My Department has implemented significant reform through a Programme for Change following the report of the Independent Review Group which recommended a range of organisational and cultural changes. Some actions involve strengthening structural and governance processes while others focused on changing organisational behaviour. It should be noted that many of the changes overlap with the actions set out in the Civil Service Renewal Plan.
Much work has been done to address the recommendations regarding relationship management and oversight of An Garda Síochána. The most significant is the establishment last January of the Policing Authority which represented a very far-reaching reform of An Garda Síochána. This is a major element of the comprehensive programme of justice reform that the Government is delivering. In particular, the Authority brings a new and dedicated layer of public accountability to the administration of policing services and it also provides an engine to drive necessary changes in the policing system and its practices. The goal is to ensure that the Garda organisation will be fully fit to meet the ongoing and emerging challenges of 21st century policing.
In addition to the policing area and running alongside the implementation of the major change programme, enormous progress has been made over the past 2 years on the Department's business agenda across very significant areas of public life. Major issues addressed in this context include Child and Family Relationship Legislation, Marriage Equality Legislation, International Protection legislation and a single applications procedure, progressing the implementation of the EU Victims Directive, establishment of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) to meet Ireland’s international humanitarian obligations, amongst many others.
Particular changes made in my Department include the following:
- In the light of an extensive consultation process with staff, agencies and stakeholders, a new Culture and Values Charter was developed and published earlier this year with the objective of fostering a more outward facing, listening organisational culture. These values are fed into all induction and leadership training and inform the way in which the Department communicates with staff and stakeholders. A cross grade Change Team, led by the Secretary General, is working to ensure that the values are embedded in the organisation;
- The Department’s Management Advisory Committee has been reconstituted as a Management Board, new personnel have been appointed, both from within the Department and externally, and lateral mobility put into effect. Following a competition, a Secretary General was permanently appointed in October last. Robust supporting processes have been put in place to enhance leadership and oversight of the Department and wider sector and to facilitate more effective management and governance of the strategic objectives. A Corporate Governance Framework for the Department was published last April;
- Agency performance and governance arrangements have been formalised and strengthened through formal Performance/Service Delivery Agreements and Frameworks
agreed with 24 key agencies including An Garda Síochána
- Since March 2014, the Department has put in place revised systems and procedures to ensure that
all correspondence is handled appropriately which specifies that high priority correspondence is brought to the attention of the Minister and relevant officials and followed up in a timely manner;
- An annual Strategic Plan was published in 2015 and again this year which draws together in one single plan all the strategic priorities across the Department. Progress is monitored monthly and twice yearly progress reports are published;
- Risk management processes have been significantly strengthened and the Department's Audit Committee which has a majority of external members has reviewed its processes.
The Department appointed a Head of Strategic Human Resources from an open competition in June 2016. Following her appointment a process of workforce planning has been initiated with a view to identifying the resources required to effectively deliver on the Department's business objectives. Training programmes were also initiated with a view to ensuring that both existing and new resources have the capacity and capability to meet the business needs. Further work in the area of learning and development is planned for 2017, informed by the workforce planning process and Civil Service Renewal including developing leadership capacity and ensuring future needs at senior levels can be met through proactive knowledge management and development of expertise in specific areas. There will be a focus on developing the capacity of HR itself to meet the needs of the Organisation and developing a business partner model in 2017.
I am satisfied that these reforms have made a significant difference to the way in which my Department goes about its business and engages with stakeholders. The focus through 2017 will be on ensuring that the organisation continues to focus on continuous improvement and that the change outlined above is embedded, sustained and further developed in the context of the wider process of Civil Service Renewal.