A key deficiency of the attorney-general’s office is the absence of a managerial mechanism to facilitate planning and decision making as well as resolving problems, exacerbated by the complexity of the structure and the workload, officials said on Thursday.
Experts from Ireland’s Public Administration Institute presented the findings of a functional review of the legal service, which the attorney-general said were a useful tool to guide the office’s reform.
“The state cannot simply demand good quality, adequate quantity, and work delivered on time,” attorney general Costas Clerides said. “The state has this right and should claim it but at the same time it has the obligation to afford this service and all other services the necessary means and resources to render it ready and willing to respond to its obligations at any given moment.”
Clerides has been lobbying for some time now for the outfit to be truly independent and have its own budget.
Institute expert Finola Flanagan said the only serious deficiency the institute found was the absence of a managerial structure to facilitate planning and decision making.
She said there was a need to appoint a chief legal officer, answerable to the AG, whose role would be to guide the legal service, especially in the implementation of the reforms.
Currently, administration of the service is left to the attorney-general and there is no administrative mechanism to define future strategies and preempt certain actions.
The chief must be a public officer with impeccable administrative ability and should have the rank of ministry permanent secretary, the institute said.
The experts also recommended creating an administrative committee to oversee the operation of the service, including monitoring important cases.
Departments must also be reorganized and become autonomous and members of the service should be seconded to ministries to acquire know-how and be better equipped when providing opinions.
Last year, Clerides issued a statement highlighting the weaknesses of the office and the regular departure of staff, usually for greener pastures in the private sector.
“The continuous blows to the legal service due to the departure of its members highlight the problem that stems from the fact that this vital service, which cannot appoint and promote its own human resources, lags far behind the autonomous and independent judiciary, both in appearance and substance, but also in pay and other employment conditions,” he said.