Annual Report 2017
Introduction by the Chief Executive Officer
Chief Executive Officer
The focus of our activity during 2017 continued to be the provision of an efficient, modern infrastructure to support the administration of justice. Our priority remains supporting the work of the courts by providing skilled staff, modern accommodation and up to date technology. In that regard we placed renewed emphasis on building and developing – in a variety of ways.
We were building in the physical sense as a number of major courthouse projects reached completion in towns around the country. The impressive new buildings in Drogheda, Letterkenny and Wexford were the first three of a seven courthouse project to be completed under a public private partnership arrangement. In addition to providing much improved facilities for court users these buildings make an important contribution to the built heritage of our country.
We were building in the area of staff development, laying the foundation for the years ahead, as we welcomed new staff and prepared to lose many with years of much valued experience. We invested significantly in staff learning and training and reviewed our staffing needs as we completed a Workforce Plan for the three years to 2019. Our participation in Transparency International Ireland’s Integrity at Work initiative demonstrated our commitment to creating an ethical workplace where staff can feel safe about speaking up about wrongdoing.
We were building on the success of our information and communications systems by improving technology in the courtroom, streamlining hardware for our staff and for judges and working to deliver improved services particularly in the digital area. Our Courts Service On-Line (CSOL) project allows insolvency practitioners and small claims applicants interact with us remotely and offers an improved service to licensing customers. We commenced work on the redevelopment of our website and on the development of systems to facilitate on-line applications for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and the proposed new Office of the Legal Cost Adjudicator. We also worked on the development of a bankruptcy register.
Our efforts to build and develop were supported by our improved budgetary allocation. Total gross funding for the Service in 2017 was €140,080m. When adjusted to take account of the once off funding provided for our seven major building projects, this was a real increase of €4.0m or 5% on the allocation for 2016. Payroll increases allowed us fill staff vacancies and we held a number of staff promotion competitions resulting in promotion for more than 70 staff.
Our work continues to be underpinned by a number of corporate documents. It was the third and final, year of our current Strategic Plan and notwithstanding the challenges during its term, we could reflect on many achievements since 2014. Our Corporate Plan 2017 charted an ambitious programme of work for this year. We continued to embed good governance principles into our operations and made every effort to identify and minimise risks where possible.
We were developing plans for the future as evidenced by the completion of our Strategic Plan 2017-2020. This plan sets out our priorities and actions for the next three years. It was developed following consultation with staff through a series of workshops and with external stakeholders who were invited to make submissions on our future priorities. Our new plan will be our road map as we continue to face challenges and embrace the opportunities to improve our services.
We continued to develop a fresh approach to the delivery of services with our review of the operation of our combined court offices outside of Dublin.
We remain committed to supporting Government policy. Our efforts to forge a new direction for the management of the courts are in line with the Civil Service Renewal Plan. The Service was chosen by the Civil Service Management Board to undergo an organisational review to assess our capacity and capability to achieve our objectives. We assisted the review team during the year and await their report in 2018. Staff also attended town hall meetings in multiple locations as part of the overall renewal initiative and participated in the Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey in September.
The goals and objectives in our strategic plans mirror many of those outlined in the Government’s strategic plans. In that regard we remain committed to improving services and procuring value for money, improving on-line services and working to make the civil service an employer of choice. We share the objectives of the eGovernment Strategy 2017-2020 launched in July; the People Strategy for the Civil Service 2017-2020 launched in October and the new public service framework for future development and innovation outlined in Our Public Service 2020 launched in December.
The Chief Justice and Chairperson of the Courts Service Board Mrs. Justice Susan Denham left an impressive legacy when she retired in July. Her contribution to the work of the Service will be long remembered. We welcomed her successor, Chief Justice Mr. Justice Frank Clarke and are working with him, to continue to modernise the courts. We are supported in this regard by the other members of the Board.
As ever, I am grateful to the staff of the Service for their continued commitment. I commend their dedication and applaud their efforts to provide a first class service to all who use the courts. I thank the judiciary for their support and acknowledge the assistance we receive from the Minister for Justice and Equality and the staff of his Department. I am grateful for the support of our colleagues in the wider justice community including An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service, the Prison Service, the Bar of Ireland, the Law Society, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief State Solicitor. We will also continue to work with groups supporting victims and others who use our courts.
Our report charts another year of successful delivery on our mandates. We continue to recover from recent lean years and look towards the future with a cautious optimism that building on our experience we can continue to develop a modern courts service for all who use our courts.