Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said the Government is examining ways of streamlining the recovery of debts owed to public service bodies.

However, he did not rule out outsourcing management of debt recovery to the private sector.

Addressing a summit on Public Sector Finance and Efficiency, Mr Howlin said that to ensure competition in the delivery of services, all new services must first be tested for "external delivery suitability" before any approval to deliver the service internally will be granted.

He said his department was now examining ways in which the processes around recovery of debts can be made cheaper and more efficient.

Asked whether a debt collection service might be outsourced to the private sector, Mr Howlin said the two shared services it has put on stream to date were public services and there was no reason to believe an integrated debt collection agency could not be a public service as well.

The minister said his preference would be to have an integrated public sector delivery model for debt, but said it would wait to see what comes up or is proposed.

He said people wanted to access public services in a way that was efficient and convenient for them, and that was affordable to the taxpayer.

Mr Howlin said the challenges in delivering a 24-hour, seven-day service to an increasing demographic were real and it would be a mixture of the best competences of the public and private sphere that would deliver the platform for the future.

He confirmed that a number of government departments had drawn up proposals on existing public services that could be outsourced.

Some have been discussed at Cabinet, but no decisions have been taken.

He also stated that the remaining departments were to submit their outsourcing proposals by the end of this year. Those proposals will feed into the reform agenda.

Asked about reports that the Department of Health might not meet its 2013 target of €150 million in savings from the Haddington Road Agreement, he said there had been engagement over six months with public service unions and it had involved every line department at the most senior level.

He said everyone accepted and signed off that these savings were achievable and he expected those savings to be delivered.

He refused to confirm or deny whether the Department of Health had calculated that it could only secure around €100 million savings, instead of the projected €150 million for this year.

A small SIPTU protest took place outside Croke Park where the conference is being held.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said they were protesting because the conference deals with the privatisations of public services.

He said SIPTU and other unions had asked to speak to the conference in August.

Mr Bell said they wanted to inform those attending about progress made on public service efficiency and cost savings that have been agreed during the past two public service agreements.

He said the organisers of the event had seen fit to exclude unions and that SIPTU believes that the debate inside would be unbalanced.

SIPTU condemned the organisers of the conference for that, but stressed that the protest was not directed at Mr Howlin.