Wednesday, 2 June 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
107. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has had a risk assessment carried out on possible consequential risks to the effectiveness of services provided by each Department or agency under his aegis which is to relocate under the Government’s decentralisation programme; if not, the reason therefor; and if so, if the risk assessment will be published, furnished to the Comptroller and Auditor General and accessible under the Freedom of Information Act 1997. [16845/04]
108. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the Secretary General of his Department has provided him with advice in pursuance of the Secretary General’s responsibility as Accounting Officer under public finance procedures as set out in table 2 of the Mullarkey report; and if not, if he has requested such advice from the Secretary General. [16860/04]
110. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will take steps to ensure that the annual report of his Department will contain a risk assessment of decentralisation, as it affects his Department or agencies under its aegis, dealing with strategic, operational, financial and reputational risks as set out in paragraph 6.31 of the Mullarkey report. [16890/04]
111. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the audit committee of his Department will consider a risk assessment with regard to strategic, operational, financial and reputational risks of the implementation of the Government’s decentralisation proposals as they affect his Department or its agencies; and if not, the reason therefor, in view of the recommendation of the Mullarkey committee that such risk assessment be carried out. [16905/04]
114. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the Secretary General of his Department has tendered advice to him in pursuance of his personal responsibility as Secretary General under public financial procedures for economy and efficiency in the administration of his Department on the impact in the short or long-term on the economy and the efficiency of administration of his Department or its agencies arising from the Government’s proposals for decentralisation. [16963/04]
I assure the Deputy that the detailed decentralisation programme which I announced last December took account of all the advices I received as part of the extensive consultation with interested parties which followed my original announcement in December 1999 that the Government intended to embark upon a new programme of decentralisation. In addition to the representations I received from interested towns across the country and submissions from staff interests, the views of Departments and offices who had participated in the previous decentralisation programme were sought and received. In addition, the strategic management initiative implementation group of Secretaries General provided advice, at the request of the Government, on how implementation of the new programme could enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the public service.
I appreciate all the advice I received in the four-year period leading up to my detailed announcement. However, as I have made clear on many occasions, decisions about the selection of organisations and locations for inclusion in the new programme were, ultimately, a matter for Ministers and the Government. I refer the Deputy to the summary of 2004 budget measures, page B.25, which sets out the wide range of factors which have been taken into account in reaching these decisions.
Immediately following my announcement of the new programme, I appointed an implementation group to prepare an overall implementation plan in co-operation with all of the organisations involved. In its first report of 31 March 2004, the group recommends that each organisation participating in the programme should prepare its own implementation plan and submit them to the group by the end of May 2004. These initial implementation plans will require further development as additional information emerges in relation to the people, property and business issues identified in the implementation group’s report. However, I expect them to address issues such as service and business continuity, efficiency and effectiveness and financial implications. The plans must, in particular, incorporate specific risk assessment and mitigation strategies.
The question of publishing the implementation plans is a matter for each Minister. I can assure the Deputy, however, that I will be happy to arrange for the publication of my Department’s plan and the plans of agencies under my Department’s aegis, after they have been made available to the implementation group and to staff interests. In relation to the issue of public financial procedures generally, I can assure the Deputy that I am aware of the requirement in the public financial procedures for Accounting Officers to ensure that all relevant financial considerations are taken fully into account, and where necessary brought to the attention of Ministers, in relation to the preparation and implementation of policy proposals relating to expenditure or income. In addition there is an ongoing awareness in my Department of the type of risks identified in paragraph 6.31 of the report of the working group on the accountability of Secretaries General and Accounting Officers (the Mullarkey report). I can confirm that all of these issues are regularly addressed in my Department. The issue of risk is a standing item on the Department’s audit committee agenda.
Finally, I want to make it clear that I am convinced decentralisation offers considerable benefits for the organisations involved, the communities to which they will be relocated, the staff that will transfer and the country as a whole. I fully support the statement in the implementation group’s report:
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