Con Lucey delivered his report to the IFA Executive Council today (Tuesday) in Bluebell.
Lucey took up the remit in the wake of the resignation of General Secretary Pat Smith and President Eddie Downey.
Pat Smith resigned when his remuneration package was revealed to be €435,000 in 2013, while Eddie Downey resigned on the back of negotiating a €2m exit package with Smith, which the IFA is now disputing.
Summary of Recommendations
The President should not be a member the Remuneration Committee. He should be replaced by a Regional Chairman, restoring the IFA membership to three.
The external expert should be someone with specialist knowledge of pay levels in appropriate sectors in the market place.
Remuneration Committee and Audit Committee
The Executive Council should amend the Rules to provide for the establishment and operation of a Remuneration Committee and Audit Committee
Additional Recommendations on Governance and Transparency and other relevant areas Executive Board
The term “Executive Board” needs to be reviewed to better reflect its status in the IFA Rules. I am not offering any “ideal” alternative, but suggest that the Executive Board itself should be asked by the Executive Council to deliberate on this.
Short of a major change to IFA’s Constitution and Rules, probably the most practical way of getting a more effective role for the Executive Board is by the Executive Council taking conscious decisions to delegate some of its powers to the Executive Board.
This could be done in two ways. It could be done from Excutive Council to Executive Council meetings by, for example, explicitly giving the Executive Board responsibility for implementing certain decisions made by the Executive Council on the day.
It could also be done on a more ongoing basis by, for example, clarifying the role of the Executive Board in assisting the President in dealing with urgent issues arising between Executive Council meetings.
Firstly, a mutually respectful, constructive and cooperative spirit is essential for the effective working of a
governing body of 53 members.
In a constructive atmosphere, all members need to be committed as far as possible to reaching decisions by consensus rather than split votes.
Clear procedures need to be agreed by the Executive Council to handle its business more efficiently. The Executive Council must focus on its decision-making role.
The transmission of information from the President, General Secretary and Head Office generally should be done using the modern means of communication, and it is acknowledged that IFA is relatively advanced in this area.
On the agenda, and in the reports, items for decision need to be clearly signalled, while items for information should be discussed within a timeframe which is agreed and respected by all members.
An adequate induction and training system is essential for new Executive Council members at the start of their term.
The National Committees must be restored as the key structures in the Association for developing and
pursuing ongoing policy initiatives. Policy proposals should be transmitted from members / branches / county executives through the national committee structure.
Policy will then be agreed by national committees and proposed by the Committee Chairmen to the Executive Council, which will have the final decision on national IFA policy.
Serious consideration should be given to re-establishing the National Executive Committee (or its equivalent), which would meet at a minimum of twice a year.
The former National Executive Committee, which was removed as a result of the Dowling Review in 2005, consisted of members of the Executive Board and the Chairmen of the National Committees. This was a very useful forum in the past for the coordination of national policy.
Along with the President and General Secretary, Committee Chairmen and Executive Staff should be present at key meetings with Government Ministers relevant to their areas of expertise.
The case made by National Committees for more frequent attendance of Committee Chairmen and Executive Staff in Brussels (including meetings with MEPs) is reasonable, bearing in mind the importance of the EU to Irish agriculture, including the co-decision role of the European Parliament.
County Chairmen / Executive Council Members
The Executive Council should review the decision to integrate the two former positions of County Chairman and County Representative on the Executive Council.
General Secretary / Chief Executive Officer
The IFA Constitution and Rules need to be amended to adequately reflect the importance of the office of the General Secretary / Chief Executive Officer.
(a) Division of powers
The position of General Secretary, who is the Chief Executive Officer under the rules, should in future be
described as Chief Executive.
A new post of Secretary should be created, which would have a high degree of independence from the Chief Executive in defined areas dealing with governance and transparency, and would also take over some of the responsibilities the current post of Assistant General Secretary.
If this recommendation is accepted by the Executive Council, IFA should seek the services of an outside expert on organisational governance and transparency to provide advice on the detailed implementation of this approach.
Also, if this recommendation is accepted, the Executive Council would need to either amend the Rules to
reflect this, or ensure that these conditions are included in the contract of employment of both the Chief
Executive and the Secretary.
In the Constitution and Rules, the Chief Executive is responsible, in consultation with the President and Deputy President, for all matters concerning all employed officials of IFA at all levels including employment and dismissal of same.
This should continue to be the situation in the future.
(b) Proposed Role of Chief Executive
The Chief Executive should inform, advise and support the President in his daily duty of chief public spokesman of the Association. He should accompany the President at IFA Press Conferences.
He should be centrally involved in the policy-formulation process in IFA. This includes ensuring that policy proposals coming from County Executives and National Committees are adequately assessed prior to their transmission to Executive Council, and that the transmission is speedy and efficient. Also, he should have the right to initiate policy proposals, for example proposals developed by the Economics Section and by other Executive Staff members.
The Chief Executive bears particular responsibility for the process of transmission and implementation of IFA policies. He must decide the optimum target / destination for IFA policies, e.g. the Government, Agribusiness, the EU Commission etc., and ensure that effective campaigns are in place to seek to have IFA policies implemented.
The Chief Executive should have specific responsibility for the development of IFA strategy. For example, he should produce for the Executive Council an annual Strategy report each September, for the following 12 months, and this should be updated each February.
(c) Proposed Role of Secretary
The Secretary would be autonomous from the Chief Executive as regards certain functions in the areas of governance and transparency. This structure would be closer to the practice in commercial companies, where the role of the Company Secretary is set out in company law.
The Secretary would be responsible to the Executive Council for ensuring that the appropriate Rules and procedures are observed and respected. Responsibilities would include ensuring high standards as regards agendas, minutes and reports of meetings.
The Secretary would ensure that the Constitution and Rules are respected, and would administer the process in relation to Rule changes. The Secretary would have access to legal advice on matters relating to the role of Secretary.
The Secretary would inform all newly-elected senior officers, including the President, Deputy President, Regional Chairmen and the Honorary Treasurer of their role, duties and responsibilities under the IFA Constitution and Rules. The President and Executive Council members would have access to the Secretary for information and advice in a confidential and independent manner.
The Secretary would have two reporting lines (a) to the President, Executive Council and Executive Board on matters covered by his/her role under the Rules, and (b) to the Chief Executive on other issues. Such other issues could include responsibility for training of the Executive Council, the Executive Board and the National Committee members, Secretary to the National Rules, Privileges and Procedures Committee and provision of an IFA Members’ Manual. The Secretary could also been given the Role of Human Resources Manager in IFA.
(d) Terms of Employment of the Chief Executive
Future appointments of Chief Executive should be on a flexible fixed-term basis. However, the Executive
Council should take advice on the best practice in this area.
Bearing in mind the importance of the Chief Executive in the IFA structure, a one-year probationary period should apply.
Training for Executive Council and National Committee Members
Newly elected members to the Executive Council, the Executive Board and National Committees should be provided with an appropriate induction and training course at the start of their term. Ongoing training should be provided as necessary, including training to deal with new issues, or further training to deal with new methods of electronic communication.
Members on outside boards and other bodies need specific training, both to optimise their effectiveness on the body, and to understand their responsibilities as members of a board. Board membership of a company, for example, imposes certain responsibilities to that company, not least a responsibility to maintain confidentiality.
IFA Annual Accounts
(a) Clear Presentation of Financial Results
A copy of the Management Accounts should be provided to the Audit Committee quarterly, having been approved by the Executive Board.
The Executive Council should receive a presentation of the Management Accounts half yearly, with a hard copy available.
A draft complete set of the Financial Accounts with Management Accounts breakdown should be presented to the Executive Council in the Autumn as a first draft. The final draft should be presented in December of each year.
The full set of Financial Accounts, complete with notes, should be placed before the AGM for agreement
The full set of Financial Accounts should be made available on the IFA website following approval, along with infographics setting out the key headline details to help in the understanding of the statements more completely.
(b) Disclosure of Payments to “Key Management Personnel”
The Executive Council should decide to designate either (a) the General Secretary / Chief Executive Officer, or (b) the General Secretary / Chief Executive Officer and the President, as key management personnel.
This decision should be reviewed if changes take place to the Management structure of IFA.
The remuneration package of the former General Secretary from his appointment in 2009 until he departed in 2015.
Remuneration of the President and Deputy President from 2009 and 2015, and Expenses Structure for
the Elected Officers of the Association (This is a detailed report as per the Terms of Reference; some suggestions are also included)
Levels of Executive Staff Salaries in IFA
My overall conclusion is that salary levels of IFA Executive Staff are broadly in line with those of the grades in the Civil Service (Assistant Principal, Principal Officer and Assistant Secretary) with whom they interact, when all relevant factors are taken into account. However, the spread between top and bottom is wider in IFA.
Future pay determination should continue to be the responsibility of the General Secretary / Chief Executive, in consultation with the President and Deputy President. This is an essential requirement for IFA to retain and recruit staff.
Ultimately, it is market forces that determine pay levels in the IFA. IFA has to be able to recruit the best available talent from the public or private sector. Any move away from this is likely to have a negative impact on the quality of staff and the motivation of staff.
IFA as an employer needs to ensure that it complies with the employment legislation in place, including the “Organisation of Working Time Act” and the “Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act”.