Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1938 - 1939::02 March, 1939::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 2adh Márta, 1939.

Thursday, 2nd March, 1939.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:






D. O Briain.







R. Walsh.

Seóirse Mag Craith (Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste), Mr. A. D. Codling, Mr. C. S. Almond, Mr. T. S. C. Dagg and Mr. D. P. Shanagher (Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.


Deputy O’Loghlen.—I have pleasure in proposing that Deputy Dillon be again elected as Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. From the short experience I have had of him, I can speak of him in the highest terms and I have pleasure in proposing his election to the Chair.

Deputy Keyes.—I second the motion.

Deputy Dillon took the Chair.

Chairman.—I thank the Committee for the honour they have done me in appointing me to this position. For the information of Deputies who have not previously been members of this Committee, I propose to say a few words as to our procedure. Our procedure is somewhat analogous to that of Dáil Eireann and there is a danger of being deceived by that analogy. The Accounting Officers of the various Departments come before us, and we are entitled to ask them any question designed to elicit information as to whether the money which was appropriated for the Supply Services set out in the Appropriation Accounts has been spent in accordance with the law, but we may not ask questions which we should put to the Minister in the House as to whether or not this money was prudently appropriated. The sole concern of the Accounting Officers is to inform us as to whether or not the money was, in fact, expended in accordance with the law and not as to whether they think it ought to have been so expended. We are sometimes tempted to press Accounting Officers to go further than our terms of reference would permit. Deputies will understand that I shall have to rule them out if they yield to that temptation. So much having been said, I want every Deputy to understand clearly that a liberal view is taken of any information that a Deputy requires and he should not hesitate to ask for it. If it goes further than the rules of procedure permit, he will be reminded, but he will have a very wide discretion in his questions. In some cases points arise of a character which the Accounting Officer did not anticipate when he was bringing his papers here. In that event, if it is a point of substance, any member of the Committee is free to suggest that the Accounting Officer should give us a memorandum upon it. My view is that if any Deputy asks for such a memorandum, the Committee should invite the Accounting Officer to comply with the request when, of course, the memorandum will be forthcoming. At the same time, it has to be remembered that Accounting Officers should not be asked for memoranda unless the matter is of some consequence, because the preparation of these memoranda involves time and trouble. The Accounting Officers are, however, very willing to prepare them when the necessity arises. I should, however, ask Deputies to consider carefully before they ask for the preparation of a special memorandum relating to any particular subject.

Deputy O’Loghlen.—The day which has been selected for the holding of meetings of the Committee is rather inconvenient for several members of the Fianna Fáil Party, because it is the day on which the Party meets. I wonder if any arrangement could be come to which would permit us to give adequate time to the business of this Committee. It is a Committee which requires a considerable degree of attention upon the part of those chosen to act upon it and it is impossible for us to play the part of “Boyle Roche’s bird.”

Chairman.—That question has arisen frequently and we are in this dilemma: if we fix the meetings of the Committee for the morning of the first day in the week on which the Dáil sits it necessitates country Deputies coming to town a day earlier. In the ordinary way, they would only come to town on Wednesday morning when the Dáil sits in the afternoon. On any week on which the Dáil sits on Tuesday, the Committee usually meets on Wednesday morning. So far, members of the Deputy’s Party found it more convenient to attend on Thursday morning when the Dáil sat on Wednesday, but the convenience of all Deputies must be met and if, after consultation with his colleagues, the Deputy would wish to propose a change, I can assure him that the Committee will do its utmost to meet his desires.

Deputy O’Loghlen.—Thank you very much.


Mr. S. A. Roche called.

No question.


Mr. Roche called and examined.

Note by Comptroller and Auditor-General—Subhead D.—Locomotion Expenses:

“Payment at the full rate of 6d. per mile was made to an officer in respect of official journeys made in his own car. As this officer had been provided with official garage accommodation, I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance be obtained for payment of mileage allowance at the full rate.”

1. Chairman.—Perhaps the Comptroller and Auditor-General will say if he has any further observations to make.

Mr. McGrath.—Deputies will see that I refer to the official journeys made in an officer’s own car, and to the fact that this officer had been provided with official garage accommodation. In making up the allowance per mile on the car used by the official, the Department of Finance take into account the supplying of a garage. This officer has an official garage at his disposal, and it is my duty to draw attention to the fact that he has been allowed the full rate of 6d. per mile although he is not paying the cost of a garage.

2. Deputy O’Rourke.—Is that a departure from the usual procedure?

Mr. McGrath.—It is.

3. Chairman.—Can you give us any information about that, Mr. Roche?

Mr. Roche.—We have gone to the Department of Finance on that subject, as requested by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but we have not had a reply yet. In those circumstances, while awaiting a reply from the Department of Finance, I do not know whether you would like me to tell you anything further about it?

4. Chairman.—Yes; we should like to hear the facts.

Mr. Roche.—It is a rather unusual position. The officer in question is a surgeon. He resides in an official residence at headquarters. Attached to that official residence there is a garage. If this surgeon did not occupy an official residence he would be entitled to draw a rent allowance of £100. His case is that if he drew his rent allowance and lived out—getting with his £100 a house with a garage attached to it—no question would arise about his getting 6d. a mile for his motor car. That is his case. He says: “I am entitled to a rent allowance of £100, which would provide me with a house and a garage. If those were the circumstances no question would arise about my 6d. per mile, but just because, instead of drawing my allowance, I have an official residence with a garage, this question is raised.” Frankly we do not quite know what side we should take. We are prepared to do whatever the Department of Finance wants us to do.

5. Chairman.—Has Mr. Almond any information to give us on this matter?

Mr. Almond.—I do not think the argument of the surgeon, that if he were not in occupation of official quarters he would be entitled to a rent allowance of £100, quite covers the use of an official garage. The surgeon would only be entitled to a money allowance if quarters were not available, but as quarters are available he cannot very well use that argument. We take the view that the deduction for a garage should have been made, and it would be a question of consultation with the Department of Finance as to the date from which that deduction should take effect. We do not want to be too hard on the surgeon, who himself acted in good faith in the matter, and I think we shall come to some arrangement that the deduction will commence, as the Department has itself suggested, from 1st April, 1938. I think that would be a fair arrangement, and it would serve as a precedent for future cases.

6. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. McGrath, that we may leave the matter between the two Departments, when probably a decision will be arrived at?

Mr. McGrath.—I am quite satisfied if the Department of Finance makes a decision on the matter.

7. Chairman.—We now come to the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note on Sub-head H.—Transport and Carriage:

“I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be obtained for expenditure incurred in connection with official transport which was allocated for the use of certain Headquarters officers.

During the year claims amounting to £50 5s. 8d. in respect of damage to Gárda Síochána vehicles were abandoned on a mutual forbearance basis.”

Has the sanction of the Department of Finance been forthcoming?

Mr. Roche.—They have not had time, Mr. Chairman. We asked it, I think, only on 14th February. We have not had a reply, but I consider there has been no delay about it on the Department of Finance side.

8. Chairman.—Have you had time to look into this matter, Mr. Almond?

Mr. Almond.—It is bound up with other cases. There is a general question which we have been considering for some time, of the use of official transport by officers of the Gárda headquarters. There are others apart from the two officers concerned, and as there is a large number of intricate questions involved, we would like to have a little further time to try to find a solution for the whole problem.

9. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. McGrath, that as the Department are making out a rule to cover all those cases, such course is agreeable to you?

Mr. McGrath.—I am quite satisfied that the Department of Finance were informed of the facts of this particular case to which I have drawn attention.

10. Chairman.—On Subhead I.—Fuel, Light and Water, there is the following note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“The charge to this subhead includes payments amounting to £82 10/- in respect of the heating and lighting of a station. The sanction of the Department of Finance had been obtained on the basis that only so much of the cost incidental to the central heating plant as related to public quarters should fall on public funds. As it appeared that the total cost was charged against the Vote, I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be obtained.”

Has that sanction been forthcoming?

Mr. Roche.—We are in the same position there as we were about previous cases. We wrote to the Department of Finance in January asking for that sanction and we have not had an answer yet.

11. Chairman.—Have you any information to give us, Mr. Almond?

Mr. Almond.—I do not think, Sir, the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note quite conveys the true sense of the position. The heating and lighting arrangements at this station first came to our notice in 1933, when it was complained that the normal allowances for Gárda stations had proved quite inadequate in the case of this particular station. We consulted the Office of Public Works, who sent down inspectors and furnished us with a report as to what they considered a fair allowance for the heating and lighting of the public rooms. You must understand, Sir, that in a Gárda station there are public rooms and private rooms. For the heating and lighting of the public rooms the State bears the cost. For the private rooms, which include the dormitories, the recreation room, the kitchen and so forth, the Gárdaí themselves have to bear the cost of heating and lighting. The Board of Works worked out the total cost of heating. The position was complicated because there was a central heating system which covered both public and private rooms. They worked out the total cost of that, and decided what proportion should be borne by the State. That proportion came to £25 out of a total cost of £41 5/- for central heating. They then added the other items appropriate to the public rooms, and arrived at a total figure of £82 10/- —an estimate, of course—as the amount which could properly be borne by the State, any balance, of course, being met from the private funds of the Gárdaí. We agreed, for an experimental period of a year, to pay £82 10/-. At the end of the year the Department came back and proved to us that the Gárdaí had had to spend more than £82 10/-, so that they had to meet that deficiency, although it was in respect of the public rooms, from their own pockets. We had reports every year since 1933, and I think, with the exception of two years, when the £82 10/-slightly exceeded the expenditure, the Gárdaí had to make up the difference themselves. The only suggestion I can take from the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note is that the Department of Justice has been under a misapprehension in regard to the fuel used for the central heating system. It seems possible that in arriving at their total expenditure they have taken all the fuel used for the central heating system, with the result that the estimate made by the Office of Public Works, which has formed the basis for the allowance, has proved to be an over-estimate, and that they are able to run the central heating system on the amount which was allocated as the State portion of the cost. I presume that is what the Comptroller and Auditor-General is driving at, but it will take us some time to find out the true facts of the case. I think we shall have to go back to the Office of Public Works and have another inspection.

12. Chairman.—Have you anything to add, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—I think Mr. Almond has hit the nail on the head. Our opinion is that when the original estimate was made the figures with the Department of Finance showed that the total cost would be about £130, and they allocated the State portion of that as being £82 10/-. In our experience we found that £82 10/- almost covered, in each year that has since passed, the total cost, and we thought we would draw attention to this. I shall not trouble the Committee with the details, but it seems that the question of the wages of the man attending the furnace is mixed up in some way. The total cost, as forecast in the original proposition put up to Finance, seemed to be in the neighbourhood of £65 yearly and, as far as we can see in the records of the current expenditure, the amount of £29 yearly is all that is being paid. It is my business, as Comptroller and Auditor-General, to draw attention to the apparent misunderstanding. If the Gárdaí are able to run the heating and lighting at a less figure than that put up to the Department of Finance four years ago, I think that the Department of Finance ought to be informed, and it is then for the Department to decide whether, on the knowledge obtained from experience, they should continue that allowance or not. If the Department says that £82 10/- is still the amount to be allowed from public funds, I would be inclined to agree but, in the circumstances, I do not think they would agree.

13. Chairman.—Would it not appear to be the simplest way to deal with a situation of this kind to say that if the Government elect to put central heating into Gárdaí barracks they ought to pay for maintaining it, and if the pipes pass through private rooms, let them? The primary object of the central heating was to heat the public rooms, and it would be wasting time to try to find the proportion of fuel that went towards heating the barrack rooms and the sergeant’s bedroom.

Mr. Roche.—I agree with what you say. I do not think they suffer in any way.

14. Chairman.—I am sure Mr. Almond will take a note of the matter. We believe that this was the sensible thing to do. If the Government see fit to put in a central heating plant, and if the Gárdaí pick up any gratuitous heat from that plant, well and good. I take it that the central heating was put in because it was considered by the Department to be an appropriate building for it. It seems to me to be great waste of time deciding how much fuel went into the boiler to heat the public rooms and to heat the private rooms. I think the Committee will have to take it that the furnace is kept for the barrack rooms, and that if the Gárdaí get heating for nothing, more power to them.

Mr. Almond.—Unfortunately this is only one of a large number of similar stations, and if we multiply the case involved by the concession by the number of stations, the bill will be very considerable.

Mr. Roche.—I do not think there are similar circumstances in a great number of stations. I think there is special pleading, and that this is an unique case,

15. Deputy O’Rourke.—How many men were involved?

Mr. Roche.—The difficulty arose here because this station is, in fact, attached to a Bridewell and is one of the few places where we keep prisoners. That is why central heating was installed. This is more than a Gárda station. I do not think there will be any difficulty with the Department. If the Gárdaí have to pay a few shillings for central heating they will not mind.

Chairman.—I think we may safely leave the matter to the two Departments.

16. I observe in the Vote itself, under A —Salaries, Wages and Pay—that the sum expended was substantially less than that granted. According to the note:—

“The strength of the force was throughout the year below that provided for and only one recruit was attested.”

Is it the intention of the Department to bring the force up to what is provided for it in the Vote?

Mr. Roche.—That year is passed, and the nett result was that we recruited one man. We made provision to recruit 150 men, if necessary. As to what will happen in the future I do not know. I do not know when recruiting will be reopened.

17. Chairman.—Under L—Telegrams and Telephones—I compliment you on tse accuracy of your estimate.

Mr. Roche.—I think the Post Office deserves to be congratulated.


Mr. Roche further examined.

18. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note on this Vote:

“I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be obtained for the payment of cash allowances, in lieu of quarters, for periods during which it appeared that accommodation in public quarters was available.”

Mr. McGrath.—I found in March, 1938, that certain quarters were unoccupied while, at the same time, six officers were being paid allowances for quarters outside. I thought it right to make enquiries into the matter, and I sent my observations to the Accounting Officer, who has sent me a reply. I am not quite satisfied as to whether the Department of Finance is aware of the circumstances or not. To get over the difficulty I asked the Accounting Officer to send forward to the Department of Finance an account of the facts, explaining that while six cottages were idle, six individual officers were being allowed a weekly rent allowance. The Accounting Officer made certain remarks in his reply and they read all right, but my point is that the Department of Finance should know all about this matter.

Mr. Roche.—I think we have got the sanction of the Department of Finance in that case. Prima facie I am absolved, as the Department of Finance has agreed to what was done. It does seem peculiar that cottages should be vacant and that at the same time we should be paying allowances. I shall read portions of a letter sent to Finance which gives an account of what happened, and shows the facts:

“I am directed by the Minister for Justice to inform you that following a query as to payments of lodging allowance to certain officers at Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, in the month of March, 1938, when some cottages at the prison were vacant, the Comptroller and Auditor-General has requested that your covering sanction be obtained for such payments.

The officers in question … were given a lodging allowance in each case of 10/6 per week….

It was explained to the Comptroller and Auditor-General that these officers, except one, were residing in houses which are their own property. When they went into occupation of these houses there were other married officers waiting for prison cottages, all of which continued to be occupied. When cottages later became vacant, by reason of retirements or transfers, it was thought better to let the vacant cottages to suitable tenants rather than to compel the officers who had bought houses to vacate them under penalty of forfeiting their lodging allowance. Your sanction was then sought for the letting of four cottages to Gárdaí and three of them were, in fact, occupied in April, 1938. At the time these prison officers went into occupation of their own houses a saving was made inasmuch as the maximum lodging allowance paid in such cases is 10/6 per week, whereas the officers who succeeded them as occupants of the cottages were in receipt of lodging allowance up to a maximum of 13/- per week …”

19. Chairman.—Sanction has been obtained from the Department of Finance and, I think the Committee will agree, properly obtained. Does that satisfy you, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

Chairman.—The note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General continues:—

“The statement of the manufacturing and farm account appended to the appropriation account has been examined, and local test examinations of the conversion books and other records dealing with manufacturing operations have been carried out with satisfactory results.”

20. Deputy O Briain.—On the Vote itself—in regard to Gratuities to Prisoners —what are the gratuities to prisoners, Mr. Roche? Are they for good behaviour? —Not so much for good behaviour. They are very small. I have a typed note on the subject, and the gratuities are so small that I do not think I need trouble the Committee with the note. I think 10/-or so would be the usual amount given to a prisoner going out.


Mr. Roche further examined.

21. Chairman.—On this Vote there is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General as follows:—

Extra receipts payable to Exchequer.

“Prior to the coming into operation, on the 1st October, 1937, of the District Court (Fees) Order, 1937, Statutory Rules and Orders, 1937, No. 177, certain fees in the metropolitan district courts were taken in cash. Under that Order all fees chargeable in the District Courts are now taken by stamps and the cash receipts for the year amounted to only £530 13s. 6d. as compared with an estimated amount of £1,200.”

Mr. McGrath.—If Deputies look at the Vote itself, under the heading of “Extra Receipts payable to Exchequer,” they will see that the estimated fees to be received in the metropolitan district courts were £1,200. The actual amount realised was £530 13s. 6d. It is really to supply information as to the difference between the actual realisation and the estimation that I put in that note. It is merely for information.

22. Chairman.—Perhaps Mr. Roche could give us some explanation why the estimate bore no relation to the actual receipts?

Mr. Roche.—We actually received what we estimated for. What happened was that, in the middle of the year, when half of our fees had come in, we changed the old practice of taking them in cash and went on to a stamp basis. We got £1,200, roughly, but in cash we got £530 13s. 6d. and the rest came in stamps. There was no real deficiency of any kind, merely a change in system from cash to stamp receipts.

23. Chairman.—And where do the stamp receipts appear, Mr. Roche?— They are in the Finance Account under the heading of District Court Fees.

24. And would be submitted to us in connection with the Revenue Account? —Yes. We got no credit for them, so to speak.

25. Deputy McMenamin.—With regard to the item “District Court Fines,” under the same heading, there are sometimes occasions when persons are ordered to put a certain amount into the poor box. I was often curious to know was that a fine which should come to the State?—It is an entirely extra-legal proceeding, for which I have no responsibility and which I do not approve.

26. Is it not in the legal proceedings? —Far be it from me to accuse a district justice of illegal proceedings, but I know of no authority for it.

Deputy McMenamin.—I am curious to know why it does not come——

Chairman.—We must not press Mr. Roche too far in these matters, Deputy. If he has no responsibility for these things then he cannot answer to us for them.

27. (To the Witness).—How is it, Mr. Roche, that your estimate for “District Court Fines” corresponds exactly to the penny piece with what was actually received?—That cannot be right, Mr. Chairman. I have just noticed it myself for the first time. It is obviously an artificial figure. I will have to give you a note* on that, Sir. I do not believe it can be accurate.

Chairman.—It may be an extraordinary coincidence. Perhaps you would look into it and let me know at your convenience.

28. Deputy O Briain.—Under the heading “Extra Remuneration,” it is stated that six district court clerks received sums varying from £31 14s. 0d. to £81, in respect of military service pensions. Does that mean that their salaries are reduced by that amount?—I do not know. It has been the practice to make that note always.

29. Chairman.—The practice is—the Comptroller and Auditor-General will correct me if I am wrong—where an officer’s salary is charged on a Vote and he is, in addition, receiving moneys by way of salary, allowance or pension, under any other Vote, a note is made on the face of the Vote on which his salary is charged directing the attention of the Committee of Public Accounts to that fact.

Mr. Roche.—I would like to say, but I am not quite clear on the matter, that no reduction is ever made from salaries. Speaking from memory, I think there is a sliding scale under which a certain proportion of the Army pension is to count as one’s salary, but I am not sure of the details.

Deputy O Briain.—That is so.

30. Chairman.—The purpose of this note is covered by the general rule which I have just stated.

Mr. McGrath.—That note was put in merely for information.


Mr. Roche further examined.

31. Chairman.—In regard to this Vote there is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“I am in communication with the Accounting Officer regarding the collection of amounts outstanding in respect of percentages on the estates of lunatics.”

Mr. McGrath.—In the examination of the accounts of the Supreme Court, my officer found that certain balances were outstanding and it was not clear to him whether any action had been taken in connection with the outstanding accounts. We have since received a memorandum from the Accounting Officer, accounting for the full sum outstanding, cash receipts since and amount written off under the authority of the President of the High Court and we are quite satisfied that matters are in order.

32. Chairman.—Then there is no necessity to go further into that. In regard to D in this Vote itself I think I am right in saying, Mr. Roche, that D is an old subhead that has remained there in respect of one individual from time immemorial?—That is so, Sir, a very old officer.

33. Deputy Keyes.—In regard to G.— Expenses of High Court on Circuit— there is a note to the effect that “the provision was necessarily conjectural and to meet expenses of two circuits.” Only one circuit was held. The estimated expenditure was £2,500 and the actual expenditure was £668. There is a very considerable saving there?—Yes; we estimated that the judges would go out twice in that year, as they usually will do. In fact, they did not go out until March, and we estimated about £1,250 for the cost of that circuit, but it was less than that, for two reasons. First, there were very few appeals and comparatively few judges went out—five only—and, secondly. we had no time to hire lodgings for them on a rather elaborate scale and we had to put them up in hotels mostly and the cost was, therefore, less than it will be in future.


Mr. Roche further examined.

Chairman.—On this Vote there is no note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

34. Are any delays arising as a result of the unfilled vacancies in connection with F, Mr. Roche?—There were complaints in the course of the year of delays, but I think we have got them in hand now. It was never very serious. There were vacancies for draftsmen, who make maps, and it is extraordinarily difficult to fill them. It is very hard to get suitable draftsmen and we were rather unfortunate in that two or three of our men went at the same time for different reasons, and months elapsed before we were able to replace them.

35. They have now been replaced?— Yes.


Mr. Roche further examined.

36. Chairman.—There is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General as follows:—

“As stated in a note to the account, a sum of £1,000 approximately was misappropriated by an officer of the under-sheriff’s branch of a Circuit Court Office who absconded. I understand that the moneys in question related mainly to sums collected on behalf of the Irish Land Commission.”

That, I take it, is an informative paragraph?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes. Since writing that paragraph I have been informed by the Accounting Officer that the amount misappropriated amounts to £1,111 6s. 6d., comprising £1,109 0s. 6d. in respect of moneys due to the Land Commission and £2 6s. in respect of fees payable pursuant to the Under-Sheriffs’ Office Order, 1926 to 1937.

37. Chairman.—Has the official responsible for the misappropriation been prosecuted?

Mr. Roche.—He escaped, Sir. We are looking for him.

38. Chairman.—And he will be prosecuted in the event of his being found?— Yes, certainly. There is a warrant out for him.

39. In the Vote itself—“E—Appropriations-in-Aid”—you appear to have realised £20,000 odd under the execution of court orders and Land Commission warrants. Are these the costs levied on those warrants against debtors?—Yes, the fees levied on debtors. On every warrant that is lodged by the Land Commission the Land Commission pays a deposit fee of 2/6 or 3/- and that is recovered from the debtor and goes to us. That fee is common to all cases. In cases where the warrant is actually executed by the State there are heavier fees.

Deputy Keyes.—With regard to the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note as to a temporary clerk who absconded, I expect it has been properly authenticated that the full figure was attributable to his absconding?

Chairman.—I do not think we should press Mr. Roche too far when the matter is sub judice and may be the subject of court proceedings hereafter. Mr. Roche is satisfied that there is no other defalcation going on?—Yes. We may be doing the man an injustice, as he is not here to defend himself, but there is nobody else. It is a one-man business.


Mr. J. B. Whelehan called and examined.

41. Chairman.—On the Vote itself— What does F. 5—Printing, etc. (Nos. 12 of 1923, 7 of 1924 and 23 of 1927)— actually refer to?—That is the register of electors under the Representation of the People Act.

42. Deputy O Briain.—With regard to F. 6—Production of a volume illustrating Early Christian Art in Ireland—you do not appear to have speat any money under the subhead? No.

43. I think the subhead has appeared for several years?—Yes.

44. And there does not seem to be any very substantial expenditure under it?— That is so, but the circumstances are entirely outside the control of the Stationery Office. However, a considerable advance has been made now, and the matter for printing has actually come to hand and is being set up at the moment.

45. Who is the author of this volume?— The illustrations were completed by the Ordnance Survey and the editor is Dr. Maher of the National Museum.

46. Deputy O Briain.—With regard to F 7—Publication of Irish Translation of the New Testament—do you expect publication soon?—I should not like to give any guarantee so far as publication is concerned.

47. Chairman.—Who is doing the translation?—It is a question of editing and of treating with the notes which is creating the difficulties, I understand. You will appreciate, of course, that a translation in this case has to conform to certain requirements in order to secure the imprimatur, and I was not prepared to authorise any expenditure until I had the initials of the censor to each page submitted to me. The procedure is quite slow. The translator was the late Canon O’Leary.

48. With regard to F 8—Preparation and Publication of Oireachtas Handbook— when do you expect the handbook to be available?—Very shortly.


Mr. J. Hurson called and examined.

49. Chairman.—There is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General in connection with this Vote:—

Subhead F 3—Expenses of Tribunal of Inquiry into certain matters connected with an out break of fire at 164 Pearse Street, Dublin.

“This subhead was opened with the authority of the Department of Finance to provide for the payment of gratuities for services rendered in connection with the above Tribunal. A Supplementary Estimate was subsequently taken in February, 1938, for expenditure under other subheads of the vote but provision was not made in it for these gratuities.”

Mr. McGrath.—In reading the authority of the Department of Finance, it struck me that the authority was really a conditional authority, contingent on certain things happening. The Supplementary Estimate was, as a matter of fact, afterwards put before the Dáil, but the matter set out in this paragraph was overlooked at the time. I wrote to the Accounting Officer and he admits that it was an oversight. I am very sorry to have to bring a matter like this before the Dáil but, unfortunately, I have no option but to mention it. It is a very slight matter, but it is my duty to draw attention to it.

50. Chairman.—I am sure Mr. Hurson will agree with us that the Comptroller and Auditor-General is bound to direct the attention of the Dáil to a matter of this kind, but I am sure the Committee will take the view that Mr. Hurson is a very busy man, as are his officers, and that slight oversights of this kind can occur. Is it proposed to remedy the omission?—No. While I admit that there was an omission, at the same time, it is unusual to include in a Supplementary Estimate a small amount of this kind, and I think that the direction of the Department of Finance was given under some misapprehension.

Mr. Codling.—That is a fact. I think I must put on a certain amount of “white sheet” on behalf of the Department of Finance. The matter of the authorising of the additional expenses of this tribunal was dealt with in our establishment division. When the first item, amounting to £2. came along—I think it was a gratuity to a porter—the establishment division asked the finance division (which deals with the matter of accounting) how this £2, which had not been provided for in the original Estimate for Local Government and Public Health, should be dealt with. The finance division advised that it would be sufficient to open a subhead in the Appropriation Account, but if, on going into the expenses of the tribunal further a much larger sum were to be found payable, the total amount should be included in any Supplementary Estimate which came along. As I say, the original amount was £2, but if you turn to the Appropriation Account you will find that the total is £32. When the extra £30 came along the establishment division, without consulting the finance division further, interpreted it as a much greater sum, whereas the finance division would not have taken that view at all. The establishment division then gave the direction to which you have alluded, that the full amount should be included in any Supplementary Estimate which came along later, but our considered view is that a sum of £32 on a Vote of £1,250,000 is quite trivial and is also quite trivial in relation to the corresponding subhead in the previous Votes. For instance, I looked up the Appropriation Accounts and I find that in 1935-36 the amount spent on the tribunal was £773 10s. 10d., and in 1936-37, £479 0s. 10d.; and so the amount of £32 remaining was quite trivial. The finance division and I think I can say the Department of Finance are quite of the opinion that there is no necessity to include a small, trivial and non-contentious sum such as this in a Supplementary Estimate which comes along later in the year. I hope I have made that clear.

51. Chairman.—It is quite clear. The view of the Department of Finance is that if such a tag-end of expenditure is carried into a new financial year, a new subhead can be opened which has never been submitted to Dáil Eireann in the principal Estimates at all?—Yes, when it is non-contentious. The principle of this tribunal and the expenditure of considerable amounts—£773 in one year and £479 in the next—had been approved and this is a mere tiny mopping-up transaction.

52. I think you have made it perfectly clear that so far as the Department of Local Government were concerned, they were acting in strict accord with the established decision of the responsible Department, which was the Department of Finance, but it does remain to be cleared up whether the Comptroller and Auditor-General accepts the view as correct that if there is even so small a tag-end of expenditure, the Department of Finance should itself determine whether the character of that expenditure is such that no reference at all need be made to Dáil Eireann in its regard. I, at first glance, rather demurred from that view. I shall be discharged from desiring to say anything discourteous, but I do not think it is within the province of the Department of Finance to determine what is contentious in Dáil Eireann and what is not?—Perhaps I should say “likely to be contentious.” That would be a better phrase.

53. I think that opens an extremely dangerous principle because, after all, no Department can determine at what stage matters are likely to be contentious or not, and it has to be borne in mind that the procedure of the Oireachtas allows Deputies to raise certain matters, provided they are referred to in the Estimates. If they are not so referred to, reference to them is not in order and may not be pursued?—Might I say that the two items are a gratuity of £2 to a porter and £30 to, I think, a secretary. Items like that are constantly occurring with commissions and tribunals and it would be practically inconceivable that they would be contentious. Further, if I may bring another Public Accounts Committee into the question, I might say that the British Public Accounts Committee in recent years has had this matter completely threshed out before it on at least two occasions. The conclusion they came to was that if a matter is trivial or likely to be non-contentious, there is no necessity to include it in a Supplementary Estimate and, further, that even in the case of an absolutely new service—which this is not—the relative item need not be included in any Supplementary Estimate which has to be taken unless the amount is substantial or of importance. That was in the Second 1934 Report of the British Public Accounts Committee. I can amplify that if necessary.

54. Well, Mr. Codling, two matters arise. One is a matter which is the special concern of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, which is this item. If the Department’s general view were to accept it, does that view still obtain if, in fact, a Supplementary Estimate did come forward? Should there not be a mention of this expenditure in the Supplementary Estimate, even if we admit that the Department might be excused from introducing such for this item alone? Should mention not be made of this on the occasion of that Supplementary Estimate?

55. The second point is this: Is it desirable, from the point of view of Dáil Eireann to permit any Department of State to determine itself what subjects are properly to be included in an Estimate? Because, in addition to the actual control of the money itself, the mention of a matter in an Estimate does afford members of Parliament certain opportunities, under the rules of procedure of Dáil Eireann, which would be denied them if the matter concerned is not referred to on the face of the Estimate. Now, from the point of view of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, would the Department of Finance take the view that, even though a Supplementary Estimate were necessary for other purposes, in a matter of this kind, they might properly refrain from mentioning it?— Decidedly, yes, if as I have already said, the expenditure in question is relatively trivial and is likely to be non-contentious. That is the view that was held on the other side also when, as I say, they threshed that matter out in recent years. I can give the exact terms used on that occasion. It was a case somewhat similar to the case with which we are dealing now, although a much greater amount than £32 was involved. The British Public Accounts Committee held that, “when a Supplementary Estimate is required, provision should be made under every subhead for which there is an anticipated deficit, whether covered or not by savings on other subheads”—and this is where I consider I am covered— “unless the amount is trivial and the subject appears to be non-contentious.” In that connection, might I remind this Committee of the agreement between the Committee and the Department of Finance as to virement—that is to say, the diversion or turning over of savings from one subhead to another, in a case where more money is required than was originally estimated for—that a Supplementary Estimate would be required if the proposed service were novel or remote from anything that was originally on the face of the Estimate, or if the amount involved was considerable. I hold that this particular case comes under neither of these heads. Now, as regards the second point—that is, control by the Dáil.…

56. Perhaps you would pause a moment there, Mr. Codling. I understand you to say that the particular case here would come under neither of these heads. As a matter of fact, however, this was not mentioned on the face of the original Estimate?—That is so, but it was not novel. It was not new. The tribunal had figured in two previous Votes, and figured to a much greater extent. Therefore, it was not new or novel.

57. That is true, but was there not a Vote of even £10, in fact?—That is so. I am not challenging that for a moment. However, before I go on to the second point, perhaps I should say that, on this question of including small sums in any Supplementary Estimate that may come along, these sums, however small, should be included in a Supplementary Estimate if that Supplementary Estimate is making provision for an entirely new service that was not on the original Estimate. Then, in such a case, I would not exercise virement, without the knowledge of the Dáil, with regard to any expenditure whatever. We have framed our Estimates on that basis in the past. If a new service comes along—an absolutely new service— the whole of the provision for that new service, however many subheads it may be spread over, and however trivial some of the items may appear to be, must appear on the face of the Supplementary Estimate. I think one might even go a bit further than that. Let us say there is an existing service—I am not referring now to an absolutely new service, but to an existing service that, let us say, is being extended—in such a case, all the expenditure required for that extension, however trivial the sums concerned with the items might be, should appear on the face of the Supplementary Estimate. Where, however, it is a question of a service that has been approved by the Dáil in previous years, and where there just happens to be a small remanet that crops up, in the course of a third or fourth financial year, then I think that, in the everyday exercise of their control of expenditure on behalf of the Dáil, it is not unreasonable that the Department of Finance should have authority, as it has had hitherto, to say that it will be sufficient, so far as this small sum is concerned, to raise a subhead in the Appropriation Account. So much with regard to the first point. Now, as regards the second point, which is the control of the Dáil, and the argument that, if an item does not appear on the face of a Supplementary Estimate, the Dáil cannot challenge the provision for that Estimate—that was the very point that was considered by the British Public Accounts Committee in their Second Report in 1934, to which I have referred. In that case a new service had been started—Ministry of Labour G (4), Emergency Arrangements for Determination of Transitional Payments— and the amount involved was £22,862. The Treasury sanctioned the opening of a new subhead, and that amount of £22,000 odd was charged to the subhead in the Appropriation Account without the item ever having been brought before the notice of the British Parliament. The British Public Accounts Committee then went into the matter, and they quoted from the Fourth Report of the Public Accounts Committee of 1894, as follows:—

“As regards new subheads not contemplated in the original Estimates, your Committee observe that if the particular service be clearly a part of the service for which the Vote was taken, the Treasury sanction would be valid. But if there be any doubt on this point, if there be any question as to whether the particular service under the Vote was of a nature within the contemplation of Parliament when the Vote was taken, then the sanction of the Treasury should be withheld and the sanction of Parliament obtained.”

Then the Public Accounts Committee of 1934, having quoted that from the Report of the Committee in 1894, goes on to say:—

“In the particular instance under consideration. …”

(that is, the £22,000 odd.)

“…the Treasury claimed, and their contention was supported by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, that the proposed expenditure manifestly came within Part I of the Vote and so could legitimately be sanctioned by the Treasury. After the new subhead had been sanctioned, however, a Supplementary Estimate for the Ministry of Labour for some £18,000,000 was presented to Parliament, in which there was no mention of the new subhead G (4), an unfortunate omission due, admittedly, to an oversight.

“While your Committee recognise that it was within the discretion of the Treasury to sanction the opening of a new subhead in this case, they think that, in view of the nature and amount of the expenditure involved, the opportunity should have been taken to seek Parliamentary authority for it. Your Committee recommend that it should be laid down that, in all cases in which a new subhead is required for expenditure of substantial amount or importance and the Department has to come to Parliament for a Supplementary Estimate for any purpose, the new subhead should be included in the Supplementary Estimate.”

Now, that is the considered judgment of the corresponding Committee on the other side after 60 or 70 years’ experience. And you see that they say that, even in the case of a new subhead—not the revival of an old one—it is only when the amount is substantial or when it covers a matter of importance that it should be included in a Supplementary Estimate for something else.

58. I quite follow that, Mr. Codling, and it is extremely helpful to the Committee, but I think that the point I raised is slightly different from the point that was considered by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons, because our procedure here permits a Deputy to raise a general discussion on any matter that has been referred to on the face of the Estimates. Now, for instance, a situation might well arise in which a Deputy desired to raise some matter relating to a commission or tribunal of this character, and he might hold himself in reserve to do so until the matter of this £32 came up to be mentioned on the face of the Estimates. He would then discover that, possibly under the direction of the Minister for Finance, it had been decided by the Department that this tag-end of expenditure would be withheld from the Estimates and dealt with by virement by raising a new subhead in the Appropriation Accounts—thus defeating the individual Deputy’s right to raise the matter in Dáil Eireann. I think that is a matter of substance. Do you not think so?—But in this case there were opportunities for dealing with that matter of substance. It had arisen in two previous years, and in other cases such an opportunity might have arisen in several years. In this case, it was decided to close down the service and, later on, it was found that there was just a small remainder to be mopped up, so to speak.

59. And I presume, therefore, that you feel that Deputies would have had sufficient opportunity to talk about it?—Well, I say that no material harm was done. However, I should like to remind the Committee about one point in connection with these subheads in a Vote, and that is they are intended purely for the guidance and information of the Dáil in grasping the contents of a Vote as a whole. The essential part is the ambit which, shortly and concisely, defines the whole service for which provision is to be made and which alone appears in the Appropriation Act. The subheads are an accounting arrangement, which is within the province of the Department of Finance, and always has been within the province of Finance. They may make a mistake in saying what subheads shall be for what services, and so on, but they do their best to set out an Estimate in a way that will help the Dáil as much as possible; and when, in the course of years, they have come to the conclusion that such-and-such subheads are required in a Vote and, as in this case, a new question arises—of a tribunal being set up, and so on—instead of grouping the expenditure under the usual subheads of Salaries, Wages, Incidental Expenses, and so on, which might prevent the Dáil from knowing what was going on, the Department of Finance, in its discretion, says: “No; fetch the whole thing out clearly on the face of the Estimate and on any Supplementary Estimate that may be necessary and make provision under a new subhead or subheads.” In these circumstances, I suggest that if such a matter as the one we are dealing with now has already been before the Dáil on two or three occasions, and if, after a lapse of time, some trivialities turn up. I think it is only reasonable that the Department of Finance should have discretion to say: “Such-and-such a thing has been approved by the Dáil on several occasions. This is simply a clearing-up item. It is trivial in amount; the subjects of expenditure are of a nature that is non-conteatious; and all that is necessary is to bring the matter before the notice of the Dáil in due course in the Appropriation Account by reviving the old subhead.”

60. Chairman.—You laid your finger on the essentials of my point by your parenthesis, “when the Department is also satisfied that the subject is non-contentious.” Jealous of the right of Deputies to debate any matter in Dáil Eireann, I would deny to the Department of Finance a discretion in determining what subjects are contentious and what subjects are non-contentious, because from my experience as a Deputy what was non-contentious two years ago may develop into contentious material in this year. The appearance of this £32 on the face of the Estimate, either under the subhead of Salaries, Wages and Allowances or under a separate subhead F (3), affords a Deputy an opportunity of reopening the question and pointing out that what was non-contentious when the bulk of the money was voted has since become contentious, and that with the administration of the money, or the uses to which the money was put, he now desires to transfer from the arena of the Public Accounts Committee into Dáil Eireann the question of the whole procedure again. I apprehend that if this principle were allowed to stand it would be capable of abuse hereafter. I am grateful to you for laying all the facts clearly before us, and we can return to the matter when considering our report.

Mr. Codling.—Might I add one word? You take issue on the ground of the authority of the Dáil, the control of the Dáil, over the expenditure being possibly interfered with and being lessened.

61. Chairman.—Not only that, but on the rules of procedure of our Parliament, the direct control of expenditure and the right of debate arising out of the reference in the Estimates.

Mr. Codling.—Might I point out that it is quite possible, in fact probable I would say, that in your desire to exercise that right even over trivialities like this, you may overshoot the mark and clutter up your Supplementary Estimates with so many trivialities that possibly the main purpose of a Supplementary Estimate will be lost sight of, and you will confuse control instead of making a clear issue?

62. Chairman.—I appreciate that view. I do not know if Deputies will agree with me, but this seems to me a matter of very real importance, and if Deputies agree, perhaps Mr. Codling will be kind enough to consider the question of giving us an administrative note upon it, lest the Committee might go wrong for the want of the administrative outlook on the question. Do Deputies consider the matter of sufficient importance to trouble him?

Deputy Walsh.—It comes to a question of what is a trivial sum. Is it going to be £30, or £100, or £1,000?

Chairman.—Do you think this is a matter of substance?

Deputy O Briain.—I think so.

Deputy O’Loghlen.—The expenditure of this is conditioned by the fact that Mr. Codling set out—whether the expenditure is a small amount and uncontentious in character. You have to remember that in this case the expenditure was unforeseen, which gives it a special character. I do not think that what he said undermines or hampers or impedes the right of the Dáil to investigate matters of importance. It is clearly conditioned by the explanation Mr. Codling gave where amounts are small and non-contentious. I do not think it is a matter which should engage the attention of the Committee.

Deputy Keyes.—I am impressed by the note of the Comptroller and Auditor-General and his supplementary statement. He states that finance approval was conditional upon a certain thing happening. Evidently that did not take place. I am anxious to know, whether it was contentious or otherwise, why provision had not been made to get the authority of the Dáil by submitting this in an Estimate.

Chairman.—Mr. Codling has gone very fully into that, and on perusal of the evidence we will be able to weigh his view adequately. In addition to what Mr. Codling has been good enough to tell us, it would be of help if he could find time to let us have a memorandum* on the administrative view of the whole question. Then we can re-peruse the evidence with any memorandum submitted and discuss the matter when we come to draft our report.

Deputy O Briain.—You have ventilated your point of view and I think we can go on.

63. Chairman.—Is that agreeable to you, Mr. Codling?

Mr. Codling.—Certainly, provided you do not want it very soon.

Chairman.—Try and give it to us some time about June.

64. Paragraph 26, Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report:—

Subhead S.—Expenses under the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, 1932 to 1936.

“The expenditure charged to this subhead includes grants to private persons and public utility societies for building, reconstructing, etc., dwellinghouses, and contributions to annual loan charges of local authorities in connection with housing schemes.

A test examination was applied to the payments made during the year. As regards the grants to private persons and public utility societies, the results were generally satisfactory.

Reference was made in paragraph 23 of last year’s report to the basis of calculation of contributions to annual loan charges, which was not uniform in all cases. A revised method of calculation has now been adopted and the Accounting Officer has informed me that it is expected that the work of revising payments will be completed shortly.”

Chairman.—Do you wish to add anything to that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—In the third paragraph at the end I state: “A revised method of calculation has now been adopted and the Accounting Officer has informed me that it is expected that the work of revising payments will be completed shortly.” Deputies will remember that last year there was a discussion here as to different methods of calculating the State portion of the loan charges in connection with slum clearance. Within two or three years the Audit Office found that different methods were used in the Local Government Department—some of them right, some of them not correct—and we drew the Accounting Officer’s attention to the want of method in some cases. He has agreed now that all payments of this nature will be revised—every single payment—and an agreed method of calculating the State portion of the loan charges will be used.

Mr. Hurson.—I do not altogether accept the view that we were entirely wrong, or wrong in some respects, because it is largely a question of legal interpretation. A difficulty arose when the loan advances exceeded the subsidisable limit and the Department took the view that where advances were made up to the subsidisable limit the full contribution of 66⅔ and 33⅓ was payable, and only when the full amount of the loan was advanced you had to abate the amount so as to comply with the regulations. I have a statement that I submitted to our legal adviser, which will set out the position pretty clearly and I shall hand it to you if you so desire.*

65. Chairman.—Has substantial agreement been reached between the Finance Department, the Local Government Department, and you, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—My information is that 66⅔ per cent. of the loan charges is not to be paid in any case in which there is not a slum clearance, and that is the sum total of my remarks. In any case where 66⅔ has been allowed we must see that it is a real slum clearance.

Mr. Hurson.—So it is. There is no doubt in my mind.

Mr. McGrath.—That is all I meant when I said: “A revised method of calculation has now been adopted.” We are going back on every single one of them. If I am not right in saying that, of course I am open to correction. We are going back on every single calculation made under the Housing Acts. That is my information.

Mr. Hurson.—Yes.

Mr. McGrath.—If we are going back there must be a reason for going back. We have agreed that 66⅔ is not to be paid on any scheme that is not a clearance scheme.

Mr. Hurson.—There is no doubt in my mind and never has been.

Mr. McGrath.—That is all I am saying. I thought there was a difference between us.

66. Chairman.—Some difficulty has arisen, as it is apprehended that 66⅔ has been paid on schemes which were not, in fact, slum clearance schemes, and your Department is going back over all these schemes to satisfy yourselves that they all did come within the category which entitled them to 66⅔?

Mr. Hurson.—That position was fully examined. So far as I know, the real difficulty arose when a loan was advanced to meet a scheme that covered slum clearance and normal housing. In such a case the cost of the houses exceeded the subsidisable limit. There were difficulties in ascertaining the exact proportion of loan charges that would come within the 66⅔ category and the amount that would come within the 33⅓ category. We have revised all these very carefully and have satisfied ourselves that the proper contributions are being made to them and that the 66⅔ applies only to slum clearance cases. We do hold that where the amount of the loan had been in excess of the subsidisable limit the local authority is entitled to the full 66⅔ where the amount advanced does not exceed the subsidisable limit.

67. Chairman.—Can we rest assured that, in addition to satisfying yourselves that the procedure followed has been correct, you will pursue the matter with the Comptroller and Auditor-General until agreement has been reached between you and him that your conclusions are correct?

Mr. Hurson.—I will see that the Comptroller and Auditor-General is satisfied to the fullest possible extent.

68. Chairman.—Then, Mr. McGrath, if the matter is not cleared up to the satisfaction of your Department, you will mention the matter to us again so that we may go further into it?

Mr. McGrath.—Certainly.

69. Chairman (to Mr. McGrath).—Does this last paragraph of your note on subhead S refer to the same thing?—Yes, it does.

The paragraph reads:—

“Where a loan is obtained by a local authority for the purpose of a slum clearance scheme the maximum contribution to annual loan charges is 66⅔ per cent. and in other cases it is 33⅓ per cent. I observed that a local authority was being paid contributions to annual loan charges on the basis of slum clearance, i.e., at 66⅔ per cent., although it appeared that the houses vacated under the scheme were not demolished but were reoccupied. I am informed that the houses in question formed part of an area which was declared a Clearance Area and the usual notices as to demolition were served; that the houses were reoccupied and demolition was not effected; that in September, 1938, these houses were included in areas declared to be Clearance Areas, and that when the necessary orders become operative demolition will take place.”

Was it, in your opinion, correct to start off paying the local authority at the rate of 66⅔ per cent. until the local authority had satisfied you that the houses were vacated and that they were actually demolished, or in process of demolition?

Mr. Hurson.—In this case the local authority made or declared a Clearance Area and once the area is declared they must proceed to make a Clearance Order. The clearance areas, I believe, extended to 86 houses. The local authority had in course of construction 22 houses. Instead of making a Clearance Order for the whole of the area, they made a Clearance Order for a limited area. The tenants of 12 of the 86 houses were accommodated in the new houses and the 12 houses were demolished. The tenants of ten other houses were accommodated in new houses elsewhere by the local authority, but the old houses were not demolished. The tenants were removed under the operations of the local authority. The new houses were entitled to rank for the subsidy at 66⅔ per cent.

70. In reference to the ten houses reoccupied, are you of opinion that in the case of the ten new houses to which the tenants of the reoccupied houses were transferred, the local authority were entitled to a grant of 66⅔ per cent. as a contribution to the annual loan charges and that they were so entitled within the meaning of the Act?—Yes, because the tenants of these ten houses were removed under the operations of the local authority.

71. But surely the Act contemplated the demolition of the houses?—Yes, and they will ultimately be demolished because they are included in the Clearance Order at present. The Department will see that the grant for the new houses will not be reckoned at more than 33⅓ per cent. in every case where the houses are not to be demolished.

72. There is no danger that these condemned houses for which a 66⅔ grant has already become available should get another grant?—I am perfectly alive to that aspect of the housing question. The new houses will not rank for more than 33⅓ per cent., even when the old houses are demolished.

73. Would you say that the Comptroller and Auditor-General is right in his general view that the 66⅔ per cent. grant should not be forthcoming unless the tenants of the new houses come from houses that are demolished?—I think that is going somewhat farther than the Act provides.

Mr. McGrath.—The position as shown by the case that we have before us now is that instead of paying 33⅓ per cent. on an ordinary building scheme we are paying double that amount on a scheme that was not a demolition scheme.

Mr. Hurson.—Once the area was declared to be a clearance area the Act was brought into force.

Mr. McGrath.—As soon as I found that these houses were reoccupied I thought it right to deal with them in my report.

Deputy Keyes.—It seems that it is rather difficult to say whether the grant should be 33⅓ or 66⅔. Before the completion of the entire scheme some of those houses had become reoccupied. It was a case of 50/50 up to that time. Surely the local authority would be entitled to get something more than 33⅓ per cent. on these ten houses.

74. Chairman.—I do not think that is quite correct. There is a clearance area for a considerable number of houses. That area was subdivided and 22 houses were scheduled for demolition and 22 houses were built?—There were 22 new houses built. To these 12 tenants were transferred from the clearance area and ten of the tenants were taken out of the area and given new houses in another area, but the houses were not demolished.

75. Chairman (to Witness).—In fact, it having been represented to you that only 12 of the 22 houses accommodated families whose houses were demolished and ten of them had families brought from another place, you were of opinion that they were entitled to the grant. Is that so?—Yes.

76. Under the circumstances in this case, you feel that you are entitled to give them the 66⅔ per cent.?—Yes.

77. Deputy Keyes.—This matter is much wider than has been set down here. If the local authority did not take powers under the Slum Clearance Order they would still have the right to have the houses demolished. The public authority in this instance show their good faith by demolishing a certain number of the houses. It may be possible that the other ten may come under the category referred to. They did remove the people from these houses that were condemned and they put them into new houses. The eventual control lies with the public authority and with the Department of Local Government and Public Health to insist that the 66⅔ per cent. qualification shall be conformed with. It would be very hard if this portion of the money was unduly withheld.

78. Chairman.—Would it be satisfactory to you, Mr. McGrath, if the Department of Local Government and Public Health undertook to notify you that the houses which are still occupied at the moment were demolished?

Mr. McGrath.—Well, the position is this, that when we were examining the expenditure referred to in this paragraph we found that the houses were not demolished and that the payment, as it stood in the books, was not a proper payment. We cannot get over that.

79. Chairman.—In a sense the houses are constructively demolished in as much as they are condemned for demolition. The Department will notify you when they are demolished. Will that meet the situation —that you should regard these houses as constructively demolished?

Mr. McGrath.—Well, yes, it would satisfy me, but I hope that there are no other cases of this kind. When I came across this particular case I became very nervous, not because of this case but, possibly, because of other cases of a general nature. I must advise the Dáil when I see a thing like this turning up and see whether there is a likelihood of avoiding it and see that the conditions necessary to gain an extra percentage towards the cost of the loans, are adhered to.

80. Chairman.—Mr. Hurson, would you accept as a general principle that 66⅔ per cent. of the loan charges should not be paid unless the houses are demolished?— That involves a legal interpretation of the Act. The words of the Act speak of persons removed by the operations of the local authority. If a person is removed from a house that is condemned on the ground that it was unfit for human habitation, that house cannot be demolished until it is vacated. In good faith the local authority put the tenant into a new house. If that house is forcibly occupied in the meantime, it is difficult to get the houses demolished in time. I assure you that the Department examines all these claims as carefully as possible and I am satisfied that the 66⅔ per cent. contribution is paid only in cases that are covered by the Act. However, I do not want to argue it from the legal standpoint. I would be careful to go further and see that the houses are ultimately demolished.

81. Chairman.—Now I think the issue is knit clearly. I think we are bound to ask Mr. Hurson to let us have the memorandum* that he kindly offers us on this matter, so that the Committee may determine whether, in our opinion, the Department of Local Government and Public Health is correct in its operations under the Act or whether the Comptroller and Auditor-General is correct. We will have to advert to that in our report.* That will involve whether, in our judgment, the houses must be demolished where they get 66⅔ per cent. or whether the people must be removed out of the houses. These are the two critical matters in determining the grant. If Mr. Hurson will kindly let us have his view of the case we will consider it when drawing up our report.

Mr. Hurson.—Certainly I will let you have a memorandum on it.

82. Deputy Benson.—If we act on the assumption that we agree with the Comptroller and Auditor-General that on the 12 houses 66⅔ per cent. should be paid, and on the 10 houses only 33⅓ per cent., we will find ourselves in the position that, eventually, the 10 houses will be demolished. Does Mr. McGrath hold that 66⅔ per cent. should become payable only from the date of their demolition?

Mr. McGrath.—That very question was discussed between myself and one of my auditors yesterday, and I could not get a distinct answer. The auditor was of opinion that 66⅔ per cent. will only become payable when the demolition takes place. That, of course, is unofficial.

83. Chairman.—Perhaps the Comptroller and Auditor-General will have a reply to Deputy Benson’s query between now and the completion of our report, when we will have a further opportunity of discussing the matter and examining Mr. Hurson’s memorandum. I think we can now pass to the note of the Comptroller and Auditor-General in paragraph 27:—

84. Subhead U.—Payment of Gratuities to certain former officers of Local Authorities.

Under section 6 of the Local Government Act. 1936, gratuities of £150 each were paid during the year to four former officers of local authorities who came within the terms of the section referred to.

I take it that is an informative paragraph?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

85. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General, in paragraph 28, has the following note:—

Subhead V.—Expenses in connection with the supply in 1936-37 of Beef to Persons in receipt of Home Assistance and Unemployment Assistance:

“As stated in paragraph 24 of last year’s report, this scheme ceased to operate at the end of the financial year 1936-37. The payments made to victuallers in 1937-38 were for beef supplied up to March, 1937, and, as shown in the account, amounted to £11,019 17s. 8d.”

Mr. McGrath.—That is informative, too.

86. Chairman.—Have these accounts been closed yet, or are some claims out standing?

Mr. Hurson.—There is a small remanet outstanding in the present year.

87. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note, in paragraph 29, on the “Motor Tax Account.” The first portion of the note reads:—

“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 this audit had not been completed at the date of the test examination.”

Has that audit since been completed?

Mr. Hurson.—I understand there were only four cases outstanding at the time that note was written, and that one is still outstanding.

88. When may the Comptroller and Auditor-General expect to receive that? —We can have it for him before the end of March.

Mr. McGrath.—This is simply a continuing paragraph from year to year.

89. Chairman.—And the accounts are being rendered in a satisfactory manner?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

90. Chairman.—The following is the second paragraph in the note of the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“The gross proceeds of the Motor Vehicle, etc., duties in 1937-38, including £11,595 10s. 2d. attributable to fines, amounted to £1,125.232 11s. 2d. This amount also includes fees received, on behalf of the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána, under the Road Traffic Act (Parts VI and VII) (Fees) Regulations, 1937, which came into operation on 3rd May, 1937.

A statement of the gross and net receipts of the Motor Tax Account, and of the payments thereout to the Exchequer, appears on page 16 of the Finance Accounts, 1937-38.”

No question arises on that.

No question was raised on the subheads.


Mr. Hurson called. No question.

No question.


Mr. Hurson and Mr. John A. McCarron called and examined.

91. Chairman.—Mr. John McCarron is present with Mr. Hurson in connection with this Vote. He is usually good enough to help the Committee, and I think it is Mr. Hurson’s desire that Mr. McCarron would answer on the Vote. There is no note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General so that we may take the subheads. I take it, Mr. McCarron, that under subhead G—District Medical Referee Service—the expenses of applicants going to the district medical referee are defrayed.

Mr. McCarron.—Yes, the travelling expenses.

92. Recently a case was brought to my notice in which a man went to the district referee, and so far as I am aware he got no money to pay his expenses. He was going from Ballaghaderreen to Boyle. He was first summoned to Dublin but he did not attempt to go there because he had not the price of his ticket? —I do not think that would be a medical referee service. We would not summon anyone from Ballaghaderreen to Dublin for medical referee purposes. It may have been a case of arbitration with his society which is a different matter. The societies have not local arbitrators in all cases, so that the arbitration is usually held in Dublin.

93. Is the applicant entitled to recover his expenses?—It would depend on the arbitrator. He would have power to give him expenses.

94. What happens in the case of a man who gets a favourable report from the district medical referee when the report is made the subject of arbitration by a society? Suppose the man cannot afford to go to the place appointed for the arbitration, what happens?—In that case the arbitrator would consider the case in his absence on the evidence before him. The man then has the right of appeal to the Minister. Appeals are always held locally, as near as possible, where a suitable venue can be found, to the residence of the party concerned.

95. So that a man has the right of appeal from the arbitrator to the Minister?—Yes.

96. Deputy Keyes.—So far as my experience goes the number of arbitrators outside Dublin is very small. Is it not a rare thing to have arbitration outside Dublin?—I think they have arbitrators in Cork and Limerick and, possibly, in a few other centres.

Deputy Keyes.—So far as Limerick is concerned, what happens is that when a medical referee gives a favourable report and the society challenges it, the arbitration is held in Dublin.

97. Chairman.—Do you not think, Mr. McCarron, that that is a hardship, administratively, and that steps ought to be taken to see that the arbitration is held at a place where the applicant can appear in person. I have in mind now the case of a man who is deaf and bothered and who is unquestionably unfit for work. He was turned down by the arbitrator although he had got a favourable report from the district medical referee. He could not go to arbitration, and the matter, I think, was subsequently appealed to the Minister. That must have been the occasion when he went from Ballaghaderreen to Boyle?—Probably.

98. Surely it is unfair to deny him the right to go before the arbitrator?—It is not a matter for the Department. The Department has very little control in that. Arbitration is a matter between the society and its members. Arbitration is in accordance with the rules of the society. The rules of the society do say that it will have local arbitrators where possible, or some words to that effect, but it is not bound to have local arbitrators.

99. You have a general supervisory capacity in which you can control, amend or condemn a rule which, in your judgment, was unfair or inequitable?—The rules are subject to the sanction of the Minister, but when a rule is in existence I do not think the Minister has any power to change it until it is brought up for change by the society itself.

100. Chairman.—That being the position, this is a matter that I think may be more properly raised in the Dáil with the Minister.

Deputy Keyes.—I do not know of any local arbitrators except in Cork.

Mr. McCarron.—May I say for the information of the Committee, that the Department has made representations to the society with regard to the appointment of local arbitrators?

Chairman.—I think it is only fair to to say that, in my judgment, I have found the Local Government Department a very valiant champion of insured persons who feel that they are suffering under a grievance.

Deputy Keyes.—We all say “hear, hear,” to that.


Mr. Hurson called.

No question.

Chairman.—That concludes the Votes for which Mr. Hurson is responsible. May I avail of this occasion to say that if every Department were administered as this Department is administered, then this would be a happy country. That concludes the business, and we are much obliged to you, Mr. Hurson.

Mr. Hurson.—Thank you.

The Committee adjourned at 1.15 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Thursday, 9th March. 1939.

* See Appendix III.

* See Appendix IV.

* See Appendix V.

* See Appendix VI.

* See Report, Par7.