Friday 23 February 2018

O'Donnell warning over road death plan

Letter to Ross reveals worries over RSA's five-year plan to reduce fatalities

Communication: Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Communication: Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

The State agency that promotes road safety has privately warned Transport Minister Shane Ross about serious risks to its plan to reduce road deaths to 124 a year by 2020.

The Road Safety Authority board expressed "serious concerns" in relation to the implementation of the almost €40m plan, according to a letter from chairperson Liz O'Donnell to Mr Ross.

Last July, the RSA launched a five-year corporate plan, the bottom line in which was to reduce road deaths by 25pc to 124 by the end of the decade.

But just three months later, in October, Ms O'Donnell wrote to Mr Ross to warn that the absence of "essential skills" was of concern and that it would be "remiss" of her not to advise him.

In a letter seen by the Sunday Independent, Ms O'Donnell emphasised that she remained "very concerned" that the board did not have "formal financial/accounting" expertise.

This gave rise to "immediate governance implications" to ensure the RSA met statutory duties and complied with procedures agreed with the Transport Department.

Then she warned that the absence of other "essential skills" was also a "concern".

To reduce road deaths by 25pc, the RSA is undertaking a capital programme to include the "enhancement and improvements" to its "processes, systems and technologies", which will involve investment of €39.5m.

Read more: Time to heed RSA's high-vis message as pedestrian death toll on our roads rises

Ms O'Donnell wrote: "This places great emphasis on the board, and the audit and risk committee in particular, to possess the requisite skill set to provide oversight, direction and governance to the authority during this challenging phase in its development.

"Given the current lack of particular specialists, board members consider that this exposes the authority to potential governance risks and leaves the authority deficient in terms of its requirements under the Code of Practice for the governance of State bodies 2016."

Last September, Mr Ross reduced the RSA board size to six in what Ms O'Donnell described as an "unnecessarily confrontational" exchange with her as chairperson.

At that time, she also referred to a "significant increase" in road deaths last year to 187.

Now it has emerged that she has "respectfully" asked Mr Ross to reconsider his decision to cut the board size.

However, the minister was reluctant to enlarge the board, pending an evaluation and effectiveness review report.

He indicated to the Oireachtas transport committee last September that he was considering how to structure the RSA board and was not averse to appointing more members if the expertise was necessary.

Additional members have yet to be appointed.

Sunday Independent

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