MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 22adh Bealtaine, 1935.
Wednesday, 22nd May, 1935.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY FITZGERALD in the chair.
Seóirse Mag Craith (Ard-Sgrúdóir) and Mr. C. S. Almond (An Roinn Airgid) called and examined.
VOTE 56—INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE.
Mr. J. Leydon called and examined.
61. Chairman.—The first item is Industry and Commerce, and there is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General on page 19, under sub-head C—Incidental Expenses:—
Included in the charge to this sub-head is the sum of £111 10s. 0d. for the purchase of vehicle plates for issue under Part 2 of the Road Transport Act, 1933.
The fees payable by applicants for such plates are collected by means of stamps impressed on the application form by the Revenue Commissioners, as prescribed in the Road Transport Act, 1933 (Part 2), Regulations Order, 1933.
That is inserted for information.
Mr. McGrath.—Yes; it is also drawing attention to the fact that £111 10s. for plates is an unusual item to be charged to central expenses and it should also be noticed that the Road Transport Act was not passed until 1933 and there was no other way of getting at it.
62. There is a note on sub-head I— Chicago World Fair, 1933—as follows:—
The charge to this sub-head includes certain payments which are either unvouched or relate to items of an unusual character. I understand that application for covering sanction for their inclusion in the account has been made to the Department of Finance.
The total amount charged to Vote in connection with this service to 31st March, 1934, is £3,694 5s. 5d.—of which £221 3s. 1d. was borne on the Vote for the previous year. It is understood that the admissibility of other charges connected with the Fair is under consideration. I am in communication with the Accounting Officer on certain other matters which emerged in the course of audit.
Mr. Leydon.—We are in communication with the Department of Finance on that subject at the present time.
63. Has Finance any case to put before us?
Mr. Almond.—We have written to Industry and Commerce recently in regard to certain items and are awaiting explanation. The matter is not yet settled.
Mr. McGrath.—There are certain items not properly vouched and certain other items unusual to be charged to public departments and, as far as I am concerned, I cannot pass them until Finance has satisfied itself that such items as are under consideration are proper to be charged.
64. Chairman.—We are right in the dark as regards this matter. We do not know what sort of items they are.
Mr. McGrath.—I can give the Committee some further information. The items under discussion are payments made in the United States and the nature of the payments are as follows:—Membership of Tavern Club—40 dollars; expenses in connection with the Irish Day Celebration—200 dollars; flowers for Irish boxer in hospital—5 dollars. We do not send flowers to boxers in this country.
65. Chairman.—That is in Chicago. I know the Tavern Club in Chicago, it is a very nice club.
Mr. Leydon.—The Consul’s explanation is that the Tavern Club is visited by many Pressmen and that he joined it to get the maximum amount of publicity in connection with the Fair. The Fair was held a very long way from Headquarters and a great deal of discretion had to be given to the man on the spot. His opinion was that it was well worth while to join the Tavern Club. He made a lot of useful contacts with Pressmen there. The matter is still under discussion.
Chairman.—It is under discussion with Finance. I am not impressed myself.
66. Mr. McGrath.—There is a further item for Consul’s travelling expenses to and from the Fair—210 dollars. That is a matter that ought to be settled without further delay. There are certain items that are allowable and others that are not.
67. Mr. Leydon.—The item for travelling expenses looked at in the ordinary course appears to be high but it must be remembered that it covers the period from May to the end of December. He had to look after the office and supervise the arrangements at the Fair; while the Fair was going on he had to go there four times a week and had to get there and get back in the quickest possible manner. I do not think anyone has suggested that travelling expenses should be met out of subsistence alone.
68. Chairman.—This is travelling in Chicago?—Yes.
69. Chairman.—Your man in Paris does not go trotting around Paris and charging expenses for it. If he has to go to Marseilles of course he is allowed expenses.
Mr. Leydon.—I do not think it could be maintained that in exceptional circumstances such as these, which required four visits a week for eight months, it should be met out of subsistence.
70. Chairman.—The Tavern Club in Chicago is not a pressman’s club as far as I know. However, as the matter is still under consideration we cannot go any further into it. The next item is sub-head K—Paris Fair, 1933. The note of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is:
The total expenditure in connection with the above Fair amounted to £209 1s. 6d. of which £78 17s. 4d. is charged in the present accounts. Payment of the balance, £130 4s. 2d., was made in 1934-35 and will be shown in the account for that year.
Mr. McGrath.—That is for information only.
71. Chairman.—That fair was two years ago.
Mr. Leydon.—Yes; in May, 1933.
72. Chairman.—The next is sub-head M—Coal Freight Subsidy—and the note is:—
“This subsidy came into operation on 9th May, 1933, and as explained in the Supplementary Estimate, was payable at the rate of 2s. 6d. per ton in respect of freight on coal imported into certain Saorstát ports in small Irish-owned vessels, manned by citizens of Saorstát Eireann. The subsidy was payable in respect of a maximum import of 500 tons per calendar month per ship.
As a result of my test examinations of the payments, I am satisfied that the conditions laid down for the payment of this subsidy have been observed.”
That is only for information. The next is sub-head N—Minerals Exploration—and the note of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is:—
“With the sanction of the Department of Finance, arrangements were made by which a Company undertook the exploration, by means of trial borings, etc., of the mineral deposits in the Arigna and Slieve Anierin areas. Provision was made in the Supplementary Estimate for an expenditure of £15,000, but, as stated in the account, owing to delay in commencing operations, the expenditure to the 31st March, 1934, amounted to £304 19s. 5d. only.
73. Chairman.—That is also for information.
74. Chairman.—The next is sub-head P —Peat Fuel Development—and the note is as follows:—
“Expenditure in connection with this service was provided for by a Supplementary Estimate and was apportioned between four sub-heads for salaries, travelling, incidental and general publicity and organisation expenses.
The total amount charged to general publicity and organisation expenses (sub-head P4) to 31st March, 1934, is £7,727 9s. 9d., out of a provision of £22,000. Of the amount charged, £1,611 18s. 9d. was spent on advertising and £5,982 16s. 1d. on the purchase of sacks (representing an average price of 1s. 5¾d. each) for issue to approved distributors of peat.
With the sanction of the Department of Finance, sacks were sold outright to approved distributors at the price of 1s. 2d. each. A number of sacks were also hired to distributors at a nominal rate of a penny per sack per month. The amount received to 31st March, 1934, in respect of sale and hire of sacks amounted to £1,005 8s. 7d., and this sum has been credited to appropriations in aid.
A sum of £72 representing fees for the registration of Turf Co-operative Societies by the Registrar of Friendly Societies is also included in the charge to sub-head P4.”
This is also for information, is it not?
75. Chairman.—The next is the Official Handbook of Saorstát Eireann and the note in that case is:—
“Receipts in respect of sales of the Official Handbook of Saorstát Eireann amounted to £108 19s. 9d. in 1933-34. No royalties on foreign sales were received during the year. The excess of £1,892 15s. 1d. referred to in paragraph 42 of the 1932-33 report has therefore been reduced to £1,783 15s. 4d.”
Was it because you felt that the ordinary demand for the book had gone, or was it due to the fact that there was no space for it due to the place being crowded out that the price of the book was reduced?
Mr. Leydon.—The explanation is partly under both heads. The Talbot Press wanted to get rid of the stocks but we would not have reduced the price if we felt that there was any substantial demand for the book at the original price.
76. You can buy it at any shop in Dublin for 1s. 3d.
77. Deputy O’Reilly.—It is worth more than 1s. 3d.?—The people who would be likely to buy it do not think so. It is not possible to sell it at the original price.
78. Chairman.—With regard to sub-head O (1) of the Prices Commission, is there any information as to how the sum of £1,768 9s. 6d. for the salaries, wages and allowances is made up. Are the members of the Commission paid?—The chairman gets some remuneration. The other members are unpaid.
79. What remuneration does he get?— £500 per year. He was not paid for this particular year. At present the chairman is paid but the members are unpaid.
80. This sum of £1,768 9s. 6d. is made up of salaries, wages and allowances?— That is for the Controller and the staff of the Prices Commission.
81. They are not seconded Civil Servants?—Yes, but their salaries are paid under this sub-head.
82. Deputy McMenamin.—Are they whole-time on the job?—Yes.
83. Is the chairman whole-time?—No. He is part-time.
84. Chairman.—Is he not a civil servant?—No, except in so far as he is in receipt of remuneration for this job. The members are not civil servants. At the time to which these accounts relate, the chairman did not get any remuneration.
85. Was the Commission operating the whole year?—No. We took a Supplementary Estimate.
86. Why did the chairman’s remuneration not start from the time he started to function?—It was not the same chairman. We preferred to get the services of all the members of the Commission free if we could. The first chairman who was not paid found that he could not devote sufficient time to it. The chairman subsequently appointed found that he ought to get some remuneration as he had to provide for assistance in his own office.
87. Deputy McMenamin.—Is the money for this assistance included in the money for salary?—Yes.
88. Is the staff he employs paid out of that £500 or is it over and above that?— He is not paid over and above that. He must pay that out of the £500.
89. Deputy Smith.—The man was asked to accept the chairmanship of this Commission and he found that in doing so his own work would be neglected to that extent and he had to employ additional staff?—Yes, and he had to pay them.
90. Chairman.—Does that Commission meet often?—I am afraid I have not figures with me to give you, showing the number of meetings they held in the year. They do meet fairly often, and may sit for several days on end.
91. Did they meet once a week?—At least once a week and I think even more frequently.
92. Deputy McMenamin.—Is that over the year?—Yes, on an average over the year. Sometimes it involves sitting for three or four days on end.
93. Chairman.—Is that a permanent Commission?—Yes, but the appointments are not permanent. They are appointed from year to year. Of course the Act which established the Commission is a permanent measure.
94. That is all about that. With regard to Peat Fuel Development P1, salaries, wages and allowances. Are these salaries, all civil servants’ salaries?—For the year under review they were all civil servants.
95. As regards the Industrial Research Council, there was nothing done on that, so we need not bother about it.
Mr. Leydon.—There is an item there of £1,000 which represents the receipts for the year from the sale of sacks, purchase of which was provided for in Supplementary Estimate.
96. Chairman.—You sold them for slightly less than you paid for them? —Yes, sir.
VOTE NO. 57—RAILWAYS.
Mr. J. Leydon, further examined.
97. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has a note here under Extra Receipts. It reads:
“The estimate provided for a receipt from the Great Southern Railways Coy. in respect of interest at 6 per cent. per annum on a sum of £179,000 advanced by the Government in or about 1918 to the late Dublin and South Eastern Railway Coy. for the redemption of Lloyd’s Bonds. By the Railways Act, 1933, however, the Company was released from all liability for repayment of the capital sum and of interest due or accruing due thereon at the date of the passing of the Act (15th June, 1930), and consequently no payment was made by the Company for interest in the year under review.”
There is also a note under the heading “Compensation to certain former employees of the Cork Electric Supply Co., Ltd.” The note is: “A Supplementary Estimate was taken to provide for the payment of compensation under the Cork Tramways (Employees Compensation) Act, 1933, to the employees of the Cork Electric Supply Co., Ltd.”
It is provided in the Act that the total amount paid, together with any departmental expenses, is recoverable in equal moieties from the Cork Corporation and the Electricity Supply Board by means of terminable annuities. The amount of compensation paid was £39,469 19s. 5d., while the administrative expenses incurred and charged to other Votes were £135 10s. 3d., making a total expenditure of £39,609 9s. 3d.
That was all voted by the Dáil?
VOTE NO. 58—RAILWAY TRIBUNAL.
Mr. J. Leydon called. No question.
VOTE NO. 59—MARINE SERVICE.
Mr. J. Leydon called. No question.
VOTE NO. 60—UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE.
Mr. J. Leydon called. No question.
VOTE NO. 61—INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL PROPERTY REGISTRATION OFFICE.
Mr. J. Leydon called. No question.
Chairman.—I think that finishes, Mr. Leydon. Thank you, Mr. Leydon.
VOTE 41—LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH
Mr. E. P. McCARRON called and examined.
98. Chairman.—There is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General under the heading Motor Tax Account. It is:
A test examination has been applied to the Motor Tax Account with generally satisfactory results. The certificates and reports of the local government auditors who examine the Motor Tax transactions of the local authorities were scrutinised in so far as they were available, but in some cases the audit had not been completed on the date of my test examination.
The gross proceeds of the motor vehicle, etc., duties in 1933-34, including £5,162 5s 2d., attributable to fines amounted to £948,714 11s 9d. A statement of the gross and net receipts of the Motor Tax Account, and of the payments thereout to the Exchequer, appears on page 13 of the Finance Accounts, 1933-34.
With regard to deficiencies referred to in paragraph 16 of my last report, the Department of Finance has sanctioned the writing off of £198 12s. in one case. I understand that the remaining cases are still the subject of correspondence between the Department of Finance and the Department of Local Government and Public Health.
What were these deficiences and what did they come out of?
Mr. McGrath.—In one case in Cork there was a raid made on the office and £198 in cash taken away.
99. Were the robbers of the office in Cork caught?
Mr. McCarron.—I think not.
100. Was it an armed raid when people were there or was it a matter of breaking in at night?—It was reported on the 13th January, 1933, that between the evening of the 12th and the morning of the 13th, the motor taxation office was entered by force and the safe containing the day’s receipts removed. The office is in Fitzgerald Park, Cork, and the cash in the safe amounted to £198 12s. There were also cheques to the amount of over £1,000, but the cheques were stopped and they were all right. The Gárda Síochána took the matter in hand and the safe was discovered, broken open, some distance away. Efforts to trace the thieves were unsuccessful.
101. Finance agreed to the writing off of that. Have you any further comment?
Mr. McGrath.—No further comment. The next case was of Leitrim County Council. The sum of £86 17s. was recovered and the matter is in order.
102. Mr. McCarron.—This is a deficiency ascertained by the auditor in the audit of the accounts. The amount was £86 17s. and the two officers concerned were dismissed, prosecuted and convicted. There was no deficiency because the money was made good.
103. Deputy Dillon.—Does the motor tax account come under any sub-head of Local Government and Public Health but by way of a grant in aid?
104. Deputy Dillon.—It is a separate account to which no reference is made under the sub-head.
Mr. McGrath.—The proceeds of this motor tax account go into the Exchequer. The Road Fund is fed from the Exchequer and there is no way in which the auditor can report in connection with the motor vehicle account. The Road Fund is fed from the Exchequer by a sum which is well known. We take this opportunity to bring this matter under notice because these are important matters and we know that the Department of Local Government and Public Health have a good deal of responsibility and trouble in connection with motor taxation. The Dáil ought to know of the irregularities and what happened about them.
105. Deputy Dillon.—There is a technical term used in the Department of Finance for expenditure definitely written off. Written off expenditure is said to be nugatory and the Committee asked before why the Department of Finance was not noted in every case.
Mr. McGrath.—This is not expenditure at all. These are merely receipts that do not come into the Exchequer. The note the Deputy refers to has to do with appropriation accounts and this is not an appropriation account matter at all. It is the only opportunity possible for me to take to bring before the Dáil certain irregularities that occurred in the collection of motor taxation.
106. Deputy Dillon.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General informs the Commitee that he had had a note from the Department of Finance consenting to the writing off of this.
Mr. McGrath.—That is so.
Chairman.—There is nothing further in the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note.
107. Deputy Dillon.—Under H (1), I would like to ask Mr. McCarron with reference to a note he makes, that a sum of £230 was paid in respect of certificates of blindness, could he inform the Committee as to what the administrative attitude of the Department is in connection with certificates from ophthalmic surgeons? Does the Accounting Officer who states that £230 was spent for this purpose accept the certificates as proof of blindness or does he demand that the ophthalmic surgeon attached to the State should be the only person who is qualified to certify blindness?
108. Deputy Murphy.—Is that not raising a question of policy?
109. Deputy Murphy.—Is it fair to particularise?
Chairman.—I think it is.
Mr. McCarron.—I have no objection, as Accounting Officer, to explain. The certificates of these ophthalmic surgeons are proper subject matter for payment. They are fully qualified, as there is evidence that the inspections for which payments are made took place. As regards the administrative nature of the matter, the answer is that to enable the blind pensions’ claims to be adjudicated as expeditiously as possible we make local arrangements under which the certificates of suitably qualified ophthalmic surgeons are accepted. The ophthalmic specialist attached to the Department is then free to be used in other places where the local services of such ophthalmic surgeons are not readily available.
110. Chairman.—Your reply is that because you are an ophthalmic surgeon it does not follow that your certificate will be accepted but there is a certain number of ophthalmic surgeons operating as inspectors and their certificates are accepted.
111. Deputy McMenamin.—They are appointed?—Yes.
112. Deputy Dillon.—Then the £230 here represents payments made to ophthalmic surgeons who had been approved of by the Department before they made the examination and it is not open to an applicant to get himself examined by any surgeon to whom he likes to go?— Certainly not.
113. But it is open to him to inquire from the Department if so-and-so is a suitable person to be examined by?—The matter arises in this way: we deal with appeals and the appeals are examined in the first instance for evidence of blindness. If the evidence of blindness is adequate the pension is given and no further question arises in that respect. If the evidence of blindness is not adequate arrangements are made for inspection which can be carried out by the Department’s inspector or by the approved local ophthalmic surgeon. The applicants are told that they can attend at a certain place for inspection or that if the necessity arises the inspector will attend at their homes for the inspection.
114. Then it is not open to an applicant to write to the Department and say “there is an ophthalmic surgeon in my neighbourhood to whom I am prepared to submit”?—Cases come from outlying counties and the evidence of ophthalmic surgeons is taken and no question of inspection arises.
115. Is it a proper request for an applicant to ask if he can submit to a particular ophthalmic surgeon and to know if the certificate in that instance will be binding?—I think that would be going a little too far because no guarantee could be given that the Department could be bound before the examination.
116. That sum of £230, is that in respect of fees paid to ophthalmic surgeons by the Department?
Chairman.—That is what I understood from him.
Mr. McCarron.—That is entirely for ophthalmic surgeons in cases where claims have been appealed.
117. Deputy Dillon.—Why is it that that course is not more extensively followed when we all know that there are hundreds and even thousands of blind pension appeal cases waiting decision which the Local Government Department’s inspector has not been able to reach on?—I am not satisfied that that course has not been available as fully as circumstances permit.
118. Could they not be more expeditiously disposed of?—
Deputy Murphy.—That is overreaching the limit.
Chairman.—I think that is going into the administrative side of the matter.
119. Deputy Dillon.—Money is voted for a certain purpose and it is in the discrection of the Department to use that money to the best purpose, and I am asking the Accounting Officer does he do that?
Chairman.—That is more a matter for the Dáil. We are here to see if the money is spent for the purpose to which it was allocated.
Deputy Dillon.—I am submitting that the money is not being spent for that purpose.
Deputy Smith.—Money is provided here.
Deputy Dillon.—Which has not been expended. My suggestion is that the money has not been expended.
Chairman.—That is more a matter for the Dáil. If the Dáil has voted that a certain service be given and the Deputy thinks it has not be given properly, I think the Dáil is the proper place to raise the matter.
Deputy Dillon.—If the Dáil voted £1,000 to cover inspection and advertisement and I discover that one guinea has been paid for inspection and the remaining £999 for advertisement, am I not entitled to ask why £999 was not spent on inspection and the £1 for advertisement?
Chairman.—I think that is more a matter for the Dáil. That is a matter of policy.
120. Deputy Dillon.—If you so rule, sir, On K3 Page 101—grants for the supply of native fuel to necessitous households will the Accounting Officer explain what was the nature of the difficulty experienced in getting supplies. On page 103 there is a note to the effect that this grant was availed of only to a limited extent owing to the difficulties experienced by the local authorities concerned in obtaining supplies of turf.*
Mr. McCarron.—I had a rather full note on that matter, and I am sorry that I did not bring it with me.
121. Deputy Dillon.—I will be quite content if Mr. McCarron will send his note at a later date by way of memorandum.
Mr. McCarron.—This service occurred during the financial year and there was the usual difficulty in starting it. We were in direct touch all the time with the Director of Turf Supplies. It was really a difficulty as to how to distribute the grant as evenly as possible throughout the relieving authorities in the country. The deficiency arose through lack of transport and lack of proximity to bogs, but I would prefer to give you the detailed note on the matter.
122. Deputy Dillon.—It would be more convenient for us to see the memorandum. On L and M2 the Accounting Officer has made a note that there was a delay in the initiation and development of certain schemes. Could he tell us what these schemes were?
Mr. McCarron.—The question mainly arose on M2—Grants under the School Meals (Gaeltacht) Act, 1930, and also under the medical treatment of school children. It was not the policy of the Department to carry on medical treatment of school children in places where county medical officers of health had not been appointed. In the year under review medical inspection of school children was carried on in 18 counties and four of the county boroughs. There is always a little difficulty in the starting of these schemes. It depends on how far one can foresee that further appointments will be made in the year under review but the sum of £1,852 was a rather close estimate.
123. Chairman.—It is a new service? —It is an expanding service. Where the scheme was in operation in the counties and county boroughs about 80 per cent. of the school-going population are actually inspected and treated.
124. Deputy Dillon.—And any failure to initiate a scheme under the Act was due to the failure of the local authority to appoint a medical officer of health.— Yes, or to failure of the Minister to insist on local authorities appointing medical officers of health.
125. I understand that there are medical officers of health in every county at the moment?—There will be county medical officers of health very soon in all counties. It was not always clear to the Department that suitable people were available for the work, which accounts, to some extent, for the delay.
126. Perhaps the Accounting Officer would explain in what particulars the scheme fell short in M2?—That was in the case of grants under the School Meals (Gaeltacht) Act, 1930. Under that Act an aggregate sum of £10,000 was provided altogether. The money available was divided amongst the Gaeltacht counties in proportion to the fraction that attendance in each county would bear to the total number of children attending. It was found that owing to development being higher in some counties than in others and less in some counties than in others certain counties were suffering through the overriding maximum. That state of affairs has since been removed by a Bill passed in 1933.
127. The situation now is that the Minister has discretion under the new Act to allocate money saved from one county where the moneys are not availed to other counties that are prepared to co-operate more fully?—Yes.
128.—Would it be relevant to inquire what counties are delinquent in the matter and what counties are co-operating fully?
129. Chairman.—You should put the question in the past tense.
130. Deputy Dillon.—What counties failed and what counties succeeded in getting funds switched?
131. Chairman.—Perhaps the Accounting Officer would tell us first what is the position in Donegal?
Mr. McCarron.—I have supplied in the annual report, on Page 7, the full particulars of the distribution of the grant. It is in the Department’s report for 1932-33.
132. Deputy Dillon.—That will be supplied to Deputies?—It is available.
Chairman.—The next is the Welfare of the Blind scheme. There is nothing for remark under that.
133. Deputy Dillon.—There is a note here with regard to R to the effect that the scheme for the training of native Irish speakers in hospital nursing has become operative only to a limited extent owing to the standard of requirements of the hospitals. What were the circumstances that made it impossible to operate this?
Chairman.—The unsuitability of the applicants—Mr. McCarron.—One requires a suitable standard of written and oral Irish together with general education.
134. So in your experience the most of them have been found to be unsuitable for training in the hospitals?—
135. Deputy O Briain.—They must have a high standard of English as well?—I think the standard of English is involved in the matter of general education.
136. Deputy Dillon.—Is it the Department’s experience that out of the entire Fior Ghaeltacht they could not get sufficient candidates to justify the expenditure of £600?—That is so.
137. Has the scheme been widely advertised?—I think it has been very widely advertised and should be well-known locally and fully understood by everyone interested in the development of the Gaeltacht.
138. Deputy O Briain.—Is there any feeling in the Gaeltacht that the hospitals are in the position that they do not want these people from the Gaeltacht?
Chairman.—There can be no objection to them if they have the basic education.
Deputy O Briain.—That means English.
Chairman.—It means general education. A person who does not know English in this country generally has a low standard of education. It is unfortunate, but it is a fact.
Deputy O Briain.—I do not agree with you.
Chairman.—I know it is heresy to say it, but it is the general experience.
139. Deputy O’Reilly.—A girl going into an hospital to be trained has to pass an examination. Is it the same questions these girls have to answer?.
Mr. McCarron.—We feel that we cannot do any more. We have interviewed the managements of all the hospitals several times and the matter was very fully discussed. I do not think that it would be fair to say that there is any obstructive or hostile attitude on the part of the hospitals.
140. Deputy Keyes.—How many nurses do the figure of £51 15s. represent?—I think there is only one that really got through at all.
141. The question is if the amount offered is sufficient to attract the native speakers suitable for the training?— That might be only the expenditure for the particular year. The scale is satisfactory and applicable to the applicants. It is a scheme I think, to which no objection could be raised.
142. Deputy Kissane. — Have the people who train the nurses a knowledge of Irish themselves?
Chairman.—That is a matter for the hospitals. Mr. McCarron cannot go around laying down terms to autonomous bodies like the hospitals. They are not in our control.
Deputy Dillon.—It has just occurred to me to ask whether any representations have been made to St. Bricin’s hospital to provide training for these nurses.
Chairman.—The nurses there are in the employment of the Army. I doubt if they have any vacancies for nurses and they probably do not take in probationers. This is a scheme in which the State is trying to assist Gaeltacht girls to become nurses if they are suitable. If an hospital says a girl is unsuitable the Department have no way of counteracting their decision.
143. Deputy Dillon.—I am not questioning the Chairman. I am here for the purpose of cross-examining the Accounting Officer on why a scheme for the training of Irish-speaking nurses has not progressed, and why the appropriation of Dail Eireann of £600 for that purpose has not been expended?
Mr. McCarron.—I think that St. Bricin’s is not recognised for the purpose of training nurses. We could not have overlooked any hospital in which they could be trained.
144. Deputy Dillon.—I merely want to confirm my impression that every endeavour was made to operate the scheme. Are we to take it that the scheme is a failure and that there is no possibility of making it a success?—That is not a matter for me to say.
145. Do you report to the Committee that you found it impossible to get any of the hospitals to accept the candidates?
Chairman.—That is going a bit wide of the mark. That is not necessarily the only cause of failure. The Department make known that they have money to assist them to become nurses if they want to, and perhaps an applicant goes to a certain hospital and if that hospital says she is no good and is not suitable that ends the matter. The Department can only make a thing possible. You cannot take them by the ear and drag them up to be nurses, and you cannot make the hospital keep them if they are not suitable.
146. Deputy Murphy.—The position is that in the event of suitable candidates being available the scheme would be an unqualified success?
147. Deputy Dillon.—That may be your opinion. With all respects, I do not care a hoot what the Committee thinks. What I want to find out is Mr. McCarron’s view. I am informed that large numbers did come forward, that they were sent to hospitals and that they were rejected. I want to know is Mr. McCarron satisfied that, having tried every hospital, that he cannot get any hospital to take them, or that there has not come forward a sufficient number of girls. Will he say that if suitable girls come forward he will be able to get them admitted for the purpose for which Dáil Eireann will pay?
Chairman.—The last question is whether the money is still available for suitable girls accepted by the hospitals?
Mr. McCarron.—That is so and the money is still provided in our current estimate.
148. Deputy Dillon.—Has there been any scarcity of applicants for this grant? —There has been no scarcity of applicants.
149. There has been a scarcity of applicants whom you could place in hospitals? —Yes.
150. Has it been your experience that they were placed and dismissed or that the hospitals would not take them on?— The big difficulty was that they were rejected at the beginning. I cannot tell you if many of them were taken on and then rejected.
151. As the scheme at present stands it is not working?—Yes, that is fair.
152.—As regards T, the Accounting Officer here reports that the grants could not be distributed because materials of Irish manufacture had to be used and supplies were not available. Does that difficulty still obtain?—It is almost entirely removed now. There is no longer that difficulty.
153. Has the Accounting Officer’s attention been drawn to the fact that there were a number of manufacturers of roofing tiles who found great difficulty in getting rid of their tiles? Is it the custom of the Department to help them?
Deputy Keyes.—Is not that a matter for the manufacturers themselves.
154. Chairman.—I think so. If there are Irish manufacturers who cannot dispose of their tiles I think they should let the Department know that. Are houses being held up for lack of Irish made tiles at the moment?—I do not think so. We have in connection with the development of the Housing Acts gone very fully into this whole matter of the development of Irish manufactures and if I might do a little advertising I can give you a copy of our list.
155. Deputy Dillon.—Is it the custom to refer persons who require them and cannot get supplies to merchants who had them for sale?—It is not our practice to indicate any particular merchant with a view to the transaction taking place directly. We have not gone further than placing on our list, without responsibility, information we have got that the material is available and of Irish manufacture.
156. Chairman. — Without responsibility?—Yes.
157. Deputy Dillon.—Do you require yourselves to complete the list?—The list has been compiled to the best of our ability.
VOTE 42—GENERAL REGISTER OFFICE.
Mr. E. P. McCarron called and examined.
VOTE 44.—NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE
Mr. E. P. McCarron called. No questions.
158. Deputy Dillon. — Would the Accounting Officer tell us what the grants in aid represent. Are they regulated by the new National Health Insurance Act?— I would prefer Mr. Duffy to reply to that question.
Mr. J. A. Duffy.—F1 is a grant that is really an adjustment grant or an equivalent grant to the State grant made for medical benefit in England.
159. Actually the National Health Insurance Fund does not pay all the benefits under the Act of 1933?—This particular State grant, owing to the difference between the two countries, was necessary for our benefits.
160. Are the conditions still different? —They still have medical benefits in England which we do not give. Before they got the Widows’ and Orphans’ Pensions in England the contribution for National Health was 10d for the man in England and 8d in Ireland. That 10d in England provided medical benefit as well as the benefit provided in Ireland. On the difference of 2d. the State gave two-ninths State grant which fell into the Benefit Fund which left 4-9 more for benefits, so that if this special grant were not given here the Fund here would be at a disadvantage to the extent of 4-9 of a penny.
161. This grant is needed to make up that 4-9 of a penny?—Yes.
162. Does the same apply to F2?—No
Chairman.—There is no further question, and that finishes Mr. McCarron. Thank you, Mr. McCarron.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 32.—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.
Chairman.—There is no note by the C and A.G. on the Department. So then we turn to page 83. There is nothing to call for comment there either.
VOTE 33—GARDA SIOCHANA
Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.
163. Chairman.—There is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor General here. It is under Sub-head H—Transport and Carriage—and says:—
“On the 27th March, 1934, 19 cars were transferred from the Army to the Garda Siochana. The examination of the log books of these cars disclosed a number of discrepancies which are at present the subject of correspondence.
Mr. McGrath.—It will be noticed that the cars were not transferred until the 27th March, 1934. It happened on the transfer that the Department of Justice kept the log books in more detail than the Army had kept them and on examining the log books we found it very difficult to check the mileage owing in some cases to insufficient details.
164. Chairman.—Is this as far as the Army control was concerned or the Civic Guard?—The Civic Guard. We did not get the log books until almost the beginning of 1935 and we had several months to examine. We found it rather hard to reconcile the distances covered in Dublin and suburbs, say, 130 miles a day. Of course that is quite possible.
165. What purpose do these cars serve?
Mr. Roche.—They are at the disposal of the Minister for any purpose.
166. There is no sub-head in your note for the car for the purpose of the minister?—No, in this particular year as far as I can see the cars were transferred towards the end of the financial year. I do not know if any question arises in respect of the year.
167. It does. They were transferred on the 27th March. This is really a transfer of cars that were used by the Army in relation to the Ministers. The purpose of those cars was the protection of the Ministers and, consequently, under the Army there was no need for a separate sub-head as it was Army work of a definitely protective nature. You say now that the cars are used for any purpose for which the Ministers require them. Therefore the Department has no proper authority in this matter according to law.
Mr. Almond.—The position has been regularised in the current year’s estimate.
168. Chairman.—You should have put in a Supplementary Estimate in relation to the three days of that year. Can you give me the reference to the current year’s estimate?
Mr. Almond.—Sub-head H, item 7, page 115.
169. That is only for replacements. It does not cover the services of those cars, petrol, and the men employed, and so on?
Mr. McGrath.—Provision for the cars would be made in the course of the estimate. I was informed of this on the 4th of March.
170. Chairman.—You will introduce a Supplementary Estimate for that?
Mr. Roche.—As I see it, this question did not come to my notice until recently. Up to then I never asked myself what purpose the cars were fulfilling, whether they were for protection or for a general amenity, and it was only recently I got an assurance that they were a general amenity and not protection. I do not think that a couple of months have elapsed since I found it out.
171. Are you introducing a Supplementary Estimate?—I had not considered that.
172. You know that money may not be expended except when voted by the Dail, and no Vote has been made for this service. There is merely a Vote for replacement of certain cars for the protection and conveyance of Ministers, etc. There is no Vote for the upkeep of the cars, petrol and the men employed if the cars are used for the general purposes of the Ministers. So far you have been acting against the constitutional powers of the Dáil here.
173. Deputy McMenamin.—Surely the use of the cars is not general but restricted?—The cars are, in fact, used as if they were the Ministers’ personal property.
174. Chairman.—That is an illegal expenditure of money until the Dáil specifically sanctions it.
Mr. Almond.—As the Comptroller and Auditor-General has referred to a letter from the Department of Finance, might I make the position of the Department clear? When conveying sanction for providing for the replacement of cars we informed the Department of Justice that the Executive Council had decided that they were to be used for the protection and conveyance of Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Ceann Comhairle and Attorney-General. We understood that the Minister for Justice would bring the matter to the notice of the Dáil when the current Estimate was being presented, and in our letter to the Department of Justice we said that the Executive Council had decided that the Minister for Justice should make it clear to the Dáil that the cars are at the disposal of the Ministers for themselves and their families. That was on the 11th March last.
175. To my mind the Department of Justice has connived at a malfeasance of public funds and the position must be remedied by the introduction of a Supplementary Estimate and the provision of a sub-head.
Mr. Roche.—It is very difficult to discriminate between protection and general amenity. This is a very recent matter and I have not had time to consider what I ought to do about it.
176. Chairman.—I found that when the Army cars were being used nominally for protection they were used for the conveyance of families, but we could not advert to that and we could not ask the Accounting Officer to explain it, but now it is stated that these cars are a Ministerial amenity. The Dáil has made no provision for any such amenity and consequently no Department has a right to spend money on that. A Department sometimes anticipates Votes by the Dáil but now the Accounting officer states right out that it is an amenity.
177. Deputy McMenamin.—How many cars were bought under this scheme?— 17 cars. They are for each Minister and Parliamentary Secretary and the Ceann Comhairle. My point is that this decision only came to us in March last and at that time the Estimate for the current year was finished with.
178. Chairman.—We are dealing with a period from the 27th March, 1934. As far as your Department is concerned, in the accounts we have had under review, you allowed public funds to be expended without an inquiry. For the whole of the financial year you allowed them to be used in a way not sanctioned by the Dáil, and it is only when the year is coming to an end that the question arises?—The duty of manning the cars was transferred from the military to the police and things went on as they had been going. There was no obvious change to stimulate an Accounting Officer to do something.
179. Was it no change that a new responsibility was put on the police to do something that they had not to do before? —When I became Accounting Officer, the question did not turn up and it was only recently I became aware that the situation was not satisfactory. I will take up the point as to whether there ought to be a separate sub-head and, if there should be, there will be.
180. You say this service was transferred. You did not, accordingly, inquire what the service was or what sub-head it came under? You did not know whether it was for a guard or as a Ministrial amenity. It was an extraordinary thing for the Department to take over a new service without knowing what the service was?—We were told that in future this service would be performed by police and we performed it, and it did not occur to anybody that there ought to be a separate sub-head for it.
181. Deputy Murphy.—Has there been any change in the issue of those cars? Have they always been used for the same purpose?—I believe that the answer is “yes”, but I cannot say as far as my personal knowledge goes.
Chairman.—It has been going on since 1927, when Ministers began to be protected, and a rigid order was enforced by me that the cars were to be used solely for the purpose of protecting Ministers. Under no circumstances, when not for that purpose, could cars be used. If the Minister was in the car and his wife travelled with him, it was all right, but if the Minister got out of the car, his wife got out, too. From 1932 the cars were used irregularly, but the Accounting Officer of the Army could not be held responsible as he was not aware of it.
182. Deputy Murphy.—Do you agree that these cars have been used irregularly by the Ministers since 1932?
Chairman.—He is not responsible. He does not know that.
Mr. Roche.—When the question first occurred to me, I found it difficult to distinguish between protection duty and use as an amenity.
183. Deputy Murphy.—Could you say if they have been used irregularly?—I do not know what you mean by “irregularly.”
184. Have they been used for the private purposes of the Minister’s family, as distinct from the protection of the Minister? —I think they have.
185. Prior to 1932, has that occurred?— I could not say. It was the Army that was doing the work then.
186. You have no reason to believe that there has been a change in the usage of the cars since 1932?—No, I have not, beyond the statement made by the Chairman.
Chairman.—I was responsible for this service before 1932, and I know the rigid steps I took to ensure that the cars were not used otherwise than for protection.
Deputy Smith.—When is a car used irregularly?
Chairman.—The purpose of the car is for protection. When the Minister is in the car, it is fulfilling its function of protection, but if the Minister sends his family to Greystones, while he is in Dublin, then the car is not protecting the Minister and it is an improper use of the car.
Deputy Smith.—The difficulty is to distinguish when the car is used for protection and when it is used as an amenity.
Deputy Dillon.—I submit that we are not discussing the report of the Committee. We are examining the Accounting Officer.
187. Deputy O Briain.—Are there any other circumstances in which official cars are used except for the protection of the Ministers since 1932?
Mr. Roche.—Cars have been used to protect people who are not Ministers.
Deputy O Briain.—Does the same arise in both cases?
Chairman.—With regard to ex-Ministers, the rule is that as long as the ex-Minister is in the car it is fulfilling its function of protection. If he is not in the car, it does not fulfil the function.
Deputy Murphy.—You speak now as an individual and not in your capacity as Chairman of the Committee.
188. Chairman.—I can also speak prior to that as the individual Minister responsible for the service. If I had reason to believe that a car was being used other than for purposes of protection, I took steps with regard to it.
Mr. Roche.—I have discussed the matter fairly fully, and the case was made to me that if a Minister was in need of police protection, his family is, ipso facto. in need of police protection; that if the Minister has to be protected, it is not safe to allow his wife and children to go about unprotected.
Chairman.—That is an arguable case.
Mr. Roche.—That makes it very difficult to distinguish between protection and amenity.
189. Chairman.—If the car is an amenity, it is a different matter and a Supplementary Estimate should have been introduced. If the car is for the protection of the Minister alone, it is only performing its function when the Minister is in it. If the car is for the Minister and his family, the Dáil should be informed. I think it is quite clear.
Mr. Roche.—I do not agree that it is clear. It is very hard to distinguish between protection and amenity in the case of a Minister and his family. I do not think you can say off-hand that if a car is to protect a Minister and that if it drives his wife to Greystones it is an amenity.
Deputy Dillon.—In the eyes of the law, a Deputy and his wife is the one person.
Deputy Smith.—It seems to me that no matter what you do it would be impossible to distinguish. A car might be travelling with a Minister and in the car there might be a member of the Minister’s family. It might be travelling a certain distance to pick up a Minister and in it might be a member of the Minister’s family. I maintain that the point put forward by the Accounting Officer is quite right. If you tie yourself down to regarding the car as on official duty only when the Minister is an occupant, you are giving someone a difficult task to decide whether it is doing official work or not.
190. Chairman.—It is doing official work when the Minister is in it. As far as this report is concerned, this matter was under the consideration of the Department of Justice for three days, and I want to know whether the cars are fulfilling the purpose of protection or amenity. They say it has been recently announced that the cars are for amenity and not protection.
Mr. Almond.—I should not use the word “amenity.” Here is the wording in the official minute of the Department of Finance:—“The Executive Council also decided that the Minister for Justice should make it clear to the Dáil that the cars are at the disposal of the Ministers, etc., for themselves and their families.” The word “amenity” covers more than that.
191. Chairman.—If the car is made available for the Minister and his family, then it does not come under the function of protection and it is not a satisfactory police function in the matter of duty and use of material.
Mr. Almond.—I think that must be read in conjunction with the fact that the Executive Council decided that the matter should appear in the current year’s estimate. It was thought to be a suitable opportunity to bring out the full use to which the cars were being put—that is, of conveyance in addition to protection.
192. Chairman.—Yes, but you have no Vote for that service. You may only buy cars once in ten years. I am raising the point because it is a fundamental matter that the money of the Dáil is being spent without the sanction of the Dáil. When the situation arises whereby Ministers need protection, it is the Government’s duty to take appropriate steps to provide that protection, and if it is mainly a matter of the conveyance of Ministers and their families, then it requires a sub-head. To spend money which was not voted by the Dáil is clearly wrong.
Deputy O’Reilly.—What period are we dealing with, three days?
Chairman.—It does not matter, but the principle of the thing is a very vital principle. If the Department of Justice say it is necessary that Ministers’ wives and children be protected, then we can say nothing about it, but the Departments of Justice and Finance say that here is a new service and that has not been sanctioned by the Dáil. I suggest that it is necessary to bring in a Supplementary Estimate to regularise that position.
Deputy Smith.—Does the Chairman suggest that they are only to be used when the police advise it?
Chairman.—If the police advise that the cars are necessary it has nothing to do with us, but if the Ministry decides that these cars should be an amenity, then the Dáil must sanction it.
193. Deputy Dillon.—If you were to protect a Minister in his property and person, would you not consider yourself entitled to sanction expenditure for the conveyance of himself and his family on the grounds that you would not consider the protection adequate if you did not do so?
Mr. Roche.—The best way I can put it is: the moment you start protecting a Minister and his family, occasions must arise where you are in genuine doubt as to whether it is a protection or an amenity. I do not think you can distinguish between the two.
194. Deputy Dillon.—You are satisfied in the case where a Minister uses a car for the conveyance of a friend without himself being in it?—That would be definitely work apart from protection.
195. And if he himself, his wife, or any member of his family were in the car, would it be doubtful?—Yes.
Chairman.—As long as they are the people to be protected, that is all right. Your own statement and that of the Department of Finance satisfied me that the car is regarded as an amenity and not solely as protection and, as such, no money should be spent unless voted for that purpose by the Dáil.
Deputy Murphy.—Is it not quite possible that while the members of a Minister’s family would be in the car the valuable property of the Minister would be in the car. How can you distinguish?
Chairman.—If the car is for the purpose of protecting the property, I do not mind. I do not see any objection to the Minister having an amenity but it should be voted by the Dáil.
Deputy Smith.—You have the two courses of procedure, one when the duty is carried out by the Army and the other by the Gárda. Suppose it was a case of the Army and you were the Minister and you wanted to send your car for some person, a member of your family or otherwise, and you went to your driver and asked him to do a certain journey, do you mean to tell me and the Committee that that driver would refuse or question you as to whether that was the work he was supposed to do?
Chairman.—I am not going to discuss that. Suppose a car was allocated for the protection of me as Minister and I went to the driver and said “take Mr. Roche to such a street.” The driver might do it but the Comptroller and Auditor-General when he comes to examine the accounts can demand that it be surcharged. The driver says to himself that he is not going to come up against his Minister, but he knows he is breaking the law.
Deputy Smith.—It is much better that it should be clearly stated that the cars can be used by Ministers at their discretion, because if you have not that clearly stated it seems that it can be done and will be done in any case.
Chairman.—I agree. My argument is that the position should be regularised. The only thing is that the law provides that when an amenity is given the money must be voted for that purpose. So far, it has not been done.
Deputy Dillon.—I am satisfied that protection includes wife and children. Have you any reason to say you think the cars have been used in other ways, Mr. Roche?
Chairman.—I do not think that is fair.
195. Deputy Dillon.—Have you any reason to believe the cars have been used for any purpose other than conveying the Minister, his wife, or members of his family?
Mr. Roche.—I have no reason to believe that.
Chairman.—You should have asked him whether he could say if the Department of Justice had official cognisance of such use. If a car is used for the protection of a Minister, it should be used only for that, and if it is to be used for the protection of the Minister and his family that should be noted. We understand now that these cars are an amenity, that they are otherwise than for the purpose of protection, and, therefore, the Dáil should vote the money for it.
196. Deputy Dillon.—The cars were provided for the protection of the Minister, his life and property.
Mr. Roche.—I do not know whether the distinction between the Minister and his property was ever considered by me. These cars were doing a certain class of work in a certain way. They were transferred from the Army to the police, and things went on in the same way, and I did not see, until the problem dawned on me, that there was any distinction between protection and amenity.
197. Deputy Smith.—Are they still Army drivers?—No; they are police drivers.
Chairman.—Ministers used to have men to protect their houses, but they were afterwards removed because the protection was to the property of the Minister and not his person. As long as the thing is regularised, I have no objection.
Deputy Dillon.—Except that the Accounting Officer will consider whether, it being clearly an amenity, it is a matter for the Minister’s Vote rather than that of the Department of Justice.
198. Chairman.—The alteration of services between Departments can be decided from time to time.
Mr. Roche.—I should like to say that I do not agree with the use of the word “amenity” in that sense. When the question first cropped up we said, in effect, “the moment we think it is not sheer protection are we to stop it?” and the answer we got, in effect, was “you need not inquire into that matter too closely.”
199. Chairman.—On the next sub-head, O (Appropriations in Aid), the note is:
I observed that certain charges made for services of a non-public nature rendered by the Gárda Síochána have not yet been received and brought to account.
Mr. McGrath.—This is in connection with certain services rendered by the police to sporting associations. There are three items. The first was a debt of £96 due by the National Cycling and Athletic Association. After some adjustment, it was settled up for the sum of £60 17s. 6d. I understand that is the most the Department could get out of it.
Mr. Roche.—Occasions did arise when the people to be charged could say they did not understand what the charge would be.
200. Mr. McGrath.—The second case was that of a football club and services to the extent of £12 were rendered. The club had collapsed and the money could not be collected. The third case was for services to the value of £8 rendered to a Cork football club and the money has since been collected. A regulation has been made by the Commissioner under which such transactions as these will not occur again. They make inquiries and the club is informed that they will have to pay so much.
Chairman.—The next is the Weights and Measures Acts, 1878 to 1928, and the note is:
I understand that the Accounting Officer is in communication with the Department of Finance on the subject of the disposal of the fees received for the verification of certain measures of capacity referred to in paragraph 9 of the report of the Public Accounts Committee, dated 13th December, 1934. A sum of £2,336 19s. 8d. was received as special fees for verification of Weights and Measures under Section 8 (3) of the Weights and Measures Act, 1928. Of this amount, £172 is payable to the Reward Fund, leaving a balance of £2,164 19s. 8d., which is included in the figure of £7,120 14s. 4d. shown in the Appropriation Account as Exchequer Extra Receipts realised. Reward Fund Fees for verification of Weights and Measures, due to be credited to the Gárda Sìochána Reward Fund, and amounting, so far as at present ascertained, to £22 10s., were embezzled by a member of the Gárda Síochána while acting as ex-officio Inspector of Weights and Measures. The offender was prosecuted on charges of embezzlement and on conviction a suspensory sentence of three months’ imprisonment was imposed.
201. Chairman.—I suppose he has been dismissed from the Force?
Mr. Roche.—He was.
The Committee adjourned at 1.15 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Thursday, 23rd May, 1935.