Written Answers. - Departmental Strategy Statements.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

10 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the basic provisions of his Department's strategy statement for 2003-05; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19020/03]

The statement of strategy covering the period 2003-05 was launched on 9 June 2003. This is the fourth strategy statement prepared by the Department of Agriculture and Food since 1996. This statement identifies the mission, goals, outputs and related strategies that will guide the Department over the next three years. The statement of strategy was prepared by my Department as required under section 5(2) of the Public Service Management Act 1997. The strategy statement is a central element in the development of a strategic management process in the Civil Service.

The statement of strategy 2003-05 was prepared in accordance with the guidelines for Ministers on implementation of the Public Service Management Act 1997 and the guidelines for the Secretary Generals and the heads of office on the preparation of the strategy statements approved by the Government in 2002.
The strategy statement has six high level goals, which are clearly focused on outcomes. They are based around our key functional areas. I will briefly refer to each of these goals.
Goal 1: Agri-food development and trade – to develop an internationally competitive agri-food sector and support and facilitate trade in agriculture and food products. In Ireland the agri-food sector is responsible for some 8.4% of GDP. Therefore, the development of a successful agri-food sector has a significant impact on our national prosperity, net foreign earnings, employment and in particular our rural communities.
Goal 2: Food safety, animal health and welfare, plant health – to ensure the highest standards of food safety and consumer protection, animal health and welfare and plant health. The maintenance of high standards of animal health and welfare is an important issue. This is why it is vital that production of safe food must be underpinned by effective controls. The maintenance of high standards in these areas are important in ensuring that we have an effective base from which to continue to develop a successful agri-food industry.
Goal 3: International framework – to achieve the optimum framework for the agri-food sector, rural economy and the natural environment at EU and at the wider international level and enhance North-South co-operation. Support for the agri-food sector, rural economy and the natural environment is provided through a variety of schemes, which are agreed at EU level. Much of the legal framework governing trade is also agreed at international level in the World Trade Organisation and other international bodies. Ireland participates in a variety of international fora to ensure that international systems accommodate our needs. Having achieved a successful conclusion to the mid-term review negotiations we now face new challenges with the Presidency of the EU, enlargement of the EU and the WTO negotiations.
Goal 4: Rural economy and environment – to promote the development of the rural economy and environmentally friendly and sustainable systems of agriculture and food production. The rural economy is significantly shaped by agricultural systems. We must ensure that the practice of agriculture provides a solid basis for economic and social progress in which the maximum number of farm households is maintained and that farm families can aspire to lifestyles in keeping with the general development of society.
Goal 5: Schemes delivery and financial management – to operate all our schemes and programmes in an efficient and effective manner and ensure the highest standards of corporate and financial management and accountability in all our activities. The Department of Agriculture and Food has led the way in the pursuit of best practice in financial management in recent years. This has included the establishment of a new accounting system, an audit committee consisting largely of external experts, and an effective internal audit function. My Department is committed to further developing our financial management systems in the period of this statement of strategy. It is dedicated to meeting increasing standards of customer service while maintaining full transparency and effective controls.
Goal 6: Operational capabilities – to develop our human and physical resources and our operational capabilities and ensure the delivery of quality service to our customers, both internal and external. The Department is committed to providing services to all its customers in accordance with the principles of quality customer service as set down by the Government. It continues to review and improve the organisational structure of the Department, the work processes, systems and support services used, the information and communications strategy adopted and the mechanisms required to develop our human resources. This ensures the achievement of our goals and objectives efficiently and effectively. It also requires my Department to take a long-term strategic approach to managing limited resources.
In regard to key linkages, my Department has a broad remit covering a wide range of economic and social issues. In order to implement its goals and strategies on these cross cutting issues, my Department is dependent to a large extent on a co-ordinated approach from a number of Departments and agencies. Various mechanisms are in place to facilitate the critical working relationships with the EU institutions, relevant Departments, State bodies and North-South institutions.
The mission statement of my Department is to lead the sustainable development of a competitive, consumer focused agri-food sector and to contribute to a vibrant rural economy and society. This statement clearly expresses the values and purpose of this organisation. This statement from initial preparation to final publication has given the Department a chance to focus on its strategic goals, to consult all our customers, both internal and external, and to obtain their views. This gives it the opportunity to outline what is to happen within the Department for the coming three years. The final document embodies the proactive steps that my Department is taking to achieve the shared objectives of the Department, the goals of the programme for Government and the use of the SMI process in a way that will improve the quality, standards and relevance of service to our client base.