Commentaries

State and Non-Profits- “Encourage engagement not just reporting”

The February Forum briefing discussed the relationship between the public and non-profit sector and discussed the governance challenges around it. There were presentations from Stephanie Manahan, Senan Turnbull and Nicolas Marcoux. All spoke about the ways of rebuilding trust after multiple governance crises in the sector.

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Key Governance Themes for 2017

In our first event of the year, our guest speakers outlined the new trends for the year 2017 and the issues which might affect the Irish public sector.

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Governance Forum Programme 2017 launched

Find the link for the new Governance Programme 2017 here.

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Audit Committees - Meeting Rising Expectations

The Forum heard from a panel with extensive experience of membership and working with Audit Committees.

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Successful strategy implementation requires empowerment to take initiatives

The challenges of implementing the strategies following from the White Paper on Defence and the Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 of An Garda Siochána were at the centre of the Forum discussion of strategy in the public interest in September. Maurice Quinn, Secretary General at the Department of Defence, Mark Mellett, Vice-Admiral and Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, and Donal O’Cualáin, Deputy Commissioner at An Garda Síochána shared their experience adopting and implementing strategies in their organisations.

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Communications in a Changing Environment

Communications in a changing environment – Digital technology is a force of disruption which many organisations have not effectively addressed. Kevin Rafter told the Forum that for effective communications organisations must “learn the appropriate language and the right tone of voice for the organisation (and) also the digital platform”.

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New Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies – a welcome emphasis on performance 

The new Code provides guidance on compliance and performance. Importantly it goes much further than showing ways to avoid sinning! It requires “an ongoing emphasis on improving public sector performance”.

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New Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies 2016

Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform launched an updated Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies at an event in the IPA on 17 August.

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Promoting Governance in the Public Interest – Recent and future Forum events

We have updated the outline programme of events for 2016.

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Governance Frameworks for Non-Profits…”Just start it, now!”

The Forum briefing on “Performance and funder expectations” discussed the changing face of governance expectations on the Non-Profit Sector. The three speakers, Deirdre Garvey, Michael Gaffey and Mo Flynn, spoke about their organisations’ experience with the adoption of governance standards and the challenges encountered.

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Governance Themes 2016 – the key challenge is to ask “what can I do better”?

The Forum discussion of governance themes and expectations 2016 raised a number of core pillars including the importance of leading by example and direct involvement of Board Members and senior Executives. Changes which involve culture and values take time. The changing structure of workforces, including the large changes in the current and future structure of the age distribution of public sector organisations have significant implications.

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Audit Committees- How much can they do?

At the Forum briefing of December 2015 Eugenie Canavan and Aidan Horan, both chairs of an Audit Committees, spoke about the potential of Audit Committees and what they need to be effective. The briefing included a panel discussion which included Ken Slattery and Noreen Fahy.

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Effective Risk Management- learning from experience 12/11/2015

12th of November 2015 - At the November 2015 Forum briefing three key speakers drew on their personal experience of successes and failures in risk management. Gene Boyd gave examples of how internal audit and audit committees can support risk management. Cyril Sullivan discussed research on the practice of risk management in Irish Government Departments. Eugene Lehane provided examples of how good and bad risk management frameworks can influence organisations.

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Regulator Accountability Should Be Simple and Straightforward –it Is Not Micro Management 23/10/2015

23rd of November 2015 - The Forum briefing ‘Regulation and Good Governance – Independence & Accountability’ discussed how regulatory agencies can ensure they are relevant, informed, and independent while operating effectively in delivering their mandates. The three presentations addressed accountability of regulators, the challenges of introducing regulation to a new area and lessons learned in regulating areas of high public profile in rapidly developing sectors.

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'Moving From a Sermon to a Conversation' - Responding to the Importance of Social Media 21/06/15

Social Media expert, Paul McGarrity outlined the pace of growth in social media use in Ireland and ways public sector organisations could embrace opportunities while mitigating risks.Barry Kenny described how Iarnrod Éireann must keep under constant review the communication channels of greatest relevance to their customers. This had seen the growth in importance of Twitter with communication via smartphones as the fastest growing source of information.

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Board Members Collective Responsibility for Finances 25/07/2014

25th of July 2014 - The board members of a public body must ensure that there is proper financial reporting and a system of internal financial control in place. While all board members are unlikely to be financial experts, they are collectively responsible for preparing the accounts and meeting reporting and disclosure requirements. This workshop explained concepts and issues which arise in the review of the financial reports and systems in a public interest body.

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An Ethical Framework Is Not Just Pretty Words in a Mission Statement 27/03/2014

27th of March 2014 - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the Forum that an ethical framework is not just pretty words on a piece of paper or in a mission statement but is something that must be integral to the way people work and exercise their role in society.

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Governance of Nonprofits – Meeting Compliance and Performance Expectations 3/03/14

3rd of March 2014 - The wide variation in types, scale and approach of non-profit organisations to governance has increased the risk that individual controversies can damage the level of trust across the sector. The Forum Briefing was told the public should demand high standards of transparency from entities in the sector. The speakers provided an overview of the sector, discussed priorities with regard to the implementation of the Charities Act and identified a number of other key issues which should be addressed.

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Good Economic Governance 19/02/2014

19th of February 2014 - John Moran, Secretary General of the Department of Finance, told the Forum briefing that while the worst of the crisis has passed, there were lessons which must be learnt in how we in Ireland should position ourselves so that future such calamities can be avoided. David Begg, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said that despite the recent good economic news the future is highly contingent given the still relatively low levels of growth and the low growth in the EU. Colm McCarthy said there was still no hard evidence of a broad based recovery. Neither could we anticipate going back to the economic scenario just before the crisis –“2006 was a totally unsustainable place”

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Requirements of Audit Committee Members 14/01/2014

14th of January 2014 - Anne Nolan, chairperson of a public sector audit committee said that independence of members was paramount. Having served as a member of several State boards and audit committees she identified the importance of key relationships. The relationship with management combines support with the acceptance of the desirability of independent opinion and sometimes painful advice.

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"Brakes Allow a Car to Go Fast" – the Importance of Risk Management 20/12/13

20th of December 2013 - “Good brakes allow a car to go faster” said Gerald Joyce, of LinkResQ in a presentation on why risk should be managed, what is happening in risk management and how risk should be managed. Angela Madden of RITS Information Security discussed the types and prevalence of threats to IT security. Setting the scene she said “It’s good to be paranoid”.

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Pensions Governance - Lack of Awareness of the Real Cost of Retirement Benefits 9/12/2013

9th of October 2013 - Peter Fahy, spoke of the affordability challenges with limited resources available to improve existing benefits. The funding for State pensions is under pressure and most private sector defined benefits schemes are facing solvency challenges. In terms of adequacy, defined contribution schemes are typically inadequately funded, private sector DB benefits are being reduced and the State Pension provides an inadequate replacement ratio for workers’ incomes.

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Outsourcing and Shared Services 8/10/2013

8th of October 2013 - John Crosby described the process at his organisation with a vision “to be a valued partner in the delivery of effective finance services to the Northern Ireland Civil Service”. This required a clearly set out rationale, a change management process and assurance that key governance and accountability issues were addressed. A copy of the presentation can be accessed below.

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Restructuring Public Sector Organisations- Overcoming the Implementation Deficit 5/06/13

5th of June 2013 - The Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) was established as part of the Cabinet Office in the UK as an initiative aimed at achieving sustainable efficiencies in public sector organisations. Michael Whitehouse, Chief Operating Officer at the UK National Audit Office told the attendees that while for the previous 20 years Governments had introduced several programmes focussed on efficiencies, the overall level of spending had continued to grow.

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Trust and Effective Governance- Learning From Different Sectors 31/05/2013

31st May 2013 - Governance failings have caused people to question the values and culture of the leadership in many organisations. When trust levels drop the capacity of organisations set up to serve the public interest is severely curtailed. The Forum discussed how trust was a key priority in three very different areas of activity – financial reporting, protecting communities and regulating energy.

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Commercial Pressures Are a Key Influence on Current News Coverage 2/04/2013

2nd of April 2013 - Conall O’Morain, broadcaster, journalist and media adviser highlighted the decline in newspaper circulation and the proliferation in the number of TV and other media channels. It was necessary to find some aspect which would make a story interesting in an environment where the press is the recipient of so many communications. Typically the media would anticipate a greater interest in negative stories. In a world with so many news platforms there was going to be more questions than answers. A copy of the slides used by Conall O’Morain can be accessed below.

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“SLAs Are Operated by Ordinary People” 28/02/2013

28th of February 2013 - Muiris MacCarthaigh, Queen’s University Belfast, told the Forum that SLAs must be seen in the wider context of public sector reform. This included the ‘shrinking State’, increased diversity in the delivery of services and the desire to have more direct allocation of accountability. An advantage of effective agreements is the potential for greater efficiencies when the attention is focussed on outcomes rather than perceptions. A copy of the presentation can be accessed below.

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Economic Governance: Troika Requirements and Restoring Growth 31/01/2013

31st of January 2013 - The briefing Economic Governance 2013: The Troika and after? was addressed, also, by economist Tony Foley and Enterprise Ireland (EI) Chief Executive Frank Ryan on the challenges which remained to restoring strong and sustainable levels of growth. Feargal O' Brolcháin told the Forum that post programme priorities include continued actions to restore the viability of the financial sector, putting the public finances on a sustainable path and measures to raise growth potential. The presentation slides can be accessed below.

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Three Lines of Defence- the Special Position of Audit Committees and Internal Audit 29/11/2012

29th of November 2012 - Tony Sweeney, Head of Internal governance at FeXco, said that all Audit committee members needed to understand risk and governance best practices and how to apply them. Additional issues which arose for committees in the public sector included: levels of expectation around “exemplary compliance”; the chain of accountability which can include the PAC; the areas covered may not include the financial statements; and finding appropriate members to serve on the committees.

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Risk Management Must Integrate With Strategy and Business Planning 28/11/2012

28th of November 2012 - An assessment of risk management should ask “tell me, show me, prove it to me” said Peadar Duffy, Chairman of RML. In asking managers to prove there were effective processes the assessment should look to be brought through such areas as contingency plans for the top ten business risks, the testing capabilities of key executives and systems, and how scenario testing is done.

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Agency Reforms: Implementing Changes and New Policies 8/06/2012

8th of June 2012 - Paul O’Toole, CEO of FÁS, spoke about the challenges and opportunities in implementing change in state agencies. He stated that one of the fundamental problems associated with state agencies is the idea that they have a “divine right” to exist.

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Rationalising State Agencies: Where Are We Now? 8/06/2012

8th of June 2012 - Dr. Muiris MacCarthaigh, Research officer at the IPA discussed the evolution of state agencies in Ireland and recent developments that have been taking place. Agencies have come under scrutiny in recent years following calls for a more efficient public sector. Dr. MacCarthaigh spoke about some of the issues that may arise from rationalisation such as increased ambiguity and institutional confusion.

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Increased Emphasis on Individual Board Member Responsibility 19/04/2012

19th of April 2012 - Kevin Prendergast Corporate Compliance Manager at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement gave an overview on the responsibilities of disclosure and accountability which follow when a company is established. He noted that many companies had been set up and directors appointed without an understanding of these duties.

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Leadership and Accountability: Culture Must Be Addressed 4/04/12

4th of April 2012 - In addition to the four main speakers the conference participants including leading public servants, board members and others with governance responsibilities. There was a broad and active debate around the leadership and accountability requirements of reform and recovery.

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Improving the Foundations: Leadership Requires Competence and Most Importantly Character 4/04/2012

4th of February 2012 - Eddie Molloy, Director, Advanced Organisation, said that in his experience of the public sector the most striking feature was the unevenness of management – it ranged from bad to world class. The distinctive contribution of management was not understood and valued. In the civil service there was no one responsible for the quality of the management system.

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Public Service Reform - Structural Reforms Are Necessary but Not Sufficient 24/02/12

24th of February 2012 - At the briefing the speakers and other participants discussed the areas covered in the Public Service Reform (PSR) programme, the issues which were being given priority by the Comptroller and Auditor General and key role for a public service with a sense of purpose and with a mandate focussed on delivering outcomes.

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