The first progress report on the Civil Service Renewal Plan since its publication in October 2014 has been published.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said that at the heart of public service reform is civil service reform.

The minister said that on taking office he has said that not only had Ireland a broken economy, but it had broken oversight. It would take time to restore people's trust in the way public administration works, he said.

He said part of that was to have a much more integrated and people-focused civil service.

Minister Howlin said that focusing on performance "makes a good headline" but he was also trying to maintain moral within the civil service.

"Of course we need to have accountability, and we need to have clarity in relation to accountability and a new disciplinary code is an integral part of this process, but much more important is ensuring that we have a world class civil service," the minister said.

According to the report, work has commenced on 23 out of 25 proposed objectives set out in the plan.

Among the 23 are six so-called priority actions, and the report described work on these as "under way and on track".

One of the reforms where work has yet to begin is to re-design organisational and grade structures.

Efforts to 'professionalise the civil service'

An accountability board, which has a number of external members, has been established and will meet for the first time next week.

The external members are Paul Farrell from IBM Europe, Bernie Gray from Better Boards, Shane Bissett from The Royal Mint and Dorathy Scally from The Top Level Appointments Committee.

The board will publish an annual report.

A 21-member "all-Government" civil service management board has been set up.

The minutes of all the boards meetings will be published and all board members will be assigned responsibility to lead one or more of the plan's proposed reforms.

A performance review process for secretaries general has been approved and will be in place by January 2016.

A revised disciplinary code has been drafted and will now be subject to the normal consultation procedures.

Open recruitment campaigns have been held for a number of grades in the civil service.

These are for principal, assistant principal, administrative officer, executive officer and clerical officer grades.

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform official Dr Orlaigh Quinn said that a number of new graduates had also been taken on, and 80 graduates were going through a new graduate development programme.

Minister Howlin said that they were moving away from the "crude" recruitment embargo and that would be wound down entirely this year.

The minister said that one of the things they were trying to do was to "professionalise the civil service".

He gave the example that in the case of a human resource manager, it would not be a case that someone would be promoted into that role, rather someone with the relevant qualifications and training would be recruited to that position.

A civil service wide employee engagement survey was piloted by more than 700 staff and this will be issued to all civil servants by the end of September.

Other areas where there have been changes include the development of a common corporate governance standard for all government departments and offices.

This is being finalised following public consultation.

New performance reviews developed

A new performance review for assistant secretaries has been developed and will be piloted by four government departments this year.

The first mobility policy for senior managers at principal level has been agreed and the first moves are expected to take place within the next three months.

It is already in place at the assistant secretary grade and 12 people have availed of it.

Minister Howlin said he did not think it was healthy that some civil servants only ever work in the department they started in, and he said it was important that there is movement across the civil service generally.

Since the Irish National Economic Evaluation Service was established three years ago, 90 graduate economists have been recruited.

According to department official Robert Watt, the plan is to increase this number to up to 400 in the coming years.

Mr Watt said at the moment a large number of the graduate economists were based in the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and in the Department of Finance where they were being trained, but that they would be allocated to other departments.

Minister Howlin described how under the service all government departments would have "a cadre of trained economic thinkers to stress test policy in its formation".

"One of the criticisms at the time of the economic collapse was that there wasn't enough economic analysis of policies," Mr Howlin said.

"An important innovation in this is that they [Irish National Economic Evaluation Service] can produce their own policies away from Government and produce their own independent papers, which might not be in agreement with government strategy."

A civil service customer satisfaction survey was completed by 2,000 participants in the months from April to June.

According to the media briefing, 77% said they were satisfied with the customer experience, 83% said the service "exceeded expectations".

An Informations and Communications Technology strategy to deliver better outcomes and efficiency has been published and is currently being implemented.

A chief human resources officer for the civil service has been appointed.

Eleven open policy debates were held on a number of policy issues including education reform, the labour market and future investment in early years of education.

Nine more open policy debates are scheduled for 2015.