I refer to the replies to Questions Nos. 711 of 11 April 2017 and 497 of 3 October 2017. These replies noted that the 2011 Review of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the EPA overall has provided ‘considerable benefit for Ireland’s environment and for the health and well-being of its people.'
An Action Plan was developed by the EPA to consider and address the 58 recommendations contained in the 2011 Review. An Implementation Report, published in 2014, indicated that 43 of the recommendations were fully completed, with the remaining 15 “in progress”. The 2011 review and subsequent reports are available on the website of the EPA at www.epa.ie
The reply to PQ No. 497 of 3 October 2017 provided a summary report on the position in respect of the outstanding 15 recommendations. Of these, five are rolling in nature and will continue to be progressed in the normal course of events, while the remaining seven recommendations are not being implemented given the potential implications of their implementation on the effectiveness of the EPA to carry out its statutory functions, or where practical or technical issues have been identified.
In 2018, a further review of the EPA was commissioned (by the EPA itself) from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), using a framework developed by the OECD to assess and strengthen the organisational performance and governance of regulators. This review examined the EPA’s institutional and organisational set-up, including how it assesses its own performance, and compared the Agency’s governance arrangements against the Best Practice Principles and practices of other OECD Countries. The OECD report, 'Driving Performance at Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency,' was published in May 2020 and is available at https://www.oecd.org/gov/regulatory-policy/driving-performance-at-ireland-s-environmental-protection-agency-009a0785-en.htm
The OECD review concluded, inter alia, that “the EPA has established itself as a trusted and respected body for environmental and radiological protection that is recognised for its scientific integrity. It has been given responsibility for regulating an increasing number of areas on account of its reputation to deliver and it operates with a strong culture of independence. EPA data and reports are the reference for knowledge on Ireland’s environment and the EPA is seen as an authoritative voice on environmental issues. It networks effectively at the European level, where it has gained a reputation as an innovative, open organisation with many good practices to share.”
In addition, the Programme for Government commits to responding to the recommendations of the OECD report. I intend that the Department's ongoing oversight and performance delivery agreements with the EPA will provide appropriate opportunities to respond to the OECD review and to assess the EPA's implementation of the OECD recommendations.
In this context, I am satisfied that the OECD report represents an appropriate basis for taking forward any further consideration of the EPA’s capacity, performance and governance, and that no further action on foot of any outstanding recommendations from the 2011 Review is now required.