As the Deputy is aware, the Citizens Information Board, CIB, which has statutory responsibility for the Citizens Information Services, CIS, and the Money Advice & Budgeting Service, MABS, decided on 15 February 2017 to restructure its governance arrangements to a regional model, comprising eight CIS and eight MABS companies.
As a statutory body, the board has the sole right to make decisions on its day-to-day operations as it sees fit. The Deputy made representations to me as did a very small number of others, and arising from that as well as being new to the portfolio, I sought advice from the Attorney General. He advised me that it would not be lawful or appropriate for me, as Minister, to seek to intervene in such a decision taken by the board and so I did not.
I made gentle inquiries and was told that the CIB has not taken this operational decision lightly. It follows years of analysis of options and detailed consultation with all its stakeholders on the need for a more streamlined governance model. The CIS will tell the Deputy that their former governance model did not live up to scrutiny and was compelled to restructure by its accounting officer, which is what it did. What CIS has done and the decision it has made, which was its decision to make alone, was done in what it sees is the best interest of running CIS and MABS into the future.
In May of this year, 300 representatives of staff, management and volunteers, as well as chairpersons and representatives of local CIS and MABS services, attended regional consultations organised by CIB. It was not that they were not engaged with or involved in discussions. Over the summer months, 238 volunteers attended eight focus groups at which service delivery strategy, board structures, linkages and staff roles under the new company model were discussed and agreed. I understand that CIB plans to hold a further discussions with volunteers in October.
Therefore, CIB is seeking to implement its board's decision in a consultative way and is making genuine efforts to allay concerns of staff and boards of local services - which are small in number given the size of the two organisations and the levels of funding involved - and we are trying to make sure that they do this productively.