Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has said that recommendations from OECD’s review of public governance will underpin the Programme for Government.
The Minister was speaking as the OECD launched their report of a strategic review of the public sector in the north where he was joined by The Executive Office Junior Ministers Alastair Ross and Megan Fearon.
The previous Executive commissioned the review to maximise the positive impact of the ongoing programme of public sector reform, as well as identifying further areas of reform.
The Finance Minister said: “The OECD’s report provides us with a roadmap to continue our journey of transforming and reforming our public services. It is a welcome validation on our direction of travel on many issues and importantly, it provides key insights into how our public services compare on an international setting.”
The Executive has accepted all but two of the 30 recommendations in the report, which include:
- Prepare and Implement a multi-year strategic, outcomes-based Programme for Government
- Ensure the Centre of Government promotes horizontal co-operation across departments and public agencies to break down institutional silos
- Investing in skills to support innovation
- Enhance Northern Ireland’s international engagement in digital government and innovation
- Strengthen transparency and accountability mechanisms to build trust and to create better outcomes for people
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “As an Executive, we have entered a new era in how we do business. We have a collective commitment to develop a new outcome based Programme for Government. It is hugely encouraging that this approach is endorsed by the experts in OECD. Indeed, the draft Programme for Government broadly mirrors the key themes of the report. This includes maximising the coherence of government through a common set of priorities, working across departmental boundaries and using evidence-based decision making by intervening early to address social problems.”
Turning to the challenges identified in the report, the Minister said: “We all share a desire to improve our public services. While the report outlines much of what is good in our public sector, it also points to some challenges which will need to be addressed if our public services and wider society are to continue to flourish. It is time for action and I am confident that as a united and forward looking Executive we can make real progress in driving forward these recommendations.”
Welcoming the report Junior Minister Ross said: “Much has changed since the review was commissioned in November 2014. Despite these changes the Northern Ireland Executive’s core commitments have remained constant. We remain determined to defend our core public services, attract foreign investment, support our businesses, see the creation of more and better jobs, protect the most vulnerable in our society, improve our health service on which so many depend, ensure a high quality education for all our children and achieve equality of opportunity for all.
“I believe the OECD Report allows us to benchmark ourselves against other countries, see what we are doing well and what we need to improve and gives us renewed impetus to work together to deliver these commitments and create a better Northern Ireland for all of our citizens.”
Junior Minister Megan Fearon said: “I welcome the OECD Report which is both timely and informative. Using evidence and firsthand experience, this report will assist us greatly in designing and developing our Programme for Government. The OECD contains a broad and diverse membership which gives its work significant credibility and relevance.
“With finite resources and infinite demands for Government services, the Executive must make every possible effort to ensure we make the greatest possible impact. The Executive must now use this and other responses to our Programme for Government consultation to build a better future for all our people.”
Ms Mari Kiviniemi, OECD Deputy Secretary-General visited Belfast to launch the report. She said: "The OECD is pleased to have worked with the Northern Ireland Executive on our first-ever Public Governance Review of a sub-national government. Public Administration reform continues to be a top priority for Northern Ireland, and the OECD finds that in many reform areas the government of Northern Ireland is on the right track to achieve lasting improvements in designing and delivering services that meet people's needs properly. Our advice seeks to build on these successes, while suggesting that the Executive should adopt a more joined-up approach that breaks down administrative silos to pursue integrated outcomes for people more effectively and more inclusive growth for the region. The OECD stands ready to accompany the NI Executive as it goes about implementing its governance reform agenda under its new Programme for Government".
The OECD’s report is available to on the OECD website.
Notes to editors:
- The comprehensive report highlights the detailed engagement undertaken by the review team which involved meetings with over 300 people, including Ministers and MLAs, officials from the NICS departments, local government, wider public sector, industry, trade unions, academia, and the voluntary and community sector.
- The OECD has provided 30 strategic recommendations on nine reform themes, with these underpinned by a further more detailed 103 sub-recommendations. There are also 25 main recommendations from across six case studies.
- Only two of the main recommendations in the main report were not accepted:
The recommendation to ‘Institutionalise the CoG challenge function regarding policy and programme proposals as part of the decision-making process by the Executive’ was deemed to be contrary to the provisions of the Ministerial Code.
The recommendation to ‘Establish a Better Regulation Unit (BRU) within the Executive Office’ was deemed contrary to the Executive intent of divesting the Executive Office of operational responsibilities and would potentially add another level of bureaucracy.
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