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Josephine Feehily, Chairperson of the Policing Authority, October Breakfast Briefing.


DATE: 30 October, 2019

The guest speaker at the ACESA November Breakfast Briefing at Chester Beatty was Josephine Feehily, Chairperson of the Policing Authority.  33 ACESA members were in attendance.  Josephine shared many insights from her career, including experiences from her time as Chairman of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Chair of the World Customs Organisation, and Chair of the OECD Forum for Tax Administration.

Padraig Walsh, Vice Chair of ACESA chaired the briefing. Padraig introduced Josephine and thanked her for taking the time to attend.  He said that attendees were particularly interested to hear her views on leading an agency through significant change, and on founding a new agency from scratch in a challenging external environment.

In her address, Josephine emphasised the importance of the public having confidence in state bodies. When this confidence is dented, there can be series implications for our judicial, political and democratic systems.  All state bodies will suffer a crisis, sometimes of their own making and sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control.  What is important is that they are open and transparent in how they respond, and that they learn lessons for the future.

Josephine has worked for and worked with powerful institutions – An Garda Síochána, Revenue, customs etc.  These organisations have significant power, and that is a big responsibility.  That power must be used judiciously.

Innovation and engagement are key to success. Revenue were never more innovative than during the last two recessions, and during these periods they received significantly less complaints from the public.  During recessions, the drive to digitise and move to self-assessment were undertaken. Back in the 1980’s, the establishment of a public facing building on O’Connell Street was about more than a building – it was about sending a message to the public that it was an open, transparent and accountable body and was there to help.

The determination of a small number of key people in an organisation can be enough to drive innovation. Being innovative on just one project and using that to set best practice can drive the cultural change needed.

Josephine emphasised the importance of sticking with the mission of your organisation. Live your values and review your mission and values and make sure they are pointing you in the right direction. The word ‘service’ is key.  Never forget your role is to serve the public.

Josephine put a lot of emphasis on courage.  It takes courage to lead, but courage leads to real change and innovation and it pays off.

The feedback from attendees was extremely positive.  16 attendees completed evaluations, with almost 90% rating the briefing either ‘Extremely useful’ or ‘Very useful’. 100% of attendees considered Josephine Feehily’s contribution to be excellent or very good.