A review into the DoI has found that the department is struggling under the weight of providing such a wide range of services and a poor management structure.
The report, by consultants Beamans, has recommended the implementation of a new structure that would include an extra level of management to assist the department’s Chief Executive and Minister.
The report makes a number of core recommendations including:
- There should be changes to the structure of the Department to ensure the effective development, management and co-ordination of service provision
- Project management within the Department needs strengthening, with additional resources to ensure effective delivery of major schemes
- The strategy and policy work of the Department should be a key focus that sits separately from the operational divisions.
The overall structure of the DoI was the core issue for Beamans, the report that the current structure ‘does not support the effective development, management and co-ordination of service provision, nor does it support the development of key longer-term, strategic, policy developments which are critical in an Infrastructure context’.
Beamans noted that the DoI is responsible for highways, Ronaldsway, harbours, buses, heritage railways, housing, flood risk management, waste management and local government services, amongst others. It said that ‘this is an impossible management remit for any single individual to fulfil without an effective means of delegating responsibility to each individual service provider’
The report said: ‘This issue of departmental size and structure has naturally given rise to the view, put forward by many we spoke to during the course of the review, that the department is ‘too big’. Many consultees felt that the breadth and diversity of departmental activity creates too great a management challenge and the department should, as a consequence, be broken up.
‘On the basis of this premise i.e. that this was the only natural conclusion the review process could reach, a number of options were put forward to us on what a restructured and reconstituted department should look like.’
Break Up or Make Up?
However while Beamans recognises that the size of the DoI is a problem, it doesn’t believe that breaking it up is the only solution.
The consultants said: ‘In our view, it is not the size of the department that is the issue, it is the management, organisational and governance framework that has been put in place to manage what are large, diverse elements of service provision. In this regard, the current management and organisational framework is based on the assumption that those large areas of diverse service provision can be managed as a single entity through a framework of divisions which together form the department.
‘Yet, in the same way that Isle of Man Government has accepted the organisational logic that the DHSC cannot, and should not, directly manage an acute hospital, or the DESC cannot, and should not, directly manage schools, this naturally begs the question as to how the DoI can be expected to directly manage buses, harbours, airports, highways, waste management, estates, housing or any of the other functional service it is responsible for delivering?’
However as the DoI is being run differently to the way other departments operate, this has led to the ultimate position where Chief Executive Nick Black is seen as being responsible for anything and everything that goes wrong within the department. Beamans said the gravitation of the operation delivery of services to a central base has ‘led to service delivery effectively being managed from the centre on a largely reactive and transactional basis’.
Chief Operating Officer
To separate out policy and strategy from operational delivery, Beamans has recommended a ‘refocus the role of the department and its relationships and engagement with its service providers’. They added: ‘A new governance structure will also be required to support the transition from manager of service providers to enabler of service providers. To facilitate this transition, we have created a new role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) who will have over-arching accountability for the overall management and coordination of the service providers. However, a key role of the COO will be to act as Portfolio Director for all departmental projects delivered as part of the capital programme.’
Having created one new management role, the report goes on to recommend the creation of some more in the guise of a ‘departmental supervisory body’. Beamans says this board could be ‘constituted as a Committee, Group or Board and could be chaired by the Chief Executive, Minister and/or members’.
It added: ‘The key point here is that the Board – which might also necessarily include sub-committees e.g. Flooding & Risk Committee – should include senior representatives of stakeholders to whom services are provided (including Treasury). On a day-to-day basis each Director will be responsible for the operation of their operating unit and accountable directly to the COO and to the Board and Minister for the operating unit’s performance against agreed targets. It will not be the responsibility of the departmental Chief Executive to manage day-to-day service delivery but to ensure the department provides appropriate support, and through the Management Board provides scrutiny, advice and constructive challenge.’
Beamans said this restructure, while appearing to be a ‘modest’ change, would be ‘fundamental to ensuring that the department is clear as to what its role is’.
Beamans’ report also looks at the capacity of the DoI in terms of its workforce management. The consultants said that many people they spoke to said the gov’s Office of Human Resources is not ‘is not pro-actively supporting the department in addressing significant vacancy management issues’. It said this has led to issues surrounding the length of time to recruit and highlighted two issues with need to be resolved.
Firstly that workforce plans which address capacity and capability gaps need to be put in place. And secondly that recruitment processes need to be ‘recalibrated to target and secure the necessary skills required to support the work of a modern-day Infrastructure organisation operating in a rapidly changing environment’.
When presenting its evidence to Beamans, the DoI said it completes 80% of schemes on time and on budget. Beamans said: ‘This may or may not be the case. However, we saw no evidence that any post project evaluation or reviews of completed projects being undertaken, both to ensure they have delivered and realised the intended benefits and more importantly, to routinely capture learning from completed projects.’
The report also noted: ‘We saw no evidence that projects were underpinned by an effective, integrated project management, assurance and governance process throughout the policy to delivery lifecycle of a project, proportionate to levels of project cost and risk. This latter point is particularly important because many of the projects, such as replacement of doors and windows, whilst still requiring careful management, do not demand elaborate project management arrangements similar to those that would be required by a major construction project.’
Beamans has recommended that the DoI needs to prioritise its workload and that every job ‘should have an assessment of the project management capability required to deliver it and how that capability will be filled’.
However the report also welcomes the ending of the year-on-year requirement for the DoI to spend its allocated budget on schemes. It said this ‘current pattern of funding, combined with the need to spend money within the financial year, is not conducive to achieving value for money’.
According to Beamans, ‘everyone we spoke to during the course of the review including members of the senior management team acknowledged that communication and engagement was an area where there was significant room for improvement’.
While this will no doubt come as little surprise to those who have engaged with the DoI during the prom scheme, the report outlines why it needs to improve its communication with the public and all stakeholders.
The report said: ‘We saw little evidence that engagement with the end user either in terms of consultation (beyond statutory requirements), or providing communities and individuals with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding problems, alternatives, opportunities, solutions, for example, through websites, newsletters and press releases, formed a key part of the service delivery requirement.’
It has called on the comms unit based within the Cabinet Office to ‘engage’ better with departments and ‘demonstrate the value-added it can provide in supporting the delivery and promotion of departmental programmes, including through the provision of guidance and assistance on promotional campaigns’.
You can read or download the full report below: