Councils response to concerns raised re: hosting of road staff by Deputy Frank O’Rourke

To: Mayor and Members of Kildare County Council and Oireachtas Members

Date: March 8th, 2019

Issued by: Niall Morrissey, Director of Services

Re: Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and Technical Training for the Engineers and Technicians of the Transportation and Road Design Department _________________________________________________________________________                     “In September 2018 the Managing Director of Irish Tar & Bitumen Suppliers issued Kildare County Council with an invitation to visit their upgraded Bitumen Emulsion production facility/Materials Testing Laboratories at Alexandra Road, Dublin Port, as part of Continuing Professional Development, (CPD), and Technical Training for the Engineers and Technicians of the Transportation and Road Design Department.

Engineers Ireland have represented the Engineering Profession since 1835 and have as one of their core responsibilities the provision of opportunities for Continuing Professional Development for engineers.

Engineers Ireland make it quite clear that the primary purpose of CPD must be educational. Engineers Ireland makes a clear distinction between educational and marketing activities. The decision on whether an activity is primarily educational and relevant or primarily promotional rests solely with Engineers Ireland. Applications are welcomed by Engineers Ireland from any organisation offering learning opportunities to help engineers in their professional development, and as a result Irish Tar & Bitumen Suppliers are one of over 130 Registered Training Providers.

The Roads Section of Kildare County Council are currently managing in excess of 38 major projects in addition to a large number of minor projects located throughout the County. Due to this workload which includes the ongoing necessity to achieve deadlines and milestones, it proved very difficult to agree an appropriate date for the CPD visit to Irish Tar & Bitumen Suppliers. Finally it was acknowledged that it was imperative that the KCC employees involved should be afforded the opportunity to avail of the CPD hours on offer and assist them to achieve the obligatory 35 hours CPD required each year. Therefore the date for the visit was agreed for 5th February.

In regard to the logistics of transporting employees who reside in various locations both within and outside the County to the location in Dublin Port, an instruction was issued that a bus would be used to transport employees, thereby reducing the cost of the trip.

As the group were travelling to Dublin City for the Irish Tar & Bitumen Suppliers visit, a decision was taken to maximise both the employee’s time and transport cost by including another educational visit in Dublin City. After a number of options were discussed it was decided that a visit to Leinster House would best meet the needs of the group i.e. although our employees have some interaction with Leinster House as part of their responsibilities as employee’s of Kildare County Council, very few have ever had the opportunity to visit Dáil Éireann.

Leinster House was contacted to book a tour and it was advised that an Oireachtas Member would be required to officially sign in the group. Consequently Frank O’ Rourke T.D. was contacted and requested to facilitate the visit by the KCC group.

Once the KCC group arrived at Leinster House they were met by an Usher at the entrance gates and were provided with a tour of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and other areas. Once the tour was completed the Usher suggested to the KCC group that they wait for their bus in 2 the Oireachtas Bar, a similar practice availed of by the vast majority of groups that participate in similar tours. The group purchased their own refreshments while waiting on their bus and before any Oireachtas members arrived. It is important to note that this element of the trip was after 4pm and outside core hours of work. They were eventually joined by a number of the Kildare Oireachtas members; again a normal practice when groups visit Leinster House. Once the bus arrived the group departed. The Group were waiting for the bus for 50/60 minutes in total.

A number of issues have been raised by various individuals and I respond as follows:

 All goods and services purchased by Kildare County Council are subject to Public Procurement rules and guidelines and KCC’s Annual Financial Statement is audited annually by the Local Government Auditor and on a continual basis by an Internal Auditor. The CPD visit to Irish Tar & Bitumen Suppliers was as outlined earlier strictly for educational purposes and any suggestions otherwise may be forwarded to our legal advisors by KCC

 The annual procurement of bitumen for all Local Authorities is organised by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) via

 KCC endeavour to treat all individuals elected to represent the citizens of Kildare equally and therefore we strive to provide information on an equal basis to our Councillors and Oireachtas members; both of whom have a mandate to represent people residing in our County

 The Local Government Act 2001 Code of Conduct for Employees (2007) is the ethical framework which KCC staff are required to adhere to in performing their duties. The Code contents includes General Conduct and Behaviour, Conflict of Personal and Public Interest, Gifts and other issues. The issue of hospitality is addressed in Section 6 of the Code. Section 6.2 states that ‘it is accepted, however, that local government employees should not be in a position where they cannot accept what are regarded as normal courtesies’ and ‘no objection would normally be taken to the acceptance of what is regarded as routine or customary hospitality’.

 CPD is defined as “the systematic maintenance, enhancement and development of knowledge and skill, and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout the practicing engineering professionals career”.The Engineers Ireland CPD Guidelines states “It can’t be CPD if it is your usual work routine and you learned nothing. Work activities can only be counted if you can justify that they are non-routine and contribute to your development as an engineering professional”.

 The visit to Irish Tar & Bitumen Suppliers took place between 10.30am and 2.15pm. The visit to Leinster House lasted for 2 hours

 There was no necessity to inform the Kildare Oireachtas members in regard to the visit to Leinster House as it was not an official visit. It would have been unfair to interrupt Oireachtas members busy schedules by requesting their presence to meet the KCC group.

 The total cost of the day was €450 (Mini bus hire) 3

 Both the visit to Irish Tar & Bitumen Suppliers and Leinster House are allowable as CPD hours

 The visits were considered and approved by Senior Management in the Roads Section, none of whom would be participating on the CPD visits

The quantity of engineering activity managed by Kildare County Council Roads Section is substantial and it is crucial that our engineering employees avail of all training and continual development opportunities to ensure that our knowledge and practice are up to date at all times. It would be unfair to our citizens and visitors to Kildare if the quality of service provided by our employees was sub-standard to that provided by our colleagues in other local authorities.

In addition it is a challenge for the organisation to recruit and retain engineering employees. The encouragement of, and support for, the CPD process is an intrinsic element in decisions being taken by individuals when deciding to take up posts with KCC.

It is important to note that as we strive in KCC to improve our professionalism in how we serve the people of Kildare, the Roads Engineering employees applied for and secured Engineers Ireland CPD Accredited Employer Status. The work involved in achieving this noteworthy accreditation was carried out separately to their KCC duties.”