Review finds 'closed and secretive culture' in Dept of Justice

Monday 28 July 2014 22.47
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Frances Fitzgerald said she is committed to implementing a comprehensive programme of change
Frances Fitzgerald said she is committed to implementing a comprehensive programme of change
Ms Fitzgerald published the review of her department this afternoon
Ms Fitzgerald published the review of her department this afternoon
Brian Purcell has offered to be reassigned to other duties in the public service
Brian Purcell has offered to be reassigned to other duties in the public service

A review of the Department of Justice has found that it had significant leadership and management problems and recommends a programme for organisational and cultural change and renewal.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald published a review of her department today, which was launched in June on foot of the findings of the Guerin Report.

Today's report found issues regarding a closed and secretive culture.

It also found 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 report found that relationships with key agencies tended to be informal without strong central management from the department.

The report recommended a programme for fundamental and sustained organisational and cultural change and renewal.

It called for a change in the leadership and management routines, systems and practices to underpin both the performance of the department and key agencies.

The report sought a change in the scope and approach of the Management Advisory Committee to provide better strategic management and support.

A structured approach to how agencies and key relationships are managed is also recommended.

The Secretary General at the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, has offered to be reassigned to other duties in the public service.

His successor is to be recruited through open competition, which will take about two to three months.

Minister Fitzgerald said she is committed to implementing a comprehensive programme of change at the department.

She said that the newly-appointed secretary general will play a pivotal role in managing and implementing the report’s recommendations.

Minister Fitzgerald also said Mr Purcell's decision to be reassigned to other duties was the right decision.

She told RTÉ that the review was not about one person but about a whole examination of the administration and its management.

Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Niall Collins described the review of the Department of Justice as shocking and damning.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Mr Collins said the report confirms that the country's systems of justice have been poorly managed for the last number of years.

He said: "It lays out a number of layers of dysfunction within the Department of Justice and it has proven beyond all doubt everything which whistleblowers, Opposition parties and indeed members of the public have been saying in terms of their dealings with the Department of Justice in trying to gain access to the systems of justice in this country.

"They have been poorly managed over the last number of years and I think this report independently confirms that."

Mr Collins said the findings on the working relationship between the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána are worrying.

He added that the garda whistleblowers have, for a second time, been vindicated by this report.

He said the issues should be addressed by the Oireachtas Justice Committee at the earliest opportunity.

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Pádraig MacLochlainn said that the Government cannot shirk its responsibility for the serious failings in the department.

He said the confidence within the department had been eroded, which has had a knock on effect on the delivery of policing and justice in the State.

He added: "The report unfortunately doesn't clarify what happened on the now infamous night where the then General Secretary Brian Purcell was dispatched by his political masters to the house of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan which clearly led to his resignation the next morning."

The review found there were a number of occasions when there were serious leadership and management failures within the Department for Justice.

It found that this was particularly in the garda division and senior management of the department - in relation to how briefings between the minister and senior management were handled.

It said that there was no overall person in charge of the overall issue and no plan to deal with issues as they unfolded.

The Guerin Report, published earlier this year, looked into allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe that gardaí had not investigated serious crimes properly.

That report was critical of the Department of Justice, the gardaí and then minister for justice Alan Shatter.

It found that there had been no detailed assessment within the Department of Justice of any allegations made by Sgt McCabe or of the responses received from the garda commissioner.

In early June, the minister appointed the chief executive of Dublin Airport Authority, Kevin Toland, to chair the review of the Department of Justice.

The review group was tasked with assessing concerns set out by Mr Guerin in respect of the department's governance and oversight of external organisations.

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.