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Monday 22 September 2014

Fitzgerald admits 'serious management issues' in department

Published 29/07/2014 | 02:30

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Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD speaking to media following the publication of the Report of the Independent Review Group on the Department of Justice and Equality at Government Buildings, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD speaking to media following the publication of the Report of the Independent Review Group on the Department of Justice and Equality at Government Buildings, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald acknowledged that "serious management issues" were identified in her department, which has been dogged by controversy.

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But she insisted that the publication of the Toland Review would represent "another important step" in reform of the beleaguered justice system.

The review of how the powerful ministry operates uncovered ineffective management procedures and said it was incapable of holding key agencies to account.

Civil servants in charge of the country's policing and justice system have a closed and secretive culture, the hard-hitting review revealed.

It also said that relationships with the bodies the powerful department oversees tend to be informal and unstructured, without strong central management.

The withering criticism confirmed significant leadership and management problems in the Department of Justice after repeated scandals led to the resignations of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter earlier this year.

The review chaired by Kevin Toland, chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), was ordered last June on the back of a series of scandals over how policing is carried out and how it is overseen. It was instigated after barrister Sean Guerin's investigation into the garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe's allegations of garda misconduct was published.

The Justice Minister described the report as hard hitting and critical, and admitted it had identified "serious management issues".

Ms Fitzgerald added that Secretary General Brian Purcell stood aside because he said it was in the best interests of the department.

But she said that positives would come from the publication of the report. "Given the significant recent disquiet over the administration and oversight of justice in this State, I believe this report represents another important step in this Government's justice reform programme," she said.

In a 22-page report, the Review Group said there was a lack of cohesive leadership and management practice, highlighting four key poor management routines and practices.

It said there was:

  • 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 group interviewed all members of the department's senior management team, along with a range of other relevant parties.

Culture

"The overall departmental culture has not changed or adapted to the world in which it now operates," it said.

The Toland Review found the culture of secrecy at the department to be at times unnecessary. "This has resulted in an inward-looking organisation with limited learning capacity and reduced openness to new ideas," it said.

The review found that although there has been a challenging expansion of work, the overall departmental culture has not changed or adapted to the world in which it now operates.

The report found a lack of cohesive leadership and management practices in the department to focus sufficiently on critical priorities in core business areas, ensure delivery of business objectives, provide strong oversight or drive the performance of the department.

An "imbalance between minister and management" was also criticised in the review.

A stronger and more cohesive management culture is essential to handle the breadth and depth of the department's business agendas, according to the review.

Irish Independent

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