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Annual Report 2018

Annual Report 2018

Introduction by the Chief Executive Officer


 Brendan Ryan
Chief Executive Officer

We undertake our work in an ever-changing environment where challenges, both internal and external, require us to constantly reassess how we deliver our services.
During 2018 we considered how we could drive our programme of modernisation and reform more effectively. We started a process that will ultimately provide a long term vision of what we want to achieve. It will mean significant change and reform and include examination of matters including how we recruit and retain our staff, how we manage major programmes and how we plan for future needs. This approach is critical if we are to manage our work and our resources effectively and efficiently.

We must constantly re-evaluate our approach to what we do, how we do it, and how we fund it. During the year we continued to develop a change programme, linked to a staff learning and development strategy. We examined our senior management structure and commenced work on a new ICT strategy and a human resources strategy. Our most recent strategic plan identifies our objectives and charts the course we are taking to achieve them in the three years to 2020. The projects to receive attention in 2018 were identified in our corporate plan for the year.

Our plans reflect our commitment to support the objectives of the Public Sector Reform Programme with its emphasis on cross agency co-operation and the development of digital services. At the request of the Civil Service Management Board we participated in an organisational review to assess our capacity and capability to achieve our objectives. The resulting report acknowledged the challenges we faced in the years following the economic downturn and commends our commitment and resilience in ensuring that court sittings and services were maintained. It recognised our success in improving court buildings and our efforts to develop policies and strategies to modernise our human resources and learning and development function. We concluded an action plan towards the end of the year to implement the recommendations in the report.

Of major importance in the development of our strategies is awareness of matters, particularly legislative proposals, likely to impact on the work of the courts and/or the Service. We established a protocol for communication between government departments promoting legislative proposals affecting court jurisdiction and/or operations and the Service. This will be of particular benefit in the development of our ICT Strategy where, competing demands, some prompted by legislative requirements, can intervene to divert us away from our stated course with the consequent need to reorganise planned projects.

To deliver on our strategies we need to be properly resourced. Delivery of our mandates depends on the provision of necessary funding and resourcing from central government. In this regard, we are competing with demands from all public sector organisations as part of the government budgetary process. It was therefore encouraging that our budgetary situation continued to improve. Our budget in 2018 was €131.575m, an increase in real terms of 13% (excluding capital carryover) and when account is taken of the once off allocation of €23.8m in 2017 for an upfront VAT payment in relation to our capital building project. Our budget saw a payroll increase of €2.161m (4%), additional funding for courthouse maintenance of €1m (4%) and an additional €0.845m for ICT.

We worked to improve our ICT capability, both on the infrastructure side and on the development side and commenced work on improving our website. We have long acknowledged that our change initiative needs to focus on the delivery of services online and embrace all that technology offers. After a period of under-investment in technology, there has been a welcome increase in more recent years. And while we have made progress in standardising processes and upgrading ICT systems, much remains to be done in this area. Prioritising and progressing ICT projects while maintaining existing systems and operations is an ongoing challenge.

We completed work on several court buildings bringing to a conclusion the most extensive court building project in the history of the State.  The official openings of courthouses in Letterkenny, Wexford, Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Mullingar provided modern facilities for court users while making a further valuable contribution to the heritage of our country. We continue to negotiate for the development of a much needed Family Law Court complex in Dublin and to plan to provide those county towns that have yet to benefit with improved facilities.

Our most valuable resource continues to be our staff. With changing demands and an ageing workforce we need to ensure the ongoing availability of professional and technical expertise, including legal expertise, in both operational and support areas. Our learning and development programme is a vital part of our future planning and includes improved induction training for those who joined us from many areas of the public and private sector. Following targeted recruitment campaigns, we welcomed over 40 new judicial assistants over the course of the year to provide legal research services and assistance for the judiciary. We also recruited staff for specialised areas of our work including management of court funds, human resources, legal researcher managers and ICT.

I am very grateful to the staff of the Service for their continued willingness to embrace new initiatives which, though designed to improve efficiencies, can often add to their daily workload. Their commitment to delivering excellent service is exemplary. I acknowledge the ongoing support of the Chief Justice, other members of the Courts Service Board and other members of the judiciary for our work. We collaborate with agencies across the justice sector including An Garda Síochána, Prison Service, Probation Service, Law Society of Ireland, Bar of Ireland and many support groups. I thank them for joining with us to improve services for all who use our court system. We are also indebted to the Minister for Justice and Equality and the staff of his Department for their co-operation across many areas.

As we head into our 20th year I am proud of all that the Service has achieved and am confident that we are well placed to deliver an increasingly modern service for all who use our courts.

Brendan Ryan