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29 Mar, 2019

How to take better notes in a meeting – 5 top tips

2019-03-29T12:17:13+01:00March 29th, 2019|News|Comments Off on How to take better notes in a meeting – 5 top tips

Effective minutes are vital in today’s busy world. Clear, concise, accurate minutes help to show regulatory compliance, good governance and accountability. Just as importantly, they provide a record of progress, developments and actions undertaken.

This responsibility can mean that minute-takers try to note everything down in a meeting – and then spend hours writing up notes (trying to work out what should go into the finished minutes!).

What strategies can help minute-takers to capture the key points during the meeting?

  1. Remember that minute-taking is not dictation! You don’t have to get everything down, word for word. Your aim is to note the main point or message.

 

  1. Find out how much detail is needed for the finished minutes, in advance. Do you simply need to list the decision, actions and timelines – or do you need to add key points of a discussion? This will influence how much you write during the meeting.

 

  1. Keep your notes concise. Only note down the key points that will go into the finished minutes. Not every point that people make or every piece of information people share needs to go into the finished minutes, so don’t try to get it all into your notes.

 

  1. Be aware of the agenda item. If a speaker goes off on a tangent, then you probably won’t be adding it to the finished minutes.

 

  1. Write shorter – so you can listen more effectively. You don’t need to learn shorthand because you can develop your own abbreviations for words that come up frequently. For example: rp or rep for report, conf for conference and st for staff.

By Sarah Marriott 

Sarah Marriott is a highly experienced trainer and former journalist who specialises in delivering Writing Skills courses for the public and private sectors. Sarah has worked as a feature writer and sub-editor at The Irish Times. She has also been involved in training Irish Times editorial staff. She is a former lecturer on the MA in Journalism at Dublin Institute of Technology and is author of Common Errors in Written English.

On Friday 7 June, Sarah Marriott will lead a seminar on Minute-Taking. For more information, or to book, click here 

29 Mar, 2019

Report Writing: How to capture your readers’ attention

2019-03-29T12:12:15+01:00March 29th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Report Writing: How to capture your readers’ attention

A report that people don’t read is a wasteful use of resources – and of missed opportunities. So how can you create reports that capture the attention of your target readers?

First impressions count. An effective layout can help to make reports more accessible and enhance an organisation’s reputation. The appearance of a report can also influence how readers approach it, how much they read and how they use the content afterwards.

Tip 1 – Use white space

One of the most effective ways of encouraging your intended audience to read a report is to avoid cramming in information. Each page or screen should have plenty of white space – so it can ‘breathe’. This involves using lots of sub-headings to separate short sections, unjustified text and short paragraphs (an average of 6 lines is a good guideline). Don’t underline text and try to use 1.5 line spacing if possible (or at least 1.15).

Tip 2 – Use visuals

Visual images can help to attract readers’ attention and stop them simply scanning a report. Try to add charts, tables, graphics, photos, infographics, sub-headings, bullet-point lists, panels and colour to your pages. Reports that display information in different ways are particularly effective if you’re trying to reach an audience of both experts and non-experts. Another benefit is that many visuals add white space to a page.

Summary – How your report can capture readers’ attention

  1. Ensure pages have white space
  2. Use sub-headings to break information into ‘bite-sized’ chunks
  3. Keep paragraphs short
  4. Avoid overlong sentences
  5. Prefer unjustified text
  6. Avoid single line spacing
  7. Use visuals to add interest and white space

 

By Sarah Marriott

Sarah Marriott is a highly experienced trainer and former journalist who specialises in delivering Writing Skills courses for the public and private sectors. Sarah has worked as a feature writer and sub-editor at The Irish Times. She has also been involved in training Irish Times editorial staff. She is a former lecturer on the MA in Journalism at Dublin Institute of Technology and is author of Common Errors in Written English.

On Thursday 13 June, Sarah Marriott will lead a seminar on Report Writing. For more information, or to book, click here

29 Mar, 2019

The 29th March and still no Brexit!

2019-03-29T10:12:57+01:00March 29th, 2019|News|Comments Off on The 29th March and still no Brexit!

Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to get the House of Commons to agree to her plan for the UK to leave the EU. While the House continues to ruminate on a workable plan, the recent European Summit in Brussels has set two clear dates for the UK to make up its mind on Brexit. Specifically, The European Council agreed to – “… to an extension until 22 May 2019, provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons next week. If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019 and expects the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European Council”.  https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2019/03/21-22/

Brexit’s impact on Ireland

The National Economic and Social Council pointed that out many years ago that – “… it is not  possible  to  stop  the  world and let Ireland off”.  ( https://www.nesc.ie/; 3rd Report). And so too for Brexit. Ireland cannot avoid the impacts of Brexit and most of them will be negative. As Philip Lane, Governor of the Central Bank, recently told the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, that – “…any form of Brexit will be damaging for Ireland, with a hard Brexit especially so. Recognising these risks, the Central Bank…continue to analyse and work to mitigate the risks posed to the economy, consumers, the financial system, and the regulatory environment”. https://www.centralbank.ie/news/article/introductory-statement-governor-philip-r.-lane-joint-committee-finance-public-expenditure-and-reform-and-taoiseach

The ESRI in conjunction with the Department of Finance has recently published a very useful and timely report on the impact of Brexit.

A team of four produced the report; Adele Bergin, Philip Economides and Abian Garcia-Rodriguez of the ESRI, and  Gavin Murphy of the Department of Finance

https://www.esri.ie/system/files/publications/QEC2019SPR_SA_Bergin.pdf

This ESRI report sets-out three alternative scenarios, in order to take account of political and economic uncertainties:

  • Deal (the UK makes an orderly agreed exit from the EU);
  • No-deal (the UK exits the EU without a deal but there is an orderly period of adjustment for trade), and
  • Disorderly no-deal (the UK exits the EU without a deal and there is an additional disruption to trade in the short-run, above that considered in the No-Deal scenario).

In each scenario, some of the negative trade impact is partially offset by Foreign Direct Investment being diverted to Ireland.

ESRI’s Estimates of Impact of Brexit

The ESRI first takes a baseline scenario, which assumes that the UK remains in the EU. It then shows what the differences are between the baseline and the three alternative scenarios (the Deal, the No-deal and a Disorderly no-deal).  Overall, in each scenario, the level of Irish output is permanently below where it otherwise would have been were the UK to decide to remain in the EU.

There are two main channels through which the ‘Brexit shock’ will hit the Irish economy; the negative trade shock will serve to reduce economic activity below where it otherwise would have been, while the positive Foreign Direct Investment shock will help to partially offset some of the overall negative impact. However, the ESRI report points out that – “… the trade shock arising from the imposition of tariff and non-tariff measures would lead to lower activity in the international economy and severely reduce the demand for Irish exports. It would also negatively affect Irish competitiveness on impact. However, we would expect some internal adjustment in the economy that would help to restore lost competitiveness over time”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main ESRI estimates are reproduced in the Table. The impacts of Brexit on Ireland show that Gross Domestic Product in Ireland ten years after Brexit will be around 2.6% lower in a Deal scenario, 4.8% lower in a No-Deal scenario and 5.0% lower in a Disorderly No-Deal scenario, as compared to a situation where the UK stays in the EU. Comparable reductions for other economic areas would be:

  • Consumption: reduction between 2% and 3.7%;
  • Employment: reduction between 2% and 3.4%;
  • External trade: reduction between 4.5% and 8.3%, and
  • Investment: reduction between 4.1% and 7.8%, and

Although these are substantial relative reductions in the level of output over the long run, it is very important to point out that the Irish economy will continue to grow in each scenario but that the growth rate will be lower in the context of Brexit.

The North/South Dimension of Brexit

 As well as the economic dimensions there are also many political dimensions to Brexit. In particular, there are Ireland’s concerns to ensure that EU-UK and Ireland-UK negotiations give priority attention to the Northern Ireland dimension, including issues relating to the border, EU funding, and ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement remains fully in place and respected. In that context see my PAI blog of 8 December, entitled ‘The EU/UK Report on Brexit Negotiations is very important for Ireland’. https://www.pai.ie/eu-uk-report-brexit-negotiations-important-ireland/

Paragraphs 49 and 50 of that agreed report are still contentious particularly as far as the DUP Democratic Unionist Party is concerned. While Paragraph 49 provided for a diplomatic backstop which promised to keep Northern Ireland in “full alignment” with the EU if all else fails; the following paragraph pointed out that whatever Brexit solution emerges no barriers to trade can be created between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. The thrust of these two paragraphs still resonate as the UK House of Commons struggle to agree to a plan for the UK to leave the EU. We watch with bated breath.

By Tom Ferris 

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

 

25 Mar, 2019

Plain English Legislation

2019-03-25T15:04:02+01:00March 25th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Plain English Legislation

Benefits of plain English

“A good example of how the Department has already altered its approach to acting on frontline intelligence is by making staff feedback loops an integral part of the design process, which uses an iterative and participative process to bring frontline experience to the heart of design activity.”

What on earth does this mean? Most of us would have to read this gobbledygook several times to work out the message. But how many readers would care enough to struggle through such a mess of jargon, buzz words and official-ese? One way to help people to read and understand your written communications is to use plain English.

What is plain English?

A document is in plain English if its intended readers can easily read, understand and use the information.

People like plain English
Research shows that people are more likely to read information that is written and displayed in plain English – because they find it faster to read and easier to deal with. It also shows that people are more likely to trust an organisation that communicates clearly and simply.

Recent research in Ireland found:

  • 95% of adults are in favourof organisations providing information in plain English
  • 48% of people tend to find official documentation difficult to understand

 

New legislation on plain language

Plain English will become compulsory in the public sector when new legislation is passed later this year. The Plain Language Bill 2019 aims to ensure all written communications from the public sector use plain language.  It will cover all new documents – from forms and emails to websites and reports – and also require that any updated materials are re-written in plain language.

Why use plain English?

Everyone benefits from plain English. The new legislation will help the 18% of people in Ireland with literacy issues to access services – and the growing numbers of people who don’t have English as their first language.  In addition, research shows that higher educated people prefer plain English – possibly because it’s quicker to scan and read.

Can plain English help organisations to save time and money?

Because people can understand plain English the first time they read it, it saves them time – and helps them to make better informed decisions (and they will make fewer mistakes when dealing with the information). This saves organisations time and money because staff will receive fewer calls to the help desk, have to deal with fewer incorrect forms, get a better response to letters and emails, and so on.

The UK government saved about £9 million by rewriting forms
During a programme in the 1980s to improve communications, the Civil Service re-wrote over 21,000 forms. Examples of savings include:

  • A Customs and Excise form where the error rate was reduced from 55% to 3% – saving £33,000 a year in staff time
  • A Department of the Environment form on ‘right to buy’ had an error rate of 60%. The plain English version had an error rate of under 5%

 

The Royal Mail in the UK saved £500,000 in 9 months
An unclear ‘Redirection of mail’ form had an error rate of 87% and cost the Royal Mail over £10,000 a week in dealing with complaints and reprocessing incorrect forms. After it was rewritten, the error rate dropped significantly – and the Royal Mail saved a huge amount of staff time.

 

 

Source for case studies: Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please – The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government and Law by Joseph Kimble (Carolina Academic Press)

By Sarah Marriott

Sarah Marriott is a highly experienced trainer and former journalist who specialises in delivering Writing Skills courses for the public and private sectors. Sarah has worked as a feature writer and sub-editor at The Irish Times. She has also been involved in training Irish Times editorial staff. She is a former lecturer on the MA in Journalism at Dublin Institute of Technology and is author of Common Errors in Written English. 

On Wednesday 15 May, Sarah Marriott will lead a Plain English workshop. Click here for more information or to book.

 

6 Mar, 2019

Decluttering your Workspace

2019-03-06T08:53:22+01:00March 6th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Decluttering your Workspace

Paula Butler 

One of the first things I tackled on my journey to a more minimalist and ecoconscious lifestyle, was my workspace. I work from home and my office was overrun with piles of paper, pens, notepads, etc. and it was a source of stress for me whenever I sat down to work. Personally, I find it difficult to think clearly in a messy environment and I am much more productive when my space is organised and calm.

Here are 3 good reasons why it’s worth making the time to declutter your desk:

  • An untidy desk suggests an untidy mind and does not inspire confidence in others
  • An organised workspace will help you feel more in control and will save you time
  • A tidy workspace helps calm the mind and inspires creativity

The following are my top 10 tips on decluttering and organising your workspace:

  1. Set aside 1 hour to start this process – it’s less daunting and once you see the results it will inspire you to complete the task. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve in 1 hour!
  2. Empty your desk completely, yes even your “junk drawer”
  3. Give your desk a good clean once everything is out
  4. Go through each item and ask yourself if you really, really use it and need it
  5. If you decide you need it, then designate a specific home for it
  6. Keep only the things you really need and use every day out on your desk (in my case 1 pen, 1 notepad, 1 stapler, 1 paper punch, 1 sticky pad and 1 highlighter pen)
  7. Set limits on the number items you will keep e.g. 1 stapler, 1 box of spare staples, etc.
  8. Designate a place keep your personal items e.g. coat, bag, gym gear. Don’t keep them around or under your desk and preferably store them in a cupboard out of sight.
  9. Designate one basket/filing tray for short term storage. Once it has reached capacity, that’s your trigger to clear it out.
  10. Regularly clean your desk using non-toxic, biodegradable or reusable wipes

Paula Butler will speak at PAI’s Corporate Wellbeing Breakfast Briefing, for more information on this event, click here

Paula Butler is an environmental consultant with over 20 years’ experience. She holds an Honours Degree in Natural Science from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Environmental Management from Aberdeen University, Scotland. Paula was appointed by the Minister for the Environment to sit on the Admissions Board for the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) from 2009 to 2015. Paula established her own environmental consultancy practice in 2014 and as part of this has been delivering training to the Government on Climate Change and Climate Finance through Public Affairs Ireland (PAI).

1 Mar, 2019

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

2019-03-06T08:49:41+01:00March 1st, 2019|News|Comments Off on The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

On Wednesday 27th March PAI will host a Breakfast Briefing- Your Workplace Environment – A Sustainable Approach to Corporate Wellbeing. We are delighted that our panel of expert speakers have shared articles on the subjects they will discuss at the event.

The Resilience and Wellbeing Springboard; a Guide to Managing Stress 

Liz Kearney

I’m always a bit sceptical about quoting statistics and some time ago I came across a very clever comment online that ‘coined’ my thinking. It cited that “64 per cent of statistics are made up”. I often share this with my workshop groups and it never fails to put a grin on their faces. One statistic however that I do think we need to take seriously as I believe it to be very close to reality is this:

50% of the reasons why people go to the doctor are stress related.

Stress can manifest itself in many different ways. Anything from the common cold to chronic pain, not to mention heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many more illnesses can so often be linked to stress in some form or another.  The bad news is that there is now concrete evidence that workplace stress is increasing. Stress when not managed and controlled can be linked to anxiety, depression and eventual burn out. The impact of all of this on the workplace results in unnecessary pressure, hostility, conflict, presentism, poor performance and absenteeism to name just a few.

So what can we do? First of all the good news is that this research is not being ignored and there is already a lot been done.  Many organisations are very aware of the impact of stress and are actively providing support and introducing initiatives to combat these issues. Workplace health information is now widely available to all employees both through internal procedures and the internet.

Whereas this is very positive and reassuring, having spent most of my career in a pressurised financial corporate environment I believe that stress has to be addressed at the source. By this I mean the management of stress, the control of stress and an effort to combat stress has got to start with the individual themselves. This means taking responsibility, gaining some knowledge, understanding implications and culturing a shift in mind-set.  Employees need to become aware of the choices available to them.

The first thing to recognise is that not all stress is bad. Stress is a necessary emotion. Our brains are hardwired in such a way that it is difficult for us to take action until we experience some level of stress. Stress can motivate us and take us out of our comfort zone. In doing so we can create new pathways in our thinking and new patterns in our behaviour thus creating a more positive environment.  On the other end of the scale bad stress even mild bad stress, if left to fester can wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing over time.

Combating stress I believe ultimately comes down to two things:

1) Challenging our perception of stress and

2) Our level of resilience.

We create and cultivate our own stressors and it is only until we become aware of our negative responses are we able to change them and take back control. Learning about our survival technique and what negative stress can physiologically do to our body is the first step required to encourage us to learn how to choose a different response and create new pathways and habits. We have a choice.

Building resilience is a day in day out activity that needs to become a habit. It involves actions and activities that will strengthen the mind the body and the soul. If we make these behaviours part of our everyday we will in time strengthen our protection mechanism, create a more positive outlook, maintain equilibrium and bounce back when challenged with adversity. If we all take some responsibility in making this happen a kinder, more respectful, empathetic workplace will ensue. But this wellness will not just be contained to the workplace it will spill over into our personal lives, our relationships and our overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. It also will hopefully reduce the number of visits to the GP giving everyone more time to live life to the full.

Liz Kearney will speak at PAI’s Corporate Wellbeing Breakfast Briefing, for more information on this event, click here

Speakers


Liz Kearney is a professional trainer and a qualified business coach specialising in well-being in the workplace. She has worked with many Corporates, The Public Sector and SME’s delivering programmes on Stress, Wellbeing and Resilience and has been an associate trainer with Aware for the last 5 years. She is a Qualified Financial Adviser, an accredited DiSC psychometric practitioner and holds a diploma in Psychology, CBT and Emotional Intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

27 Feb, 2019

The Legislative Process and the impact of “New Politics”

2019-03-08T09:46:49+01:00February 27th, 2019|News|Comments Off on The Legislative Process and the impact of “New Politics”

By Ciarán Doherty

Ireland has an imperfect separation of powers. The Constitution appears to create a strong legislature, the Oireachtas, but in practice the Dáil and Seanad have been under the control of Government as a result of both their constitutional architecture and the practical realities of the party whip system.

However, the position has been changed radically by the results of the 2016 General Election, the advent of so-called New Politics and the instability caused by Brexit in the UK reinforcing a need for stability in this State. The result is a Government which does not have a majority in either House of the Oireachtas and an increasingly empowered Oireachtas.

One result of this has been an explosion in the number of opposition or private members bills which have been working their way through the legislative process. Government are no longer in a position to use built-in majorities to block or delay opposition Bills. This has led to an element of legislative gridlock as a backlog of opposition bills have not yet been processed by Oireachtas Committees.

The new dynamic has also led to changes in the legislative process. New procedures have been introduced for detailed scrutiny of legislation before the formal committee stage.  Government have also sought to adopt a more consensual approach to the workings of the Oireachtas with the advent of a Business committee to discuss Dáil business and a greater focus on the Heads of Bill being discussed in committee before legislation is formally tabled.

Finally the little know requirement for a “money message” has been used in some cases to delay the avalanche of opposition legislation which has passed second stage. All and all the current Dáil make up has led to changes in our legislative process though whether these are temporary or permanent developments remains to be seen.

Ciarán Doherty is a qualified barrister specialising in the areas of Public Law, Judicial Review and Employment Law.

Before being called to the Bar, Ciarán was employed in the Houses of the Oireachtas. He has an Honours Degree in History and Political Science from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a Diploma in Law from the Honorable Society of Kings Inns. He was called to the Bar in 2013.

 

21 Feb, 2019

Is there a need for a Regulatory Guidance Office?

2019-02-21T10:43:58+01:00February 21st, 2019|News|Comments Off on Is there a need for a Regulatory Guidance Office?

The Law Reform Commission (LRC) certainly thinks so. Its recommendation for such an Office appears in a report, of over 800 pages, published in October 2018. The report entitled Report on Regulatory Powers and Corporate Offences is published two volumes; Volume 1  and Volume 2.

To date, there has been no published response from Government regarding this recommendation.

Law Reform Commission’s Report

The Law Reform Commission is an independent statutory body whose main role is to keep the law under review and to make proposals for reform. In its recent report the Commission focuses on regulatory powers and corporate offences and makes over 200 recommendations for further reform on regulatory powers and corporate offences, including:

  • A statutory Corporate Crime Agency and a dedicated unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be established, and properly resourced.
  • Economic regulators should have the power to impose significant financial sanctions and to make regulatory enforcement agreements, which should include consumer redress schemes.
  • The recommendations on regulatory powers would apply not only to regulation of financial services but also to the wider economic context, such as in competition law, communications regulation and health products regulation.
  • The recommendations on corporate offences would clarify the circumstances in which a corporate body could be held criminally liable for systemic failures by its senior executives.
  • The Report recommends that, in order to address egregiously reckless risk-taking, our existing fraud offences should be amended so that conscious (subjective) recklessness by a person would amount to fraud under, for example, the offence of false accounting in the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

Case for reform on Regulatory Powers and Corporate Offences

In November 2017, the Government published its suite of measures aimed at enhancing corporate governance, increasing transparency and strengthening Ireland’s response to White Collar Crime. The report is entitled Measures to Enhance Ireland’s Corporate Economic and regulatory Framework (Ireland combatting “White Collar Crime”) https://dbei.gov.ie/en/News-And-Events/Department-News/2017/November/02112017.html

The measures announced by the Government are grouped under four main themes designed to augment the existing regulatory and legislative framework in Ireland in the area of corporate, economic and regulatory crime:

  • Organisational and procedural reform;
  • Corporate governance;
  • Enhancing the powers of the authorities to identify and combat economic and regulatory offences in the financial sector, and
  • Countering Money Laundering and Corruption.

Specifically, the report set-out 28 actions which are time-bound and assigned to lead Departments for implementation. They are summarised below.

 Government’s Main Actions, announced 2 November 2017, to augment the existing regulatory and legislative framework in Ireland, include:

  1. a) Establishing the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement as an independent company law enforcement agency, to provide greater autonomy to the agency;
  2. b) Establishing a Joint Agency Task Force on a pilot basis to tackle criminality in a specific area. The merits of the Joint Agency Task Force approach will be assessed as part of a wider review of the effectiveness of state bodies engagement on fraud and corruption;
  3. c) Enacting the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill which involves a major consolidation of anti-corruption legislation, introduces new offences and includes legislative provision for recommendations arising from the Mahon Tribunal;
  4. d) Publishing and enacting the Criminal Procedure Bill, which will, inter alia, streamline criminal procedures to enhance the efficiency of criminal trials;
  5. e) Implementing the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II) to improve the functioning of financial markets, making them more efficient, resilient and transparent and to strengthen investor protection;
  6. f) Evaluating the Protected Disclosures Act, which can relate to any aspect of the operation of the Act but seeks to inform in particular, whether the legislation has been effective in line with its objectives; and how it might be improved;
  7. g) Ensuring this package of measures will be subject to regular scrutiny by the Oireachtas to monitor the implementation of the measures and ensure the regulatory environment is enhanced, while also increasing the prevention, identification, investigation and prosecution of corporate, economic and regulatory offences. This, in turn, will enhance Ireland’s competitiveness and attractiveness as a place to do business.

Web-source:  https://dbei.gov.ie/en/News-And-Events/Department-News/2017/November/02112017.html

In turn, the Law Reform Commission made its case in 2018 for reforming regulatory powers and corporate offences in Ireland. One has only got to refer to the banking and financial crisis of 2008 which highlighted the need for certain fundamental legal reforms. In particular, that crisis pointed to the importance of ensuring that financial and economic regulators have at their disposal sufficiently robust and comprehensive powers to discharge their functions effectively. The crisis also illustrated the need to ensure that laws governing corporate criminal liability should reflect the reality of modern-day corporate decision-making.

 

 

 What about a Regulatory Guidance Office?

In making its case for a Regulatory Guidance Office, the LRC is very careful in stating that it is not cutting-across the Government’s role in policy making. Specifically, it states that it – “… does not seek to prescribe a particular type of regulatory policy or approach to financial or economic regulation. This is a policy matter that falls outside the Commission’s capacity”.  With these caveats in mind, the Commission did make its recommendation about a Regulatory Guidance Office, having considered relevant OECD advice, and having considered views expressed in submissions received. Specifically, it took into account one of the twelve recommendations published in 2012 by the OECD, namely:

“Commit at the highest political level to an explicit whole-of-government policy for regulatory quality. The policy should have clear objectives and frameworks for implementation to ensure that, if regulation is used, the economic, social and environmental benefits justify the costs, the distributional effects are considered and the net benefits are maximised”. https://www.oecd.org/governance/regulatory-policy/49990817.pdf

The Commission also drew attention to Report 124 published in 2011 by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) which noted that the OECD had, in 2010, commended the positive contribution made to regulatory policy in Ireland by the Better Regulation Unit (BRU), which had been located within the Department of the Taoiseach. https://www.nesc.ie/publications/124/

Specifically, the Commission noted that:

The BRU’s functions reflected many of those referred to in the OECD’s 2012 Recommendation on Regulatory Policy and Governance such as, for example, the approach to the deployment and format of pre-legislative Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA). In 2011, many of the functions of the BRU were absorbed into the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, although it is also the case that since 2011 the BRU no longer has a distinct existence as such. As a result, it would appear that the whole-of government approach identified in the OECD’s 2012 Recommendation, and which had clearly been within the remit of the BRU, does not currently have an identifiable focal point”. https://www.lawreform.ie/_fileupload/Completed%20Projects/LRC%20119-2018%20Regulatory%20Powers%20and%20Corporate%20Offences%20Volume%201.pdf   

In the light of the foregoing, the LRC produced a very practical recommendation that has an overarching dimension as well as functions similar to those that had been exercised by the Better Regulation Unit (BRU), which had been located within the Department of the Taoiseach, up to mid-2011. And so, the Commission’s recommendation for a new Regulatory Guidance Office is as follows:

“The Report recommends that a Regulatory Guidance Office should be established, with membership drawn from Government Departments and Regulators, to provide guidance and information on regulatory matters, including national and international best practice in economic regulation, the content of Regulatory Impact Assessments (or comparable documents) and lessons learned from the relevant case law. The functions of the Regulatory Guidance Office would be broadly comparable to the former Better Regulation Unit (BRU) in the Office of the Taoiseach”.

To date, there has been no published response from Government regarding this particular recommendation.

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Senior Economist at the Department of Transport.

 

19 Feb, 2019

Challenges to Implementing a Wellbeing Strategy – A National Perspective

2019-02-19T12:37:46+01:00February 19th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Challenges to Implementing a Wellbeing Strategy – A National Perspective

The World Health Organization states that a healthy workplace is one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of workers and the sustainability of the workplace by considering the following:

  • Physical work environment,
  • Psychosocial work environment,
  • Personal health resources in the workplace, and
  • Participation of the wider community.

Under the auspices of Healthy Ireland, the Department of Health and the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation are leading on the development of a National Healthy Workplace Framework for public and private organisations in Ireland. This is in response to the growing evidence that workplaces have a key role in promoting health and wellbeing among employees which is critical for the welfare of workers, levels of productivity and economic growth.

A consultation report, literature review and a review of tools and resources to support implementation have been completed. The Post Graduate Workplace Wellness Course is now in its second year in NUIG and a report to inform the development of an awards programme for healthy workplaces was completed in 2018. There are many learnings from the process to date and we will reflect on the evidence available from the research to identify the prerequisites for successful implementation in the workplace.

By Biddy O’Neill

Biddy O’Neill, Department of Health

Biddy is National Project Lead in the Health and Wellbeing Programme Department of Health. She is leading on the development of the National Healthy Workplace Framework in partnership with the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation under the auspices of Healthy Ireland.Biddy has worked in Health Promotion for over twenty years at both strategic and operational levels within the Health Service and the Department of Health. She has extensive experience in partnership working, policy and programme development and implementation. She is a keen advocate for personal development including reflective practice and believes that facilitative leadership is key to changing workplace culture to promote health and wellbeing.She was appointed as an Assistant National Director in the Health and Wellbeing Division Health Service Executive in 2013 and seconded to the Department of Health in 2015. She has a background in Nursing and Addiction Counselling and holds a Higher Diploma in Adult Education and MA in Health Promotion

Biddy O’Neill will speak at PAI’s upcoming Breakfast Briefing: Your Workplace Environment – A Sustainable Approach to Corporate Wellbeing on 27 March.

Click here for more information on this event

8 Feb, 2019

Construction Procurement Masterclass: Getting it Right- Evaluating Tenders, Debrief Letters and Awarding Contracts Report

2019-02-11T09:54:12+01:00February 8th, 2019|News|0 Comments

Breakfast Briefing: Construction Procurement Masterclass

On Friday 8 February 2019, Public Affairs Ireland and Quigg Golden hosted a Procurement breakfast briefing at PAI’s premises on Mountjoy Square. William Brown of Quigg Golden led this Construction Procurement Masterclass which focussed on Evaluating Tenders, Debrief Letters and Awarding Contracts. PAI were delighted to work with Quigg Golden who are leading specialists in Construction Law and Procurement. Delegates from organisations such as the Department of Justice and Equality and the Higher Education Authority arrived early for this Breakfast Briefing, starting the day off with coffee and pastries before William Brown began the masterclass.

The two main focuses of the masterclass were centered on Evaluation and Debriefing. The talk provided delegates with practical information, clear examples and illustrative case studies. Before delving into the more intricate details of the often-challenging Tender Evaluation Process, William first provided an overview of the core principles that must be taken into consideration throughout the evaluation process. The characteristics of a fair tender process are based on the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

They include:

  • Transparency
  • Non-Discrimination
  • Equal Treatment
  • Proportionality
  • Mutual Recognition

Taking these points into consideration William Brown placed an emphasis on commencing the evaluation process by clearly setting out the award criteria and scoring rubric. By setting out the award criteria this ensures that the expected standards of the evaluation process will be met. One particular point that William conveyed effectively was the importance of note-taking within the tender process. Note-taking can sometimes be disregarded in this process, yet William highlighted effectively the necessity of it for a successful evaluation.

When carrying out the evaluation process it is always necessary to consider this process from a legal standpoint. While William made it clear that the courts do allow for a margin of appreciation there are still set regulations that all procurement professionals should keep in mind as they carry out the evaluation process:

  • Derived Treaty Principles
  • Confidentiality
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Informing Tenderers
  • Verify Information Provided

Moderation:

Once legal considerations have been taken into account, tenderers can focus on the four key stages of the evaluation process which include: selecting the panel, individual marking, group moderation and drafting. While all of these stages are key to the evaluation process, William focused principally on the moderation stage, highlighting its value in a successful tender process. The moderation process reflects that under TFEU equal treatment must always be a priority. The role of the moderator is a vital one for the procurement process. Moderators are entrusted with the responsibility to oversee the procurement process with duties including chairing meetings, applying procurement rules and reviewing assessment criteria. Considering that the courts are slow to intervene in these cases, the contribution of the moderator is key to the process. Alongside moderation the ability for the award criteria to be understood by the REWIND T is highly important. Rewind T stands for reasonably well informed and normally diligent tenderer. The concept of Rewind T is used in the courts to decipher tender documents, as well as assessment criteria and scoring indicators to ensure transparency.

Debrief Letters:

The second half of this talk focused on what comes after the evaluation period; the Debrief Letter. Once the evaluation process has been followed through and you have a score and reasons why that scored has been granted it is highly important to write the debrief letter for that evaluation process.

Debrief letter requirements include:

  • A state decision must be reached
  • There must be a state standstill period
  • Characteristics and relative advantages must be given

A debrief letter must be clearly outline the reasons behind the award criteria; the information provided should be robust and detailed. The reasons outlined need to be tailored to the specific procurement process and facts/examples must be provided. Lastly William encouraged delegates to organise Debrief Letter meetings and to view these meetings in a positive way, they should be employed as a tool for successful procurement processes.

This breakfast briefing concluded with an open forum for Q&A with delegates in which many interesting and insightful points were raised. This masterclass provided delegates with a close examination of the evaluation process, debrief letters and award criteria, providing them with guidance and useful tips and tricks to apply within their roles.

Public Affairs Ireland also host a range of other Procurement events which include our Eight Day Certificate in Public Procurement (commences 2 April)and our Two Day Overview of Procurement Essentials. (13 & 14 March)