Full EPA Response to Clarifications Sought by the Sunday Independent

Date released: Jul 11 2011

Issued 8th July 2011: The EPA was recently reviewed by an independent and expert review group appointed by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and Local Government. This independent review which was a commitment in the Programme for Government commenced in January 2010 and was completed in May 2011. This was the first review of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be carried out. The report on the Review Group was published in May 2011 with a general finding that the EPA overall has provided “considerable benefits for Ireland’s environment and for the health and well being of its people”.  This report provides an independent assessment of the performance, operation and governance of the EPA. The review involved a comprehensive examination of the EPA and a public consultation process to gather views from the public and the widest range of interested parties. The assessment of the Agency was structured under a number of themes including: 

  • Governance, 
  • Internal Structure and Resources; 
  • Licensing, 
  • Assessment and Monitoring; 
  • Environmental Research and Information; 
  • Relationship with Stakeholders; and 
  • Legislative Framework.
    The final report makes 58 recommendations under these headings, some addressed to the Environmental Protection Agency itself and recommending a strengthening or deepening of some activities, or the undertaking of new approaches; others address the very important issue of national environmental governance and are addressed to the EPA along with other stakeholders including the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; and others which would require changes and consolidation of legislation to take effect.

EPA Funding:

The EPA has three sources of income.

  • Exchequer Funding is the allocation approved for the EPA through the Dail Exchequer vote process, as part of the overall funding envelope of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government allocation.
  • The Environment Fund allocation is funding provided by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (from the proceeds of the Landfill levy and the Plastic bag levy) to support environmental protection initiatives and the environmental research programme which are managed by the EPA.
  • Earned Income is funding which is earned by the EPA from its activities such as Enforcement of licenses, fees for the issuing of Licences, income from Laboratory services provided to Local Authorities, recovery of Emissions Trading Unit costs, etc.

The following table summarises EPA income for the period 2008-2011

   

   2008  2009   2010 2011  
   Audited  Audited  Audited

 Budgeted

   € '000
 € '000
 € '000
 € '000
Exchequer Funding    35,443  34,308  27,936  20,321
Environment Fund   15,700    17,223  16,592 27,200 
Earned Income    13,186  13,860  13,520  14,014
Total Income    64,329  65,391  58,048  61,535

     

Financial Controls:

The Director General is the Accounting Officer for the EPA and the executive Directors have responsibility for overall spending in the organisation.  The Directors have put in place key procedures to provide effective internal financial control which are summarised as follows:

  • Publishing the EPA Strategy Statement 2020Vision – Protecting and Improving Ireland’s Environment. This Strategy covers the period to 2010 and sets out the EPA’s environmental and organisational goals.  Implementation of the Strategy is monitored and reported to the Board of the EPA on a periodic basis.  Work has commenced on the preparation of a new strategy for the period 2011 – 2014.
  • Agreeing a detailed work programme for each year and monitoring and evaluating progress against the work programme on a regular basis.
  • Holding regular Board meetings, including monthly management meetings where the Agenda includes strategic issues such as Corporate Governance, Financial Management and Corporate Strategy.
  • Adopting a set of financial procedures to control the significant financial elements of the EPA’s business and publishing these in the staff Finance Manual.
  • Maintaining a comprehensive schedule of insurances to protect the EPA’s interests.
  • Establishing an Internal Audit Committee, as part of the ongoing systematic review of the control environment and governance procedures within the EPA, to oversee the Internal Audit function and advise the Board in relation to the operation and development of that function.
  • Establishing and operating a Risk Management Policy and Framework.
  • Adopting a Policy for monitoring and assessing compliance with corporate legislation which has been implemented fully in the EPA since 2009;
  • Clearly defining management responsibilities, delegating appropriate functions, and reviewing and approving all EPA policies and procedures.
  • Adopting a Code of Business Conduct for Directors and Staff in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.
  • Ensuring compliance with the Ethics in Public Office Acts requirements and Sections 37 & 38 of the EPA Act 1992, relating to the Declaration and Disclosure of Interests.

The EPA accounts are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General on an annual basis.


Sponsorship:

The EPA has a policy of providing corporate/environmental sponsorship for initiatives and organisations which promote environmental awareness and education. Sponsorship requests are assessed and allocations are made when requests satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

  • It will raise awareness of environmental and scientific issues, and of the EPA, in accordance with the key themes set out in our Corporate Strategy 2020Vision
  • It will help to get the EPA message out to a key audience such as schools, farming sector, environment groups etc
  • It will support social, economic and cultural well-being in the locations where the EPA is based.

In the context of promoting environmental awareness the EPA attends a number of key exhibitions annually – the main two being the Young Scientist Exhibition and the National Ploughing Championship. The promotional materials referred to in your query (including branded water bottles, yo-yos, spinning tops, pencils and sharpeners) have been distributed at these exhibitions to children as a means of promoting environmental awareness and education. On occasion they are given out to school children as part of our ongoing promotion of environmental education initiatives during schools visits/talks and as part of the promotion of environmental educational resource packs developed by the EPA.

The EPA provides a modest level of corporate sponsorship that supports social, economic and cultural activities primarily in Wexford where the EPA Headquarters is located as part of its corporate social responsibility. The main sponsorship is for the Wexford Festival Opera and amounts to approximately €20,000 per annum. Smaller amounts of sponsorship are provided for other cultural and artistic activities as a means of supporting the local community.

EPA sponsorship of the Wexford Festival Opera in 2010 included an initiative to ‘green’ the festival. The Festival Opera’s “Green Aware” programme, which was supported through the EPAs National Waste Prevention Programme, sought to have Wexford Business participate in resource efficiency programmes.  “Green Aware” recruited 40 businesses, 24 hospitality and 16 non-hospitality into the Green Hospitality and €concertive programmes. The identified savings were on average €7,000 per business for the non hospitality businesses and €10,000 for the hospitality ones giving a total of circa €350,000 of potential savings. By adopting green principles the aim is not only to  brand Wexford Festival Opera as being green, but it will also lay the foundations for Wexford Town to become a green destination and promote itself as being more sustainable for future visitors and business.

Learning and Development:

The EPA places a strong emphasis on Learning and Development and is committed to Building a High Performance Organisation with a focus on having competent and committed people. In the context of a rapidly changing work environment with diminishing resources it is essential that the EPA invests in the development of its staff to enable them to manage and adapt to these changes and in particular to develop more effective team working skills in a multi-disciplinary structure. A key element in the development of teamwork is the EPA’s Staff Development Programme which incorporates Team Building exercises. The exercises are undertaken outside normal working hours and have included team challenges which have on occasion included activities such as orienteering meal preparation and treasure hunts. Such exercises provide practical learning and problem solving opportunities in a team context. The EPA is satisfied that the Staff Development Programme is delivering significant benefits in improving team working and related efficiencies across the organisation and represents excellent value for money.

ENDS