Our governance

Details of the governance of the Northern Ireland Office, including its management board.

Our Governance

It’s important that the public, ministers and staff have confidence that we’re making progress against our objectives and doing the things they expect of us.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) boards and committees are responsible for making sure that we carry out our work as efficiently as possible, meeting our legal and other obligations. These governance structures are also responsible for ensuring we have identified risks that might affect our work, and have plans in place to deal with these risks. The Permanent Secretary of the NIO is also the Accounting Officer with a particular responsibility for overseeing the delivery of the NIO Outcomes Delivery Plan.

Departmental Board

The Departmental Board forms the collective strategic and operational leadership of the Department, bringing together our Ministers, senior Directors and Non-Executive Board Members. The board:

  • provides challenge and advice on strategic issues linked to the delivery of objectives.
  • sets the overall strategic direction for the department in the light of ministerial priorities, resources available and the commitments set out in the NIO Outcomes Delivery Plan.
  • oversees the management of risks within the department
  • monitors performance and delivery of the NIO Outcomes Delivery Plan

Departmental Board Meetings

The Board meets once a quarter.

Departmental Board Members

The Departmental Board is chaired by the Secretary of State, with membership comprising Junior Ministers, the Permanent Secretary, Director General, Chief Operating Officer and two Non-Executive Board Members from outside government. Board members include:

The Board Secretary, also the NIO Deputy Director for Strategy, Máire Cairns also attends each Board meeting, alongside the NIO Deputy Director for Corporate Operations . They are joined by a Boardroom Apprentice. Board meetings are also attended by a representative from the NIO Mirror Board and NIO Staff Engagement Group, which represents staff interests. The Board invites other attendees to meetings as required.

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee supports the Departmental Board and Accounting Officer through the consideration of issues that have a significant impact on the work of the NIO. The Executive Committee comprises the senior leadership team whose purpose is to:

  • discuss and agree the policy and delivery priorities for the department in line with the departmental strategy;
  • set corporate governance and assurance arrangements for the NIO;
  • consider and manage all operational and strategic risks and issues that may have a significant impact on ministerial priorities;
  • advise the board on the overall disposition and allocation of resources across the department and its wider family;
  • oversee the structure and function of the department and the bodies it sponsors

Executive Committee Meetings

The Executive Committee meets monthly in between departmental board meetings.

Executive Committee Members

Members of the Executive Committee are:

NIO Audit Risk and Assurance Committee

The Audit Risk and Assurance Committee advises the departmental board and the department’s Accounting Officer on risk management, corporate governance and assurance arrangements for NIO and its funded bodies. The committee is responsible for:

  • Reviewing the department’s accounting policies, accounts, annual governance statement and annual report as well as any issues arising from them;
  • Regularly reviewing the departmental risk register and the quality of risk management within the department;
  • the accountability arrangements established to support the accounting officer
  • audit strategies and plans, and the department’s response to any issues identified by internal or external audits
  • the department’s business code of conduct, anti-fraud policies, whistle-blowing policy and arrangements for special investigations
  • responding to findings and recommendations from external bodies (for example, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee and the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee)

Audit Risk and Assurance Committee Meetings

The committee usually meets at least 4 times a year, with meetings in late spring and early summer to consider the annual report and accounts.

Audit Risk and Assurance Committee Members

The current members are:

  • Les Philpott, (Chair), Lead Non-Executive Board Member
  • Fiona Ross, Non-Executive Board Member
  • Neil Sayers, Non-Executive Member

Julie Harrison, Permanent Secretary, and Accounting Officer, and Caroline Hacker, Chief Operating Officer also attend Audit Risk and Assurance Committee meetings. They are joined by internal and external auditors. The committee may invite other attendees as necessary for particular items.

Funded bodies

In addition to the core department and the independent challenge and assurances that the Non-Executive Board Members and the Audit Risk and Assurance Committee provide, the NIO is also supported in its work by a network of associated bodies that operate independently of Government. These all differ in terms of their size, formal status, statutory or other responsibilities and the degree of independence from Government but they play an important role.

Our Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) are:

We have one advisory NDPB:

Further information on our public bodies and details of their websites is available on gov.uk

We also sponsor a number of office holders, including:

  • The Crown Solicitor for Northern Ireland
  • The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland
  • The Civil Service Commissioners for Northern Ireland
  • The Sentence Review Commissioners
  • Veterans Commissioner (non-statutory)
  • The Independent Reviewer of Police and Military Powers under the Justice and Security Act 2007
  • The Independent Reviewer of National Security Arrangements in Northern Ireland (non-statutory)
  • The District Electoral Areas Commissioner (currently in abeyance)

In partnership with the Irish Government, we co-sponsor the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains and provide support for the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat.

In addition, our Ministers are responsible, together with the Irish Government, for appointing the Board of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).