In January 2014, the Independent Panel on Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance was appointed by Minister Howlin following the publication of a consultation paper on civil service accountability and performance.  This consultation paper began an extensive public consultation process on the key issue of “who is accountable to whom and for what in the Civil Service”. The aim of this process is to bring about change and reform to the current accountability arrangements.

The role of the Independent Panel was to manage the public consultation process, examine the submissions received, and following its assessment, make recommendations for consideration by Minister Howlin. Over 40 submissions were received as part of the public consultation process (full details of submissions are available here). Details of the Independent Panel’s meetings are available here.

On 30 May, the Independent Panel furnished their report to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. This report sets out the Independent Panel’s recommendations to strengthen civil service accountability and performance. These recommendations are to:

  • Establish an Accountability Board for the Civil Service with external membership;
  • Appoint for the first time a Head of the Civil Service;
  • Introduce a performance management system for Secretaries General of Departments;
  • Put in place Organisation Reviews for Departments;
  • Publish who does what and to whom they are answerable;
  • Ensure the Oireachtas has an important role to play in an effective accountability system;
  • Support moves for greater flexibility in decision making by Departments;
  • Have stronger supports to tackle poor performance, and to encourage wide mobility across the system;
  • Devise a clear policy on the establishment of agencies; and
  • Put in place a formal accountability code and mandatory induction training for Special Advisers.

On the 30th of October, the Taoiseach, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform launched the Civil Service Renewal Plan.  This Plan sets out a vision and a three year action plan for the Civil Service, and represents a fundamentally new direction for the Civil Service.  The Civil Service Renewal Plan brings together the outcomes of the work of the Independent Panel on Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance, and the work of the Civil Service Renewal Task Force


Professor Kevin Rafter lectures in political communication and journalism at Dublin City University. He is also a non-executive director at Dublin Bus and Oxfam Ireland. He is the author/editor of several books on media and politics in Ireland, and his research has been published in international academic journals. Prior to 2008, he worked as a political journalist with newspapers including The Irish Times, The Sunday Times and the Sunday Tribune as well as presenting The Week programme on RTE Radio One and as a correspondent with Prime Time.

Dorothea Dowling is the former non-executive chair of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which is a fully self-funding agency. She is best known as Chair of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board (MIAB) whose recommendations resulted in transformation of the insurance and legal systems for personal injury in Ireland by securing the involvement of a large number of Government Departments. She is a Chartered Arbitrator and holds an Honours Law degree from the University of London as well as a number of other professional qualifications which have been successfully employed in previous roles many of which were on a pro-bono basis.

Mr. Michael Howard served as Secretary General of the Department of Defence and previously as an Assistant Secretary General in that Department. Mr. Howard has extensive practical experience of the system of public administration in Ireland and was centrally involved in the modernisation of the Defence sector, widely regarded as one of the success stories of public sector reform. He holds a B.Comm and an M.Sc.