Ladies and gentlemen, it is very heartening to see so many of you investing the time and effort to attend this important seminar.
I would like to welcome Board Members from State companies under his aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, who have joined us today.
Your role on the various Boards is to ensure that the executives who are responsible for running these organisations conform with the laws that relate to State Bodies, particularly their internal governing legislation.
The high degree of professionalism needed to give strategic direction to State Bodies, operating in a complex and frequently changing sector, can only be achieved if all of us involved aspire to the highest possible standards and best practices.
As members and chairpersons of State boards, you have unselfishly given of your time to this public service and served your companies and indeed your country well.
You have continued to give leadership and strategic direction, set out the necessary control mechanisms to safeguard the public resources and keep the shareholder full informed. As a result you have achieved the highest standards of corporate governance.
It must never be forgotten that the products and services provided by all the State bodies including the thirty organisations reporting to my Department, are vital for the day-to-day running for the country.
I recall one person saying that, while she was aware of the task in hand when she was appointed to a board, the responsibilities attached to serving on the board only sunk in when she was signing the various declarations and forms.
As she put it: ‘at that stage, the appointment moved from an interesting challenge to a role within the national arena’.
Over the past ten years, this Government, as the main shareholder, has initiated massive change in these State bodies.
This has resulted in your companies being more customer focussed, increasing their services and, in some cases, redefining their core tasks.
Change is never easy. It can be very traumatic. However, as this country has grown in terms of wealth, population and infrastructure, the State Sector has also grown to meet these challenges.
Technology has obviously helped us to operate more effectively. But is has also forced many of the State bodies to change they way they operate as well as the types of products and services they offer.
Tough decisions have had to be made and implementing these decisions have not been easy for the various managements.
But your stewardship, strategic support and advice have been essential.
Back in 2000 this Government addressed the needs of State bodies and Local Authorities to have the security of ring-fencing funds for major infrastructure and services projects.
Bringing together Exchequer and EU funding we worked at local and regional level to create a National Development Plan. This allowed your organisations to plan ahead for a 7-year period.
Ireland now benefits from improved infrastructure including transport, roads, energy, telecommunications and communications.
This Government is now committed to implementing the new NDP 2007-2013, launched on Tuesday by Brian Cowen, the Minister for Finance.
My colleagues and I, around the Cabinet table, are committed to ensuring that the resources and supports are in place to allow State bodies to deliver quality products and services.
In return we need you to work with the management of these organisations to bring about the change necessary for them to be productive, cost effective and relevant.
It is vital that management has access to as wide a range of experience from its board to assist identifying the obstacles to progress and providing practical advice and assistance to efficiently overcome these obstacles.
We need you to provide the highest standards of corporate governance.
An effective system of corporate governance provides the transparency that secures the freedom for State Bodies to pursue their missions.
I welcome Professor Niamh Brennan and her colleagues at the Institute of Directors and the UCD Centre for Corporate Governance. I am confident that, with their help, we will promote our shared aim of excellence in corporate governance.
Finally, I thank all of you – Chairpersons and board members - for your commitment to these important State bodies that are so important to development of this great country.