Dáil Éireann - Volume 588 - 24 June, 2004

Written Answers. - Decentralisation Programme.

  65. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the decentralisation of the civil servants responsible for overseas development aid programmes may harm these programmes, as recently opined by the chief [199] executive officer of a major charity here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18788/04]

  Mr. Cowen: I assume the Deputy is referring to an article attributed to the CEO of Concern which appeared in The Irish Times on 24 May 2004. As the Deputy will be aware, this was a wide-ranging article which covered a number of issues, including the decision to decentralise the development co-operation directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs to Limerick. The decentralisation implementation group, established last December by the Minister for Finance, recommended in its report of 31 March 2004 that each Department and agency participating in the decentralisation programme prepare its own implementation plan. The Department of Foreign Affairs’ initial plan is in the final stages of preparation by the Department’s decentralisation committee, which has been tasked with managing the decentralisation of the development co-operation directorate and the other aspects of decentralisation which will impact on the Department. The plan will require updating over the lifetime of the decentralisation project, as additional information emerges and issues about which there remains uncertainty, particularly in the HR area, are clarified and agreed between Civil Service management and unions.

The decentralisation of the development co-operation directorate will pose challenges. The Department’s implementation plan will seek to identify and address those challenges, including in areas such as service and business continuity, corporate memory, efficiency and effectiveness and financial management. The article to which the Deputy refers acknowledges that the quality of the Government’s aid programme is high and that this was verified by the OECD’s peer review, published at the end of 2003. I am confident that the approach which I have outlined above will ensure that there will be no detrimental impact on the high quality of the Government’s overseas development co-operation programme.