The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D., published the Third Report of the Organisational Review Programme and the Progress Report on Implementation today. The purpose of the Organisational Review Programme (ORP) is to help organisations ensure that they are fit for purpose in terms of the challenges they face.
Referring to the Progress Report, Minister Howlin stated “while there have been significant changes in the operating environment particularly since the initial reviews took place, it is clear that most organisations have made substantial progress in implementing their action plans. I welcome, in particular, initiatives aimed at better management of resources and at improving joined-up working, governance of agencies and customer service. The reports identify a number of good practices across the system that addresses problems in the areas of resource management, systems delivery and service provision. Further improvement in these areas is a key aspect of our reform plan.”
Referring to the Third ORP Report, Minister Howlin noted that “the findings demonstrate the high calibre, values and commitment of management and staff, and good performance in many areas including development of policy and strategy, consultation with stakeholders, delivery of customer service, management of financial resources and strong resilience in the face of growing challenges”. The Minister acknowledged however that “there are still some areas where there is scope for improvement such as the need to focus more rigorously on strategic priorities and less on short-term issues, agency governance, the measurement of outcomes, and the management of staff”.
The Departments have developed comprehensive action plans in response to the ORP findings. The Minister said “these plans demonstrate an encouraging degree of commitment and intention on the parts of the senior management in the organisations concerned to improve capacity and implement ambitious programmes of change. It is important that in a time of contracting resources every effort is made to improve the performance of the civil service and to achieve efficiencies wherever possible”.
The Third Report also includes an assessment of the impacts of decentralisation on civil service capacity. The Minister said “the findings clearly vindicate the Government’s recent decision to cease further roll-out of the decentralisation programme”.
Overall, the Minister concluded that “eleven organisations have been reviewed to date and the ORP process has proved valuable in identifying strengths and capacity challenges across the system. I have decided to reallocate my ORP resources now to focus on other priority elements of the Public Service Reform Plan and will review this decision in 18 months time. However, Departments remain committed to implementing the ORP action plans and progress will be reported on through the integrated Reform Delivery Plans developed as part of the wider reform agenda”.
Notes to Editors
The Organisational Review Programme (ORP) was established to review the capacities of Government Departments and major Offices in the three key areas of setting strategy, managing delivery and undertaking evaluation.
The Progress Report on Implementation is a ‘look back’ on the seven organisations reviewed in earlier rounds of the Organisational Review Programme, namely the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which were reviewed in the first round, and the Department of Health, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Central Statistics Office and the Property Registration Authority which were reviewed in the second.
The Third Report of the Organisational Review Programme contains the findings of reviews of four Departments – the Department of the Taoiseach, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Education and Skills, and Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and detailed follow-up action plans prepared by each Department.
1. Progress Report on Implementation
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
- Comprehensive restructuring programme completed: local office network reduced from 58 to 16 offices, yielding a reduction of 400 staff and savings of €30m per annum. Major reviews completed of 15 internal business units yielding significant new efficiencies including in the ways some schemes are managed. Overall staff numbers have been reduced by over 1,200 since 2005.
- Performs impressively on developing and implementing policy – e.g. development of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. Considerable resources deployed at EU level in negotiating and putting in place the optimum EU frameworks and supports for the development of our agriculture, fisheries and food sectors.
- Significant improvements to customer service delivery systems, in particular in the strong increase in online service provision.
Assessment: Excellent progress made. Action plan substantially implemented.
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
- Reduced the administrative burden on business communities and is on target to achieve the Government’s target of a 25% reduction by end 2012.
- Oversaw considerable organisational change involving the acquisition and transfer of major policy and operational functions. Continued to provide services against the backdrop of major changes in its operational environment.
- Introduced ICT-based improvements including a reduction in application forms, development of a number of eforms and online filing of trade mark applications. Established through Science FoundationIrelandan IT online forum allowing exchanges between public sector organisations on IT technical and policy matters.
Assessment: Made some progress in improving capacity but still some distance to go.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
- Staff and functions realigned in line with suite of new priorities. More efficient ways of working – business process improvements, more effective use of ICT and strengthened HR capacity. A resource capacity study and a skills audit identifying skills needs and gaps and taking action to address them. Enhanced ICT systems including a new staff intranet ‘The Hub’ to promote greater sharing and reuse of information and ideas
- New governance arrangements for its agencies including more structured engagement on strategy and performance-related issues
Assessment: Addressed many issues, made impressive progress in some respects, but still faces some significant challenges arising in particular from reduced staff and budgetary resources.
Department of Health
- Four high quality HR-related reports with best practice actions on staff management (e.g. up-skilling), staff mobility, work allocation and performance management
- Strong engagement with professional groupings and other stakeholders on developing Department’s priorities backed up by new arrangements for engagement on policy implementation. Priorities set by reference to outcome desired, actions to be taken, and means by which progress will be monitored and measured. Some business processes streamlined and further work underway
- Draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the HSE and the Department developed clarifying respective roles and functions, facilitating improved bilateral engagement and co-operation, and strengthening governance arrangements. Finalisation deferred in the light of the radical structural reforms of the health services
Assessment: Substantial progress made, sustained engagement of staff and stakeholders, measures to date will strengthen capacity to address key priorities. The planned phase 2 actions, covering HR, governance of agencies, and cross-cutting issues, will build on the good work done.
Office of the Revenue Commissioners
- Enhanced highly rated Risk Evaluation Analysis and Profiling (REAP) system to better interrogate information on taxpayers, and identify cases with greatest risk of non-compliance and likelihood of highest tax-yield.
- Taken measures to enhance skills base, e.g. recruited new staff to fill gaps in critical areas of audit, ICT and legislation. Improved some internal work practices informed by staff surveys and follow-up action plans
- Enhancing the Management Information Framework to better link staff to outputs and costs for each Business unit thereby improving performance measurement and staff allocation to priorities. Developing further the Case Management System helping to evaluate compliance programmes.
Assessment: Substantial progress made. Challenges around replenishment of corporate memory loss, allocation of staff and management and measurement of performance.
Central Statistics Office
- The 2010 Burden Barometer shows that burden in business surveys, excluding the Census of Agriculture, fell by 18% between 2008 and 2010. Developing a new implementation strategy for the Irish Statistical System (ISS) in cooperation with other public bodies.
- Improved timeliness of some publications significantly especially on earnings and has a well developed programme of internal audits and reviews. Some significant data gaps addressed through introduction of new indicators and series. Is rolling out time allocation and costing systems to all business areas and is analyzing metrics for individual business units with a view to enhancing evaluation capacity.
Assessment: Excellent progress, measures taken will strengthen capacity. Needs to maintain momentum especially on the Irish Statistical System, reducing response burden and improving analysis and commentary.
Property Registration Authority
- Well led organisation. Strong capacity in areas of strategy, managing delivery and evaluation. Has taken actions to ensure backlogs of legacy cases are dealt with efficiently and in accordance with appropriate priority
Assessment: Substantially implemented its ORP action plan, a strongly performing organisation, very well placed to meet future challenges.
2. Third Report of the Organisational Review Programme
Department of the Taoiseach
Strengths: High calibre staff. Widely praised for central involvement in several major strategic successes, such as the Northern Ireland peace process and the IFSC. Effective as an honest broker in resolving issues, has good working relationships with stakeholders and is willing to take their feedback on board.
Needs to… Articulate its strategic leadership role in the economic recovery process, including strengthening the role of the NESC, and provide clarity on strategic priorities. Further enhance its staff talent pool in the areas of economics, analytical and performance measurement skills. Strengthen staff management capacity
Follow-up proposed… To focus in new Strategy Statement (due this month) and follow-up arrangements on key challenges of economic recovery, job creation, and Ireland’s standing in the EU, with new Economic Management Council, reformed Cabinet Committee structure and new integrated European Affairs Division to play key roles. To place special emphasis on developing internal capacity for analysis and innovation, including in terms of economics capability by leveraging existing strong capacity in the NESC and drawing on outside expertise. To include in a new Human Resources Strategy (due by March 2012) measures to improve staff mobility, experience and skills-sets.
Department of Education and Skills
Strengths: High calibre management and staff with strong values and commitment to education. Highly consultative approach to working with key partners in developing and implementing policies. Has proven ability in developing policy and strategy in a highly complex operating environment. Has done a cost effective job at managing and developing schools.
Needs to… Prioritise and tackle long-term issues and develop long-term strategy for education. Speed up development and implementation of policies. Improve evaluation of education services and policies. Strengthen its leadership role in respect of early childhood education, higher education and further education and training. Improve internal co-ordination and collaboration. Change processes to improve delivery of school building projects.
Follow-up proposed… Review priorities and strengthen monitoring of implementation on ongoing basis. Take a number of measures to enhance communications, including substantial upgrades to the Department’s website. Progress work on establishing SOLAS, the new authority for the further education and training sector. Continue to progress implementation of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030. Develop new standardised governance arrangements, such as Memorandums of Understandings and Service Level Agreements with Department’s agencies. Rollout the Department’s recently developed ICT Strategy. Develop a strategic framework for the education sector.
Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government
Strengths: Integrity, strong intellectual capacity, high levels of commitment and a positive approach to taking on new challenges. Tremendous organisational resilience in handling the challenges of the past ten years. Strong record of developing high quality policy, strategy and legislation. External stakeholders say Department is well-led.
Needs to… Prioritise better and strengthen capacity to implement policies, for example on compliance with EU environmental legislation, including by local authorities. Improve capacity to measure the performance of local authorities and disseminate best practice, and ensure greater accountability for the delivery of national policy priorities.
Follow-up proposed… Annual Departmental Business Plan reported on every 6 months, identifying key priorities and allocating staff accordingly (already being implemented). A Dedicated Unit to resolve EU transposition and compliance issues (already being implemented). New Best Practice Guidelines for engagement with local authorities with a new emphasis on simplicity in implementing policies. Improved oversight role of local authorities and agencies, including real-time access to data. Some HR and finance functions of Met Eireann to be undertaken by Department thereby improving efficiency and reducing overhead.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Strengths: Very high calibre senior management with proven international record. A strong capacity to set strategic direction and to deliver results. Top quality customer service. Irish Aid programme “world class”.
Needs to… In light of the current process of national economic recovery and the ongoing changes in the EU and international domains, raise its capacity in the areas of economics and trade. Improve the alignment of its day-to-day work with its key priorities, especially in of some its smaller missions abroad. Improve knowledge management capacity so that information is deployed better to support business needs.
Follow-up proposed… Reform internal process so that Divisions and Missions abroad are more involved in setting strategy and prioritising work. Reorganise HQ operations to a geographic, less hierarchal basis thereby improving Departmental management and performance. Undertake a series of measures, including unified classification methods, to improve the way information is collected, stored and shared internally. Develop a number of initiatives to develop the skills and knowledge base, especially for managers.
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)
Strengths: High commitment, vocational interest and expertise of staff. Good working relationships with many agencies and bodies. Experiences of the some 2.3 visitors to national parks overwhelmingly positive.
Needs to… Achieve a better balance between conservation and visitor management. Have clear protocols for field staff and clear objectives for each main activity. Improve basic customer requirement (e.g. ATM machines) in some national parks. Engage more systematically with local authorities for resolving issues with shared responsibilities. Establish internal legal unit given the significant legal dimension (e.g. transposition of EU Directives and ECJ infringement proceedings).
Follow-up proposed… New NPWS Strategy Statement oriented towards achieving a better balance between conservation and visitor management. New Standard Instructions and Procedures for all staff to be prepared. Steps being taken to address shortcomings in customer service such as absence of ATM machines in some national parks. Agreement reached with City andCountyManagers’ Association on ongoing structured dialogue. Establishment of a legal unit being considered within context of the Employment Control Framework
Chapter re: Impacts of Decentralisation on Civil Service Capacity
Serious losses of corporate knowledge, exacerbated by weak management information systems and staff retirements. Major ‘staff churn’. Considerable hidden costs – e.g. some Principal Officers and Assistant Secretaries have to work out of two locations, typically the HQ in Dublin and the decentralised office, spending between 20% and 50% of their time in one or other. Impacted on internal shared understanding within organisations, especially where face-to-face interactions with Ministers who are Dublin-based are required and where a function is geographically dispersed across a number of locations.