The Public Service Management Act 1997 provided for a new management structure to enhance the effectiveness and transparency of the operations of Departments of State and certain other offices of the public service. It sought to increase accountability of civil service while preserving the discretion of the government in relation to its responsibility to Dáil Éireann. It sought to provide for administration of Departments of State, appointment of special advisors, assignment of cross departmental functions and corporate status of certain public offices.
A Head in relation to a Scheduled Office, means the person appointed as the principal holder of that office. Where no such person has been appointed, the Head is a person designated by order of the Government to be such.
The Act applies to offices specified in the Schedule and listed below. The government has power to amend the schedule from time to time by substituting the names of any scheduled office or other branch of the public service.
A Minister of the government having charge of a department is responsible for the performance of the functions of the Department assigned to it under any Act.
Except as otherwise directed or provided under the Act, the Secretary General or Head of the Scheduled Office is subject to the determination of matters of policy by the Minister having charge of the department, has the authority and responsibility and accountability for carrying out the following functions.
- managing the Department or Scheduled Office,
- implementing government policies appropriate to the Department or Scheduled Office,
- monitoring government policies that would affect the Office or Department in delivering outputs as determined with the Minister having charge of the Department.
At the following times or at an earlier time if the Minister of the government having charge of the Department so requires,
- preparing and submitting to the Minister a strategy statement in respect of the Department or Office within six months of the appointment of a new Minister and every three years and
- providing progress reports on the implementation of the strategy statement annually or at such intervals as the government may by order direct by order from time to time.
It is responsible for preparing in order to give effect to the below provisions an outline of how specific elements of the responsibility is described below are to be designed so as to ensure that the functions performed on behalf of the Minister are performed by an appropriate officer or an officer at an appropriate grade or rank of the Department or Office.
It is the responsible for providing advice to the Minister having charge of the Department with respect to any matter within, affecting or connected with the responsibilities of the Minister or the Department, giving rise to material expenditure, which is charged to its appropriation account. It is responsible for ensuring appropriate arrangements are put in place that would facilitate an effective response to matters that apply to the Department or Office and other branches of the public service.
It is responsible for ensuring that the resources of the Department or Office are used in such a manner that it is in accordance with the Comptroller and Auditor General Act with a view to enabling the matters referred to in that Act to be appropriately addressed by the Department or Office. It is responsible for examining and developing means to improve the provision of effective public services.
Subject to the Civil Service Regulation Act and other equivalent legislation, it is responsible in respect of appointment, performance, discipline and dismissal of civil servants. It is responsible for managing all matters pertaining to appointments, performance, discipline and dismissals of grade of principal officer or below.
Subject to the below, it is responsible for assigning the performance of functions or works of Secretary General or Head to other officers or grades including the conditions applying to such assignment in order to ensure a coherence of policy across the Department or Scheduled Office, ensuring that where appropriate the responsibility of the performance of those functions is further assigned to other officers or grades of officer within the Department or body.
Nothing above is to be interpreted as preventing or limiting the Secretary General or Head of Department from carrying out on behalf of the Minister having charge of the Department and the other function of the Minister of government.
The Act is not to be interpreted as limiting the power of the government to assign to the Secretary General who is not a principal officer of the Department, functions which are to be carried out by that Secretary General in accordance with conditions set out in the appropriate warrant or decision.
The position formerly known as the Secretary of the Department is to be known as Secretary General of the Department and the position of the Secretary to the Government is to be known as Secretary General to the Government. The position known as the Senior Legal Assistant is to be referred to as the Director General of the Office of the Attorney General.
The assignment of responsibility for performance of functions to officers or a grade of officers of a Department or a public body shall include a requirement where appropriate to the assignment that the Officer to which the assignment is made shall
- provide policy advice in relation to the subject matter of the assignment and related matters.
- achieve the output specified in the assignment.
- assume responsibility for statutory schemes or programs specified.
- assume responsibility for the delivery of quality services in respect of the area of assignment.
- ensure that the expenditure made in respect of the area of assignment accords with the purpose for which it was chargeable to the appropriation account and that value for money is obtained.
- perform on behalf of the Secretary General functions in respect of appointments, performance and discipline of personnel in the area of assignment other than dismissals, which are the responsibility of the Secretary General or Head.
An Officer of the Department or public body to whom responsibility for performance of functions has been assigned shall be accountable for the performance of those functions to the Secretary General or Head of the Scheduled Public Body as the case may be or to such other officers as may be referred to in the assignment.
The Secretary General of the Department or body or other officer designated for the purpose to whom the relevant responsibility for the performance of the function has been assigned shall, when requested to do so in writing by a Committee of either both or either Houses of the Oireachtas, declare before the Committee in relation to a strategy statement that has been laid before the House under the above provisions.
The Public Service Management Act 1997 provided an updated framework for management in the civil service. Managerial responsibility including the power to dismiss staff below the level of principal officer was given to the Secretary General. Secretaries General could delegate most of their personnel functions other than dismissal of the senior civil servants.
The Act operates in conjunction with the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956, which had reserved most disciplinary functions to the Minister. The Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005 removed these requirements. Each Secretary General or head of each bodies covered by the legislation is the appropriate authority for managing all matters relating to appointment, performance, discipline and dismissal of civil service below principal officer level. The Minister is the authority for civil servants at higher level.
Civil servants or officeholders other than those directly under the government, who may be dismissed by it, are within the scope of the Unfair Dismissals Act. They are also brought within the provisions of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts.
Normal disciplinary action may be taken in the case of underperformance. Disciplinary sanctions include suspension without pay and a range of other sanctions.
Both established and non-established civil servants may be employed by contract. Persons over 65 years may be engaged in the civil service.
The responsibility for staff in the office of the DPP is transferred to the DPP from the Taoiseach. Responsibility for local solicitors, State solicitors is transferred from the Attorney General to the DPP.
The government may by order designate persons to be heads of a scheduled office for the purpose of the legislation. Where no person has already been appointed, the person designated is responsible by virtue of being the appropriate authority, for managing matters relating to appointment, performance, discipline and dismissal of civil servants below principal officer level.
Civil servants at or above general service grade of principal or equivalent are appointed by the relevant Minister. Certain civil servants are appointed by the government. Civil servants below the general service grade of Principal or equivalent are appointed by the Secretary General of the department or the head of the scheduled body concerned.
Private ministerial office appointees are appointed by the Minister of the government or Minister of State, to whom the service is provided.
The Chairman of the Houses of the Oireachtas are the appropriate authorities in relation to Offices of the Houses of the Oireachtas in relation to matters directly related to the business of the House. In other regards, the Commission is the appropriate authority for officers of the House, members of the joint staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas who are on the grade of principal or higher. The Secretary General of the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas is the appropriate authority in relation to members of staff below that grade.
Civil servants working for offices that report to a scheduled office are treated as if they are working for the scheduled office. Accordingly, civil servants working for the Law Reform Commission are deemed to work for the office of the Attorney General.
It is provided that every established civil service shall hold office at the will and pleasure of the government. This makes the government the authority in respect of established civil servants.
The dismissing authority for civil servants are as follows:
- Head of the Scheduled Office, the government,
- Civil servants at general service level of principal or above, Minister of the government on the written recommendation of the Secretary General of the Department or the Head of the Scheduled Office.
- Civil servants below the general service grade or principal; Secretary General of the Department or the Head of the Scheduled Office,
- Ministerial private appointees are dismissed by the relevant Minister.
The provisions do not apply to the Board of the Courts Service which continue to be responsible for the arrangements of the Chief Executive of the Court Service. The government has power of dismissal of most other Heads of Scheduled Office. The provision in relation to the courts service recognise separation of powers considerations.
Established and non-established civil servants may be appointed under contracts for particular times, projects or duration. This is to allow further flexibility. The obligations to hold recruitment competitions, applies to appointments to establish positions and most unestablished position appointments.
Persons who are over 65 may be appointed to the civil service as if they were new entrant. No mandatory retirement age applies in accordance with the 2004 Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. This allows for recruitment of persons over 65 or reengagement of serving civil servants who are recruited before the 2004 Act.
The Civil Service Regulation Acts 1956 is amended to allow disciplinary action to be taken in the case of underperformance, where the civil servant has failed to respond to training and development measures aimed at improving performance. It protects superannuation benefits accrued before a reduction in salary or rank resulting from disciplinary action. It broadens the range of disciplinary sanctions.
The government may by order on the request of the Minister for government having charge of the Department appoint a special advisor to the Minister or Minister for State. The number of special advisors shall not in the case of a Minister be greater than two other than the Taoiseach in the case of a Minister for State who regularly attends government, Ministers shall not be greater than two and in the case of other Ministers for State shall not be greater than one.
The special advisor to the Minister shall assist the Minister in providing advice, monitoring, facilitating and securing achievement of government objects that relate to the Department as requested by the Minister or Minister for State in performing such other functions as may be directed by the Minister or Minister for State that are not otherwise provided for by the Act and do not involve the exercise of specific powers by the Minister or Minister for State.
The special advisor is accountable to the Minister or Minister for State in the performance of their functions. The terms and conditions of employment of a special advisor are determined from time to time by the Minister for Finance.
The term of office of a special advisor ends when the Minister ceases to hold office. A Minister of government having charge of an office may jointly with the Minister of the government having charge of another office or other offices after consultation with the Secretary General or Head of the Public Body by order assign to one or more civil servants responsibility for performance of functions in relation to matter that pertain to the offices concerned and across departmental basis.
A function of the Minister may be delegated to the Minister for State, an assignment by Ministers of the government of responsibilities for performance of functions above is interpreted on the basis that the Ministers concurrently retain the right to undertake those functions.
The order shall specify the manner in which civil servants to which the order relates shall be accountable for carrying out of the responsibilities.
The officers referred to below may be declared to be corporations soles by order. They shall have perpetual succession and an official seal. They may sue and be sued and may hold land and assets.
The officers concerned are the Attorney General, Comptroller and Auditor General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Ombudsman.