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 2016

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.

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Fit for Purpose? Progress Report on Public Service Reform

When the Institute published the research paper Fit for Purpose? two years ago, we sought to contribute to the next phase of public service reform by identifying some of the key challenges for Irish public administration and some of the priority areas where change is necessary.

In this paper we re-visit the challenges set out in Fit for Purpose? and assess progress two years down the road. At a time of unrelenting media attention, there is a need now more than ever for sound evidence to show what is actually changing in the public service. This paper seeks to identify where real progress is being made, and to highlight where further progress or new initiatives are needed.

The Institute of Public Administration was founded to promote the study and improve the standard of public administration. These are goals we take seriously. Our intention is that this paper, and others in our State of the Public Service research series, provides sound evidence as the basis for an informed debate on the future direction of the public service in Ireland.

 

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Fit for Purpose? Challenges for Irish Public Administration and Priorities for Public Service Reform

The depth of the current economic and fiscal crisis has raised concerns about the Irish political and administrative system, and prompted calls for fundamental reform of our structures of public governance. Both the state and its financial system are reliant on international support. This crisis requires a coherent response from our public administration. There is recognition that this change cannot simply be a repeat or extension of the public service reform programmes of the past. It will need to be more radical than this. Over the coming years, the numbers employed in the public service will continue to fall and expenditure will need to be restrained, targeted and prioritised. The Public Service Agreement 2010-2014 (the Croke Park Agreement) sets out a framework for change. But there is a need to look beyond the agreement to consider more fundamentally the future role of public administration in the context of the new economic and social dispensation in Ireland. Our public services need to adapt to this new environment if they are to continue to be fit for purpose.

In this paper we set out the main challenges facing public administration and where we see reform as vital. We note what changes have taken place to date, including experience with previous reform efforts, and outline what should happen next. Where appropriate, we draw on national and international practice to provide exemplars of change.

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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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Public Sector Trends 2010

This report examines trends in public sector development over the last decade. The debate on Ireland’s public sector and public administration, and its role in Irish society, is one that generates much passion. But there is often a dearth of evidence brought to bear on the debate. On the one side are those who feel we have a ‘bloated’ public sector and who emphasise the need to cut back and ‘rein in’ public services. On the other side are those who extol the virtues of the services provided to the public and the benefits that many people receive from public services on a day-to-day basis.

Here we try to bring some evidence to bear on the important debate on the future shape 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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pdf file (548 kb)

National Non-Commercial State Agencies in Ireland

In this first report in the series, we examine changes in the landscape of national non-commercial agencies in Ireland. The role, performance, and corporate governance of agencies have been major topics for discussion and debate in recent times, as has the number of agencies involved in public service provision. This study brings much needed evidence from national and international practice to inform this debate, and makes recommendations on how these issues can be addressed for the future.

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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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pdf file (1995 kb)

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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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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