary may accompany a Minister on important occasions. Most ambassadors are assistant secretaries.
The Secretary-General is the accounting officer for the department. He is responsible for moneys voted by the Dáil for the departments. He must prepare an appropriation account showing expenditure of moneys. Account are presented to the Controller and Auditor General and later the Public Accounts Committee.
Ethics in Public Office
It is presumed that where a person receives a benefit from a person who has an interest in a particular matter, that the payment is corrupt until the contrary is proved. It is an offence to receive any gift, consideration or advantage as a reward or inducement for doing or not doing some action in a governmental context. Misuse of confidential information is a corrupt practice.
The Standards in Public Office Commission publishes a code for public service behavior. In broad terms the code provides as follows:
- Civil Servants must be impartial in the exercise of their functions
- Civil Servants must not stand for European or national elections.
- Civil Servants in the craft and state industrial related grades may engage in political activities and stand for local election.
- Civil Servants must maintain high standards of service when dealing with the public and comply with law at all times.
- Civil Servants tried for criminal offences or granted the probation act must disclose this to their personnel officer
- Civil Servants are required to have due regard to the proper, effective and efficient use of public money
- Civil Servants must not benefit themselves or others to whom they have personal or business ties
- Civil Servants must not seek to influence a decision on matters relating to their official positions
- Civil Servants must not engage in outside business or activities that would conflict with their position
- Civil Servants must not lead to influence decisions on matters related to their position or the established procedures
- Civil Servants occupying designated positions under the Ethics in Public Office legislation have an obligation to disclose interests over and above the code
- Civil Servants must not receive benefits from third parties which might reasonably be seen to compromise their personal judgment and integrity
Gifts & Hospitality
Each s department makes rules under the code of conduct on the receipt of gifts
There are guidelines on the acceptance of hospitality designed to ensure that it does not influence and is not seen to influence the discharge of official functions
- Civil Servants must not seek contracts with government departments or offices for their own benefits or the benefit of anyone with whom they are involved in a private capacity
- Civil Servants must not accept appointment or consultancies where they believe the nature and terms of the appointment could lead to a conflict of interest or the perception of a conflict of interest without the approval of the Outside Appointments’ Board
- Civil Servants who are designated position holders under the Ethics legislation must within 12 months of retiring or resigning obtain approval of the Outside Appointments Board before taking up appointments.
Under the Official Secrets Act, civil servants must not communicate official information unless authorized. This covers departmental documents, as well as verbal discussions and advice.
T+he prohibitions apply post retirement. Civil servants must not publish materials without the agreement of their head of department in relation to the business of the department.
Civil Servants are obliged to act independent of party politics. They are generally prohibited from participating in party politics. Civil Servants who are engaged in technical grades such as solicitors, doctors, engineers, may not engage in private practice or have connections with outside business.
Beyond this, Civil Servants are not expressly prohibited from working outside office hours. They must however ensure that their business does not conflict with their official duties or hinder the performance of duties.
Pay and employment conditions
Civil Servants of different grades have different pay scales. Before receiving an increment, a superior, generally in personnel, must certify that the person has worked satisfactory.
Very senior civil servants have flat salaries relative to the responsibility of the position.
Promotion is technically reappointment and is made in the name of the Minister. The most senior promotions require the consent of the Department of Finance.
The Top Level Appointments Commission consists of very senior civil servants at the secretary general level with a private sector representative. It deals with appointments to secretary general, assistant secretary, and technical posts at the same level. The appointments are made by the Minister on the advice of the Commission. A small number of the most senior secretary general positions are made directly by the government.
The Minister of Finance’s primary role in setting general terms and conditions of employment
Technically every established civil servant holds office at the will and pleasure of the government. However, in practice, civil servants are very rarely dismissed. So that is why in theory it seems insecure, in practice it is extremely secure.
Civil servants must retire at 65.
The Civil Servants Regulation Amendment Act 2005 permits dismissal for grades of principal and above and heads of other grades.