2. Leadership and Business Planning
2.1 The COPFS Strategic Plan 2012-15 states that the aim of COPFS is to:
- 'Meet the Law Officers' strategic priority of achieving operational effectiveness in all cases'
2.2 To achieve this objective, staff must have the appropriate tools and having access to up to date, accurate and relevant information knowledge is essential. In COPFS, this is provided through internally published policies, processes, manuals, circulars, case law, etc which is found on the COPFS intranet (PF Eye). The Knowledge Bank is part of PF Eye and is the repository of much of this information.
2.3 The COPFS Risk Register 2013-14 highlights the following risk as one that may impact on public confidence:
- 'Lack of compliance with best practice - our processes are not followed correctly'
2.4 A necessary step to ensuring compliance is to have accurate information on practices and processes that is easily accessible in a user friendly format. The Knowledge Bank is pivotal in the provision of information and it is therefore important to consider what controls are in place to reduce the likelihood of a lack of compliance. The risk register refers to two controls to mitigate this risk, firstly that all staff have access to PF Eye and secondly that they have access to technical guidance such as the case processing manual. It follows that the Knowledge Bank, as the repository of such information, is integral to mitigating this risk.
2.5 Risks are reviewed by the Management Board and the risk of failing to comply with guidance was discussed as recently as April 20134.
2.6 Further to this, and following a communications survey in 2012, a project to 'Improve Legal Guidance Communications' was set up. Its objective was to improve the way that legal and precognition guidance is communicated and to ensure that such information is clear, concise, relevant and targeted. Following the recommendations of the project, a revised approach to issuing information has been implemented with key messages now highlighted in instructions and links provided to background information. All such guidance and instructions is uploaded onto the Knowledge Bank.
2.7 The Legal Editor advised that the purpose of the Knowledge Bank is to:
- 'provide an information tool that should equip staff with all their information needs'
He added that the aspiration for the future is to:
- 'channel people to the right door for information through a 'one stop shop' set-up5'
2.8 These aims are not formally documented. We were shown documents which provided updates by the Legal Editor to his line managers on the activities of the Knowledge Bank and proposed future plans. These also described details of ongoing work, resources and collaboration with other units in COPFS. We were advised that in the main updates are provided on a more informal basis through regular discussions with the line manager.
2.9 Knowledge Bank staff are also consulted as part of the business planning process undertaken by the Corporate Services Group, headed by the Deputy Chief Executive.
2.10 While inclusion in the business planning process and regular discussion between senior management and the Knowledge Bank team demonstrates a recognition of the Knowledge Bank as an important tool to provide information knowledge to staff, formally recording the strategic aims and objectives of the Knowledge Bank and incorporating actions to achieve these aims and objectives within the performance agreements of those responsible for delivering these aims would provide greater clarity on the purpose and direction of the Knowledge Bank and on how this is to be achieved and maintained.
To develop and support a shared vision of the role of the Knowledge Bank, it is recommended that a clear direction and strategic focus for the Knowledge Bank is set and communicated. Further, actions and objectives on how to achieve the overarching aims are identified and recorded within the performance agreements of those responsible for delivering these aims, including the Legal Editor, with measurable outcomes that can be assessed.