News Politics

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Brian Purcell to stand aside as report on Department of Justice finds 'a closed and unnecessarily secretive culture'

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 28/07/2014 | 16:27

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Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

THE Secretary General of the Department of Justice has stepped aside and will be replaced following a report into the operation of the scandal wracked department.

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A series of controversies involving An Garda Siochana has already seen the departure of former Justice Minister Alan Shatter and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

This evening Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced that a new Secretary General will be appointed, following an open recruitment process.

Brian Purcell, the current secretary general, has offered to be reassigned to other duties in the public service.

The announcement was made after Minister Fitzgerald published a 22 page review into the operation of the department which identified a “deferential relationship” shown by the department towards gardai.

The Review Group, chaired by Mr. Kevin Toland, was established on 3rd June 2014 following a decision of Government.

The Toland review identified five key issues including a “closed, secretive and silo driven culture” at the department.

The Review said there were significant leadership and management problems and ineffective management processes and structures to provide strong, strategic oversight of the key agencies under the department’s remit.

It also said that a Management Advisory Committee (MAC) is neither sufficiently focussed on key strategic priorities that impact on the department and said that key agencies tend to be informal and unstructured without strong central management.

The group met over 20 internal staff including Secretary General Brian Purcell whom it met three times.

The Report notes that a number of core strengths are “very evident in the Department and these provide robust foundations and building blocks that will ensure a strong future for the Department”.

These core strengths include the “willingness, flexibility and can-do attitude of many of its loyal staff” as well as “the significant depth of specialist knowledge and experience in the Department”.

But the Review Group said that management structures have not kept pace with the development of its broad and complex remit.

“There is a closed, secretive and silo culture which has inhibited the capacity of the organisation to questions and to challenge and therefore to learn and adapt,” said the review group.

“The need for secrecy in particularly sensitive areas has not been restricted to those areas. It permeates much of the department’s remit and has become part of its DNA - to the detriment of other areas that should be open”.

The Review said there is a lack of cohesive leadership and management practice.

It added that there were four poor management routines and practices.

They are:

*no clear ownership of issues

*Ineffective systems and practices

*Poor political antennae for issues with serious potential impact

* No focus on learnings or areas for improvement

The Toland Review Group was asked to examine the performance, administration and management of the Department and to make recommendations to the Minister. The Review Group interviewed all members of the Department’s senior management team along with a range of other relevant parties.

Minister Fitzgerald has described the key findings of the report as "serious and hard-hitting."

Minister Fitzgerald noted the decision today by Cabinet to proceed with the open recruitment of a new Secretary General to the Department of Justice & Equality.  The Minister said that “the newly-appointed Secretary General will play a pivotal role in managing and embedding the recommendations of the Report in the workings of the Department.”

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