Research & Publications

This report examines trends in public sector development and is the seventh in our annual series. The intention is to help inform the debate on Ireland’s public sector and public administration, and its role in Irish society.

Here we try to bring some evidence to bear on the important debate on the future shape, size and direction of the public sector. Using data gathered from a number of sources, information on the size and cost of the public sector, the quality of public administration, efficiency and performance, and levels of trust and confidence is presented in a simple but rigorous manner.

 

In the State of the Public Service research series, we seek to provide evidence-informed research and commentary on key aspects of contemporary Irish public administration. The authors of these reports bring their considerable expertise and practical knowledge to the topics selected so as to provide evidence, insights and recommendations to support future development. Our aim is that these reports will not only inform, but also challenge current thinking about how the Irish public service performs. It is intended that these short research reports will be of relevance and use not only to public servants, but also to policy makers and the wider public.

 

Public Sector Trends 2012

This report examines trends in public sector development and is the third in our annual series. The intention is to help inform the debate on Ireland's public sector and public administration, and its role in Irish society. There has been much talk recently about the continued relevance of the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement and the role and efficiency of public servants. Much of the discussion takes place based on anecdote, without accessing information on how the public sector is performing and how it compares internationally.

Here we try to bring some evidence to bear on the important debate on the future shape and size of the public sector. Using data gathered from a number of sources, information on the size and cost of the public sector, the quality of public administration, efficiency and performance, and levels of trust and confidence is presented in a simple but rigorous manner.

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Public Sector Trends 2011

In this annual public sector trends report Richard Boyle examines trends in public sector development over the last decade.  Using data from a variety of sources, information on the size and cost of the public sector, the quality of public administration, efficiency and performance and levels of trust is presented in a simple but rigorous manner.  Where possible, the performance of the Irish public sector is compared to that for the EU15 and EU27, as well as looking at trends over the last ten years.

  • How much do top managers, middle managers and secretaries receive in compensation compared to their European counterparts?
  • How big is Ireland’s public sector?
  • What percentage of the workforce is employed in the public sector, and is it changing over time?
  • How does the quality of Irish public administration compare to the best in Europe?
  • Is the level of trust of the Irish public in public administration changing?

These and many other questions about the public sector in Ireland are answered in a major report published today by the Institute of Public Administration.  Given that the comprehensive review of expenditure being carried out by the government will alter the shape and size of the public sector, and that on November 17th the government are publishing their public service reform programme, the report aims to being some evidence to bear on the discussion about the public sector and its future size, shape and role.  The report goes beyond the stereotypes and caricatures of the public sector all too common on both sides of the debate and bring some informed analysis to the table.

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Better Use of Public Money: The Contribution of Spending Reviews and Performance Budgeting

This paper focuses on two elements of a new budgetary framework being developed for Ireland: spending reviews and performance budgeting. Both are concerned with the provision of information on the performance and impact of expenditure, so as to better inform decisions on where to focus government expenditure so as to achieve best value for money.

The comprehensive review of expenditure commenced by the government on its appointment in spring 2011 was substantially completed in September 2011 and the results will feed into Budget 2012. But spending reviews are likely to become a permanent feature of the budgetary landscape (indeed this paper recommends that they do so). Performance budgeting is concerned with making performance information available to decision makers as part of the annual budgetary process, so that budget decisions are informed by performance measurement. Again, it is an initiative that is intended to be a permanent feature of the budgetary process. This paper draws on experience, both national and international, to suggest how these components of a new budgetary framework might best make a substantive contribution to the management of public expenditure and the restoration of sound public finances.

Given that the results from the comprehensive review of expenditure and of performance budgeting are not yet public, this paper focuses on the process of spending reviews and performance budgeting, and how the process might develop in the future. The intention is to suggest how best these initiatives might become embedded in management practice in the public service.

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Organisational Capacity in the Irish Civil Service: An Examination of the Organisation Review Programme

In the third report in a series titled ‘State of the Public Service’ by the Institute of Public Administration (IPA), Joanna O’Riordan examines organisational capacity in the Irish civil service. Organisational capacity concerns the ability of departments and other agencies to get things done, to follow through on commitments and ultimately to achieve valued outcomes for the citizen. A decision to undertake capacity reviews of individual organisations was announced by the then Taoiseach in June 2006. However, progress has been slow. By the end of 2010 only seven reviews had been published.

This contrasts with a similar initiative in the UK, where all seventeen government departments were reviewed over an eighteen-month period. Irish departments reviewed to date include the Department of Transport, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Health and Children. Capacity weaknesses identified across organisations include issues in human resource management, leadership, the governance of agencies and the capacity of Irish officials at EU level.

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Organisational Culture and the Public Service

Many times in recent years failings of the Irish public service have been blamed on organisational culture. This paper seeks to shed light on organisational culture, what is meant by the term, particularities of organisational culture in the public service, the relationship between organisational culture and performance, the centrality of effective leadership to a functional organisational culture and lastly how to assess, and if necessary change, organisational culture.

In the State of the Public Service research series, we seek to provide evidence-informed research and commentary on key aspects of contemporary Irish public administration. The authors of these reports bring their considerable expertise and practical knowledge to the topics selected so as to provide evidence, insights and recommendations to support future development. Our aim is that these reports will not only inform, but also challenge current thinking about how the Irish public service performs. It is intended that these short research reports will be of relevance and use not only to public servants, but also to policy makers and the wider public.

Download

pdf file (1018 kb)

Public Sector Trends 2014

This report examines trends in public sector development and is the sixth in our annual series. The intention is to help inform the debate on Ireland’s public sector and public administration, and its role in Irish society.

Here we try to bring some evidence to bear on the important debate on the future shape and size of the public sector. Using data gathered from a number of sources, information on the size and cost of the public sector, the quality of public administration, efficiency and performance, and levels of trust and confidence is presented in a simple but rigorous manner.

In the State of the Public Service research series, we seek to provide evidence-informed research and commentary on key aspects of contemporary Irish public administration. The authors of these reports bring their considerable expertise and practical knowledge to the topics selected so as to provide evidence, insights and recommendations to support future development. Our aim is that these reports will not only inform, but also challenge current thinking about how the Irish public service performs. It is intended that these short research reports will be of relevance and use not only to public servants, but also to policy makers and the wider public.

Download

pdf file (3030 kb)

Public Sector Reform in Ireland: Views and Experiences from Senior Executives

In September/October 2013 senior managers in the civil service and state agencies were asked to participate in a major international survey on public service reform. The survey is part of the largest comparative public administration research project in Europe, ´Coordinating for Cohesion in the Public Sector of the Future´ (COCOPS) (see www.cocops.eu for details). This paper sets out the results of the survey for Ireland. It explores what senior public servants think about public sector reform.

Views are compared with those of top public servants in other European countries. The results emphasise the influence of the fiscal crisis on reform in Ireland. At the same time, they show that Irish public executives have a broadly positive view of many aspects of public sector reform.

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Civil Service Accountability: Challenge and Change

This report is somewhat different in nature to other reports in the State of the Public Service research series in that it includes a response to the discussion paper Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance published by the Government Reform Unit of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The intention is to add to and inform the consultation process started by the production of the discussion paper.

The report brings evidence to bear on this crucial subject of accountability from both international and national practice. It addresses questions raised in the discussion paper and suggests ways of enhancing accountability whilst being aware of the dangers of accountability overload.

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Public Service Motivation

The notion that people are motivated to work in the public service as a result of a desire to serve or to have a positive impact on society is a long-standing one. This report examines how the current public service reform process, and the wider context of reform, may be impacting on the motivation of public servants. It also identifies ways in which public service managers can maintain employee motivation in a difficult environment, with consequent benefits for morale and performance.

Maintaining a motivated workforce is critical to achieving the objectives of reform. The report concludes that in circumstances where extrinsic motivations, such as pay, are being reduced, it is critical that public service managers in Ireland are aware of the importance of fostering and supporting the intrinsic motivations of employees, and are skilled at doing so. This report presents four key approaches that help organisations develop a culture grounded in public service motivation

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Workforce Planning in the Irish Public Service

In this report the critically important issue of workforce planning is examined. Given the likely public sector environment for the next few years, where the number of people working in the public service is being reduced and redeployment of staff is now a key aspect of managing resources, it will be more important than ever for public service organisations to have a clear view on how to maximise the use of remaining capacity and talent. Drawing on international and national experience, this report looks at why workforce planning can be challenging to organisations, particularly in the public sector, and how they can best address these challenges to secure a more productive and motivated workforce. One of the heartening messages from the Irish case studies examined (the Courts Service and Dublin City Council) is that we have existing examples of good practice to learn from and to build upon.

The report aims to help in a practical way by providing some direction to organisations trying to plan to make the best use of their people in the medium to longer-term, and thus to secure the productive, efficient and effective public service that is demanded by citizens.

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