MINUTES OF THE THIRTY NINTH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 27 JANUARY 2009 AT 5.00PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Stephen Moutray
Rev Dr Robert Coulter
Mr Sean Neeson
Mr Paul Butler
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Dr G McGrath, Mr S Welch, Mr R Good and Ms C McGowan. Mr B O’Neill was in attendance for Items 1 – 2.2. Ms S Mallon was in attendance for Item 4.
1. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the meeting held on the 13 January 2009 were agreed.
2. MATTERS ARISING
2.1 Corporate Governance – issues arising from On-Board Training
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to a number of issues raised for discussion during the corporate governance session in November 2008.
Following consideration, Members agreed to the introduction of a statement relating to declaration of interest to be recorded at the beginning of each meeting.
Members confirmed that they were content that Commission meetings would move to a monthly cycle, from the beginning of April 2009.
The Commission further agreed that a further ‘planning day’ is organised to address any outstanding corporate governance matters and other strategic issues.
2.2 NIA Internet Connection
Mr O’Neill provided Members with an update in relation to the status of the current Internet connection and a range of recommendations to improve the speed of the service.
Mr O’Neill informed the Commission that he was meeting with representatives from IT Assist (NICS) to discuss the technical implications of the proposed server migration. Following discussion in relation to the enhancement of the Internet service, Mr O’Neill also assured Members that he would be meeting with the Head of Operations (NICS) to ensure that migration progressed within a short timescale and he would report back details of agreed timings and impact to the next meeting.
Mr Butler left the meeting.
Mr O’Neill left the meeting.
2.3 Brochure Version of Annual Report 2007/08
The Director of Engagement tabled a draft version of the brochure relating to the Annual Report 2007/08 and suggested that Members may wish to consider using the document as a marketing tool for issue in tandem with the proposed engagement ‘Road Shows’ in early September.
Members agreed with the proposals outlined by the Director of Engagement and requested that the information within the document should be updated. Members further agreed to review the document in detail and forward any comments to the Director of Engagement.
2.4 Review Body on Senior Salaries
The Commission requested that a further paper be prepared for consideration providing a further detailed analysis of the key recommendations arising from the report. The Speaker informed Members that he and the Clerk/Director General would be holding separate discussions with Party Leaders on a number of issues.
2.5 Recruitment Programme
The Clerk/Director General provided an update in relation to the current recruitment competitions and highlighted an issue which had arisen in relation to the recent Clerical Officer external recruitment competition. He informed Members that an investigation was underway and he would report back findings to an early meeting.
3. SMG Evaluation
The Commission agreed the proposed recommendations in relation to evaluating the effectiveness of the Secretariat Management Group, as a management team.
4. NIA WEBSITE (Demonstration)
Ms Mallon joined the meeting.
Ms Mallon provided Members with a demonstration of the proposed interim Assembly Website. Members congratulated Ms Mallon on the improved content and navigational layout of the test site.
Ms Mallon left the meeting.
Meeting was suspended at 6.18pm to allow Members to take part in a Plenary vote. Meeting was re-convened at 6.45pm.
5. ACCOMMODATION STRATEGY UPDATE
The Director of Properties provided the Commission with an interim update on the Secretariat Accommodation strategy. He highlighted progress to date in relation to the Ormiston House site, the Accommodation Audit and issues relating to temporary accommodation.
The Director of Properties confirmed that the terms of reference and business case had now been agreed for the accommodation audit and agreement had been reached on the appointment of professional staff from Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) to lead the process, in conjunction with a specialist space planner. He informed Members that the space audit would examine the current layout of Parliament Buildings and would explore the current allocation and usage of the accommodation, with a view to determining the optimum layout.
He asked that Commission Members raise the proposed audit with their party colleagues to help facilitate the arrangements for the specialist space planner to conduct his assessment. He informed the Commission that an update report would be made available to Members at the end of March 2009. He concluded by informing Members that the final report plus recommendations would be presented to a Commission meeting at the end of April 2009.
6. FOI REQUESTS
Mr Logue provided the Commission with an update in relation to several Freedom of Information requests for which responses were currently being compiled.
7. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
7.1 European Visit
Mr Logue informed the Commission that the Speaker had received an invitation from t he President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, inviting the Commission to visit Brussels. He highlighted that if content, he could investigate the feasibility of a possible visit in March /April 2009 to explore how the Northern Ireland Assembly is currently represented in Europe and the support role of the Assembly Commission.
Mr Neeson suggested that it would be important to include discussion with Mr Maurice Maxwell, the Head of the European Commission Office in Belfast.
7.2 North South Parliamentary Forum (NSPF)
Mr Logue provided an update in relation to the next meeting of the North-South Parliamentary Forum working group and the progress achieved to date in relation to the setting up of a working group in the Oireachtas.
The Speaker also highlighted that meetings with Party Leaders would take place over the coming weeks on this issue and he would provide an update to an early Commission meeting.
7.3 TSO Contract
The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update in relation to the re-tendering of the Assembly’s printing contract.
7.4 Questions to the Commission for Written Answer
Members noted the details of five questions for priority written answer in relation to recent recruitment competitions and one question for written answer in relation the Assembly gift shop.
7.5 NIA Engagement Road -show
The Director of Engagement informed the Commission that his staff were currently developing an awareness programme for a series of events in relation to the Northern Ireland Assembly to take place in nine cities/ towns throughout Northern Ireland beginning in March /April 2009.
He highlighted that as part of these events, panel discussions would be taking place in each of the nine venues and that letters would be issuing to all Members detailing the programme information and the proposed panel arrangements.
8. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission was agreed for Tuesday 10 February 2009, 15 minutes after rise of House, or earlier if no Member was involved in the Adjournment Debate for that day.The meeting ended at 7.10pm