NUI Galway President Says Poor Systems Compromising Change within Public Sector

Friday, 8 April 2011

"Poor systems within the civil service and the public sector will further dis-empower public sector leaders and compromise the change needed to correct our public finances," that's according to NUI Galway President Dr James J. Browne, speaking earlier today at the launch of Leadership in the Irish Civil Service: A 360° Review of Senior Management Capability report at the University today. President Browne added that a robust, independent and rational public service must be free from any suspicion of political clientelism. Civil servants, especially senior civil servants, must feel free to act with true accountability and transparency. In his speech, Dr Browne added that "senior leaders are currently managing and leading without the authority or indeed adequate control mechanisms to effect real change and this encapsulates the challenge facing leaders in the civil service, and indeed the wider public sector". The President is arguing for a system where senior managers in the public sector are given defined budgets and are responsible for outputs within their organisation. "Leaders and managers must have the freedom to allocate resources and to change processes while working within these budgets and achieving agreed outputs. There is no role for a central 'control' authority, in second guessing processes, procedures and decisions made at local level, provided always, of course, that decisions are made in accordance with best practice and good governance and are within agreed budgets." With a forward by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the report is the culmination of a two-year research project at the University's Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) and Management Discipline. The Taoiseach has written that the report, "will inform public service policy and practice with regard to human resource management and leadership development". The Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) and Management Discipline, NUI Galway, led by Dr Alma McCarthy, carried out the leadership capability study, funded by the IRCHSS, at senior management level in the Irish Civil Service. The study was carried out between May and August 2010. Over 140 senior managers participated in the study from 12 Government Departments and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners with over 1,200 leadership surveys completed in total and represents the most extensive study of its kind to-date in Ireland. Keynote speakers at today's Conference included Dr Maria Maguire, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Independent Consultant; Philip Kelly, Assistant Secretary General, Department of An Taoiseach with responsibility for Transforming Public Services and Brian Cawley, Director General of the Institute of Public Administration. Dr Alma McCarthy, CISC and J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway, who presented the findings of the report at today's Conference said, "This conference focused specifically on the area of senior management leadership capability in the Irish public service. The conference debated the important areas of human resource management, talent management, and leadership development that merit attention in the drive for public service modernisation and reform. The conference is extremely timely given the new Government's express focus on reform and the establishment of the new Public Expenditure and Reform Department under Minister Brendan Howlin." The report will be available online at


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