26 September 2023

IRELAND: PS ‘outdated and inefficient’

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One of Ireland’s most senior Public Servants says the nation’s bureaucracy consists of hundreds of offices and thousands of workers “providing outdated, inefficient and very expensive services”.

Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Robert Watt (pictured) was speaking on the merits and potential risks of shifting large amounts of public services online.

Mr Watt and the Chief Executive of the Irish postal service, An Post, David McRedmond had an email exchange in which Mr McRedmond warned him that a shift online risked disadvantaging some citizens.

The An Post Chief Executive urged that “consideration is also being given to the needs of the offline citizen. In our view, it is essential that those who are unable or unwilling to engage with online Government services are not disadvantaged or left behind”.

In response, Mr Watt wrote: “We are pushing ahead with a digital strategy as you are aware — I don’t know what is meant by offline strategy.”

“We have hundreds of offices and thousands of Civil Servants providing outdated, inefficient and very expensive channels when most citizens want [a] better digital offering.”

Mr McRedmond reiterated that some people could be hurt by a wholesale switch to accessing services online, and argued that Post Offices could offer more services.

“Many people cannot or will not [for a time at least] conduct business online. Post Offices are there so why not use them to provide the full range of services?” Mr McRedmond asked.

The emails were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

A spokesperson for Mr Watt’s Department said the Government was “investing heavily in digital and as we see the growing take-up of online services, inevitably, footfall will drop in the offline or face-to-face services”.

Dublin, 7 August, 2019

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