Departmental Transformation Programme: Department of Justice and Equality

The purpose of this morning's engagement is to meet the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality, Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll, and his officials, for an outline and discussion of the Department's transformation programme.

I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I invite Mr. O'Driscoll to make his opening statement.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am very grateful to the committee for giving me the opportunity to brief it today on the organisational change that the Department of Justice and Equality has recently undertaken. As I go through my speech, I will from time to time refer to the pack of slides in front of me. I hope that will not be too confusing but all the relevant information is in my speech.

We have just completed the biggest ever restructuring of a Government Department in the history of the State, and I welcome this opportunity to set out our aims and objectives, the process involved and what that means in terms of the work we do and the services we provide. I am accompanied today by assistant secretary Doncha O’Sullivan, head of corporate; assistant secretary Martina Colville, head of legislation - civil justice pillar, and formerly transformation programme manager; principal officer Layla de Cogan Chin from our transparency function; and Kate O'Gorman from our transformation team, who is in the Public Gallery.

As members know, the Department works to build a safe, fair and inclusive Ireland. Our mission is to advance community safety and national security, promote justice and equality, and safeguard human rights. Employing more than 2,600 people and with 25 State agencies within our remit, our brief ranges from policymaking and legislating to service delivery on criminal justice, civil justice, immigration and equality matters.

The world in which we all operate today has been described as "volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous" and we recognise the challenges this new environment poses for our organisation and indeed for the whole Civil and public service. The aim of the transformation programme is to create a Department that is better able to address the challenges and opportunities of this new world by being more agile, more evidence-based and more open while remaining loyal to traditional Civil Service values of integrity, impartiality and professionalism. The transformation programme fulfils a Government decision in July 2018 on foot of the recommendations of the independent effectiveness and renewal group, ERG, for a radical restructuring of the Department, one that the ERG itself viewed as a potential model for the whole Civil Service.

The challenge was an ambitious one - to take a transformative conceptual design, build the detail and implement the operating model within nine months from January to September this year. We took on that challenge and, I am pleased to report, completed the programme on time and within budget. The ERG recommended the procurement of an external resource to assist our internal team in the Department to implement the new operating model. Following a procurement process, EY was appointed to partner with the Department on the project at a cost of €2.9 million, excluding VAT, and commenced work with us on 7 January of this year. EY has now completed its work.

The process of transformation involved changing how we do our work, putting in place new structures, work processes and skills to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. This meant changing completely from a conventional subject-based model, which involved organising ourselves by what we know, to a functional model based on what we do. Our work was previously structured by subject areas such as policing, prisons, equality, etc., relating to different parts of the justice and equality sector. In our new model, work is structured into five functional areas, for example, policy development, governance of agencies, preparation of legislation, operations and service delivery and transparency.

Throughout the transformation programme, our management board met weekly for nine months, making all key decisions regarding design and implementation. Our internal transformation programme team, assisted by EY, worked for six months with more than 300 representatives from across the Department to design and shape our new organisational structure. Multiple design workshops took place almost every week from January through to June. A substantial amount of time was taken to tease out issues, gaps and concerns. Following sign-off of the final design by our management board, we began transitioning staff into new roles in early August. We adopted a phased approach whereby we stood down old divisions and stood up new functions over a very compressed six-week period. During this time, in excess 500 staff moved across our Justice estate while all of our IT, HR and finance systems were updated to reflect the new structural changes.

The new organisational design was fully implemented two weeks ahead of schedule on Monday, 23 September. The scale and volume of activity undertaken within the implementation phase was remarkable. Slides six and seven will give members a flavour of just how much was involved in practical terms. I remain extremely grateful to all of our staff, who worked so tirelessly to ensure that we successfully delivered on our commitment of designing and implementing a new and transformed Department in nine months. Despite the huge amount of work involved in the transformation programme, these same staff also continued to provide normal service to Ministers, the Oireachtas and the public. I consider this a remarkable achievement and a great tribute to the staff involved. I would caution, however, that the period of greatest risk is now and over the next few months as we seek to stabilise the new organisation and adapt to the new ways of working. I must, therefore, ask for the committee's forbearance if in this period we do not meet the high standards that it might reasonably expect of us.

It is also important to say that the process was also subject to detailed external oversight and validation. The ERG produced quarterly reports for the Government on the Department’s progress regarding the transformation project, and senior external civil servants, including the Secretary General to the Government and Department of the Taoiseach, served on our transformation programme board. I am very grateful to all of them for their advice during the process. We are now looking forward to the sixth and final report of the ERG, which will be presented to Government by the end of the year and which will review the entire process from its initial report to implementation.

What does that level of change look like in terms of our day-to-day work? In our old model, staff were expected to work across a wide range of activities, continually reprioritising competing tasks of varied natures, importance and urgency. In a subject area, a member of staff might, in a typical day, review a policy document, write responses to parliamentary questions, provide policy observations on international or EU proposals, work with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on the drafting of new legislation and, typically, pause each of those tasks to respond to urgent media or other queries. In addition, the Department itself has grown over time in an unplanned and unstructured manner in response to various needs and crises. In this regard, it is no different from other Departments. In contrast, our new model is built around a carefully designed structure that groups our work by functional areas. Work is now grouped together in line with the Department’s core functions, for example, creating and managing the passage of legislation or providing governance and oversight of our agencies and bodies. This new functional model allows staff to work in a more focused way on well-defined areas of work.

The Department has also been realigned under two pillars, one covering civil justice, equality and immigration and the other covering criminal justice, each led by a Deputy Secretary General. Each pillar contains policy, legislation, governance and operations and service delivery functions. Supporting the work of both pillars are the enabling functions of transparency, corporate and European affairs. Slide 12 sets out the top level structure of the realigned Department and identifies the heads of function, and slide 13 briefly describes the mandate of each function.

What are the benefits of the new model? Overall, it means that the Department is in a better position to deliver its strategic objectives. More clearly defined roles and responsibilities mean improved accountability. We can also deliver services more efficiently through streamlined functions. We have established a dedicated transparency function that will engage with stakeholders and share information more proactively within and outside the Department, and that includes the Oireachtas and this committee.

While the restructuring element of our transformation has formally concluded, in some ways the real work has only just begun. As I said, we now have to focus on stabilisation of the new model and actively realising our new ways of working to safeguard against reverting to more traditional and siloed work methods and structures. I am determined to ensure that we keep striving for greater openness and transparency, customer-centric service delivery, professional legislation and evidence-based and joined-up policy-making and governance. The entire management board and senior team in the Department are united behind these objectives.

We recognise that we need relevant data and research to become more evidence based. The Department has invested in expertise and has begun to build capacity in this area. For example, two weeks ago we launched a report by Dr. Deirdre Healy of University College Dublin, UCD, on the findings of her review of research evidence of best practice regarding victims' interactions with the criminal justice system. This is the first report in a series of policy focused pieces of research that have been commissioned by our new research and data analytics unit.

Our new ways of working require a strong culture of collaboration across the different functions and pillars. If we are to realise the true value of this new model, teams have to engage with colleagues from across other areas and work in a cross-functional way. This openness to collaborative work will also be reflected in our engagement with colleagues in other Departments and agencies, and with our stakeholders. In this current phase of transformation, we will continue to work hard to embed a culture of transformation, where Department officials at all levels are working transparently, with integrity and with consideration for the perspectives of our customers and stakeholders. The Department’s management board has the task of ensuring that the Department’s culture fully reflects and supports our values, including such collaboration, as we adjust to the changed structure and ways of working.

An example of this collaborative model in practice is the way we have approached the issue of how we should tackle hate speech and hate crime and our recent launch of a consultation on updating the law in this area. Our criminal legislation function is best placed to analyse issues in relation to the actual legislative provisions. Traditionally, the people dealing with the legislation also issued a call for submissions in national newspapers, published them on the Department’s website and used them to inform the drafting of new or amended legislation. This time however, our transparency function has used its expertise, which is still developing, to ensure we are able to reach more people and give them the opportunity to engage in a variety of ways, including by submission, survey and attending workshops. We were able to target minority and lesser heard communities and people to whom this legislation will really matter. Within the first 24 hours of the launch, we had received around 2,000 submissions. That shows that this new way of doing business is effective. Our data analytics unit is also developing surveys that can be used in a meaningful way to ensure the data we receive are usable and useful, and can properly inform the decisions we make across the various functions.

I am well aware of the considerable work still ahead of us. For example, we will need to leverage modern technology properly if we are to fully meet the expectations of transformation. Frankly, however, the Department is behind the curve in the development of ICT systems, especially in our service delivery areas and in the collation and analysis of data. We have received an assessment of our technology platform from EY and this now provides us with the basis for the urgent development of an ICT strategy and investment plan, which I regard as a matter of the highest priority.

We also obtained assessments of our corporate functions and our immigration service delivery function from EY. Our corporate functions play a key role in supporting the new organisational model and we need to reflect further how best to continue building our capability in this important area. Immigration is our largest service delivery function and is subject to major demands and stresses at present, as this committee is well aware. We have already developed a service delivery improvement plan for this area and have brought all relevant operations together into one coherent service delivery unit. Further developments in this area will be closely related to our work on ICT development.

We will, of course, need to be able to assess the Department’s performance in a constructive and objective way so that we can continue to improve and realise the potential of the new ways of working. We must also be able to show the Government, this committee and others that we really are a new and better organisation. To this end, we have identified key outcomes and performance indicators that would demonstrate success for each of the new functions. By being clear about our goals and what we need to do to achieve them, and by studying the outcomes and impacts, we will develop the tools we need to measure our own performance honestly and transparently and allow others to do so also. Moving beyond reacting to the crisis of the day to responding and planning thoughtfully through the measurement and tracking of core metrics, openly reported, constitutes another fundamental step-change for our Department, which I hope will prove of interest and practical use to the committee.

I am grateful to have had this opportunity to set out some of the details of our transformation programme. I repeat that I hope members will be tolerant and supportive over the next few months as we adapt to our new structures and ways of working. I hope and believe we have embarked on building a new and better model that other Departments may seek to follow in the future.

I thank Mr. O'Driscoll. I will now open the meeting for questions.

I thank everyone for their attendance. Members of this committee, more than any other committee, are aware of the breadth of work that falls within the ambit of the Department of Justice and Equality. One of the issues that arose previously was a concern that perhaps the Department was too big and needed to be split up. What did Mr. O'Driscoll think of that proposal? Is he happy that the Department is able to deal with all of the issues that remain within its broad remit?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I agree with the Deputy concerning the broad remit of the Department. As he knows, I joined the Department a little over a year ago from another Department, which also had a fairly broad remit. I was still quite staggered by the breadth of issues in which the Department is involved. In the new organisational design, we have established two pillars, as we are calling them, under each deputy secretary. These bring together all of the many functions that arise under criminal justice under one deputy secretary and the equality, civil justice and immigration issues under another. We have a policy function in each of these areas. There is real virtue, in those policy functions, in having a broad remit. There is learning from experience from one area to another and those policy functions are evidence-based across the entire platform with which they are dealing. As someone once said, everything is eventually connected to everything else. There is real virtue in having that breadth of perspective. Equally, there is virtue in dividing the responsibilities up into those two pillars. We have chosen, as may be noticed from the design, to have one transparency function stretching across the whole Department. One motivation for that is that we found that there are learnings from one area of the Department to the other, even across those two pillars. We do not want to lose that opportunity either.

The short answer to the Deputy's question is that I believe that having a broad range of functions within the Department is a good thing. I see substantial benefits accruing. I accept, however, that it is also a challenge and that challenge is reflected in our new structure.

I am conscious that programmes of reform sometimes derive from issues of political controversy. It is clear that was the case with the Department of Justice and Equality. I am conscious that the Taoiseach referred previously to the Department as "dysfunctional". I am not going to ask Mr. O'Driscoll to comment on that statement. It was not a comment with which I agreed. Is Mr. O'Driscoll satisfied that the reforms will make the Department more capable of being accountable and responding to issues of immediate public concern?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Agility of response is one of the key objectives and using a functional model is very helpful in that regard, as is setting up the transparency function. Some of the difficulties of the past in the Department related to the transmission of information within the Department and from the Department externally. It would be the area of greatest criticism of the Department within the Civil Service, frankly. We think the establishment of the transparency function is an extremely important initiative in that regard. I have to mention a caveat and say that the new function is now up and running and performing extremely well. I am very pleased with the way it is working, but it will take time to fully bed in. It is for that exact area, in particular, for which I am asking for a little tolerance from the committee.

The agility of response, to which the Deputy also referred, is very important. Setting up the policy, governance and service delivery units plays to that objective. Agility of response in a service delivery area is much more likely if there are service delivery specialists who know what it means to be customer centric. It is not just a pious aspiration, but rather their core function. That is also a very important part of the response.

The short answer to the Deputy's question is that I think so, but I am going to invite him to do something I had intended to do with the committee anyway, namely, invite members to keep an eye on what is happening and invite me back in six months, a year or whatever.

Some of us might not be here.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Or a successor committee.

Mr. O'Driscoll should keep an eye on us.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Deputy O'Callaghan may be sure we will do that.

A legitimate criticism which could have been made of the Department in the past was that it was perhaps insular and inward-looking. There were reasons for that because of the very sensitive matters the Department deals with. I am pleased that a new research and data analytics unit has been established. Will it be open to engaging with the many academics in the country who are doing interesting work? They come before this committee with interesting proposals. Will the Department be more receptive to that?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Absolutely. I have been very impressed by the very large number and depth of skills in the academic community in regard to our work areas. It is quite striking and it is not normal for all Departments to have that ability available to them. As I mentioned in my introductory remarks, we have commissioned a series of pieces of research. The first was on victims' experiences of the criminal justice system. We have also commissioned a piece on an evidence review of confidence in the criminal justice system from Maynooth, an evidence review on recidivism and policy response from UCD, a cyber crime review from a private consultancy and an understanding of the needs and experiences of sex trafficking victims in Ireland from Maynooth. We are also conducting another study on the scale of elicit markets in Ireland, but have not yet placed the contract for that. We are also developing internal pieces of legislation with our newly- recruited skills, including an evidence review of the effectiveness of hate crime legislation in other countries. We are developing our own internal skills and our engagement with the academic community, as Deputy O'Callaghan said.

My background and training in the Civil Service was as a policy analyst. It is an area in which I have a very strong personal engagement and commitment to the area of evidence-based policy development. It is an area to which we have often committed ourselves in the past, so this is not new. What is new is that two units in the Department have been established with that sole focus. This is the accountability element. If we do not fulfil this commitment, those two units will have failed their accountability test. I am very confident that the two units and our new data analysis unit, which are very well led and which we are now resourcing, will fulfil our commitment to evidence-based policy making. It is important to understand that the structure is designed to ensure accountability is in place.

It is a very positive development and the Department will very much benefit from it. Part of the problem with the Department is that it was very easy for people from the outside to be critical of what was a bunker attitude within it. However, if it is open and is engaging more on policy and research issues, that will be helpful for it. I am sure everyone in the room is, like me, conscious of the amount of legislation coming from the civil and criminal justice areas. Just yesterday two Bills were passed by the Dáil. Many Bills are a result of our requirement to transpose EU directives or decisions. For instance, yesterday we transposed a decision from October 2009. Why does it take such a long time for decisions and directives to be transposed? Given the new systems in place, will things happen more speedily?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We have set up two legislative functions, one dealing with civil justice and the other with criminal justice. Ms Martina Colville heads one of the functions. They were established in order to leverage, to the maximum extent possible, the extraordinary skills we have in the Department in terms of developing legislation. In the past, the people working on legislation were, like every civil servant, a jack-of-all-trades. They worked on a series of other things, such as answering parliamentary questions, dealing with policy issues and so on. By having them devoted to legislation, we hope to provide a better service to Ministers and the Oireachtas.

Having worked in an EU legislative framework, I am very conscious that the Department fell behind in the transposition of EU legislation. We are trying to rectify this and I am aware of the reasons for it, but the past is the past. As part of the new functions, a priority will be to ensure we catch up on the legislation and do not fall behind again.

I thank Mr. O'Driscoll and wish him well with the implementation of his programme.

I welcome Mr. O'Driscoll and his senior officials. We all very much welcome what is on paper. Of course, time will tell whether it works. I, and all of us in the room, sincerely hope it does.

Mr. O'Driscoll has headed the Department for just over a year. Would he agree with the Taoiseach's assessment at the time that the Department was dysfunctional, based on his experience over the past year?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will not make a comment on the past. It would be pointless and I would not have knowledge of what happened in the Department in the past. One of the first questions I get about the transformation is whether I am getting a lot of resistance from staff in the Department. If one reads any literature on change management, half of it is about how to deal with resistance. I can say, hand on heart, that the Department's staff stepped up very quickly to embrace the change we are now implementing. I was really struck by this because I expected resistance.

That is very positive. The backdrop to the reviews which have taken place are based on what happened. A former Tánaiste had to resign and was subsequently exonerated by a tribunal of inquiry, largely because of the dysfunctional nature of the Department of Justice and Equality. Would Mr. O'Driscoll agree with that analysis?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Issues arose in the Department which led to a particular crisis at the time. There may also have been a rush to judgment in the political system, on reflection. A number of issues arose in the way things happened at that time. Part of what happened was as a result of failures within the Department and nobody would deny that for a moment. I want to be very clear. I want to do more than just fix the problems of the past. We are trying to address the possibilities of the future. The ERG report reflects on the issues in the Department of Justice and Equality and makes a telling point that the issues which arose in it at the time could have arisen in any Department. As a person who has had the singular honour of being a Secretary General of two Departments, I can confirm that is the case.

I have no doubt about that. Mr. O'Driscoll's statement is welcome because it is the first time the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality has acknowledged that failures within the Department were at least partly responsible for the resignation of the former Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, MEP, who was subsequently exonerated. Like other members, I welcome that. While I agree that we should not focus solely on the failures of the past, one cannot really move forward and embrace change unless one fully acknowledges those failures. I think of Ministers and others who have worked in the Department of Justice and Equality. Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who was a Minister of State within the Department for at least two years, has been scathing in his judgment of the Department's failure.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I accept that some former Ministers have been critical of the Department. However, it is striking that some former Ministers have stated very strongly that the Department served them very well.

Does Mr. O'Driscoll agree with those former Ministers?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

In fairness, there are two sides to this. The Department has been judged on a number of different incidents but, as we have discussed, it has an incredibly wide remit.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It delivers a huge amount of legislation and has provided services to this country and the Oireachtas in a wide range of areas. Of course, there were failures. I will finish this point because it is quite important and my perspective might be helpful. One Department after another has fallen into difficulties in recent years. My former Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, had great difficulties in the 1990s and underwent major reform at the time. The Department of Finance was judged very harshly during the economic crisis and certain major restructuring came from that. The Department of Health is periodically subject to this kind of criticism.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

One Department after another has gone through this. I am sorry to cut across the Senator but I want to make this point because it is a major point which was made by the ERG. It stated that we could go on responding to individual incidents and fixing the particular leak or problem in the system or we could do something much more radical and look at how Departments should be structured for the 21st century in order to meet needs that are much more demanding now than they were when I joined the Civil Service in 1977.

I will just ask about two other areas, as I am conscious that other members also have questions. Some of the failures related to escalating issues to Ministers, a matter to which Mr. O'Driscoll alluded. What changes have been made in deciding whether something is worthy of escalation to ministerial level? That is the first element of the question. Second, has the Department developed new protocols or management systems in its communication with the Garda Commissioner? That appears to have been an issue as well. I ask Mr. O'Driscoll to comment on those two specific areas, namely, escalating issues to ministerial level and the Department's relationship with the Garda Commissioner and his officials.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

To respond to the first question, we have appointed two ministerial liaison officers. One covers civil justice, immigration and equality and the other covers criminal justice. They now sit in a relationship with our transparency function. As that function develops its skills, it will command information flows throughout the Department. The ministerial liaison officers have the specific task of channelling relevant information to the Minister. I do not want to speak for the Minister but I think he is pleased with that arrangement.

The Senator asked about engagement with An Garda Síochána. As I mentioned earlier, we are setting up two governance functions, including one on criminal justice. There is detailed information on this in the slide pack. It explains that a major objective of setting up the governance functions is to ensure a consistent approach to governance across all agencies, including the Garda. That means setting up a relationship which is respectful and supportive but also demanding. That is quite a different kind of relationship to the one we had in the past. The Department was criticised in previous reviews, following the problems to which the Senator alluded, for being in the trenches with the Garda. We are trying to foster quite a different relationship between our governance function and the Garda. The transparency function will have to engage with matching resources in the Garda in order to provide a clear flow of relevant information into the Department. It will answer parliamentary questions and do all the normal things, but it will also ensure that the ministerial liaison officers and Ministers are fully informed. We have put specific new arrangements in place to deal with the issues the Senator identified in those areas.

That is very positive. Most people would agree that much transformation taking place within An Garda Síochána as well.

I have a question about a current issue. Is Mr. O'Driscoll happy with his Department's recent handling of emergency accommodation and direct provision facilities for asylum seekers? Has the Department learned lessons from this ongoing issue? Will changes be made based on recent experience?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will break that question into two parts. The first part is about the substance of the issue of direct provision. A long overdue public debate on the question of direct provision is now happening. In that regard, we are awaiting a report from this committee, to which we are looking forward. In addition, the Government has appointed an interdepartmental group to look at short to medium-term issues that arise in direct provision, which is led by one of our deputy secretaries, Ms Oonagh Buckley. That group is working within the terms of existing policy, but I hope it will think radically within that limit. The Government has also set up a second group to take a more complete look at direct provision and our whole international protection system. It is made up of a very distinguished group of people and is chaired by Ms Catherine Day. I hope it takes a thorough look at how we handle international protection, direct provision and its alternatives and considers the best course of action.

The Senator asked about the lessons we are learning. We have clearly learned lessons about communication. An example of that learning is how communication was handled in Borrisokane, where we wrote to everybody in the locality about the proposed centre. I have the letter here in front of me and it is quite impressive. We set up a special website to provide information, and in that way, we hope, eased people's fears. The consistent experience is that there is initially a good deal of fear, misunderstanding, etc., when a new centre is set up. Once a centre is established and people have gotten used to it, however, they step up and are very hospitable and the relationship can be extremely good. I do not know whether members heard the owner of the Grand Hotel in Wicklow on radio on Saturday morning. He explained this far better than I could, to be honest. I thought that was a very interesting example.

I welcome the initiative in Borrisokane. Can Mr. O'Driscoll give us any indication as to whether the difficult and challenging issue on Achill Island is being resolved or has been resolved? When does the Department expect to move the 13 vulnerable women who were earmarked for Achill? Has the Department come to a final decision on whether that emergency accommodation will be used or not?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes. We have a signed contract, which, as Accounting Officer, I have a clear responsibility to effect.

Just to be clear, the Department is currently paying for services on Achill Island that we are not using.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes. We have to pay as we have a signed contract. I do not want to go into too much detail about my second point as I am conscious that there is much debate and discussion about this issue.

I regret we ever used the term "emergency accommodation". What the Department has done on Achill Island is book hotel rooms for people to stay in. While we do not want people to stay in hotel rooms and we want to move away from that, in the short term we needed to book hotel rooms. It is a hotel that is normally occupied by people and we want to put people in the rooms. It is a simple issue, but clearly-----

Has the Department engaged with the Garda in respect of protecting the safety of the people in question on Achill Island? It is shocking that the hotel rooms are available but the Department is not in a position to transfer the 13 women to the facility and accommodate them because of fears for their safety. Has it had discussions with the Garda to try to eliminate or deal with those fears? It seems lawless.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I do not wish to say anything that will exacerbate circumstances or heighten the atmosphere on Achill Island - on the contrary. I am sure the Senator has visited Achill Island, as have I, and it is a beautiful place. I have always found people there to be very welcoming There are different views on Achill Island. What is being reported is just one set of views. Others have begun to express their views more recently, which I welcome.

I hope we will be able to deal with the fears people have. Even if they do not have substantive foundation, I hope we can nonetheless deal with them and move on, getting people into the hotel without them feeling any sense of fear because of what is happening.

Has the Department a timeline in mind?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

If the Senator does not mind, I would prefer if he did not push me on that point.

That is fair enough.

I thank the Senator and will call Deputy Connolly in a moment. We have to conclude by 11 a.m. in order for the select committee to commence at 11.15 a.m. I am just putting members on notice and would appreciate their co-operation.

Tá fáilte roimh ár n-aíonna. I welcome the gender equality, which is wonderful. As a woman, I associate a period of nine months with pregnancy.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

That had never occurred to me.

The Department has delivered twins, in respect of the criminal and civil side. It was a very expensive pregnancy and a very expensive delivery. I will begin with Ernst & Young.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll


It is just EY now, for some reason.

I am more interested in the money that the two letters receive. It seems to be extraordinarily expensive. Has EY been engaged? It produced a report in January 2018. Does that constitute part of the money spent by the Department? How much money has EY received for this "Operation Transformation", and has it now finished and been paid up to date?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It has finished, although a payment remains outstanding. The figure it will receive is €2.97 million, excluding VAT.

That is in addition to what it received for whatever report it produced previously.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, it relates to the transformation programme.

It is a great deal of money.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

At its peak, it had assigned 26 people to the Department, although the numbers fluctuated over the nine months. The work on the transformation took an enormous amount of internal effort, some of which is set out in detail in the slides.

I have looked at them all.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Ms Colville, who is sitting beside me, led a highly skilled but small internal team of civil servants, who were the main drivers of the reform. There was no way we could have undertaken the full reform, certainly not within the timeline in which were asked to do it, without the assistance of EY. It stepped up, played a useful role-----

Will Mr. O'Driscoll outline the total figure for what EY has been paid by the Department in the past five years? If he does not have it to hand, he might convey to the Chairman.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Sure, we can do that.

I welcome the work that has been done. I turn to a number of aspects of the Toland report. Mr. O'Driscoll mentioned earlier that what happened could have happened at any Department. That is worrying because it means we need EY and approximately €2 million at each Department. It is worrying logic.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am sure EY would be very happy with that conclusion. I hope other Departments will learn from what we do. The Civil Service Management Board uniquely devoted an entire meeting to the transformation programme at the Department of Justice and Equality, held at the Department, and it is scheduled to hold another such meeting. The reason it did so is that people have identified implications for other Departments. I stated the ERG considered us to be a model for other Departments. It is a model that others will examine, although they may not adopt it entirely.

That concerns me because following the Morris tribunal alone, the final cost to the public accounts was €70 million, and arising from that, there was the Garda Síochána Act 2005. I am highlighting only some examples. There was also the Toland report in July 2014. I have to congratulate the chairperson of that committee and the civil servants who sat on it. It was a very good report, produced in five weeks, and it contained a number of conclusions and recommendations. The civil servants offered their skills to chair the monitoring of its implementation but that was not accepted. Did the Department not accept it or was that a political decision?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The Toland report was before my time, although it is a good report and much work was done at my Department. In the case of the ERG, as I pointed out earlier, it continued to work pro bono throughout the process, and for that it should be congratulated and thanked by the State. It is a highly skilled group. Nevertheless, it is a different job-----

My question was about the Toland report. Was it a political decision not to accept the offer to monitor the implementation of the recommendations or was it a decision of the Department?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

As I stated, I was not around at the time-----

Somebody might know.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am not sure. The Department made a major effort to implement the Toland report. By the time I joined, new governance systems were in place and a great deal of time and effort had been spent on the culture of the Department and so on, addressing many of the recommendations in the report. In a way, without that work, I doubt whether we could have done our work on the transformation in a period of nine months, because it was an important platform.

I ask Mr. O'Driscoll to bear with me for my limited time. The report made recommendations in 2014-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The recommendations were implemented.

If they had been implemented, there would have been no need for EY to get €3 million.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I profoundly disagree with that.

All the recommendations were implemented prior to EY being paid whatever it was paid.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Certainly, the great majority were implemented. I cannot say every one was implemented but-----

Mr. O'Driscoll might give-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The ERG made this point. It reflected on the progress made under the Toland report. It involved incremental change of a number of systems throughout the Department. The changes were useful and important, and I do not wish to downplay them in any way. Nevertheless, the ERG report, which the Government commissioned, recommended a much more radical transformation of the entire organisation of the Department. That is the point to which I have spoken today.

I have a copy of the Toland report. It quoted the Morris tribunal report, which stated, “An Garda Síochána is losing its character as a disciplined force." That was a long time ago. There was an absence of oversight from the Department and that remains an ongoing issue. Mr. O'Driscoll referred to the comment from the ERG group to the effect that gardaí often ended up in the ditches together. Has that changed?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes. As I was trying to explain to Senator Conway, although I may not have been clear enough, it was a fundamental part of setting up the new governance function. We do not set up new structures just for the sake of having new structures or because they look good-----

I accept what Mr. O'Driscoll is stating. The new governance structures will pre-empt any problems in the future in respect of that type of culture, namely, of being in ditches together-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The new structures are designed to ensure new ways of working. These new ways of working include a new relationship with An Garda Síochána through a professional governance function which, as I said, will be supportive of the force but which will also be demanding of it, as well as of all the other bodies reporting into the Department. We have 25 agencies reporting into us, including An Garda Síochána, some of which are very big while others are very small but in all of them we must have a consistent approach to governance. That is one of the main thrusts of the reform that we-----

I am more interested in the Department and what was said about it back in 2014. Reference was made to a "deferential" relationship with An Garda Síochána, with a lack of proper strategic accountability being brought to bear on the force by the Department. Is Mr. O'Driscoll telling me that era has ended and that going forward, there will be------

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

That is the purpose of the reform programme.

Okay. On direct provision, Mr. O'Driscoll's presentation made reference to ongoing learning and change. To be precise, at slide 34 he spoke about "continuous improvement". How does that apply to direct provision?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

There are two really important things that we are doing in relation to direct provision. As outlined in slide 34, we have pulled together all of the relevant functions, including the direct provision function, within the immigration area. We are hoping to have a more coherent, joined-up approach. Direct provision-----

When is the Department going to have a more coherent approach to direct provision?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

This is the start of it. We have started the process by creating this function. Direct provision is the end of a pipeline which begins with an application to the International Protection Office. That entire pipeline is now in this function so people can look right across the issue.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll


One moment please. I have only a few minutes in which to ask questions.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I understand.

I am sure the Chair will give Mr. O'Driscoll plenty of time to develop his points but he is not going to give me plenty of time. On direct provision, two committees have been set up, which is good. However, they have been set up as a result of what happened; they were not set up proactively. They were not set up because problems had been highlighted repeatedly. I have been to Oughterard and was at that terrible meeting, the worst meeting of my life. That happened for many reasons. One of the major reasons was the vacuum created by the Department of Justice and Equality. It was quite obvious what was going to happen down the road because of the way in which the Department continued to deal with direct provision. I am a little concerned about operation transformation, which is an unfortunate name. It would have been great if the Department had come forward in the last few years and said that it could not keep going with the current set-up. We now have how many people in hotels? Is it 1,300? Does anybody have the figure?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It is more than that.

What is the up-to-date figure?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It is about 1,500.

There are 1,500 people in hotels. How many people with refugee status are still in direct provision? What is the up-to-date figure?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It is about 800.

Is it more than 800? I ask that the Department come back with-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I have to say that the number fluctuates considerably as blocks of decisions are made.

Yes, but it does not fall below the high hundreds.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I agree, it does not.

The Department has known that for a very long time. Why was a group not set up proactively to examine this? It is not sustainable-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

There is a group looking at it.

There is now, after we have had Achill, Oughterard-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

No. Sorry, but the Deputy is mixing up apples and oranges here-----

I am mixing up apples and oranges.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

-----if I may say so.

That is not a very good analogy.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Again, I will answer the Deputy's questions as clearly as I can but she must give me a little bit of time-----

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

-----without interruption.

Yes, please allow Mr. O'Driscoll to conclude his point.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Direct provision is a major policy issue for the Oireachtas. The Department of Justice and Equality carries out policy decisions made by the Government and Oireachtas.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

It is our political system that makes the political and policy decisions around this.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

This is why-----

Deputy Connolly will have to allow our guest to complete his reply.

I have no problem doing that but I just want to make a point. I only asked when the committee was set up. That was the question I asked. I am fully aware of direct provision and the policy. I asked when the committee was set up and, with the Chairman's help, I might get an answer.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, but the Deputy is positing that the committee is the answer to all of the various problems around direct provision. The committee was set up a few months ago in response to the immediate problems that have arisen. I am talking here about the interdepartmental committee. I hope that committee will complete its work by the end of the year. Its remit is to look at short-term to medium-term issues that are arising in the operation of direct provision and the international protection system. Another group is looking at the broader questions that will encompass core policy questions. There are the operational issues and there are the policy questions and the point I am making is that some of the issues that Deputy Connolly is reflecting on are within the broader policy remit. Of course, we deal with the short-term issues on a short-term basis. That is what we do; we manage as best we can. There has been a 60% increase in applications this year and that has caused a particular difficulty. We did not have the space to accommodate everybody. There is also an issue with getting people out of direct provision once they have achieved status. The committee is well aware of this and has been discussing these difficult issues. I wish there was a simple answer to these problems.

It is part of our job to see if we can help to direct-----

I will finish up. First, I do not accept Mr. O'Driscoll's answer. I was not positing any simple answer because I know how complex the issue is. We have two direct provision centres in Galway which created no problems, except with regard to the length of time that people were in them. I do not accept Mr. O'Driscoll's answer in relation to simplicity. I simply asked when the committee was set up and he has not told me.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I told the Deputy-----

He has given me a vague answer, that it was set up a few months ago.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

We will send the exact date to the committee. I said it was a few months ago.

If I could just use my time. I would like a specific date. When was it set up? I am saying publicly that it was set up too late. Indeed, it was too little, too late because a vacuum had developed. Clearly, we have decisions to make and we have leadership to show but that is a different matter.

Finally, I wish to deal with the issue of culture. It should be said that in his report, Mr. Toland praised the staff. He had tremendous praise for the staff on the ground in the Department. However, he did not praise the management structures but I do not have time to go into that now. A very important issue was the so-called silo culture within the Department. I do not wish to repeat the charge but I am concerned that it is still an issue in the fifth report of the effectiveness and renewal group.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The ERG.

Yes, in the fifth report of the ERG the issue of culture is still a problem. I ask Mr. O'Driscoll to comment on that.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I tried to reference this in my opening statement. I agree that one of the major challenges as we go forward is to make the organisational change flip over into cultural change within the Department but we are well embarked on that. This is where I have invited this committee's successor to hold us to account in the future. I agree that culture change is very much a part of this but that is a slower and longer process than just a transformation programme. The purpose of the structural change we have undertaken is to deliver cultural change. That is always the case in any reform of an organisation.

There is progress in that regard.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes, I believe there is substantial progress.

I do not think that is an acceptable answer but I will leave it at that for now. Culture has been raised as an issue and I would like to hear what are the specific issues in relation to that culture. Perhaps it will be dealt with later. Cultural change is the major issue in all of the reports. My time is up so I will leave it for now.

I have a number of questions, some of which I prepared earlier having read the various reports, while others arise from the discussion we have had thus far this morning. Some may overlap. Mr. O'Driscoll spoke about a customer-centric response.

Who does Mr. O'Driscoll see as the customers in the case of direct provision?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The applicants.

Is it solely the applicants?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Yes. Other people are stakeholders. We recognise that there are many stakeholders in the system, but the service's customers are in fact the international protection applicants.

Regarding a customer-centric focus, across the entire immigration area we are establishing IT systems so that people can apply online. People tend to want to see the progress of their application, whether it is for a visa, international protection or anything else. Information on what stage an application is at is a very common request. Being customer-centric involves setting up systems that give people easy access to that information by telling them automatically.

If the asylum seekers are the Department's customers and it is taking a customer-centric approach, does it worry Mr. O'Driscoll to hear that some of his customers are afraid to raise issues and concerns with the Department?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

The people applying for international protection are obviously a particularly vulnerable group. They may have come through any kind of horrendous experience before turning up on our doorstep. Distrust of authority and authorities may be a legacy of those experiences. I spent a large portion of my career in Africa. I spent eight years working in development. I have looked at immigration from the other end of the pipeline and I am very conscious of what it looks like. The people who arrive on our shores may indeed need a lot of attention and special support. It is for that very reason that we have to be careful when issues like the one in Achill arise. We cannot put people into situations where they may feel further fear and concern.

While I accept that, there is something wrong if customers feel afraid to raise issues with a Department which is supposed to take a customer-centric approach. Moreover, the Department will not allow a third party to act on their behalf. That is very worrying. It is a negative step and I would worry about the customer-centric approach if that is what is involved. Perhaps Mr. O'Driscoll will consider this when looking at the progress of the Department's work. That raises concerns for me.

Who are the customers in the case of An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I referred earlier to the study on victims of crime we have carried out. I attended the presentation of that report to a large group of people, most of whom were drawn from NGOs, with some from the criminal justice system. Their very strong view is that the voice of the victim has not traditionally been heard in the criminal justice system. We have to change that. It is changing in any event because we are not the first to step up in this area. By doing this kind of research we hope to identify how to turn that around and be more customer-centric. It is not so much the Department of Justice and Equality which is at the front line here, but rather some of its agencies.

The first report of the effectiveness and renewal group in June 2017 stated that the Department should consider converting the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the Irish Prison Service into separate agencies. The transformation programme has developed a service delivery and improvement plan for immigration and has put all the operations together. How does Mr. O'Driscoll anticipate this impacting on refugees in Ireland? He stated that it was his strong view that the Department is now grand. My personal view is that this Department has too many responsibilities and is too wide-ranging. It would benefit from being broken up with some of the agencies moved elsewhere so that it could take a more focused view. Mr. O'Driscoll says the current structure is fine as it allows for learning across the board, etc. That is different from the view that was taken in previous years and it is interesting to hear it. How will keeping these elements together improve the delivery of the service?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I have been around too long so I have heard a lot of these debates before. In the 1980s, it was very common to break off bits of Government Departments and set up agencies. This trend was referred to by the horrible word "agencification". It happened all over the world. The British in particular were leaders in this. It was part of a movement known as new public management. That happened here in Ireland too. A lot of pieces of Departments were detached and set up as agencies. One of the subsequent criticisms of this was the lack of political accountability that followed when functions were separated out into agencies. Sometimes that has to be done. An Garda Síochána could not be within the Department, for example, and nobody would suggest that. However the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and its delivery area could be moved to an agency. The ERG indicated that it was considering this. However, I have seen service delivery operations within Departments. I would point to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners. A strong argument can be made that sometimes those service delivery functions work better inside a Department, particularly when the issue involved has a strong policy connection. It is very clear that immigration, certainly for now, has a very strong policy connection, both in Europe and Ireland. We have landed on a structure in which the immigration service delivery area remains inside the Department rather than being moved to a separate agency.

The virtue of bringing together all of the different functions, as shown in slide 34, is that some of these represent chains of decision-making. They are directly connected. To house them in different parts of the organisation, as we did previously, may be asking for trouble. This structure is much more likely to be able to sort it out. However, if the Deputy's eye falls on slide 34, he will see there are a lot of functions. It is a big area and a lot of work, involving between 800 and 900 people. It is, therefore, a big management job. We need to reflect on that further. As I said, this is why we asked EY to take a look at our immigration service delivery area specifically, almost as its staff were going out the door. EY has given us some information on that. We had already developed a service delivery improvement plan for immigration internally. That will be easier to implement in the new structure. This is a challenging area where the Department will see further development. We are not finished yet.

There has been much talk of cultural change. Before Mr. O'Driscoll's time, the Department was notoriously secretive and silo-based. It will continue to require close monitoring and continual efforts to prevent that from happening in the future. That is where many of the problems arose. This concern is less tangible. We cannot point to concrete results. How will Mr. O'Driscoll maintain the cultural change and how will it be monitored?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

That will be done in a couple of different ways. In my opening statement I deliberately reiterated my strong personal commitment to openness and transparency in the organisation. I have met the Information Commissioner, who I think was a little bit surprised when I told him at our first meeting that my objective was to make the Department of Justice and Equality the most open and transparent Government Department. There are several ways that will be assessed over time. He will keep a close eye on how we handle freedom of information requests. There have been complaints in that area in the past. In the past few months we issued a new circular within the Department on how FOI requests are to be handled. We are hoping that has an impact. The core mandate of our new transparency function is to be open and transparent.

I see that as having two dimensions. One is to be open in response to things like parliamentary questions, freedom of information requests and media queries. In other words, we should be reactive in our openness, be responsive and give people the information they are seeking. There is another way I hope we will be able to get to, namely to be proactive in our openness. At its simplest, that means putting information freely up on the website. That is something we are beginning to do and that is relevant to the immigration area. We want to be more proactive in how we explain what we do. If I had one criticism of the entire Irish Civil Service, it is that we are poor at explaining what we do and why we do it. I see us as pioneers in trying to turn that around.

I have a question on policing. I am from Donegal where the Morris tribunal was focused and I remember hearing at the time and I have heard since in Dublin that the modus operandi of the Morris tribunal was to make sure it stayed as a Donegal problem and was seen as being a Donegal problem. At the same time, there were problems all over the country. The Department will obviously dispute that and that is fair enough but it has certainly been shown over the years that what has gone on in the Morris tribunal was evident all over the place and it seems to me there has been too close a linkage between the Department of Justice and Equality and the Garda. The Department seems to see itself and its role as some sort of guardian of the State. That will be a real problem for the Department in being open in the future so it will be interesting to see how that develops. Unfortunately, we will have to wait to see how it develops and how it works. Hopefully it will work. What are the changes in the day to day workings of the Department? What can we expect to see in the day to day workings of the Department in terms of that separation of the day to day management of the Garda by the Department or on what influence departmental officials had on the operation of the Garda? What can we look out for to reassure ourselves this is working?

Before you respond Mr. O'Driscoll, I am going to have to close off Deputy Pringle at that point. There are three of us still to speak and only 18 minutes remain.

That is my last contribution.

I ask Mr. O'Driscoll to be succinct in helping me.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will try to do that. At the end I was going to offer members of the committee that if they wished to have more one-to-one discussions on our transformation I would be happy to do that with them or with their colleagues. Our reform coincides in time with the implementation of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland report so there are two major reforms ongoing on both sides of the equation the Deputy mentioned. The development of a policing service for the future, which is a cross-Government effort led by the Department of An Taoiseach and which affects all aspects of policing, including mental health, social protection and other issues, is a transformative approach to An Garda Síochána and the entire policing set-up it sits within. That is happening at the same time. As to the relationship between the two, it is clear to me - although I was not about for it - that the relationship between the Garda and the Department was very close. What strikes me most about it is the Department was entangled in running aspects of the Garda. There was a lack of capacity within the Garda in matters like HR, finance and so on. The Department was entangled in trying to help it with that and to deal with those issues. It is difficult to be involved in that way and to also have governance of an important agency like the Garda. It is difficult in that scenario to stand back and assess the Garda on its performance and compliance, the way we are now structured to do. That is important and that is changing. It requires change inside the Garda, and it is carrying out that change under Commissioner Harris. Recruitment is ongoing to ensure its capabilities in those areas are increased so it does not need the helping hand of the Department to run those things. That allows the Department to take a clearer governance role in the Garda.

I call Deputy Brophy. We are down to 15 minutes.

There are a couple of things I would like to focus on. I am conscious upfront of our time requirement and the indications from the Chairman. First, I welcome the change and the fact that it really does set out to address a whole-of-Department willingness to change a structure, which I believe - and I do not say this to the Department or the staff therein in a disrespectful way - was dysfunctional. I will not ask Mr. O'Driscoll to agree or disagree with that as previous colleagues did. The level of change that is now envisaged and that is outlined in what Mr. O'Driscoll has said today gives the answer to that question on what was there before. That is welcome. Likewise, there is no nitpicking reason to start looking at the cost of €2.9 million on the cost of what it delivered - and I am not a fan of EY in lots of ways. If this works, it will be some of the best few million euro spent within the area of justice in a long time. There should be more capability within the management structure to deliver the onward change in the Department of Justice and Equality and in other Departments, based on the template the Department has been supplied with. Allowing for the fact there clearly was not an effective roadmap and implementation structure in there to change the Department in the way it needed to be changed means the involvement of outside consultants in doing that will have been seen to be value for money if it delivers. That is the positive side of this. There was a lot of really positive stuff outlined there and as Mr. O'Driscoll said, it complements that policing change.

It is important that when people want to have a go at the Department on the way consultation is done with emergency accommodation - and Mr. O'Driscoll is probably right about the terminology on that - we need to be very upfront about what is happening in certain communities and meetings. We will look back at this in years to come as a nation. I have said this before and when I said it I received more concerted and concentrated nastiness on social media than I did on anything else I ever talked about. As a nation where millions of our people went abroad to gain a future, the way in which we have reacted to inward migration as a society is one of the great stains on our country. It is tragic to me. I say this openly and I do not care who it upsets. To have Irish Governments since nearly the formation of time be there for the Irish diaspora in the United States, right up to and including the present day, advocating for the Irish diaspora with the support of almost every elected politician, and to have a situation where we, as a country, then treat people in a worse way is mind-boggling. As a country, we do not even understand the hypocrisy of what we do sometimes.

That is why I want to come to one particular aspect of this because I am conscious of time and of letting other colleagues in. This will not mean a hill of beans if it is not implemented in certain areas. When it comes to immigration, I refer to the Irish Nationalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, and the way it deals with people. The way it deals with public representatives gives the lie to lots of this. One cannot get an answer, clear information or transparency and openness. As a public representative, I cannot get information. The real point I want the Department to take on board out of what I was saying is that this is not a policy matter. Why can someone not get their passport back for four and a half months? I am not asking the witnesses to explain why they did not get approved. I am asking why the most basic standards of treating people are not observed. I am asking why when one sends an email to INIS, one gets back a generic email reply that does not look like anybody even bothered to read one's email.

I could produce an email now to prove that I would receive a reply indicating that my email had not been read. It is about basic service treatment. If the Department wants to show the committee that it has changed, it needs to change that quickly. I am not asking a question on policy or whatever, I am saying this in the context of the retention of the documents of a nurse, including her actual qualification, in the Department in order that she cannot apply for another job in any other country and not even having the decency to reply to her. When I see that changing, I will believe the Department has changed. Until then, I am withholding judgment.

Mr. O'Driscoll will respond, mindful of time, please. It is a definite question warranting a well-thought-out answer.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I accept the challenge from Deputy Brophy. I agree that we have to show a difference in this area, as in others. What I said is that we have developed a customer service plan. We have put the new structure in place. It has been in place for one month. That is why I said to the committee in my opening statement - I repeated it twice - that people will have to be a little patient with us as we adapt to these new ways of working. It really is a challenge for everyone involved.

I will comment on one of the problems. I came from a different Department and I was staggered by Burgh Quay and the lack of information technology development on the immigration side. The Department of Justice and Equality is way behind the curve in service delivery compared with the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners and the other big operating Departments. It will take us a while to resolve that. It will require investment as well. I imagine my colleagues in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will note my remark to that effect.

I compliment the Deputy on his earlier comments. I do not want to get into the political debate so I will leave that there.

I absolutely and fully acknowledge that we need to do better in the context of service delivery. That is part of the purpose of the reform. It would be wrong to say that this will solve itself quickly but I think people will see substantial improvements quickly. If the successor committee calls me back in six months or a year from now, I reckon I will be able to identify clear improvements. If I come back in two years - if I am still around, let alone the committee members - I would expect substantial improvements to have been made.

I am inclined to endorse everything Deputy Brophy said and to say, "Well done". He put it well. It is important in terms of the underlining message of the Deputy's contribution. This is not only about the Department of Justice and Equality; it is relevant for each of the respective agencies that come within its remit. We need to see significant improvement in all of those areas.

Deputy Jack Chambers is next. The Chair will get a last bite at the cherry when the Deputy has concluded. I am sure he will think of me.

Perhaps the Chairman can cover the clock for a few minute.

I thank Mr. O'Driscoll for his presentation. Has there been a change in the numbers at assistant secretary general level? Will Mr. O'Driscoll provide an explanation in that regard?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will. There has been an increase. Deputy Jack Chambers is sharp and eagle-eyed. There is an increase of one in the number of assistant secretaries. In addition, we have appointed two directors. The model that committee members saw on slide 12 involves an increase in the size of the top layer in the Department. I make no apologies for that. That was my call and it was essential. The model that the effectiveness and renewal group proposed in its fullest form would actually have involved if anything at least one further person. There has been a good deal of renewal in the top team. This is slightly to the Deputy's point. The top team is made up of 15 people, seven of whom, myself included, are relatively new to their roles. There is a good deal of change at the top of the Department as well as in the structures of the Department.

There is a reason I am asking. If there are 15 people in the top layer, that is major transformation in the board and the big management structure. Is that a risk in the context of the risk mentioned in the Toland report about a silo structure? With this split-level at the top management layer, does the Department risk repeating what was there previously? How is Mr. O'Driscoll preventing that?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

That is a good question. This happens in every reform of every organisation. Every commercial and public organisation that goes through reform maintains they are getting rid of their silos and breaking silos. Of course, the immediate concern is that they are creating new silos when they restructure. That is a really important point. I am not going to labour the detail of the structure, but under each deputy secretary there is an executive board in the area. This allows for more concentrated discussion of the issues within, say, criminal justice or civil justice and equality, as well as the totality of the 15 people. One of the reasons this will pull away from a siloed culture is the new transparency function in the centre. I have described it as the spider in the centre of the web of the Department. It plays a vital role, not only in replying to questions that Oireachtas Members ask but also in pulling together information from across the Department. It will have a unique view of the total totality of the Department. That will contribute a great deal. To be frank, the real responsibility for ensuring the Department does not again become siloed lies with me and my senior colleagues. I will absolutely be satisfied to be held accountable on this. Our prototype is a new structure. Part of the purpose of it is to do away with silos.

I wish to make one final point - I realise the Chairman wants me to be quick. One of the dangers with a functional model is lack of collaboration between functions. That danger is designed into a functional model. We have been watchful about that in these early stages. There is some material in the slides about what we are doing on cross-functional teams. I see that as a bigger danger than a silo mentality precisely in the new model.

One of the slides covers what is critical for success. I am not sure who wrote this but it is very generic. There is a piece on deep knowledge. It states that the Department invests in the right staff who have deep knowledge of the subject area of the Department. It also states, "crucial to the success of the programme as the programme were working at pace to meet tight timelines by investing appropriately engaged staff". It goes on to say that the transformation enables the Department to extract more insightful information which enables more informed planning. Each of the five paragraphs are generic, broad and poorly worded. Whether that is what EY has presented the Department with or that is what has been written internally, the fact that there are even simple grammatical errors shows there has not been much focus on it. It goes on to say that frank communication and engagement with staff enabled the transformation team to minimise resistance to change. It seems like this is all congratulatory. That is positive if that is the Department's perspective, but I believe we need less of that and more metrics. I would like to see Mr. O'Driscoll present the key performance indicators and actual measurable cultural indicators that are changing within the Department so that we can track these over time. That particular slide is rather loose. It is like any basic governance slide in a presentation that anyone would receive if they have any knowledge of it. We need to see more depth rather than the usual wording that we could probably see dotted in every agency or Department proposal on future success. That is the danger. It is not for the Department officials present alone. It is probably for every public and private sector organisation. We see this type of language and the concern about it. I would like to see more depth on metrics to enable us to track the success of the Department over time. I hope it is a success.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I am delighted Deputy Chambers said that - he is singing my tune. I absolutely believe strongly in organisational metrics. I accept that we have to provide specific metrics to the committee. However, I wish to clarify on point: that slide is actually about something else and I did not refer to it in the opening statement.

We keep being asked what lessons we learned from running a successful reorganisation. That is what that is intended to be. These are the things we think we did that allowed us to deliver the restructuring - and it is only the restructuring - on time and within budget. The first effort, and I stress it is only a first effort, at stating clearly in the functional outcomes the different behaviours that could be reasonably expected of us can be seen in the previous two slides concerning key performance indicators, KPIs, and functional outcomes. I am happy with slide No. 16, which states the behaviours that can be expected of us. The following slide is an attempt to translate those behaviours into KPIs, which I have a great deal of background in trying to develop. Attempting to develop a sense of outcomes into specific KPIs is always a challenge. This is a reasonable effort and will inform the KPIs we will then include, for example, in our statement of strategy for the organisation. That strategy will be an important driver of behaviour within the Department. We are, therefore, addressing this issue of metrics and I agree 100% with Deputy Jack Chambers that that is what we need to judge the outcomes.

I thank Deputy Jack Chambers. The clock has beaten the Chair now and that happens from time to time. My problem is that a select committee examining legislation with a Minister is commencing in this room at 11.15 a.m. Could Mr. O'Driscoll accommodate me by providing an opportunity where we could speak at some point in the coming weeks?

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I would be delighted to do that.

I would like to address some points specific to the work of this committe with Mr. O'Driscoll. Those points will not be satisfied in a rushed moment but perhaps we could have a coffee together some time. It would be helpful if Mr. O'Driscoll would be agreeable to that.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

I will buy the coffee and I am delighted to do that.

That is fine and I think it is the appropriate thing to do. I will finish by stating that Deputy Jack Chambers was not in the earlier private session of this meeting, but one of the items of correspondence was a reply to questions raised by him regarding the Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Probation Judgments and Decisions) Bill 2018. The Deputy raised those questions in May 2019 and I have just circulated the reply from the Department some six months later. That is one of the areas at which we will definitely be looking. We are the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and we are accountable to the public. We are the face of the citizenry and we need a much speedier response rate than six months. That is only an indicative example. I have encountered much worse in my three years as Chair. That just happened this morning, however, and I am bringing it to the attention of Mr. O'Driscoll.

Mr. Aidan O'Driscoll

Point taken.

Hands up, that is a good way to finish. I thank Mr. O'Driscoll very much for his engagement with the committee and I thank the members for their participation. I thank all of the representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality for their presence, including Mr. O'Driscoll as Secretary General, Mr. Doncha O'Sullivan, assistant secretary, Ms Martina Colville, assistant secretary and Ms Layla de Cogan Chin, principal officer. They all had a very easy morning watching Mr. O'Driscoll reply to our questions. I also thank Ms Kate O'Gorman in the Gallery.

The joint committee adjourned at 11.03 a.m. until 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 November 2019.