Review recommends fundamental change at ‘closed, secretive’ Department of Justice

Review follows report by Seán Guerin into Garda malpractice which was critical of the department

Review recommends fundamental change at ‘closed, secretive’ Department of Justice. This review follows report by Seán Guerin into Garda malpractice which was critical of the department. Fiach Kelly reports.

 

A review of the Department of Justice has found a “closed, secretive” culture and recommends a “programme for fundamental and sustained organisational and cultural change and renewal”.

Department secretary Brian Purcell has “offered... to be reassigned to other duties in the public service” in the wake of the review’s publication this evening by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

The review follows the report by senior counsel Seán Guerin into Garda malpractice claims by Sgt Maurice McCabe, which was critical of the department.

The report also found “ significant leadership and management problems” as well as “ineffective management processes and structures to provide strong strategic oversight of the key agencies both to hold them accountable and to ensure their effectiveness is maximised.”

The review also found a Management Advisory Committee “that is neither sufficiently focused on key strategic priorities that impact on the Department and its key agencies, nor ensuring that emerging issues with agencies or with political consequence are identified and managed proactively.”

It said relationships with key agencies “tend to be informal and unstructured without strong central management from the Department.”

Ms Fitzgerald said this evening that Department secretary Brian Purcell, having considered the findings of today’s report, had “offered, in the best interests of the Department, to be reassigned to other duties in the public service. In the wake of the Guerin report, Ms Fitzgerald withheld support for Mr Purcell pending the review.

Ms Fitzgerald described Mr Purcell’s resignation as “the right thing to do” and described the report into her department as “hard hitting”.

She said the report also identifies “very serious management failings and areas that need to be improved” within the Department of Justice.

She said Mr Purcell “received this report and decided it was in the best interests of the department”.

“In fact he said to me he thought it was in the best interests of the department, of my role as minister and personally himself to take this decision,” Ms Fitzgerald said. “I think that was an honourable decision. Having read the report that was his view and that was his decision. He felt it would be a distraction, as he said, if he stayed in place as secretary general of the Department of Justice.

“It’s a very critical report but it’s a constructive report and it maps a way forward for the department. The report is very clear about the staff in the department, about the expertise, the professionalism, the range of work the department undertakes and the ability of the department to carry out the work of the department.”

The review group had been told to assess concerns set out by Mr Guerin in respect of the department’s governance and oversight of external organisations.

Dublin Airport Authority chief executive Kevin Toland chaired the review

The review group also included former attorney general David Byrne and former chief inspector of the Garda inspectorate Kathleen O’Toole. The other members were Geraldine Tallon, former secretary general of the Department of the Environment; accountant Greg Sparks; and Pat McLoughlin, former chief executive of the Irish Payment Services Organisation.

The key recommendations of the report are:

1. A programme for fundamental and sustained organisational and cultural change and renewal.

2. A change in the leadership and management routines, systems and practices to underpin both the performance of the Department and key agencies.

3. An up-front commitment to additional skilled and specialised resources and training and development programmes to lead and drive the change programme.

4. A change in the scope and approach of the MAC to provide better strategic management and support.

5. A structured approach to how agencies and key relationships are managed to hold them more accountable and drive better performance across the broader justice landscape.

Read the full text of the report here.