Cowen calls for leaders to drive public service reform

Strong leaders must be head-hunted to help drive the biggest-ever reform of the public service, the Taoiseach said today.

Reiterating a theme associated with his new tenure, Brian Cowen also called for citizens to be put at the head of decision-making.

“If we are to embark on a new phase of modernisation, then we will need stronger leadership and support for this change effort.

“We will require many more capable leaders in local authorities, in hospitals, in the Garda, in state agencies, in civil service departments, in schools and colleges and at each level of the education sector.”

Such individuals must have diverse skills and experience and have a proven track record in decision-making and driving change, the Taoiseach said.

“I would like to see early progress in this regard and I believe that we can learn from the experience of others in how a public service can operate.

Mr Cowen said the leadership issue will be addressed by a new taskforce developing an action plan to modernise the public service. It is due to report back at the end of the summer.

The Taoiseach also told today’s conference that public servants and public bodies must co-operate and share information with each other and with the private and charity sectors.

Mr Cowen was speaking to the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) conference in Dublin on the theme of A Public Service for the Future? – The OECD Challenge.

A major OECD report published in April, criticised the number of Government quangos and recommended greater staff mobility between the civil service, state agencies and local authorities.

He said today: “We know that Government cannot achieve its objectives without the participation and contribution of other sectors of society.

“We know that individual organisations cannot tackle issues such as climate change or competitiveness or social exclusion alone.

“Accordingly, those of us working in the public sector need to find new ways of working, co-ordinating and influencing within and beyond the public system.”

Mr Cowen said he had already begun to find new ways of refreshing public policy-making by appointing cross-cutting areas of responsibility for his Ministers of State in Integration, Children and Youth Affairs, Older People, and Lifelong Learning.

“I have ensured that key policy areas can be afforded the necessary level of attention that they require,” he explained.

The Fianna Fail leader said the OECD Report had given an opportunity to renew the direction and accelerate the pace of reform of public services.

“We can demonstrate that the Government and the public service are driven by, and are trying our best to respond to, the complex and diverse needs of citizens.”

He added: “Our aim is to make a difference for the better in the quality of the lives of our fellow citizens and to help create the environment for enterprise and employment to flourish.

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