Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Venue: Room 106
The meeting commenced at 1:10pm
An apology was received from Leslie Cree for the initial part of the meeting.
2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. None were received.
3. CHAIRPERSON’S BUSINESS
The Speaker highlighted that due to Members diary commitments it had proved difficult to convene a separate meeting to discuss matters relating to Good Relations and Language. It was agreed that Officials would liaise with Commission Members during Summer Recess with a view to holding the meeting in September 2013.
4. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETINGS
The Clerk/Director General drew Members attention to the Commission Handbook which sets out the agreed procedures for the operation of the Commission and in particular the style and format for recording the minutes of the meetings of the Commission. The Clerk/Director General further referred to examples of minutes from meetings of each of the ‘Commissions’ within the UK legislatures and the Houses of the Oireachtas. Following discussion it was agreed that the minutes of future Commission meetings would be written in the style and format as outlined within the Commission Handbook.
4.1 Minutes of the Meeting held on 27 Feb 2013
Members considered the proposed amendments to the minutes of the meeting of the 27 February 2013 and agreed the following:
- The proposed amendment to Item 3.5 was not accepted. It was agreed to insert ‘provided assurance on the matter’ to final line of the paragraph. It was further agreed that a report would be issued to Commission Members providing the detail of the issue relating to the Members Financial Services Handbook.
- The proposed amendment to Item 4.2 was not accepted.
- The proposed amendment to Item 4.5 was not accepted.
Minutes of the meeting of the 27 February 2013 were agreed with an amendment to Item 3.5. Ms Ruane dissented to the agreement of the minutes
4.2 Minutes of the Meeting held on 7 May 2013
Members considered the proposed amendments to the minutes of the meeting of the 7 May 2013 and agreed the following:
- The proposed amendment to Item 5 was not accepted. CCSU procedures and Commission Handbook to be revised to provide that any amended Commission minute to be cleared by correspondence for publication following each meeting.
- The proposed amendment to Item 9 was not accepted. Delete 3rd Line and insert ‘Ms Ruane stated her opposition to the Commission’s discussions on the Good Relations Strategy including the flying of flags and language issues.’
- The proposed amendment to Item 10 was accepted.
- The proposed amendment to Item 12 was not accepted. It was agreed that a copy of the Commission’s retention policy would be forwarded to Ms Ruane.
Minutes of the meeting of the 7 May 2013 were agreed with an amendment to Item 9 and 10. Ms Ruane dissented to the agreement of the minutes
4.3 Minutes of the Meeting held on 5 June 2013
Minutes of the meeting on the 5 June 2013 were considered and amendments made to Item 5.3 and 6.6. It was agreed that the amended minutes would issue to Commission Members for agreement by correspondence.
5. SARC ANNUAL REPORT 2012/2013
Mr Colm McKenna, Chairperson to the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee presented the Commission with an account of the activities of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC) during 2012/2013.
Mr McKenna reported that the overall level of assurance in 2012/13 was “Satisfactory” and paid tribute to support offered by the Secretariat and Mr Ramsey in his capacity as a member of SARC. The Clerk/Director General also highlighted his appreciation for the support offered by SARC in his role as Accounting Officer. The Commission further noted the objectives of the Secretariat and Audit Committee for 2013/14 and in particular the work being undertaken in relation to the project management aspects of procurement compliance. Ms Ruane sought assurance in relation to equality and fair employment compliance within existing contracts and Mr McKenna confirmed that SARC were not aware of any potential risks relating to current contracts. It was further agreed that a full list of all contracts currently operating under the authority of the Commission would be provided for its information.
Mr McKenna left the meeting.
6. MATTERS ARISING
6.1 Parliament Buildings Roof – Update
The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House provided the Commission with an update in relation to the roof project. The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House drew Members attention to his recent correspondence which provided a breakdown of costs associated with holding Committee meetings outside of Parliament Buildings. Following consideration, the Commission agreed with the outlined costs for the contractor to proceed on the basis that there would be no noise or disruption to Assembly business from lunchtime on Monday through to lunchtime on a Thursday (Option 2 of initial submission paper). Mr Welch assured Members that the arrangements would be kept under constant review during the initial phase of the project to explore any potential for a reduction in costs associated with the further stages of the project.
6.2 Employers and Public Liability Insurance
The Commission considered the existing provisions within their Employer’s and Public Liability Insurance and requested further comparative information from other legislatures and local councils. Members also requested that legal advice be sought in relation to the enforcement of any request for an individual to pay the excess in the event of a successful claim.
6.3 Business Efficiency Programme - Outreach and Education
The Director of Information and Outreach provided the Commission with a paper providing further information of the two recommendations made in the Outreach and Education Business Efficiency Programme (BEP) Report relating to opening times and full cost recovery for weekend events in Parliament Buildings. The Commission also agreed to consider that at least one weekend day should be allocated to tours and/or events each month. Following further consideration it was agreed that a letter would be drafted for Party Leaders highlighting the Commission’s proposals to move to a new system and detailing the argument for savings and in the protection of core services. It was agreed that the draft letter would issue in advance to Commission Members for clearance.
6.4 Ormiston House
The Director of Facilities informed the Commission that there was no further progress to report in relation to the sale of the Ormiston House site.
6.5 Equality Commission Annual Progress Report
Ms Ruane requested a copy of the final cover letter drafted for submission to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
7. DEVELOPMENT OF A NEW ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY
The Director of Information and Outreach informed the Commission that the Assembly’s original Engagement Strategy covering the period from 2009 to 2013 was concluding and proposed a series of actions required for the development of a new Engagement Strategy.
The Commission agreed that the Clerk/Director General would explore if an internal resource could be identified to undertake the reviews and development of the new Strategy. It was further agreed that Ms Ruane would chair the Project Board to oversee the project and that a Project Team to support the board would be convened consisting of the the Director of Information and Outreach, the Head of Communications/Acting Head of Outreach and Education, colleagues from each Directorate and a representative from an external public sector organisation.
8. USE OF IT RESOURCES POLICY
Mr Cree MLA joined the meeting.
The Director of Information and Outreach provided the Commission with a draft policy for the Use of ICT Resources for MLAs and non-Secretariat staff. The Director of Information and Outreach confirmed that the Policy and accompanying guidance detailed the acceptable use of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) resources provided to Assembly Members and non-Secretariat staff.
Ms Ruane requested further information in relation to the use of non-assembly email addresses as currently used by her Party Members and support staff and it was agreed that the Head of Information would liaise with the Member to provide clarity. It was further agreed that the Director of Information and Outreach would explore the possibility of providing additional assembly e-mail accounts to parties.
The Commission agreed the policy and associated guidance.
9. FUNCTIONS AND EVENTS TERMS AND CONDITIONS
The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House provided the Commission with a paper which addressed the upgrade and formal implementation of the terms & conditions policy for functions & events and highlighted the associated risks.
Mr Mingout joined the meeting.
The Assembly’s Support Services Manager set out the difficulties experienced by the current contract provider and the Commission supported the rationale for the introduction of formal processes to address cancellations and potential loss of sales. The Commission approved the implementation of the terms and Conditions as applying only to new bookings taken from 1st July 2013. The Commission further agreed that the policy and risk management approach should be communicated to all MLAs, drawing attention to Member’s responsibilities when sponsoring events.
Further information was also sought in relation to the impact of the recent price increases, on customers, arising from sales of Eurest products in Parliament Buildings.
Mr Mingout left the meeting.
10. FLAGS CONSULTATION – RESPONSES
It was agreed that the matter would be deferred for consideration at the next Commission meeting in September 2013.Ms Ruane confirmed that her Party were not in agreement with the proposed consultation on the flying of the Union Flag and its view was that the Commission was not the appropriate place to discuss the issue.
11. ASSEMBLY EU STRATEGY
Ms Dunwoody and Ms Mageean joined the meeting.
Ms Dunwoody provided the Commission with an introduction to the work of the temporary European Project Manager in the past 15 months. Ms Mageean presented the Commission with a copy of her report as temporary European Project Manager, detailing the progress to date on building the capacity for committees to scrutinise departments and influence European proposals. Ms Mageean also summarised some of the successful engagement that had taken place in the course of her work and drew Members attention to a business case to support a permanent European Officer post within the Assembly Secretariat.
Members discussed the benefits and disadvantages of locating the post in Parliament Buildings and the potential impact on the development of relationships and information sharing with Europe. Members also emphasised the importance that the post holder would work across Northern Ireland. Following further consideration the Commission agreed to the recommendation in principle on the basis that funding could be obtained at no detriment to other services. It was agreed that the Clerk/Director General would explore if funding would be available within the current budget and/or the option of making an additional bid to DFP
Ms Dunwoody and Ms Mageean left the meeting.
12. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
12.1 Accommodation Matters
Mrs Cochrane requested further information in relation to the allocation of rooms for Parties and it was agreed that the Director of Facilities would meet with Mrs Cochrane to highlight the current provisions. It was further agreed that the Commission would consider the matter again at its next meeting.
13. Date of next Meeting
It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on Wednesday 25 March at 4.00pm in Room 106
The meeting concluded at 5.10pm
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit