Tracy Meharg was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Department for Communities (DfC) in December 2018. This new department was created following decisions by the Northern Ireland Executive to restructure and reduce the number of government departments from 12 departments to 9. The new department’s functions cover a wide range of activities and responsibilities including:
- the promotion of a healthy housing and the provision of decent, affordable, sustainable homes and housing support services
- a social welfare system including focused support to the most disadvantaged areas
- providing training and support to jobseekers and employers
- bringing divided communities together by creating urban centres which are sustainable, welcoming and accessible to live, work and relax in peace
- supporting local Government to deliver effective public services
- maximising public benefits from the culture, arts and leisure sectors
- tackling disadvantage and promoting equality of opportunity by reducing poverty, promoting and protecting the interests of children, older people, people with disabilities, and other socially excluded groups; addressing inequality and disadvantage
The department employs some 8,500 staff and has an annual budget of almost £7 billion, including expenditure of £5.9 billion on social security and pension payments.
The primary role of the Permanent Secretary is to ensure the effective management of the department’s operations and to provide strategic advice to the Minister on departmental policy making and implementation activities. The Permanent Secretary is also the Principal Accounting Officer for the Department which carries with it responsibility for ensuring the regularity and propriety of departmental expenditure, for promoting value for money and for ensuring there are robust systems of corporate governance and financial control within the Department.
Tracy took up the role of Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland in December 2018. She started her career in the private sector but quickly moved into economic development where she spent most of her career supporting business growth and attracting new investment in N.Ireland. She was key member of the top team on the creation of Invest NI where she was instrumental in embedding the promotion of innovation and skills development in economic development.
From Jan 2014 to September 2016 Tracy undertook a secondment in the Department of Social Development.