I wholeheartedly support the decentralisation programme announced by the Minister for Finance in budget 2004. I am a member of a Cabinet sub-committee which has been established to oversee the implementation of the decentralisation programme as set out in the budget speech in December. My Department is fully engaged with the process and we have set up internal structures to drive the process forward.
As part of the decentralisation programme, it was decided that 250 of my Department's core staff would decentralise to Carlow. It was also decided that four of my Department's agencies, FÁS, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority and Enterprise Ireland, are also to decentralise to Birr, Arklow, Thomastown and Shannon respectively. My Department, through internal structures established to support the decentralisation process and through representation on the Department of Finance's liaison officers group, is actively engaged in driving the programme across the Department and its agencies.
While an absolute timescale for completing the decentralisation programme has not yet been finalised, my Department is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Government decision as efficiently and expediently as possible. I have instructed my Department's officials to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of the decentralisation of the Department and agencies, including direct and indirect risks, and of risks to the synergies between the Department and agencies following decentralisation, to identify any and all threats to the effective and efficient roll out of the programme.
The decentralisation committee of my Department is meeting today to commence this process. I cannot at this point give an indication of the likely completion date of the risk assessment but I am confident that a comprehensive risk assessment will be produced as quickly as possible. In tandem with this risk assessment, some of the agencies have indicated that they will undertake separate risk assessments within their organisations to identify potential issues with regard to their own internal and external interfaces.