Seanad Éireann - Volume 165 - 27 February, 2001
Adjournment Matters. - Departmental Offices.
Mr. Finneran Mr. Finneran
Mr. Finneran: I welcome the Minister of State and congratulate him on his latest appointment. I tabled this motion as a result of strong representations by the staff working in the offices of the  Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development in Roscommon town and by members of the public who must attend those offices to transact farm business. The Departments of Social, Community and Family Affairs and the Environment and Local Government also use the offices. Approximately 100 civil servants work in them.
The offices are inferior and unsuitable and their layout is not in keeping with what is necessary today in terms of public offices in Roscommon's county town. Lands have been acquired and there is a proposal to build offices. I do not know whether the Minister of State will address the proposal but the existing accommodation is unacceptable for both the staff and the public and we have a responsibility towards them in this regard.
Agriculture is one of the primary industries in County Roscommon. There are almost 10,000 farmers in the county and they can only conduct their business through the offices in Roscommon town. They are prefabricated offices which bear no resemblance to a modern office layout which is necessary for the staff working there and members of the public who must use them to conduct the varying business involved in the agriculture industry. Farmers and staff must process many applications for grants and premia, and a few loosely constructed hatches is hardly appropriate.
The case made to me by the staff is genuine and merits an immediate response to upgrade the existing accommodation to an acceptable standard and to provide new purpose-built accommodation as soon as possible. On a national basis modern accommodation has been provided in many other centres but the staff in Roscommon town have been left in inferior accommodation and as a member of a Government party, I do not think that is acceptable for the county. I make the case in the House as a result of the strong representations made to me by the staff and the public.
I hope the Minister of State will provide positive information to the civil servants and the farming community of County Roscommon. If he cannot provide an immediate response, I request that the issue becomes a priority of the Department so that the civil servants, farming community and the public will be aware that the Department has their best interests at heart and the Government, through the Office of Public Works, will provide new purpose-built offices in the near future and bring the current accommodation up to standard in the interim.
Éamon Ó Cuív Éamon Ó Cuív
Éamon Ó Cuív: The Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development occupies two buildings in the town of Roscommon. The offices in Circular Road are also occupied by the driving test centre and the Department of Social,  Community and Family Affairs, and the offices in Church Street are also occupied by Coillte. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development has approximately 64 staff at Circular Road dealing with veterinary and livestock matters. The farm development service, which is located in Church Street, has approximately ten staff.
The Office of Public Works has responsibility for the provision of offices for Departments and has been requested to provide new offices for my Department in Roscommon. In November 1999 an accommodation brief was submitted to the Office of Public Works of my Department's requirements in a new office development.
The Minister for Finance, in response to a parliamentary question on 3 October 2000, stated that a site has been acquired at the Convent of Mercy, Roscommon town, for the erection of new Government offices to include the farm development service and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development offices currently accommodated at Church Street and Circular Road respectively. He stated that applications were invited from interested developers and an analysis of the submissions received is currently under way. Following this analysis a panel of developers will be invited to submit proposals for the development. The reply stated that following the full process of selection and the receipt of planning permission, it is hoped that contract work can commence mid-2001, with completion by the end of 2002.
The Office of Public Works has been examining the possibility of providing a prefabricated extension structure to the Circular Road offices but may have to reconsider the matter due to planning issues related to fire and safety regulations. In the past few months the maintenance of the offices has continued with the upgrading of lighting in the offices in Circular Road. A new fire alarm has been installed and fire equipment, extinguisher blankets and signs provided.
The storage of files off-site has taken place in Church Street and is also being arranged at Circular Road. This will help alleviate the pressure for space in these offices. I confirm that my Department is committed to the principles of quality customer service for customers and clients of the public service. My Department accepts that ensuring the provision of high quality services to all its customers and clients across the entire range of its activities from the provision of policy advice to the delivery of particular services directly to the public is the essential task of the Civil Service.
The principles of quality customer service have been incorporated into my Department's statement of strategy. The statement is being revised and it will again emphasise a need for quality service and will also explicitly emphasise the needs  of our staff and their entitlement, as internal clients of the Department, to working conditions and a physical office environment of the highest standard. To that end my Department has made progress in improving and-or providing new offices in a number of locations in the recent past, including Enniscorthy, Tipperary, Clonmel, Dungarvan, Wicklow, Monaghan, Johnstown Castle and Portlaoise. The accommodation plan for the Department's offices includes a plan for the provision of new offices in Roscommon.
In their dealings with the public, Civil Service Departments, including my Department, will provide clear accessible public offices that ensure privacy and comply with occupational and safety standards. These principles are part of modernisation in the Civil Service as provided for in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, which is fully endorsed by my Department. I hope this information will be of use to the Deputy.
The Seanad adjourned at 6.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 February 2001.
Seanad Éireann 165 Adjournment Matters. Departmental Offices.