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The Northern Ireland Civil Service

The Northern Ireland Civil Service supports the Assembly, the Executive and the institutions of government. It serves local ministers and carries out the administrative work of government.

The role of civil servants

Civil servants are politically impartial and are directly accountable to the minister in charge of the department in which they work.

Their role is to support the Executive and its ministers in delivering the commitments set out in the Programme for Government. In doing so civil servants are expected to show:

  • integrity – putting the obligations of public service above their own personal interests
  • honesty – being truthful and open
  • objectivity – basing advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence
  • impartiality – acting according to the merits of the case and serving equally well governments of different political persuasions

What civil servants do

Civil servants work in a wide range of areas across the many different aspects of government that touch on everyone’s day to day lives. Many provide services to the public such as:

  • paying benefits and pensions
  • helping people to find work
  • staffing prisons
  • issuing driving licences
  • providing services to industry and agriculture
  • maintaining roads

The Civil Service employs many different professions, all of whom play an important role in the delivery of government services, for example:

  • accountants
  • analysts
  • economists
  • engineers
  • health professionals
  • lawyers, statisticians
  • project managers
  • veterinary surgeons

Staff also develop policy and draft legislation which is submitted to the Assembly for debate before it can become law.

Structure of the Northern Ireland Civil Service

There are twelve government departments:

  • Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
  • Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Culture, Arts and Leisure
  • Education
  • Employment and Learning
  • Enterprise, Trade and Investment
  • Environment
  • Finance and Personnel
  • Health, Social Services and Public Safety
  • Justice
  • Regional Development
  • Social Development

The Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is Dr Malcolm McKibbin, Permanent Secretary of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

The most senior civil servant in each department is the permanent secretary who serves the minister and, as accounting officer, is responsible for making sure that money allocated to the department is spent appropriately.

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