Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has published a consultation paper on improving performance and accountability in the civil service.
The document titled "Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance" examines the relationship between ministers and civil servants regarding the allocation of responsibility for decision-making.
It is aimed at reforming the current ministerial accountability arrangements to improve performance.
Mr Howlin said he favoured the reintroduction of performance-related pay to reward high performance.
However, he said that could not happen until at least 2016 when the Haddington Road Agreement expires.
Mr Howlin also said that under-performance would be addressed.
The paper focuses on where the appropriate balance lies in holding ministers and officials to account, while supporting essential innovation and creativity in public administration.
It will examine the possibility of recruiting staff from a broader pool of candidates, and of removing any remaining restrictive recruitment or promotion practices, as well as more widespread use of fixed-term contracts.
It also seeks to enhance performance measurement with a clearer delineation of responsibilities.
The paper states that crucial issues to be addressed in the consultation process include the possible consequences of any "recalibration" of the relationship between civil servants and ministers.
It will also examine the extent to which current legislation needs to be strengthened.
The document invites the public to contribute their views on how current ministerial and senior civil servant accountability can be improved.
A committee chaired by Professor Kevin Rafter will assess the submissions by May and the minister hopes to action the proposals by the end of the year.