Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Sir Reg Empey MLA
Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment
Massey Avenue

22 March 2002

Dear Minister


The Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment has now considered your Department's draft Corporate Plan and explored several related issues with Departmental officials on 20 March.

The Committee view the Corporate Plan as an 'early warning system' alerting the Committee to future developments, anticipated major events and decisions likely to arise over the planning period. These should be assessed and described in full.

The Committee considered the draft Plan in terms of its contribution to a greater understanding of the major economic, strategic and policy challenges facing the Department.

The Committee considered, first of all, the structure and content of the plan and secondly the issues raised.

The Plan should provide further insight/explanation to the information already provided in the Programme for Government, for example:

Turning to more specific issues contained in the Plan, the Committee offer the following comments:

1. The Committee would like to see greater clarity in the Plan of the relationship between DETI and INI. The Plan states in paragraph 9 that 'the establishment of Invest NI will result in a radical new way of working. There will be a clear division between policy development and service delivery.' When the Committee met with officials this point was discussed. The Committee is of the view that such a clear division does not work in practice and believes that the Corporate Plan should explain how DETI will consult on policy formation with INI. INI's Corporate Plan acknowledges this point and DETI's Plan should do likewise.

2. Paragraph 9 should also reiterate the Committee's statutory role in the formulation of policy.

3. Paragraph 10 deals with the provision of an 'excellent service…communicating openly and ensuring that our methods of communication meet their diverse needs.' Does the Department (and its NDPBs) have a Communications Strategy? If not, how does the Department intend to meet this objective?

4. The Committee consider that a more in-depth analysis of the economic context would contribute to the Plan.

5. Would the Department outline specifically the actions and targets that correspond to the priority in paragraph 25?

6. The Committee consider that it would be appropriate to include 'networking' and 'technology transfer' as indicators of innovation along with R&D.

7. In paragraph 28 the Department states that it's aim "will be to deliver greater harmonisation of energy markets and other improvements in order to ensure increasing convergence of energy process between Northern Ireland and our principal competitors." The Electricity Regulator contends that there has been no trend of convergence in electricity prices and divergence is anticipated in the next five-year period. Would the Department explain how its statement takes account of the Regulator's analysis?

8. Paragraphs 78 and 79 of the Plan state that '…new methods making use of the latest technology will also be employed…These will be aimed at providing information to customers on a self-help basis and will be designed to encourage the use of the Internet for day-to-day business interactions with DETI.' In the Department's response to written questions on the SDA it is stated that "Whitehall was charged with getting everything on line while in Northern Ireland we saw the telephone remaining a major part of service delivery."

9. The Committee is concerned that "the telephone remaining a major part of service delivery" is seen as an alternative to online delivery and question whether this is consistent with the intent of the electronic government initiative. The vision contained within the Corporate Strategy Framework is of "a modernised, efficient government, alive to the latest developments in e-business and meeting the needs of citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland." The consultation document envisages the use of ICT to deliver government services electronically. The Committee would like the Department to revise its targets, excluding the telephone as a major part of service delivery.

10. Paragraph 83 deals with European issues. When Officials met the Committee on 20 March they accepted that this paragraph could be expanded - recognising that Europe was not just simply a source for funding.

11. The Committee acknowledges that the Euro has now been introduced throughout many countries in Europe and that the Department was involved in the Euro Preparations Forum. However, the Committee is concerned that no consideration has been given to the potential impact of the Euro on DETI's economic strategy. How, for example, does the Department, over the period of the plan, intend to address the potential threat of the Euro on the key target of increasing exports? What is the potential impact on attracting inward investment? What are the potential implications for Northern Ireland on the expansion of the European Union? What opportunities does this present? What strategies are in place to realise these opportunities?

12. The Committee would like the Corporate Plan to be more specific about establishing a regional presence throughout Northern Ireland. While operational matters may be for the INI Board to deal with the Committee believes the Department, as the policy makers, must include a reference to this issue in the Corporate Plan. When you appeared before the Committee last year to talk about INI this issue was high up on your own agenda. Indeed you advised the Committee that Professor Monds was in no doubt as to your thoughts that a regional presence was to be established building on that already established by IDB/LEDU.

13. The Committee does not accept that the dispersal of INI jobs across Northern Ireland is a matter simply for the INI Board and look to you as Minister for direction in this matter.


14. The draft Corporate Plan presented by the Department could be developed to provide more detail and tie together the Department's priorities, targets and actions as presented in the Programme for Government, the Public Service Agreements and the Service Delivery Agreements.

15. The Committee note, in the final paragraph of the plan, the Department intend to link corporate plan targets to the Department's priorities and Programme for Government commitments.

16. There may be an opportunity within the Plan to include an analysis of past operational performance, identify lessons that have been learned in order to advise how future operational performance could be improved. This should include an analysis of the current economic climate and how it may have affected previous performance and influence future performance. Have all the Department's targets been met from the previous year? What impact is this likely to have on the current year and the three-year period of the Corporate Plan?

17. The readability of the Plan could be improved. For example paragraph 86, page 23 refers the reader to priorities provided in section 4 and challenges listed in section 3. The targets mentioned, but not referenced, are included in Annex A of the Plan. Providing a link between the plan and the overall PfG may address this concern.

18. As presented it is unclear how the Plan provides a greater understanding of the major economic, strategic and policy challenges facing the Department. A more thematic approach to the structure and style of the Corporate Plan may provide for a more critical analysis and more easily facilitate critical analysis.

The Chairperson, Pat Doherty, would be happy to discuss any of the issues raised in this letter, at your convenience.

Yours sincerely

Cathie White

Committee Clerk
Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment