Department for the Economy Board minutes 2022 - 31 March 2022

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 31 March 2022.


  • Mike Brennan (Chair)
  • David Malcolm
  • Shane Murphy
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • (name redacted)
  • Paul Grocott
  • Alan Russell
  • Michelle Bell
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Graeme Wilkinson (deputising for Heather Cousins)
  • Colm McKenna (Non-Executive Board Member)
  • Fiona Keenan (Non-Executive Board Member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (Non-Executive Board Member)

In attendance:

  • (name redacted) (Permanent Secretary’s Office)
  • (name redacted) (Secretariat)
  • (name redacted) (Boardroom Apprentice)
  • (name redacted) (For ODT only)
  • (name redacted) (For ODT only)
  • (name redacted) (Observer and for Finance Presentation)
  • (name redacted) (Observer)

Apologies: Heather Cousins


Agenda Item Actions arising from discussion Aciont owner and current position (to be completed prior to the next Board Meeting)

Agenda Item 1:Declaration of Interests

Shane Murphy declared that his brother in law runs a software company that is opening a Belfast Office. He has updated his conflicts of interest declaration.


Agenda Item 2:Construction Industry Training Board NI (CITB NI)

Maurice Johnston, Chair and Barry Neilson, CEO, presented. They focused on key areas:

  • CITB NI history, composition and purpose
  • Levy strategy 2010 – present
  • supporting training within the industry
  • future focus of the industry
  • how future strategies are formed

It was proposed that some DfE Board members attend either a CITB NI Board or senior management meeting to go into some of the issues raised in greater detail.

Agenda Item 3:Budget Update

Sharon Hetherington presented.

  • A budget submission was circulated to Board members at the start of the week.
  • In the absence of a planning envelope from DoF we need to get some budgetary controls in place.
  • The submission suggests a small contingency of circa £6m but this doesn’t take into account a number of different funding issues.
Agenda Item 4:Review of Finance and Finance Business Partnering

Sharon Hetherington presented. (name redacted) answered questions.


  • A paper was circulated to members regarding the review. It is about how we work together as partners, how Finance add value to business areas, support business throughout the organisation and how they provide good workable solutions to businesses and managing finances better.
  • The review is not about centralisation. Accountants need to be close to the business to understand it.
  • DfE has 70 accountants, plus 20 not in accountancy posts, we are the most decentralised Department with the most accountants.
  • Revising the structure would be more efficient. Both options do this, very simplified below to differentiate.
  • Option 1 – all accountants would be part of Finance Division.
  • Option 2 – Finance business partner would remain reporting to the business group Grade 3.

The Board decided that option 2 should be pursued. Step 2 is about embedding corporate governance directly into the finance area.

Agenda Item 5:Minutes 24/2/22 Board Meeting Agreed without amendment.  

Agenda Item 6:
Strategic Issues

There was discussion on a number of areas:

  • Return to the office pilots have been delayed pending possible DoF guidance
  • Cost of living crisis – energy. Richard Rodgers has produced a paper and presented to NICS Board and to Ministers
Agenda Item 7: Questions on Papers to Note

HR Update

  • The SO competition was announced earlier than anticipated. Posting may be from September. The SO accountant competition has also launched. The graduate management programme should launch Aug/Sept.
  • The majority of agency workers are AOs. The numbers are expected to reduce in time.
  • The DfE key staffing information document produced for Board is helpful.

Chemicals – DfE Roles and Responsibilities

  • The Board members were provided with a high level overview of the role and remit of the Chemicals Team within the Department.
  • Divergence in this area was discussed.

ARAC Minutes

  • The 2 meetings in February were mainly to do with getting the accounts signed off. The process surrounding next year’s accounts is beginning.
Agenda Item 6:
Organisational Delivery & Transformation Programme
Board members convened a Programme Board meeting for the rest of the available time.  

Agenda Item 7:

June Board is planned to take place at Armagh FE Campus. An agenda will be drafted for the strategic planning pm part, to be provided for next Board meeting.  

Date of Next Meeting – Thursday 28 April 2022 at 10.30 am

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