Recommendations should prompt huge Justice shake-up
Expert report revealed problems in leadership and management in department
Not long after her appointment in May, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald committed the Government to implementing a comprehensive programme of change in the department. Photograph: Eric Luke
The clear and decisive findings of the expert report into the Department of Justice have had the immediate result of prompting secretary general Brian Purcell to step aside from his post.
More importantly, the recommendations for change, allied to a strict timetable for their implementation, should prompt the biggest shake-up of the department since the State’s foundation.
The Government will be hoping the report will finally bring an end to the long-running sore of controversy surrounding the department that has done it so much damage since the start of the year.
The saga of the Garda whistleblowers’ complaints has being going on for far longer and the combined pressure of all of the issues surrounding the department, going back to the McBrearty affair, has had a debilitating impact on the justice system.
Not long after her appointment in May, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald committed the Government to implementing a comprehensive programme of change in the department following the serious failures of management detailed in the report.
Short, sharp report
One of the key findings in the report was that the department operates “a closed, secretive and silo-driven culture”.
It also identified significant leadership and management problems with ineffective management processes and structures to provide the appropriate oversight of the key agencies responsible to the department, such as the Garda.
“Relationships with key agencies tend to be informal and unstructured without strong central management from the department,” said the report.
Honourable public servant
Since the beginning of the year Purcell has had to deal with an unprecedented series of events in a highly charged political atmosphere. Ultimately he was the victim of management practices and a culture that were in place long before he took the helm.
The report makes it clear the management failures were not confined to the individual who headed the department over the past couple of years but were embedded in the structure and culture of the organisation.
It suggested that a programme for change should be supported and facilitated by management from other parts of the Civil Service or from outside it to assist the department to migrate to “a new culture, leadership, management and operating model”. The report recommends a change in the leadership and management routines and systems as well as a structured approach to how agencies and key relationships are managed so they are more accountable.
One key recommendation is a restructuring of the department into portfolios of justice and home affairs, the former dealing with criminal and civil law reform, crime and security, the latter responsible for policing, prisons, courts, equality and integration.
It is now over to the Minister and the Government to ensure that the report’s recommendations are implemented.