Following the Report of the Independent Review Group, which identified a series of recommendations, the Department developed a comprehensive implementation plan in the form of its Programme for Change, which has been implemented over the past two and a half years in parallel with similar actions set out in the Civil Service Renewal Plan. The Review Group made recommendations in areas such as culture; leadership and structure; audit and risk management; corporate functions and IT systems; and benchmarks. Significant progress has been made in implementing these recommendations as outlined below and the work of embedding and sustaining the changes continues to be prioritised in the Department.
The following recommendations, which mirror many of the actions set out in the Civil Service Renewal Plan, have been implemented in the Department:
- The Department’s Management Advisory Committee was reconstituted as a Management Board, new personnel were appointed, both from within the Department and externally, and lateral mobility put into effect. A new Deputy Secretary post was created in April 2015 to provide more cohesive leadership across the criminal justice portfolio and following a competition, a Secretary General was permanently appointed in October 2016. Both the Minister and the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and integration meet on a monthly basis with the full Management Board;
- Following consultation, a Culture and Values Charter was published in 2016 with the objective of fostering a more outward facing, listening organisational culture. These values have been signed off by the Department's leadership team and are fed into all induction and leadership training with a view to informing the way in which the Department communicates with staff and stakeholders. It is recognised that changes to organisational culture takes sustained effort over time and a cross grade team, led by the Secretary General, is working to ensure that this continues to be embedded in the organisation;
- 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 in April 2016. Since 2015 an annual Strategic Plan has been published, which draws together in one single plan all the strategic priorities across the Department. To support the Management Board in its oversight of this programme, a programme management reporting system has been implemented, progress is monitored monthly by the Management Board and twice yearly progress reports are published on the website;
- Risk management processes have been significantly strengthened and the Department's Audit Committee which has a majority of external members has reviewed its processes in line with the recommendations;
- Since March 2014, the Department has also 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 both the Minister and relevant officials and followed up in a timely manner;
- The Report made several recommendations regarding relationship management and oversight of Agencies, all of which have been implemented. 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 as mentioned above. In addition, the Policing Authority was established in January 2016 to bring a new and dedicated layer of public accountability to the administration of policing services and provide additional impetus to drive necessary changes in the policing system and its practices.
- Formal structures have been put in place to support communication and collaboration with the agencies in the Justice and Equality sector: the Civil Agencies Network covers a range of diverse agencies and meets quarterly to share information and best practise while the Criminal Justice Strategic Committee comprising the heads of all the relevant agencies was established in 2015. The Strategic Committee also meets quarterly and is driving effective collaboration through a detailed work-plan on a range of shared interests from international cooperation, data needs and interoperability to leadership development and victims services.
- A programme of work in regard to Data and Information has been developed and is being taken forward in cooperation with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, including a system providing real time support to the front-line Joint Agency Response to Crime (JARC) programme, the rollout of an e-Submissions system and the development of the Justice and Equality Hub, to facilitate better collaboration and information sharing between the Department and its stakeholders and the provision of data and management information to support the development of more evidence based policy;
- Many of the Review Group's recommendations related to Human Resources management and the Department held an open competition last year to appoint a professional Head of Strategic Human Resources. Following this appointment, a three year workforce plan has been developed which directly supports the Department’s 2016-2019 Strategy and informs recruitment and deployment of available resources to effectively deliver on the Department's business objectives as well as identifying training needs. The 2017 training plan includes risk management, customer service, leadership development and performance management. The Department is also developing its HR capacity, including the recent implementation of a business partner model to try to ensure that the business needs, including managed mobility and succession planning, are being met by HR. A HR strategy is being prepared which will reflect the changes being implemented since the Toland Report and which will reflect the internal Change Programme, the forthcoming Civil Service HR strategy and public service reform.
- A Head of Communications was appointed and a strategy covering internal and external communications in support of the change programme was published in 2016.
New structured governance arrangements with An Garda Síochana have also been introduced. A Governance Framework Document is in place which makes provision, amongst other things, for regular Governance meetings including tripartite meetings involving the Department, An Garda Síochána and the Policing Authority. In that context, senior officials meet monthly with An Garda Síochána at a senior management level to oversee progress on strategic and resource matters such as the Modernisation and Renewal Programme, IR issues, Garda recruitment, civilianisation, ICT, and Garda buildings. The Department also participates in the Garda ICT Oversight Board monitoring the ongoing ICT Programme which forms an integral part of the Modernisation and Renewal Programme. In addition, arrangements are in place for quarterly meetings involving the Department, An Garda Síochána and the Policing Authority in the context of the Authority's statutory functions in relation to advising the Minister with regard to Garda resources.
In addition to the ongoing reforms in the policing area, achieving better collaborative practice and parallel to implementing the major change programme, a large volume of work has been delivered over the past 3 years on the Department's business agenda across very significant areas of public life. Major achievements include the Children and Family Relationship Act 2015, the Marriage Equality Referendum, International Protection Act 2015 incorporating a single applications procedure and implementation of the McMahon report recommendations, 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.
The Review Group recommended the development of a HR strategy which is in preparation in parallel with the Civil Service HR Strategy as mentioned above. It also recommended changes to the Department’s structure which has been reviewed in recent months and a number of options for structural changes are under consideration. Given the workload on hand, it is envisaged that structural change will be implemented on a phased basis. It should be noted, however, that despite concerns expressed by the Review Group about the breadth of its responsibilities, the Department's remit has continued to expand significantly in recent years with responsibility assigned in 2015 for additional agencies including the Valuation Office and Ordnance Survey Ireland. In addition, since the Review Group reported, the Charities Regulator, the Policing Authority and the Legal Services Regulatory Authority have been all been established. Clearly all of these are necessary bodies but the Department has an expanding remit with associated risks.
Over the next few months the Department will be taking stock of the changes implemented to date with a view to ensuring that the measures outlined above are embedded, sustained and further developed, continuing to take account of the wider process of Civil Service Renewal. This process will also examine priorities for the next phase of reform with a view to driving continuous improvement.