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Office of Communications and Corporate Services

The Office of Communications and Corporate Services (OCCS) provide the essential organisational support systems and structures that enable the EPA to effectively deliver on its mandate and on the goals of 2020Vision.

The functions of the OCCS include human resource management, health and safety, staff training and development, finance, facilities management, media relations and communications, publications, library and exhibition services and information technology development and support.

The Office is also responsible for organisational strategy and business planning, corporate governance, including internal audit and co-ordinating the EPA quality customer service initiatives.

Corporate Governance

The EPA is committed to maintaining the highest standards of corporate governance and embedding the culture of good governance in all Offices and business units. As part of the ongoing implementation of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, the EPA continued to conduct internal audits under the stewardship of the Internal Audit Committee. A new Internal Audit Committee was established in January 2007 and will serve for a period of three years. The Committee held 4 meetings in 2007. An Internal Audit Plan covering the period 2008 - 2009 was developed in 2007 and agreed by the Internal Audit Committee and by the EPA Board. During 2007, the EPA also conducted a review of corporate legislation that it is legally obliged to comply with and commenced the establishment of a system for monitoring compliance with corporate legislation.

Quality Customer Service (QCS)

The EPA's Customer Charter is available on the EPA website. The 2007 QCS Action Plan identified the EPA's strategic customer service goals and took account of the Governments twelve QCS principles. The key initiatives in the 2007 QCS Plan to improve customer service were as follows:

  • Enhancing Service Delivery
  • Building Trust with Communities and Stakeholders
  • Development of Guidance
  • Improving Internal Customer Service
  • Measuring Customer Service Performance 

Each office identified specific actions under each of these initiatives. Progress on the implementation of the Plan was reported on a quarterly basis to the Board of the EPA. Significant QCS achievements during 2007 included the re-vamping of the EPA website, development of ENVision an interactive environmental map viewer, provision of licensing documentation in electronic form on the website and launching of the See Something Say Something leaflet that makes it easier for the public to make an environmental complaint.

The EPA undertook a number of activities to measure customer service performance during the year. These included a mystery shopping survey, internal audits on the EPA's Codes of QCS Practice and a pilot tracking system to monitor queries received by EPA customers. 

Three customer complaints were received and dealt with in 2007.

Communications

The EPA media relations office handled 948 media enquiries in 2007, a rise of 28 per cent over the previous year. It also successfully placed a series of monthly articles in regional newspapers. The articles were written on a variety of EPA issues and were tailored to suit each county/region.

The EPA's Annual Highlights document, which provides information on the key undertakings of the EPA during the previous year, was published and distributed in February 2007 and three EPANews corporate newsletters were distributed to subscribers during the year.

The EPA sponsored the third annual Environment Ireland conference in September. The conference provides a forum to discuss significant developments in environmental policy North and South. This years conference had as its theme 'Towards 2020: The Environment in Ireland's Future' and was built around the goals and objectives of 2020Vision. It had a strong focus on the changes and initiatives that are now required - in areas such as climate change, waste management, water management and transport - to lay the foundations for meeting the challenging goals set by 2020Vision.

EPA staff engaged with stakeholders at a range of national and local events during the year, including the BT Young Scientist Exhibition and the National Ploughing Championships.

EPA Website

The EPA website was relaunched in May 2007 and was hailed in an EU e-government report as "particularly well made... It is organised around the user's needs and offers enhanced accessibility to the content." An interactive map-based facility called ENVision was added to the site in September. It allows users to find information about the quality of the environment in which they live.

Education

Every primary and second level school nationwide received an EPA educational resource pack in November. The pack included CDs and DVDs of tailored material as well as anti-litter posters and information on relevant EPA services such as the ENVision online facility.

The EPA continued to contribute to the EcoEye TV series in 2007. A fifth series was broadcast on RTE 1 in early Spring. Each programme was watched by an average of 360,000 viewers in total. A sixth EcoEye series was in development during the year for broadcast in the first quarter of 2008.

The EPA also sponsored a programme on Climate Change in a new science series called The Investigators highlighting some of the outstanding work being undertaken by Irish scientific researchers. Broadcast in a late night slot on RTE 1 the average number of viewers for each programme was 150,000.

The Green Home Programme, developed in partnership by the EPA and An Taisce in 2006 was extended to 18 local communities during the year. The aim of the programme is to support positive environmental actions amongst adults by providing practical advice, building on the network of green schools.

Internal Communications

As a growing organisation with a broad geographical coverage, internal communications continues to play an important role in EPA operations. A number of staff climate workshops were held during 2007 and these have lead to the development of an internal communications strategy to be implemented in 2008. The EPA partnership committee, Meitheal, mentioned below, plays an important role in monitoring and improving internal communications within the EPA. During 2007, Meitheal organised the annual information exchange day attended by EPA staff from all of the regions.

Human Resources

The staff complement for the EPA was 290 at the end of 2007. One hundred and forty staff are located at EPA Headquarters in Wexford and the remaining staff are located in Regional Inspectorates and Offices throughout the country.

A Recruitment Code of Practice was developed and a Career Development Guide for staff was published. A Competency Based Interviewing Course was developed and delivered. The review of HR Policies and Procedures was completed and the 2nd edition of the Employee Handbook was published electronically. A total of 13 Recruitment Competitions were completed in 2007.

Further development of the Human Resource Information Management System took place and the Time and Attendance system was upgraded. A Role Clarity Working Group was established to review the role and responsibilities of Line Managers within the EPA.

Information Technology Services

In 2007, the EPA's Information Technology services were focused on supporting the implementation of new environmental regulations, and supporting the long-term goal of continually improving the collection, assessment and provision of information, to all stakeholders.

A new computer system has been developed to manage the collection and dissemination of information regarding Irelands pollutant emissions and waste transfers. This information will be collected by the EPA from Ireland's industrial sites and subsequently submitted to the European Commission for the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR). These inventories of pollution from industrial sites and other sources are expected to exert a significant downward pressure on levels of pollution.

To support the monitoring and assessment role of the EPA, new technology has been implemented to monitor and report on drinking water quality. A new computer system has been developed to manage the new regulations on licensing Urban Waste Water Treatment Plants. A new website has been put in place for Local Authorities to use as part of the "Prevention Demonstration Programme". In addition enhancements have been made to EPA's internal systems to improve the efficiency of internal processes.

The EPA's internal data communications network has been upgraded to increase the capacity and speed of the access from all EPA regional offices. New IT standards have been set covering systems development processes, change control management, programming and databases

Staff Development & Training

The EPA has a very significant commitment to staff development and training. This commitment is reflected in regularly meeting or exceeding the Public Sector 4% of payroll target spend on Training & Development. Direct expenditure on training in the year amounted to over €690,000.

During the year, staff members participated in a programme of 221 training courses, workshops, conferences and seminars at home and abroad, amounting to a total of 2,342 training days, giving an average of 8 days training per person. The EPA continued to rollout the Staff Development Programme, which is coordinated by a sub-group of Meitheal, the EPA Partnership Committee. The objective of this programme is to enable participants to recognise and develop the core behavioural competencies necessary to achieve their potential within current and future roles and to equip EPA staff with the skills and competencies needed to work in a modern customer-focused environment. A new coaching programme was initiated at the latter end of the year and the EPA also continued its commitment to further education by supporting staff pursuing relevant courses of study in their own time.

Safety, Health & Welfare

The EPA is committed to ensuring the safety, health and welfare of its staff through strict adherence to Health and Safety Standards/Codes of Practice and through the provision of appropriate training, safety awareness programmes and personal protective equipment. The EPA's excellent safety record was maintained with no serious accidents occurring at work during 2007.

Emphasis continued in 2007 on heightening awareness of safety, health & welfare matters, through the provision of an extensive safety-training programme including the development of a health surveillance programme to be rolled out over a three-year period to all staff.

An audit of the EPA's Safety Statement & Safety Management Programme was completed by an external auditor with a very satisfactory outcome. The hydrometric programme was selected as one of the priority risk activities to be audited externally and this was also completed in 2007. Risk assessment training specific to this area of work was undertaken by all hydrometric technicians.

In 2007 accessibility audits were carried out at EPA premises and an implementation plan to carry out the recommendations of the audits was put in place. The EPA is committed to achieving the Excellence through Accessibility Award administered by the National Disability Authority; applications were lodged for two locations in December.

EPA Partnership Committee

The EPA has had a Partnership Committee (Meitheal) in place since 1999. The Partnership Committee is composed of management, union and staff representatives and ensures a participative approach to resolving issues and challenges as they arise. Meitheal does most of its work through sub-groups and an action plan is prepared for each year.

During 2007, Meitheal continued to play a significant role in the ongoing development of the Performance Management and Development System for staff, the coordination of Health and Safety initiatives, Greening the EPA and the preparation of two progress reports on the Towards 2016 Action Plan. The sub-group on organisation and staff development continued to work on the preparation and implementation of staff development programmes.

National Agreement

Under the National Agreement, Towards 2016, an Action Plan was developed and approved by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in 2006. This action plan addresses issues such as efficient use of resources, customer service, e-government as well as organisational modernisation and flexibility.

The first Towards 2016 Progress Report, for the period October 2006 - March 2007, was submitted to and approved by the Department in April 2007. The EPA successfully achieved its performance targets and made considerable progress on a wide range of initiatives including in particular the publication of the EPA's Corporate Strategy 2020Vision, the implementation of the Internal audit plan, work in the licensing area and liaison with sectoral interests and working groups.

The second Progress Report, for the period April - December 2007 was submitted for approval in December.

The EPA's Partnership Committee played a significant role in overseeing the ongoing implementation of the Towards 2016 Action Plan.

Advisory Committee

The EPA Advisory Committee held four meetings during 2007. The Committee continued to provide useful and timely advice to the Agency on a range of issues. The Committee also advised the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government of its concerns in relation to the resource implications of additional work being assigned to the Agency.

Board of the EPA

The Board of the EPA held forty-five meetings in 2007 including 32 technical meetings at which license applications, prosecutions and other operational issues are dealt with and 13 general meetings at which corporate policy, strategy and planning issues are dealt with.

Freedom of Information (FOI)

During 2007, the EPA received 14 FOI requests and dealt with 2 that were carried over from 2006. Of these, 5 requests were granted in full, 5 were part granted and 6 were refused (in these cases the records either did not exist or they were already available for public inspection). One request was appealed to the Information Commissioner. This appeal and two previous appeals from 2004 and 2006 were still under consideration by the Commissioner's Office at year-end.

Table 6: Consultants Engaged in 2007

A & L Goodbody

Enviros Consulting UK Ltd

Nicholas Kenny

A Quick Sharp Ltd

ERA-Maptec Ltd

O'Callaghan Moran & Associates

Achilles Procurement Services

ESRI Ireland Ltd

Odour Monitoring Ireland

Ack Solutions Ltd

Euro Environmental Services

Odournet UK Ltd

Aisling Cronin

Evros - The Computer Centre

Ordnance Survey Ireland

Alcontrol Geochem (Ireland)

Fehily Timoney & Co

Paul Mooney Associates

Alcontrol Laboratories

Future Perfect

Paul Toner

AMAS Ltd

Gandon Enterprises Ltd

Plannet 21 Communications Ltd

Annette O'Neill

Gavin Harte

Pricewaterhouse Coopers

ASKHR Ltd

Geo Demographics Ltd

Propylon

Assure Health and Safety

Geological Survey of Ireland

Quantitech Ltd

B2E Ltd

Graphite HRM Ltd

Repak Ltd

Barry Doyle & Company

Green Light Events

Rits Information Security

Bill Brignal

Helm Corporation Ltd

RPS Group

Byrne Looby Partners

Hook Head Training & Consulting

Scientifics Ltd

Carr Communications Ltd

Infratec

Shauna Deane

Casey McGrath & Associates

Institute of Public Administration

Spectral Signatures Ltd

Clara Clarke Event Management

Ipsus Technologies Ltd

Speed-It Ltd

Clean Technology Centre

Isoniq Ltd

Sysco Software Solutions

Compass Informatics Ltd

Kisters AG

Tartan Technologies Ltd

Coyle Hamilton Willis

Land Quality Management Ltd

Teagasc

Dataworks Ltd

Levitt-Therivel

Terminal Four

David Ball

Maclean Environmental Ltd

Terry Prendergast

Deloitte & Touche

Marketing Bureau Services Ltd

The Circa Group

Dr Catherine Coxon

Mason Hayes +Curran

Timothy Mulvey

Dr David Drew

Matheson Ormsby Prentice

TMS Consultancy Ltd

Dr Ray Flynn

Media Watch Ltd

TMS Environment Ltd

Dr Robbie Meehan

Minerex Environmental Ltd

Tobin Environmental Services

Duncan Laurence Environmental

Mott McDonald Pettit Ltd

Trinity Consultants Incorp

Ecofact Environmental Consultants Ltd

Murray Consultants Ltd

URS Ireland Ltd

Eireann Design

National Irish Safety Organisation

Wilson Architecture

Environment & Resource Management

National Physical Laboratory

 

Enviros Consulting Ltd

Newstead Consulting Ltd

 

This list includes those consultants paid in excess of €1000 in 2007.

Capital Programme

The detailed design and tendering process for the proposed extension to Headquarters was completed and the construction contract was awarded towards the end of 2007. The extension also provides for sustainable features such as a biomass boiler plant utilising wood chips, heat recovery from air-conditioning plant, energy efficient lighting system, photovoltaic solar panels, rainwater harvesting and wind power. The extension also includes a number of passive design solutions such as solar shading, air infiltration, natural ventilation and a green roof system. Construction will be ongoing throughout 2008.

The newly constructed laboratory and offices in Kilkenny were occupied at the start of the year. The main work carried out at the EPA Inspectorate and laboratory in Kilkenny is water pollution control in the southeast of Ireland. In line with the Agency's overall role in the protection of the environment and the need for sustainable development, the building has been designed to maximise energy conservation and includes features such as passive solar gain, maximised use of natural daylight, low-energy lighting systems and solar panels for domestic hot water supply.

Consultants

During 2007, the EPA utilised the services of various consultants. The consultants engaged (including those involved in the Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment (STRIVE) Programmes) are listed in Table 6.