Poots briefs Assembly on Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service reviews
Health Minister Edwin Poots today briefed MLAs on the outcome of recent investigations and reviews into matters relating to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS).
Speaking in the Assembly, the Minister said: “Our Fire and Rescue Service is one of our most crucial public services. It is there to protect and help our community. Every year, many lives are saved and properties protected by dedicated fire fighters - who often have to deal with very challenging and dangerous situations. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
“Our fire fighters need to work in an organisation that commands the respect of all – an organisation that is managed effectively and efficiently, with integrity and transparency, with a clear sense of accountability to the public. Unfortunately, there have been instances where the management and governance of the Fire and Rescue Service have been called into question.”
He told Assembly members that a new Interim Chief Executive was appointed as one of a series of measures to strengthen the management of NIFRS, and that today he was publishing a number of reports dealing with investigations into allegations of irregularities at the service, as well as a review of a fire fighter recruitment exercise.
On publishing the reports, the Minister highlighted four steps that the organisation must take to move forward.
Fundamental change at NIFRS headquarters needs to be taken forward as a matter of absolute urgency by management.
All existing grievances and complaints needs to be drawn to a conclusion as soon as possible as it is not acceptable that such matters should remain unresolved for long periods of time.
All NIFRS employees must be encouraged to get behind their management team and work with them to move the organisation forward.
Full and open accountability from NIFRS must be assured.
The DHSSPS today published three reports; two, which dealt with issues raised by whistleblowers, were carried out by the DHSSPS Internal Audit branch; the third, a review into a fire fighter recruitment exercise was carried out partly by London Fire Brigade and partly by Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Central Investigation Service.
He added: “I want to acknowledge the whistleblowers. I recognise this has been a difficult process and I am very conscious of the anxiety it is likely to have caused. I hope that they will recognise my commitment in taking forward a comprehensive investigation. While not all of the conclusions will meet with their agreement, I thank them for coming forward. The time for moving forward has come.
“The reports contain a wide range of recommendations for change, which I will expect NIFRS management, working closely with my officials, to take forward expeditiously over the coming months. It points to the need for radical improvement in the way that complaints and grievances are dealt with, for strengthened corporate governance arrangements, for better team working, for improved recruitment procedures and for a culture change that is led from the top.”
He concluded: “The service needs strong, visible leadership which has the confidence of staff. I expect the highest standards of corporate governance and financial probity. And I expect all those who work for NIFRS to demonstrate loyalty and integrity.”
The three reports, which are available to view here: Reports.
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