Written Answers. - Departmental Correspondence.

Noel Ahern

Question:

694 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the procedure, system and resources used in his Depart ment for replying to correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas; the staff numbers involved; if the numbers have been reduced since freedom of information requests were introduced; if staff were diverted to freedom of information cases; if a tracking or follow-up system exists; if there is a rule or guideline for sending replies other than acknowledgements; the standard in this regard; the way in which it is monitored; his views on whether responding to requests from Oireachtas Members is an integral part of the democratic system; and if he has any proposals to improve this service. [20051/00]

A large number of the Department's staff, including staff in my office and the offices of the Ministers of State, but also staff in the various sections throughout the Department are involved in responding to correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas and in responding to freedom of information requests as part of their day-to-day work. It is, therefore, not practical to quantify separately the systems, procedures and resources in place in my Department for replying to correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas.

Systems and procedures, including monitoring and tracking systems, in place in my Department for responding to correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas, which routinely would be directed in the first instance to my office or the offices of the Ministers of State, are constantly under review with a view to providing an excellent standard of customer service. The Department's customer service action plan, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, sets standards of service for all correspondence received in the Department.

Every effort is made to respond to all correspondence received in my Department, including correspondence from Members of the Oireachtas, in accordance with the standards set in that plan. These standards are currently being reviewed in light of the revised quality customer service principles recently adopted for the Civil Service and in the context of a new customer action plan being drawn up.