Coast Guard criticises ‘failings’ of draft report

Senior management at the Irish Coast Guard has slated parts of the first draft of a report into the service which Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is using to push through major reforms and cost-cutting rationalisation, with the likely closure of Valentia and Malin Head stations.

The director of the Irish Coast Guard, Chris Reynolds, is being brought before the Oireachtas Transport Committee tomorrow to face questions on a reorganisation of the service, planned on foot of the report commissioned by the minister.

“It is my view that Chris Reynolds’s agenda is to close both Valentia and Malin Head,” said Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly who was instrumental in forcing the IRCG chief to appear before the committee.

“I am convinced that the plan is to close them both and retain the Dublin station as well as a sub station in Blanchardstown in the minister’s own constituency.”

This is the second time in four years that Mr Reynolds will appear before an Oireachtas committee to deal with the future of the Irish Coast Guard.

In Jul 2009, a similar proposal to close both stations came to grief when it was shown that a report advocating closure was partly based on a false quotation from then minister of state Pat the Cope Gallagher to the effect that Malin Head station should close.

Pat the Cope strenuously denied ever advocating closure and, shortly afterwards, the Fianna Fáil transport minister Noel Dempsey announced a decision to retain both stations and to upgrade them.

Weaknesses in communication within the service and deficiencies in the State’s separate Marine Survey Office have been identified in two ‘value-formoney’ studies undertaken for the minister by Fisher Associates, an international management consultancy practice specialising in the maritime and transport sector.

In a review of the first draft of the report by Fisher, Coast Guard management berates the work of the consultants.

The Coast Guard management observation of the report’s first draft states:

“The report fails to meet its own primary objective ie to provide the department and Coast Guard’s management with the necessary level of review, analysis and well-founded recommendations to enable the Coast Guard improve in efficiency, effectiveness and value for money.”

The critical review of the report also states that it “cites a lot of general and personalised comment and hearsay without validation, analysis or intelligent consideration”.

In one hard-hitting comment on the report, Irish Coast Guard management outlines what it sees as “uninformed or poor analysis; lack of dialogue on matters surfaced; lack of understanding of where the IRCG has competency or control on particular matters and where they are departmental competencies; laziness in fact finding; ignorance of how Coast Guards function and failure to recognise command and control issues.”

The Coast Guard also criticises Fisher for not spelling the service’s name correctly, pointing out that it used the spelling ‘Coastguard’ which is prevalent in the UK and the British Commonwealth.

Management states: “the sloppiness... of this report is of a level that reflects very, very poorly on Fisher’s ability or competence in these areas.”

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