Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1938 - 1939::09 March, 1939::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 9adh Márta, 1939.

Thursday, 9th March, 1939.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:




D. O Briain.






R. Walsh.

DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.

Seóirse Mag Craith (Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste). Mr. T. S. C. Dagg and Mr. C. S. Almond (Department of Finance), called and examined.


Mr. J. Connolly called and examined.

101. Chairman.—There is no note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General on this Vote. We will take the subheads, one by one. I see, Mr. Connolly, you have been embarrassed for want of staff there. I see the note at the bottom of page 22. Have you been able to repair the deficiencies?—Yes, we have repaired the deficiencies in practically all the Departments except the Architectural Branch. We find difficulty in getting suitable men for it. We have agreed with Finance about the reorganisation of the higher engineering staff. We have got our programme and plans for the engineers fixed. The Architectural Branch still gives us a little anxiety, but we are hoping to get that straightened out, too, though it is difficult to get the right men at the right price.

102. Coming to Appropriations-in-Aid, could you tell us under what head does the loan figure come?—It comes under the Local Loans Fund.

103. Deputy O Briain.—Does that mean that there is a scheme available under which a farmer can apply for a loan to drain his land as was the case in the earlier years of this century?—Well, I do not know how that will work out. This particular loan item is dealing with land improvement. No loan is granted for a lesser sum than £35. No application is entertained from a farmer who occupies a farm or farms the poor law valuation of which is £20 or upwards. The purposes for which the loans may be made are:—(1) building works as follows (a) the erection or improvement of farm offices such as hay barns; (b) the erection or improvement of farm dwellinghouses in connection with farm offices; (2) field works such as drainage, sub-soiling, improvement of fences, streams or water courses, farm roads, clearing of rocks and stones and reclamation from waste; so that the type of drainage to which Deputy O Briain refers could have a loan under these conditions.

104. In the case of a farmer whose valuation is under £20 a loan can be given?—Yes, and no loan can be given for a lesser sum than £35.

Chairman.—You will notice that the details of the Appropriations-in-Aid are given in page 23.

105. Deputy McMenamin.—In paragraph (3), under Appropriations-in-Aid, page 23, there is a note with regard to Agency Services. What are these agencies?—We carry out Agency Services for the different offices, including the British Government offices in Dublin, the College of Science here, the Electricity Supply Board, the Sea Fisheries’ Association and so on. These are the services that we carry out under the direction of the Department of Finance and we charge them an overhead percentage to cover our Administrative Expenses. I can actually give you the amounts of the charges if you would like to have those. We work on a basis of 12½ per cent. for costs to cover our overheads for the services rendered.

106. In (2), of the details of item F, there is an item “penal interest on overdue loans repayments.” Are they loans out of the Local Loans Fund?—Yes, they are out of the Local Loans Fund. Where the interest has not been paid or where the instalments on the loans have not been paid, there is what is called penal interest charged.

107. This is plus the current interest? —Yes.


Mr. Connolly further examined.

108. Chairman.—There is a note on this from the Comptroller and Auditor-General in page v, paragraph 9:—

“A building which had originally been used as a Coast Guard Station was converted into a Kelp and Carrageen Station at a cost of £1,020 12s. 11d., the alterations being completed during the year ended 31st March, 1936. I observed that further sums amounting to £1,281 0s. 11d. were expended during the year under review in adapting the premises for the purposes of a Toy Factory.”

Perhaps you would give us some information on the paragraph, Mr. Connolly?— Yes, this is a building at Elly Bay Coastguard Station. It was altered and put into shape as a kelp and carrageen station and we carried out the instructions of the kelp and carrageen section of the Department of Lands with the approval of the Minister for Finance. A sum of £1,020 12s. 11d. was spent in developing it and putting it in order. This amount was spread over four years. In 1932-3, the expenditure was £408; in 1933-4, it was £326; in 1934-5, £90 and in 1935-6, £196. Later, we were given instructions to convert this building to a toy factory and we proceeded to do that, the Gaeltacht Services having got the authority and sanction of Finance for it. This work was done. I made inquiries from the architect and examined all the papers, and found that the actual work done for converting the building into a carrageen and kelp station was nearly all suitable for the ultimate work done towards converting it into a toy factory. It was reckoned that a sum of £150 might be considered as the maximum amount of waste that might have been incurred in view of its ultimate use as toy factory.

109. Was the station, in fact, ever used as a kelp and carrageen station?— It was definitely. It was used from June, 1931, to September, 1937, that is up to the time it was converted into a toy factory. I may mention that that factory was burned down and there is a proposal for rebuilding.

110. Deputy McMenamin.—There seemed to be some unnecessary duplication there, but I am quite prepared to accept Mr. Connolly’s figures that £150 would cover the duplication.

Mr. Connolly.—Yes, £150 to £200 is what our architect says is the work done that might have been considered as wasted.

111. Is there any factory now for carrageen?—That I could not say, but I assume there is.

112. Chairman.—You mentioned in passing, Mr. Connolly, that this factory with its £1,281 0s. 11d. additional repairs has since been burned down?— Yes, that is so.

113. Was it the responsibility of the toy factory company, or does the loss fall on the Board of Works?—Of course, the responsibility is on the Gaeltacht Services Department. We have really no responsibility once we have completed our job and handed it over.

114. You carried out the repairs and then handed the matter over?—Yes. Of course, we will become involved in whatever new development is agreed to.

115. Now, we come to paragraph 10, Subhead E—Rents, etc.—which reads as follows:—

“As stated in paragraph 7 of my last report the Legation premises in Madrid have not been occupied since August, 1936. The owner of the premises is a prisoner in Barcelona, and payments have not been made for rent since 31st January, 1938. The sums charged to subhead E during the year ended 31st March, 1938, amounted to £314 6s. 10d. In addition, rental charges for telephones for periods subsequent to the date on which the premises were vacated, amounting to £8 10s. 10d. have been met from subhead B 3 of the Vote for External Affairs.”

Before commenting on that, I think it right to mention to Deputies that the Department of Public Works and Buildings is in a somewhat peculiar position. They are frequently required by other Departments to undertake expenditure, and—the Comptroller and Auditor-General will correct me if I am wrong—I think I am correct in saying that if the Accounting Officer of the Department of Public Works and Buildings states that he has received instructions to carry out or make certain expenditure, his responsibility ends there, and any further questions as to the propriety of the expenditure ought to be referred to the Department responsible for issuing the instructions.

Mr. McGrath.—That is so.

116. Chairman.—Therefore, if we go further, we may ask the Clerk to make a note of that and raise the matter with the appropriate Department. In that regard, the Office of Public Works and Buildings is unique in that it has to answer for expenditure for which it is not really responsible. Is not that so, Mr. Connolly?

Mr. Connolly.—Yes, that is so.

117. And in this case, you take instructions from the Department of External Affairs?—Yes, under cover of the Department of Finance.

118. Well, the Clerk, I presume, will take a note of that. Does that meet with your view, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes, but I think Mr. Connolly might finish off that matter. It is merely a continuation of what happened last year.

Mr. Connolly.—The information we have had already is as full as it probably can be. It was as follows:—

“The legation premises in Madrid were vacated in August, 1936, and have not since been reoccupied. These premises are held under lease terminable at one month’s notice, at a monthly rent of 2,083.35 pesetas, which has been paid through a bank in Madrid since the premises were vacated. The necessary funds are transferred to the bank from time to time by the Department of External Affairs. The amount paid in the year 1936-37 in respect of the period subsequent to date of vacation was £299 6s. 0d. In addition, the sum of £69 6s. 1d. was charged for cost of alternative accommodation taken at St. Jean de Luz.

“£469 14s. 9d. was expended during 1935-6 and 1936-7 in providing office and household equipment at Madrid.

“The expenditure borne on the Public Works and Buildings Vote for the rent of these premises represents a refund made by the Commissioners by direction of the Minister for Finance to the Department of External Affairs in respect of rents paid by that Department.”

119. Chairman.—The matter was fully gone into with Mr. J. P. Walshe during the lifetime of the last Committee of Public Accounts, and I think that if we want to pursue that matter further it might be well to wait and raise it with Mr. Walshe. If there are no other questions we can pass to paragraph 11, Subhead J (3)—Barrow Drainage—which reads as follows:—

“The expenditure within the year on the Barrow Drainage scheme was £24,895 11s. 11d., offset by receipts from disposal of plant and stores amounting to £203 6s. 6d. The works have been completed and the Final Award was issued on 30th March, 1938. The total expenditure on the scheme (including £2,202 6s. 11d. expended on preliminary investigations) was £546,378 17s. 8d. Claims estimated at £3,341 for legal costs and expenses were outstanding at the end of the year.

“The net expenditure chargeable to the cost of the scheme under the Barrow Drainage Acts, 1927 and 1933, was £544,176 10s. 9d. of which £273,759 0s. 10d. was charged to Local Loans Advances, the balance being provided out of voted moneys. The total expenditure sanctioned under the Acts for carrying out the works is limited to £550,000.”

Have you any observations to make on that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—No, it is purely formal.

120. Deputy O Briain.—Is the scheme completely finished, now, Mr. Connolly?

Mr. Connolly.—Yes.

121. And have the people concerned— the land-holders concerned—along the Barrow to pay—has a rate been struck and put on them?—Yes, that is all part of the final award.

122. Chairman.—The next is paragraph 12—Records of Properties—which reads as follows:—

“In paragraph 9 of my last report attention was drawn to the non-existence of registers and rentals of property in the Board’s charge. I understand that the work of compiling suitable records has since been undertaken.”

We would be interested to hear from you in that regard, Mr. Connolly?

Mr. Connolly.—Yes. As this is a matter of importance, from your point of view as well as from ours, I think it would be better if I read the complete minute that I have prepared on it, which is as follows:—

“When this matter was under discussion by the Committee during the examination of the accounts for the financial year 1936-37 the Committee was informed that the question of systematising the property records and of the compilation of formal rentals had been under consideration and that the task was one of magnitude and difficulty which it would take a considerable time to complete. At the close of the discussion the Committee expressed the hope that there would be something more definite to report next year, i.e., when the time would come to discuss the 1937-38 accounts which are now under discussion.

“Since this discussion before the Committee, progress has been made in this matter. It became evident at an early stage in the investigation of the problem that the property and rental work covering the acquisition and disposal of property, the making of tenancies, the compilation and maintenance of rentals with the perambulation and tenure work involved, was of such a magnitude and of such a nature that it could most appropriately be performed if concentrated in a separate division concerned only with these duties. This involved re-organisation in the Department and that re-organisation has been carried through with the approval of the Minister for Finance.

“The next step was to decide on the most suitable form of rental to be adopted. This has been the subject of careful examination. It is of very great importance that the most appropriate form should be adopted, and we are commencing the work in a tentative manner so that this end may be secured. In the initial stages progress will be slow for reasons such as recruitment and training of suitable staff, and because a considerable amount of organising work will be necessary to provide a system to cover the different requirements of the work that will emerge as it progresses.

“The work will continue steadily until we have a complete rental of all properties in the Commissioners’ administration.”

123. Chairman.—I think that is a very satisfactory position.

Mr. Connolly.—I am not entirely happy yet, but I am quite satisfied that we are on the right lines and have laid the foundation of what will be a complete and proper rental—I may say, for practically the first time.

124. Chairman.—I take it that that meets with the approval of the Comptroller and Auditor-General?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

125. Chairman.—The next item is paragraph 13—Stores, etc.—which reads as follows:—

“As stated in the account the value of stocks held in the Central Furniture Stores at 31st March, 1938, was £3,250 and the value of stores held for drainage and other works at the Central Repair Workshop and Stores, Athy, at that date was £4,300.

“The Commissioners, I am informed, propose to extend the inventory system referred to in paragraph 10 of my last report to include all plant, machinery and contents of buildings in the Board’s charge.”

Have you any observation to make on that, Mr. Connolly?

Mr. Connolly.—I have. This is linked with the other in a sense, and I shall read the complete minute so that you may be perfectly clear on what we are doing on it. The minute is as follows:—

“During the year 1937-38 further progress was made with the work of extending our inventory systems to cover plant and various types of chattel property. Our store inventory systems have been extended to the various locations under our control, viz.: the Central Drainage Repair Workshops at Athy, Haulbowline Dockyard, Dun Laoghaire and Howth Harbours, the Shannon Navigation, the Phoenix, Bourn Vincent Memorial and Stephen’s Green Parks, various drainage districts and central furniture stores. We are at present engaged in installing an appropriate system at the Central Heating Station and the compilation of an inventory of all heavy plant and machinery is in hands at our head office. The existing inventories cover such buildings as preparatory colleges, legations abroad, agricultural institutions, fishery lodges, etc., etc.

“It is desirable, however, at this stage to say for the Committee’s information that in dealing with chattel property we find that certain property, viz., the furniture in headquarters’ offices, falls into a separate category, and it may be, when this aspect of the problem has been fully examined, that all concerned may agree that on economic and practical grounds it would be unjustifiable to insist on the application of a strict inventory system to furniture in headquarters’ offices. This is an old problem which has previously been the subject of discussion not only before Oireachtas Committees of Public Accounts but also before Committees of the British House of Commons. These Committees, from considerations of economy and feasibility, have not insisted on the maintenance of inventories of such property generally on the understanding that the matter would be kept in mind and taken up at any time if it should seem desirable or necessary to take any further action.

The matter is now being reexamined in that light and the results of our investigations will be brought to the notice of the Committee, if it so desires, in due course.”

Now, perhaps I could clarify that by saying that we are rather diffident about making any promise as to keeping complete inventories of the different headquarters’ offices. We may reach, or evolve, a system whereby that is possible, but the Committee will appreciate that when a demand is made to us for furniture, the furniture is sent to the department that sends in the requisition. It is then in charge of that department, and it is not very practicable for us to keep a tab on it in any sort of an accurate way. There is no doubt it could be done, but what we are afraid of is that the tremendous expense that would be involved in employing stockkeepers and checking clerks to do that work would be far beyond what the service would be worth. Taking it all in all, the furniture in offices is in charge of responsible people and the danger of anything going wrong, of any pilfering or petty theft, is almost negligible; but to keep a complete, an almost foolproof, check on it, that, in our view, would not justify the enormous expense that would be involved. I may say that this matter was raised quite a number of years ago in the British administration, and the Office of Public Works then tried something on these lines, but they had to give it up because, first of all, it was creating difficulties which it was almost impossible to overcome as well as costing a great deal of money.

126. Chairman.—Have you any observations to make on this, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—Peculiarly enough, the same aspect of this question was discussed in 1925. Sir Philip Hanson gave his views on the proposal made to him that there should be a list kept in each office of the contents of the office, and that the list should be checked periodically. Sir Philip gave it as his opinion that the expense of keeping up that system of stocktaking annually or half-yearly would be greater than the likely loss through pilfering. The Audit Office agreed with him at the time, and I am afraid the Committee will have to agree now.

127. Chairman.—Subject to the final issue of Mr. Connolly’s examination of the problem, which he has been good enough to say he will communicate to us in due course, I find myself in entire agreement with the view expressed by Mr. Connolly: that whereas the list of real estate such as tenements and hereditaments ought to be complete, a strict inventory of all chattels is probably not worth the expense that would be involved in completing it. However, Mr. Connolly is examining the question and will communicate further with us. I think the Committee would be well advised to leave the matter in his hands for the present.

Mr. Connolly.—I want to assure the Committee that before we give out goods, that is when a requisition for supplies comes from any department, it is our invariable practice to send one of our staff to examine the position there and find out if the stuff is really needed: that they have no surplus stuff in the office which would serve the purpose as well.

128. Deputy O Briain.—Is there any arrangement by which each department keeps an inventory of its own furniture and so on?

129. Chairman.—Perhaps Mr. Connolly would say whether each department keeps an inventory of the furniture that it has under its own control?—The departments do not. If we did by any chance recommend the adoption of an additional checking system or stocktaking it would have to be done on a different basis because, naturally, we would have to hold somebody in the department responsible.

130. Chairman.—I think we may now pass to the note that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has on contracts. The first paragraph is as follows:—

“The items charged to subhead N— Losses, include a sum of £450, being the amount of a Court award to a contractor whose contract had been determined by the Commissioners some months after his failure to complete the work by the due date.”

Mr. McGrath.—This contractor had two hangars—Nos. 3 and 4—at Baldonnel to repair. He started at one of them, and it was found that during the period of his contract that he exceeded the period by 22½ weeks. The Commissioners of Public Works were very patient with this man. After his completion of half the contract, they had to tell him that they considered that he was unfit to carry out the balance of it. During the currency of the contract, or early on during the period of the contract, this man became bankrupt. On receiving notice that he was discontinued as contractor he took proceedings against the Commissioners of Public Works, and, strange to say, Mr. Justice Hanna found for him and awarded him £450. In giving his decision, Mr. Justice Hanna said that: “A notice of forfeiture for want of due diligence, where there is a time limit, must be exercised before the expiration of the time limit.” That is to say, that if the contract was to be for a period, say, of six months and that he took seven months to carry it out, notice of the expiration of the contract should have been given within the period of the contract. That is a very technical point. I believe it was news to the Commissioners of Public Works that such was the law.

Mr. Connolly.—It was a very surprising decision, one that I still find it difficult to reconcile with the practicability of carrying on work. However, the law spoke and we had to pay. Perhaps I may supplement what the Comptroller and Auditor-General has said by pointing out that this contractor, in the proceedings that he took against the Board, claimed £2,248 14s. 6d. for extra work, and £1,000 for damages due to breaking of contract. The Board lodged in court a sum of £153 which they admitted to be due to the contractor over and above payments made. Judge Hanna dismissed the claim for extras, but awarded damages for breach of contract at £450 plus the sum of £153 lodged in court. This sum of £450, being so far as the Board were concerned, of a nugatory nature, was charged to a special subhead N—Losses—of the Vote for Public Works and Buildings, with the approval of the Department of Finance. As a matter of fact, on the whole, when we get down to examine this case—the contract dates back to 1933—I cannot help feeling that the Commissioners got rather well out of the business because there is another factor which of course, had nothing to do with the court proceedings that has to be considered, namely, that the Department of Defence had changed their plan of the hangar reconstruction. The likelihood is that this change would have nullified the contract on the second hangar which was to have been carried out.

131. Chairman.—The point on which the award was made, I gather, was news to the Commissioners of Public Works?— It was.

132. Did they consider it desirable to go further in the matter with a view to determining this matter finally for future guidance, or did they simply propose to accept the view of Mr. Justice Hanna?— Our Counsel advised us against appealing, and I think that, on the whole, that was wise, because we might have spent a considerable amount of money in costs, and I do not know that, from the contract point of view, it was going to serve any useful purpose.

133. Except that it would appear that a new rule is being laid down: that the determination of contracts must take place during the currency of the period of the contract which would suggest that if a man runs over his contract time the Board of Works cannot terminate his contract at all. Had that aspect of the question presented itself to you?—It had. We gave a great deal of consideration to all aspects of it. First of all, it seemed to create a definite difficulty for the Board in the sense that you had to prejudge whether the man was going to be able to finish his contract or not, and that you were not really in a legal position to say that he was not going to finish the contract. Sometimes these things work out, taking the long view, in a salutary way. On the whole, I am not disappointed that this line has been taken because it will have this effect: that it will make our architects, I hope, feel conscious of the need to watch progress, and to keep a tighter rein so far as their control is concerned.

134. Generally the view of the Board is that the decision, though temporarily embarrassing, in the long run is probably not disadvantageous to the Board?—It may work out disadvantageously on a future occasion if we are up against a similar set of circumstances, but taking it all in all we decided that we should not appeal the case. We did that, of course, on counsel’s advice. Personally, I feel that if it makes the architects more careful it has its advantages.

135. Of course there were substantial costs in this case, but as the case had to be tested they could not well be avoided? —No.

136. Deputy O’Loghlen.—Is it the practice of the Board of Works at the present time to take steps to comply with the terms of Mr. Justice Hanna’s decision, and to inform contractors within the period of their contract?—To be quite frank, the practice of the Board is to deal with each case on its merits as it emerges. We have a very varied selection of contracts of all types, from the repair of a small country school to a very big building. The effect of this decision is, as I have said, that we are conscious of it in all our work. Each contract in the Board of Works has to be watched carefully on its own merits, taking into consideration the quality of the contractor, the nature of the work and all the rest.

137. But whatever the ultimate decision of the Board may be, would the Board not consider it advisable to issue this notice to contractors in order to safeguard itself?—We are doing it.

138. Chairman.—I understand that the Board was advised by its legal advisers to take certain steps in the light of this decision by way of fixing contractors with notice in due time. Have arrangements been made to do that?—Yes, but as I say what I have in mind with regard to the difficulties of tying the Board or their architects rigidly down to hard and fast rules is the small country contractor whom you have to nurse along to get the work finished. He is often two or three months behind, but we know that with careful handling we will get the work done, and done properly. We still have of course control of the money, and we naturally do not pay him until he has finished. What I would be afraid of is being rigidly tied down in regard to some of our work. Most of the Committee will know what I have in mind You get a man to do a repair job or reconstruction work—a £300 or £400 job. You just cannot apply hard and fast rules. With the big contractors, where there is any reason to fear any breakdown of the contract, we watch them carefully.

139. Chairman.—The point I would make to you is this: here is a case in which the Board were mulcted in damages owing to the appearance of a legal point to which their legal advisers had not adverted before the case came to trial. As a result of the adverse decision, the Board received certain advice from its legal advisers. Now, the Board may make up their minds that, in spite of that legal advice, for practical reasons it is necessary to take certain legal risks in order to get the work done, but it does appear to me that the Board should have a Minute somewhere, to which this Committee could have future reference, determining, in the light of the advice they received, what course they were going to pursue, and the reasons. Otherwise, if a similar case arises in two or three years’ time the question will at once arise: “Have not the Board been warned of this danger, and have they fallen into the same mistake again?” On the other hand, if the Board make up their minds what course they are to pursue, they can then refer to that Minute for the direction of this Committee and say: “Notwithstanding the advice we got on the occasion referred to, for practical reasons we adopted this course of action, which has put us into trouble again.”

Mr. Connolly.—Would you like me to send you a detailed Minute of what we are doing?

Chairman.—I should be much obliged.

Mr. Connolly.—Then we will do that.

140. Deputy Keyes.—I am wondering how the Board are going to protect themselves in the case of a big contract. If I understand the matter correctly, they must give notice to the contractor before he fails to complete his contract in the specified time. You determined this contract too late to have judgment registered on your behalf. The judgment now seems to indicate that you must do it within the period of the specified contract time?—Yes. I have explained to the Committee that all we can do in that regard is by intelligent anticipation, and watching the progress of the work.

141. The point I was anxious to be clear on is whether you would be running yourself into a risk if you said: “We are going to determine this contract, because in view of the progress you have made it appears that you will not complete it in time”?—That is the difficulty.

142. You cannot stop him before the contract time expires. I think it is a most amazing position, and I should like to have it clarified.

143. Deputy Benson.—I take it that notice can be given on the last day of the period. It is then obvious whether or not the work will be completed.

Mr. Connolly.—I would mention that we have the power within the contract to extend the time limit. That still keeps us legally safe as regards the termination point.

144. Chairman.—I think that is a very important point. In fact you can extend the time limit and still give notice?—Yes. We would still be in a sound legal position.

145. I think you will agree with the Committee that this is a matter of some importance?—Definitely.

146. And we will be very glad to have your note* at your convenience?—I will let the Committee have that.

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

“I observed a case in which, owing to a contractor’s failure to complete his work satisfactorily another contractor had to be employed. The amount paid to the latter contractor was deducted from the sum payable under the original contract, but additional expense amounting to approximately £27 incurred in having the second contract carried out was not recovered.”

Has the Comptroller anything to add to that?

Mr. McGrath.—My point there is that I think the Commissioners could have recovered the £27 if they had acted. They had, as a matter of fact, the sum of £207 to the credit of this contractor, but for some reason or other the Commissioners said: “Well, it would hardly be fair to penalise the original contractor any further, because we have already deducted from the cost of the completion of the contract.”

Mr. Connolly.—Well, the Commissioners did consider this matter. As a matter of fact they had legal advice on this particular point. Apart from the legal advice, if I might express my own personal view, I think it would have been somewhat inequitable to have penalised him to this extent. I am prepared to admit that the actual expense—what one might consider the real loss to the Commissioners of Public Works—was £1 3s. 9d., which represented the expenses of the Clerk of Works. Remember that this amount was actually the supervision of the contract work; it was what one might call a running-overhead of the Board of Works in looking after the contract work. It might be argued, of course, that owing to the cancellation of one contract and the substitution of a new one the Clerk of Works had to make one, two or three visits more than he would have had to do, but the actual cash loss to us was £1 3s. 9d. On this question of whether we should have attempted to collect, we got legal advice, which was to the effect that we probably would not be able to substantiate a case in court.

148. Chairman.—The sum is trivial, but I take it the principle still stands that if you have to employ a second contractor you recover the added cost in damages from the first contractor?—Yes, where it is possible to do it.

The note continues:—

“In another instance a contract provided for the retention by the Commissioners of 10 per cent, of each instalment payable, one-half of the total retentions to be paid to the contractor on completion of the work, and the balance nine months later. With the approval of the Department of Finance the conditions of the contract were varied, with the effect that after approximately one-half of the retentions originally estimated had been withheld no further retentions were made, but interest at 5 per cent, per annum was charged to the contractor in respect of the waiver of the further retentions from the dates of the several payments to him to the date of the completion of the work. In the result, a sum of £2,055 was deemed payable to the contractor nine months earlier than if the former conditions of payment had been adhered to.”

I take it the sanction of the Department of Finance was got for this procedure?— It was, and it was embodied in the terms of the contract with the special authority of the Minister for Finance. This is the section which applies:—

“Provided that the Board may in their discretion pay the remaining half of such reserved sum at any time before the expiration of the period of nine months.”

We did exercise our discretion in regard to this question of retentions. It will be appreciated that the idea of retentions is to ensure that the work is carried out, and that there is sufficient reserve to make good any deficiencies and force the contractor to complete his job to our architect’s satisfaction. I think that has been adequately done in this case. The contractor did a very big job. It was in connection with the Colaiste Einne Preparatory College, Galway. In consequence of strong representations by the contractor, the Board, with the authority of the Department of Finance, agreed to vary the contract to the effect that when the retentions reached £4,000 no further retentions would be made, subject to certain conditions, one of which was that the contractor agreed to pay interest at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum on each sum that might be retained from him from the date of its payment to him to the date of his completing the work. The work was certified to be completed on 6th September, 1937, and the interest due by the contractor on that date on sums which were not but might have been retained was £138 2s. 3d. We collected interest on the retention money which we had paid him in advance of the time. I think, therefore, that the State interest was fully protected, and that the contractor paid for any convenience he got.

Mr. McGrath.—I think I will have to ask the Accounting Officer to go to the Department of Finance to cover the payment of the £2,000 at the date of the completion of the contract. If he does that, there is no further necessity to discuss this matter, but if he does not I am afraid I will have to fight the case.

Mr. Connolly.—Well, we are quite willing to do that. The only danger in doing it is that the Commissioners do want this discretionary power left with them, because it is a very important thing in dealing with big contractors, or even small contractors.

149. I quite agree, but under the circumstances—the terms of payment having been altered on condition that a certain sum, the sum of £4,000, be retained for a period—I could not follow the Commissioners of Works, when the contract was completed, not retaining £4,000 but only £2,000. It is a point of principle. This contract was for £81,000 odd. Of that, £4,000 was originally intended to be retained for a period of nine months after completion of the contract, for the purpose of giving the architects an opportunity of examining the roof, the foundations, the walls, and so on, to see that everything was in order. This retention of money is for the protection of the Commissioners. If it had been found that there had to be renewals, or that anything happened which would cost, say, £3,000, and they had only retained £2,000, I think they would have been in a very awkward position. I myself believe that the Commissioners have covered themselves in this particular instance, but a matter of principle is involved. They went to the Department of Finance when they were altering the terms of payment, and they led the Department of Finance to believe that this £4,000 would be retained for nine months. That is my opinion. The Department of Finance representative is here, and he can be asked whether or not they were led to believe that the £4,000 was being retained for nine months.

150. Chairman.—A new point emerges. As I understand the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the sum of £4,000 was to be retained not only until the Board of Works had their architect’s certificate that the building had been completed, but for a further period, in order to see that the fabric of the building would stand up to wear and tear, and that no flaw would manifest itself which could be attributed to the failure of the contractor. The Board of Works gave the contractor half this sum, £2,055, subject to interest. They actually parted company with the money, so that, if a big defect had manifested itself three months after the certificate had issued, the Board of Works would have had no fund in their hands out of which to make good the contractor’s failure to complete a durable building. Was the Department of Finance fully informed of that aspect of the situation?

Mr. Connolly.—Well, we interpreted this £4,000 as taking the place of what would have been the normal retention money, and it is within our discretion, and has been within our discretion, to pay any portion of that amount during the period, not necessarily waiting for nine months. That has been our practice, and this £4,000 took the place of what would be the ordinary retention money. We had no objection to going to the Department of Finance and getting covering sanction. I have no doubt that they will agree to that, and certainly we were not attempting to get by with anything. That was our interpretation of what this change of retention money meant. I might point out that actually there was much more than the £2,000 due to the contractor. There were extras. There were certain sums due under the terms of the contract in connection with the Conditions of Employment Act which amounted to £1,200; there were other extras amounting to £29 12s. 1d., and there was another instalment of £3,000. We were more than adequately covered. We did not pay this money immediately; it was a couple of months, several months, before even the first moiety of the remaining £4,000 was paid. The other £2,000 was retained until the full period.

Mr. Dagg.—I understand that in the actual contract entered into, one of the provisions was that the Commissioners of Public Works had a discretion to pay back the retention money at any time within the nine months. That was not actually stated to the Minister for Finance at the time they submitted the case for approval, and his approval confined itself to the retention of the £4,000 for the nine months. I am quite sure that if the Commissioners had stated. when putting up the case, that they had this discretion to pay back part of the retention money at any time they considered it advisable to do so during the period of nine months, the Minister would not have withheld his approval.

151. Deputy O Briain.—Have the terms of the contract the sanction of the Department of Finance?

Mr. Dagg.—Yes, and in the actual contract there was this usual clause, that the Commissioners could pay back part of the retention money and could use their discretion as to the time they would pay it back. They did not mention this in their submission to the Minister for Finance and the Minister did not cover it in his sanction. If they had mentioned it, I am quite sure the Minister would have agreed to allow the Commissioners the discretion which they have always had.

Mr. Connolly.—I should like to ask Mr. Dagg is it not the fact that that discretionary power does exist in our contract with this firm?

Mr. Dagg.—It does.

Chairman.—I suggest that the best way to resolve this situation is that the Board of Works, through the Comptroller and Auditor-General, should get sanction in this case without prejudice and then the matter could be made the subject of discussion between Mr. Connolly’s Department and the Comptroller and Auditor-General, so that the position can be clarified for future reference. Would that meet with approval?

152. Deputy O Briain.—Is this discretion usual in all Board of Works contracts, Mr. Connolly?—Yes, discretionary power with regard to this retention money. It is a useful power in this sense. Naturally, the Board does not want to part with a penny before it is due. On the other had, we want to act as decently as possible with the contractors. Occasionally you get a good, a decent, contractor and very often the bank are tight on him and will want to get in as much money as they can against the work. These contractors lay out very big sums of money. We want this discretionary power so that we can judge a case on its merits. We do not want to have a man unduly pressed by the Bank when we owe the money to him.

153. Deputy Keyes.—This retention clause is unquestionably a very valuable safeguard for public boards throughout the country and they will look upon the Board of Works as being a model employer in dealing with contracts of this kind. I have a feeling that this example might be followed by contractors to local authorities and it may have disastrous consequences in the case of contracts for cottages and other works carried out by local authorities. I think if it were not for the retention clause we would be in a bad way.

Mr. Connolly.—I would like to assure the Deputy that we are not unduly lenient. We get a certificate from our architects before we part with a shilling. There is no danger of any undue burst of generosity on our part with regard to the payment of retention money.

154. Chairman.—I am sure the Chairman of the Board of Works will bear in mind the point raised by Deputy Keyes. I think we can be assured that in this case the sanction of the Department of Finance will be sought without prejudice and the matter will be further discussed between the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Board of Works.

155. Chairman.—Report of Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“In another case Department of Finance authority was obtained to waive a claim for £77 4s. 9d. against a firm of contractors, being the amount of the additional cost occasioned by their failure to carry out their contract.”

Do you care to make any observation on that, Mr. Connolly?—Except to mention that this contractor attempted to commence the work and there was a trade union dispute and the men were called off. We then found that we had to get a new contractor to do the job and the new price for doing the original contract was £77 4s. 9d. more. We did not feel we had any legal redress and the extra cost was due to the increase of wages that followed the strike.

156. Was the first contractor suitably guaranteed with the appropriate bond?—I could not say that right off, whether he had a bond or not. It was a contract for £172 15s. and we do not as a rule look for bonds on the smaller type of contract.

157. Chairman.—Have you any observation to make on that, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—I quite appreciate that point. I do not think, in a case like this, that you could look for a bond. I do not think, in a case that I know in Sligo, where a man contracts to carry out certain work for £100, that you could look for a bond. I think the Board of Works were unlucky in this particular matter and it could not be avoided.

158. Chairman.—We shall now proceed to deal with the various subheads. As regards subhead B 1, what is the explanation of that sum of £135,615 which was not expended, Mr. Connolly?—Well, really it was spread over a number of Departments. You will find the unexpended amounts shown against each new work.

159. Are these the details on pages 33, 34 and 35, and following pages?—Yes.

160. With regard to subhead F, does this represent a general rise in the price of coal?—It does. The price rose during the year by different amounts, from 3/6 up to 6/8 per ton. That was in excess of the price anticipated when the estimate was made.

161. Was this British coal, or domestic coal?—Some of it domestic. The anthracite was got in Castlecomer and the rest was British coal. Of course, turf and firewood are also included in that.

162. I am not aware that there was any substantial rise in the price of British coal?—There was a rise in what we estimated would have been the price.

163. Was there a rise in the price of the Castlecomer coal or in the price of the turf?—Yes, both were slightly dearer. I could not tell you to what extent.

164. Are large quantities of turf still being used?—Our purchases during that year came to £7,804.

165. Was that before you started using the briquettes, or does it refer to the old hand-won turf?—They are both used, both the briquettes and the hand-won.

166. Deputy Walsh.—With regard to subhead H 2. what is meant by the River Shannon Navigation—Grant-in-Aid?— There was nothing spent out of that. That is a provision that we make each year in case there is a deficiency on the Shannon navigation account. Fortunately, for the last few years there has not been a deficiency and we have not had to call on that. As a matter of fact, the account is in credit at the moment.

Mr. McGrath.—If the Deputy looks at page 24 he will see a reference to the Shannon navigation and he will see where the receipts were £5,870 and the payments £5,172.

167. Chairman.—As regards subhead J3—Barrow Drainage—will that subhead disappear from the accounts now, Mr. Connolly?—It will, but probably not for another year or two.

168. You just leave a taken subhead in, in case anything falls to be paid?—Yes.

169. I may say, Mr. Connolly, that that is a procedure of which we cordially approve. Arising out of subhead M, has the proposal for the restoration of St. Enda’s been definitely postponed, or is it intended to do it in the future?—A considerable amount of work has already been done keeping the place from not going into further disrepair; in other words, we are maintaining it to preserve the building, but we are not spending any really extravagant amount on doing anything but the barest essentials for maintenance purposes.

170. Chairman.—I take it that in the next Appropriation Accounts, under B 2 of this Vote, we will find some expenditure has been made?—Yes. £2,000 is shown there and it is out of that that we have carried out the work. We are now doing the work. It was not spent in that year.


Mr. J. Connolly called.

No question.


Mr. Seosamh O Neill called.

No question.


Mr. Seosamh O Neill examined.

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

“Under an arrangement approved by the Department of Finance in 1929, the grants payable to Training Colleges were determined party by reference to the numbers for which the colleges were licensed and partly by reference to the numbers in actual residence. In normal circumstances only slight variations occur between the actual and the licensed numbers, but owing to the steps taken in recent years to cope with the problem of unemployment amongst teachers, admissions to certain colleges for males have been curtailed, and disparity between the licensed and actual numbers has resulted.

I have been furnished with particulars of the cases of students who withdrew from training subsequent to 1st September, 1931. The question of the recovery of the cost of training has been pursued in all appropriate cases in accordance with the procedure agreed upon with the Department of Finance.”

In regard to the first part of that paragraph, I take it, Mr. O’Neill, that that is a decision of the Minister?—Yes, that is a decision of the Minister.

172. Have you any further comment to make upon it, Mr. McGrath?

Mr. McGrath.—I do not know whether the Department of Finance are aware of the difference between the actual attendance and the licensed number because it makes a difference in the total cost of the training of the students that are there.

173. Chairman.—Has your attention been directed to that problem, Mr. Almond?

Mr. Almond.—Yes, we are fully aware of the position, Sir, and we are kept informed by the Department of Education. Each year they come to us for authority to fix the licensed numbers. You have to remember, Sir, that the overheads of those Colleges proceed irrespective of the number of residents, and it is necessary that they should have an irreducible minimum of revenue. Otherwise they would be unable to carry on. We relate the licensed numbers as far as possible to the estimated numbers in residence but we find that we have to leave the licensed numbers somewhat in excess of the numbers in residence. We have in recent years reduced the licensed numbers in view of the reduction in the number of residents and, in the year under review, we made certain reductions. We have made further reductions for the present year.

174. Chairman.—The situation is, then, that a peculiar difficulty has arisen and that the Departments of Education and Finance between them are doing their best to keep the Colleges going in this lean period and save as much money as they can?—That is the position.

Mr. McGrath.—I am quite satisfied.

Mr. Almond.—I might add. Sir, if I may, that the grants to the Colleges are in two parts. One part is based on the licensed numbers and the other part is based on the numbers in residence. So that, the licensed numbers we fix are not entirely the basis for their revenue.


Mr. Almond.—The revenue varies according to the numbers actually in residence.

175. Chairman.—However, the fact is that we cannot regard the situation as very satisfactory from the financial point of view, but the difficulty is inseparable from the policy laid down by the Minister in the peculiar circumstances?—It is due largely to the falling averages and the unemployment amongst teachers.

176. Quite, and the consequent reduction in the number of students taken on in the Colleges?—That is correct.

177. The second paragraph is informative, I think?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

178. Chairman.—On subhead A 3—Preparatory Colleges, etc.—there is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, as follows:—

“The boarding cost per head for the school year 1937-38 ranged from 7s. 2d. to 8s. 11½d. per week, showing a slight increase, in each case, as compared with the previous year.

Accounts have been furnished showing the receipts and expenditure in connection with the farms and gardens for the school year 1937-38, small excesses of expenditure over receipts being disclosed in all cases except one.

The average fee paid by the students for the same school year was £7 11s. 0d.”

How is it, Mr. O’Neill, that you cannot make any money out of your farms and gardens?—I am afraid I cannot go into that. I do not know exactly why we cannot. In our costings, the price put down for the stuffs is the price prevailing at the time. In some years we had a slight increase. The expenditure was less than the income. This year the expenditure has been greater than the income on the farms. In the case of the other things the increase has been due to a slight rise in price in bread, flour, milk and bacon.

Chairman.—Those are controversial matters, Mr. O’Neill, into which we will not tempt you.

179. Deputy O’Rourke.—Could we find out how many actually pay nothing in these Preparatory Colleges?—70 per cent. of the pupils.

180. They are practically all from the Gaeltacht, apparently?—Yes: we have a very large proportion from what is called the Fior-Fior-Ghaeltacht. They are very poor people, fishermen and small cotters, and they cannot pay anything. Seventy per cent. pay nothing; 10 per cent. pay the full fee, and the rest pay varying fees according to their means.

181. Chairman.—In regard to subhead C1—National Schools, etc., there is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“In my last report I referred to the introduction of the panel scheme for safeguarding the position of teachers from whom salary would otherwise fall to be withdrawn owing to reduced average attendance of pupils. The governing regulations provide that where a vacancy for an assistant teacher or junior assistant mistress occurs the vacancy shall be filled from the appropriate panel, if there is an eligible teacher available, unless by a readjustment of the staffs of schools a resulting vacancy is filled from the panel or unless an eligible redundant teacher is appointed. I observed that in certain cases appointments of nonpanel teachers were made, although it appeared that eligible teachers were available from the respective Diocesan panels at the time, and I have asked for explanation. …”

Did you get the explanation, Mr. McGrath?—Well, we have adopted a certain procedure. I should explain this by stating that, generally speaking, the panel has been observed but we noticed about half-dozen cases where the people concerned kept away from the panel, in this way, that certain vacancies occurred and men teachers were appointed when there were women teachers on the panel. It may be observed that the manager has a right to appoint women teachers or men teachers, as he wishes, but it occurred to the Audit Office that the panel was being avoided sometimes unnecessarily. We are led to believe that a woman teacher on the panel is eligible for appointment and yet we notice that certain managers will not appoint women. We have put up half-dozen cases to the Department and, in some cases, we have accepted the reasons given why the panel should be avoided. In three or four cases we have asked them to put the position to the Department of Finance and get their sanction for the appointment of teachers outside the panel. I can go into very small detail here but I am only giving you the procedure.

182. Chairman.—Mr. O’Neill, would it be correct to say that in no case has a female teacher been appointed where there was a female teacher available on the panel?—No. I do not think that is the case the Comptroller makes. What really happened was—there were certain border-line cases where, although according to the Rules a woman or a man might be appointed, the Minister considered that it would be uneducational to appoint a woman. That applied in three or four of those cases out of the half-dozen the Comptroller mentioned. You have, for instance, a boys’ school with four teachers. You have already one or two women teachers in that school. There is a vacancy in the school; there are no men on the panel, but the Minister thinks that in that purely boys’ school it would be undesirable to have a staff of one man and three women, for disciplinary reasons, and consequently, although there were women on the panel, he allows the manager to appoint a man. It is undesirable to have a high proportion of women in a school of that kind. Four of the six cases the Comptroller mentioned were cases of that sort.

Deputy Walsh.—I think, of course, that in a country school where a man was teaching and that man went out and thereby created a vacancy there would be possibly strong local objection to getting the man replaced by a woman.

183. Chairman.—Would you agree with that, Mr. O’Neill, that in country places where a man teacher retires there may be very strong local feeling against his place being filled by a woman and vice versa— that the country people might think that, if a woman went out, she should be replaced by a woman and, if a man went out, he should be replaced by a man?— I do not think we have a great deal of evidence of that. If the local people want to have a man appointed or a woman appointed, they will try to press for that, but very little account is taken of what the local people actually want. The things that matter to the Minister are the educational needs. If the appointment is in a Gaeltacht area we expect, e.g., a bilingual certificate. There may not be any person on the panel with a bilingual certificate. Consequently, we do not consider the panel people eligible. I think there were two cases of this type.

Mr. McGrath.—I have the Kerry case here. In the other cases that occurred, I think that they were cases of our not wishing to have a preponderance of women teachers in a boys’ school on the principle that discipline is not so well kept if you have too many women.

184. So the Committee may take it that the panel system is rigidly adhered to except in cases where the Minister is satisfied that some grave educational reason demands a departure from it?— Yes. I should like to mention one other case, which is not purely educational. It is important that this type of case should be thrashed out at the Public Accounts Committee, and we were rather glad that the Comptroller drew attention to it, for the reason that the panel rules are very important and that they are new rules that are coming in, and it would be very desirable that we should get a lead, fairly early, as to procedure. The educational cases we feel fairly clear about, but there might be other cases, and I think some have arisen, though they have not yet come to the Comptroller, of a teacher on the panel, a married woman teacher with a baby or two very small children who, if she had to take a school 40 miles away, would be in a very difficult position. It is not an educational matter there. In cases of that sort, we have been very doubtful as to whether we should force the woman to accept the position, and the Minister feels that in that case from the point of view of general public policy, it is not desirable, where you have a woman with an infant child, to force her to take a school very far away. We feel that we would like to get a lead on the particular point and get the mind of the Committee and of the Department of Finance on it.

185. Deputy O Briain.—Has a panel teacher not got the right, and particularly a woman teacher, to object to a vacancy that is offered? Is the wording of the ruling not: “a suitable vacancy”? —It is the Minister who has the right to decide whether a vacancy is suitable or not rather than the teacher.

Mr. McGrath.—The Deputy has almost proved the necessity of bringing this forward by his statement that a teacher has the right to say: “I will go” or “I will not go”. If he is an eligible teacher on the panel, and he gets the opportunity of taking a position within the diocese, he must take it. He has no option.

Mr. O’Neill.—Except in so far as the Minister considers the vacancy suitable. That is the rule.

Mr. McGrath.—There are three parties concerned in the panel, the Department itself, the manager and the teacher. I think the panel is a very important matter because the fact that a teacher goes on the panel means that it has cost the State a good deal of money. That teacher would have gone out, he would have ceased to be recognised and his salary would have stopped. By going on the panel, there are certain things to be done. It is recognised by the Department that for each individual, each of the parties connected with the panel, there must be certain rules, and if an eligible teacher is available, he cannot be passed over without some very good cause. If a teacher is offered a position, he cannot refuse it because it is 40 miles away, or in a place to which he does not like to go.

Chairman.—I think I might intervene at this stage to point out that I do not think this Committee will wish to undertake the burden of laying down a code of rules for the Department of Education, and that the attitude this Committee will take is that, in these cases, it will call for the code of rules laid down by the Minister, and will require the Accounting Officer to correspond with those rules precisely. If, therefore, the Minister desires to reserve to himself a discretion, that is not a matter upon which this Committee will have the right to comment, but if he lays down a code of rules for his Accounting Officer, this Committee will support the Comptroller and Auditor-General in insisting that the Accounting Officer carries out the rules, even where they occasion hardship, feeling, as we will, that the rectification of the rules is a matter for the Minister and the Dáil, and not for this Committee or the Accounting Officer. I think that would correctly represent our position.

Deputy O Briain.—I do not agree.

186. Deputy Keyes.—On the other hand, I think the Committee ought to endorse the attitude taken up by the Accounting Officer in regard to asking for guidance. There will have to be a certain amount of discretion in respect of the application of this panel, seeing that we were told by the Comptroller and Auditor-General that the manager is one of the parties who exercises a certain right of selecting the type of teacher. No similar right seems to be vested in the teacher and if he is on the panel, he has to take a school in any part of the diocese that happens to offer. The last word seems to lie with the Department and the Minister. While it is realised that the Minister ought to have a discretion, there ought to be some question of discretion in the case mentioned by the Accounting Officer of sending a lady teacher that distance away. I think the Committee will endorse the statement that they do not favour the three women to every man policy.

187. Chairman.—I would remind Deputies that we have two separate functions. We will have a discussion on the Department of Education Estimate in the Dáil, when the administration of the Department by the Minister may properly be debated. The administration of the Department by the Minister is not relevant to our business here. Our only concern is to see that Mr. O’Neill requires his subordinates to carry out his Minister’s instructions, and I do not think we should go beyond that.

Deputy O Briain.—I do not agree with your interpretation of the matter. I think the Committee should be in favour of the Minister exercising his discretion, so that no under hardship would be inflicted on any member of the teaching staff who has unfortunately to go on the panel, and particularly so in cases such as that mentioned by Mr. O’Neill, of the woman teacher with a very young family who has to go 40 miles from her home. I do not think that is what would be considered a suitable vacancy.

Chairman.—Has the Deputy reflected on the fact that if such a discretion is left in the hands of the Accounting Officer, he and I and all the other Deputies on the Committee will spend years of our lives standing on the doorstep of Mr. O’Neill’s office in Marlboro’ Street asking him to exercise that discretion?

Deputy O Briain.—I do not agree.

Chairman.—I have already been sitting on the doorstep and, by the mercy of God, got thrown out. If such applications are going to be granted, instead of having half-a-dozen cases, I will have 200.

Deputy O Briain.—So far as I am aware, the panel arrangement has worked pretty satisfactorily. There may be exceptional cases of hardship, and one would like to see a discretion at the disposal of the Department so that they could deal with these on their merits.

188. Chairman.—In the existing circumstances, I think the Committee must take the view that they require the regulations to be carried out. We may, individually, take the view that these regulations should be relaxed and we will have an opportunity of saying so in the Dáil next week.

Mr. O’Neill.—The question is really one of the interpretation of certain words in the regulation. One question arose in regard to eligibility and the next one to arise—the Comptroller and Auditor-General has not yet raised it—would be the question of a suitable vacancy. There, again, the Minister has the power of interpretation of what is a suitable vacancy, but it is quite likely that the Comptroller and myself may be giving different interpretations, and I raise the point, perhaps prematurely, in the hope that we might get the mind of the Committee on what line we ought to take to avoid future trouble.

189. Chairman.—The Committee must bear in mind that, as the Comptroller and Auditor-General has pointed out, this arrangement has involved the Exchequer in heavy expense, by keeping on the payrolls teachers for whom in fact there is no work to do, and in those circumstances, teachers must be expected to make some sacrifice in order to remain eligible for their full salary.

Mr. McGrath.—I might say that we have accepted some of the reasons given by the Accounting Officer in connection with this matter. We have asked him in three cases to go to the Department of Finance for sanction. I think Mr. O’Neill is agreeable to do that?

Mr. O’Neill.—Yes.

Chairman.—I think the Committee ought to bear this in mind, too, that it is a great help to the Accounting Officer and the Department of Education to have behind them a critical Committee of Public Accounts, rather than a complacent one, because it does strengthen his hand, in the presence of an unreasonable demand, to be able to say: “Even if I were prepared to grant your request, the Committee of Public Accounts would not endorse it,” whereas if we take up the position that we will consent to anything, the Department of Education is robbed of that very necessary additional protection against unreasonable requests.

Deputy Keyes.—Does the Chairman not consider that the Department of Finance is a sufficient bugbear in that respect without getting an additional one?

Deputy O Briain.—I do not think it could be suggested from the statements of any member of the Committee on this matter that there would be any undue complacency. The only matter that has been referred to is a case of peculiar hardship in which the discretion of the Department should be utilised to mitigate it as far as possible. Generally speaking, the panel arrangements have worked out, so far as I am aware in the diocese which I know fairly intimately, reasonably satisfactorily from the point of view of the Department, the managers and the teachers.

190. Chairman.—It would appear, Mr. O’Neill, that undue and extreme hardship would be the probable criterion. The Comptroller and Auditor-General, in his next note, says:—

“Owing to a fall in the average attendance at a certain school, the salary payable to an assistant teacher fell to be withdrawn, under the then existing rules, as from 1st October, 1929. Through inadvertence, salary continued to be paid to the teacher, and on the introduction of the revised regulations in 1937, she was retained subject to her name being placed on the Diocesan panel. On the resignation of another member of the teaching staff on the 31st March, 1938, the position of the teacher in question became regular, and normal recognition was accordingly restored to her as from 1st April, 1938. The amount paid to this teacher in respect of the period 1st October, 1929, to 31st March, 1938, was £1,633.”

That represents an extra-legal payment?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

Mr. O’Neill.—It was, in fact, due to an error in mistaking this school for an amalgamation school. It is a very peculiar type of school. We scarcely have anywhere under us a school in which there is an assistant and a J.A.M. working. Besides we had in the office a procession of people who stayed a couple of months and then got promotion in this section. We actually had about 12 different people passing through who never got a proper grip of the very complicated rules and regulations. It was owing to this the mistake was made, and continued over a number of years. The only thing we could say, while we acknowledge the mistake, is that actually in respect of a school of that sort, if we had gone to Finance—I hope Finance will not deny this—we would probably have been able to get sanction for this particular staff for the school, because it was a school with an average of over 70, and a principal, an assistant and a J.A.M. would have been a very fair staffing for a school of that sort, so that while there was no question whatever of the mistake and of an illegal payment being made, the illegal payment, in fact, was one which might ordinarily have been legalised, if our people had only picked up the error in time. I should like to point out that it was they themselves who picked it up afterwards and that they confessed the thing at once.

Mr. McGrath.—That is so.

191. Chairman.—I should say that a J.A.M. is a Junior Assistant Mistress. What is the view of the Department of Finance on this matter?

Mr. Almond.—I cannot agree with Mr. O’Neill’s opinion that if they had discovered this matter earlier, and had come to us that we would have agreed that the retention of the teacher was justified. We never made any such statement and we say now that we would not have agreed. The position is clear. There was a loss of £1,636 due to an inadvertence in the Department of Education.

192. Chairman.—Is this sum recoverable under the regulations?

Mr. Almond.—No, it is not unless it can be recovered from the officers who made the mistake.

193. Chairman.—Then I think Mr. McGrath that all we can say is that the error is a regrettable one but that in the special circumstances it probably could not have been avoided owing to changes in the staff of the Department of Education.

Mr. McGrath.—I think there should be some warning sent out to the individuals concerned and that it should be intimated to them that it should never have happened. I can quite understand individual officers making mistakes, but there was supposed to be a certain amount of supervision and those responsible for that supervision should be warned.

194. Chairman.—Was there an officer responsible for supervising these transient officers?—There was, but the officers were changed. They are scattered through various offices in Dublin. They have been transferred to other Departments through promotion.

195. There were in this case peculiar circumstances?—Very peculiar circumstances.

Mr. McGrath.—I know that in the Pay Department in connection with Primary Education the officers concerned have a very big job and that those who get promotion within six months or eight months do not get a proper knowledge of the work. An officer of that kind does not get down to it. I can quite understand the individual who made the calculation making an error, but I doubt very much if the supervision can be excused. I think they should get a very serious reprimand.

196. Chairman.—We may take it that there is no probability of a case of this kind recurring?—I hope not. We shall do our best in any case to prevent it.

197. Chairman.—The next paragraph reads:

“In the case of Convent Schools paid on a capitation basis, the regulations require that the number of recognised teachers shall be related to the average attendance of pupils. In view of the average attendance at a certain Convent School, an appointment of an additional recognised teacher fell to be made as from the 1st January, 1938.”

I pause there, because I do not think I would be doing my duty if I did not direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that it would be open to the Committee to recommend that the responsible officer should be identified and that steps should be taken to surcharge him for this payment. I do not think it would be right for me to allow this incident to pass without directing the attention of the Committee to that possibility. It is a matter to which we can return when we are considering our Report.

Deputy O Briain.—Has it ever been done by our Committee?

198. Chairman.—There has been a case in another Department I think in which the Committee has directed a surcharge.

Mr. McGrath.—I should explain that in this case the loss was due purely to an error but the other case, to which reference has been made, was not due to an error. It was a defalcation. Where the officers responsible for supervision failed to carry out the rules in force at the time, these officers had to pay three-fourths of the loss. I am not saying that we should go that far in this case. This was purely an error but it was an error repeated several times and so there must be some fault in the supervision.

199. Chairman.—I am not saying that I recommend that course to the Committee but I think it is right to direct attention to the fact that such a course is open to us when our Report comes to be written. The paragraph goes on:—

“In view of the average attendance at a certain Convent School, an appointment of an additional recognised teacher fell to be made as from the 1st January, 1938, and it was proposed to appoint to the post a Lay Assistant Teacher who had been serving in a supernumerary capacity in the School. As the names of eligible teachers appeared on the Diocesan panel at that date, it was not permissible under the regulations to make the proposed appointment and the appointment was accordingly ante-dated to the 30th September, 1937. I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be obtained for the action taken.”

This seems to be a case Mr. O’Neill in which the panel was got round.

200. Deputy O’Rourke.—How could that happen?—This was in the very beginning of the panel and there were two elements in the matter. A capitation convent school is not exactly in the same position as an ordinary school, in this sense, that we do not pay the lay assistants. The school pays the assistants and in this way the amount of that assistant’s salary is not an addition to the Vote. It is taken from the Capitation Grant to the convent. From now on, of course, there will be a certain addition to the Vote if the teacher is not taken from the panel. Up to that time there was not. I should say that there was a tendency on the part of the former Board of Commissioners, and later of the Department to impress upon those in charge of such schools that they should have a lay assistant appointed even when the average attendance sometimes did not warrant it. In this particular case we were just at the beginning of the panel and things were in some confusion. The panel was provisional at the time. The conductors of the convent had not a complete panel before them and they were not accustomed to the idea of the panel. The Department of Finance has had the matter under consideration and has sanctioned the appointment of this teacher.

201. Deputy O’Rourke.—Was the average not up to the required figure on the 30th September, 1937?—It was up during the year 1937. Actually they could have appointed the teacher during the year 1937, and if they had, the question of the panel would not have come into the matter at all.

202. Chairman.—It is clear now that if a lay teacher has to be appointed in one of the capitation schools she must be taken from the panel?—Yes, it is quite clear now. There was another difficulty in the case of that teacher. They have sometimes, in capitation convent schools, additional teachers whom we do not pay at all. They call them supernumeraries. These teachers go into the convents in the hope of getting permanent positions as lay assistants. This girl had been definitely promised that she would get this appointment and she refused an appointment elsewhere in order to be available for this appointment. The convent in the circumstances was more or less bound to give it to her.

203. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General will note that the Department’s sanction has been forthcoming. The next paragraph reads:—

“I have asked for an explanation of the appointment of a teacher in January, 1935, in view of the fact that the averages of attendance did not appear to warrant these appointments at that date.”

Mr. McGrath.—I take it. Mr. Chairman, that the Department of Finance has been approached in that matter too?

Mr. O’Neill.—They have.

204. Chairman.—What were the circumstances of this appointment?—The Iniskea Island North inhabitants were being brought to the mainland, with the result that the Iniskea school was finally discontinued. We had the principal teacher on our hands in the Iniskea school. If that had been a question of ordinary amalgamation—we do not argue that it was a question of amalgamation; it was a question of amalgamation in the real sense but not in the technical, legal sense—and if the two schools had been amalgamated the principal teacher would have been appointed as a privileged assistant in the neighbouring school. We did allow the principal teacher to be appointed in Aughleam, although his appointment was not fully justified under the rules. It would have needed an average of 140 to justify this appointment under the rules, and the average had not reached that figure although it was coming up to it. We had two things in mind: firstly, the fact that although it was not technically an amalgamation, in fact, there was amalgamation of the two schools. Secondly, where there has been a reorganisation of a school, that is, where a very large number of new pupils have been brought in, so that it becomes a different sort of school, we have often allowed an additional teacher to be appointed although the average has not been reached. This case partook of these two features. It was a sort of amalgamation case and it was a sort of reorganisation case. These were the grounds on which our Department gave sanction to the manager for the appointment. I agree with the Comptroller and Auditor-General that the Department of Finance in that particular case should have been brought in.

205. Chairman.—Have they since been brought in or has sanction been forthcoming?—We have not got sanction as yet.

206. Chairman.—Has Mr. Almond any observations to make?

Mr. Almond.—Unless this matter was brought before us in the last day or two, I do not think we have been approached.

Mr. O’Neill.—We intend to go to the Department of Finance.

207. Chairman.—I take it that, in the special circumstances, if the Department approaches Finance, we are agreeable. The next paragraph reads:—

“‘Normal recognition’ is defined in the regulations as recognition during the period from the date of appointment to the end of the fourth consecutive quarter for which the average attendance has fallen below certain points, and Rule 82 (8) provides that further periods of recognition, beyond the periods of normal recognition, may be allowed to teachers who have completed not less than ten years’ service. Rule 84 makes special provision for the continued recognition of the teaching staffs of schools which have been amalgamated. I observed that certain teachers, who were being retained under the special conditions of Rule 84, were granted periods of continued recognition under Rule 82 (8) as from the dates from which recognition under Rule 84 terminated, and I have asked for the observations of the Accounting Officer as to the application of Rule 82 (8) to such teachers.”

Mr. McGrath.—I am sure that that appears very confusing to members of the Committee, but I shall try to explain it in a few words. These teachers took protection under Rule 84 some time ago, and they ran out their rights under Rule 84. Now, the Department bring them under the protection of Rule 82 (8), and it is the opinion of the Audit Office that you cannot do that: that once they come under Rule 84 and run out their rights, it is hardly proper to give them a further concession under Rule 82 (8). I understand that the Department of Finance have agreed to revise this Rule so that they will be protected under Rule 82 (8). That may seem a rather indifferent sort of explanation. It is a very involved technical matter, but, if there is any further explanation required, I would ask the Chairman to request the Accounting Officer to supply it.

208. Chairman.—Perhaps, Mr. O’Neill, you can give us some help?—The position is as the Comptroller and Auditor-General has stated. What actually happened was that certain amalgamated schools were inadvertently left out of the Rules. Amalgamated teachers had always all the protection that had been given teachers in ordinary schools. By inadvertence they were left out of the Rules in the 1937 revision. The result was that so long as that inadvertence had not been rectified, we had no power technically to do this, in the case of teachers in amalgamated schools and the Department of Finance, when we put the matter up to them, gave us power to rectify it in regard to these amalgamated schools.

209. Chairman.—Do you not think it would have been more suitable, when this inadvertence came to the notice of the Department, to have an amending Rule made?—We have done that. We started to make it the moment it was brought to the attention of the higher officers. The Rule has been rectified and sanctioned by the Department of Finance.

210. Chairman.—Will this Rule, in due course, lie upon the Table of the House? —No. The Rules in that particular branch do not lie upon the Table.

211. Chairman.—Are you satisfied, Mr. McGrath, that, at the earliest possible moment, the proper steps were taken to amend the Rule to meet the new position?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes. I am quite satisfied with the matter as it is now.

212. Chairman.—I take it that, as the Comptroller and Auditor-General is satisfied, we are satisfied, too. The Comptroller and Auditor-General, in his Report, goes on to say: “I have also inquired regarding the continued recognition under Rule 82 (8) of a teacher who was being retained in special circumstances.”

Mr. McGrath.—The same principle is involved there.

Mr. O’Neill.—Yes. It is an additional case of the same kind.

213. Chairman.—This is another person for whom there was no rule and steps have been taken to rectify that position? —Yes.

214. Chairman.—The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General continues:

“The average attendance of pupils at a certain school fell below the number required to retain a second Assistant Teacher for the four consecutive quarters ended 30th June, 1936, and grants were continued to the teacher in question, in a redundant capacity, to the 30th September, 1937, under the provisions of Rule 82 (8). The teacher’s name was placed on the Diocesan panel as from the 1st October, 1937, and salary continued to be paid to the 31st July, 1938, from which date recognition was withdrawn owing to inefficiency. It appeared that the teacher had been rated as non-efficient for a number of years, and that he was not regarded as available for consideration in connection with vacancies which arose whilst his name appeared on the Diocesan panel. I have asked for the observations of the Accounting Officer as to the desirability of continuing, under the panel scheme, the recognition of teachers who are not regarded as eligible for alternative employment.”

Mr. O’Neill.—One has to make a distinction between non-efficient teachers and inefficient teachers. We have a great many border-line cases where a teacher becomes non-efficient, then becomes efficient, non-efficient and, again, efficient. These are cases with which it is rather difficult to deal. Our inspectors come along and stimulate a teacher and the teacher becomes efficient. It is difficult not to put these people on the panel because they are not inefficient, in the ordinary sense of the word, and we have no power at the moment not to put them on the panel. They have the right to go on. The only remedy I can see is that which we have adopted—the speeding up of the examination of non-efficiency cases to find whether the teachers are really inefficient and, if so, to get rid of them. Where they are non-efficient, we are trying to stimulate them by organisation and inspection and, if they are inefficient, we are trying to get rid of them. We have no power not to put them on the panel.

215. Chairman.—If the result of this is to stimulate the Department to rid itself of utterly inefficient teachers, it will be a blessing in disguise. Does the Comptroller and Auditor-General share that view?

Mr. McGrath.—I do.

216. Chairman.—The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General continues:—

“I observed that a non-panel teacher was appointed as second assistant as from the 30th March, 1938. It appeared that the vacancy in question had been offered to a teacher who was serving in another school in a redundant capacity and that the offer had been declined. I have enquired whether, in these circumstances, the question of withdrawing the recognition of that teacher under the Rules was considered.”

Mr. O’Neill.—Here we come back to the case of the woman with small children. Redundant teachers are very like panel teachers. They are teachers who are kept on as a protective section. Redundancy is somewhat more protective than the panel and it is of older date. We have had redundant teachers for a very long time. The precedent as regards redundant teachers, as well as the Rule, is, and always has been, that the Minister decides as to whether a redundant teacher be forced to accept a vacancy or not. In this case, it was a question of a school 40 miles away. The teacher was a married woman with two small children, aged six months and 18 months. In that case, the Minister did not ask the teacher to accept. There have been a great many precedents for that. It is not like the panel cases. It is of very old standing.

Mr. McGrath.—I should not expect the Department to ask this woman to go away and Mr. O’Neill has taken a very good case on which to defend himself. He mentioned it twice this morning. I should not ask that a person of this type be forced to go away from her home—a woman with small children—but I want to insist that everybody connected with this panel—managers, teachers and the Department itself—should strictly carry out the rules and should take no excuse. The reasons given in this case are proper reasons but, at the same time, I myself know that there are tendencies in different places to avoid the panel.

Mr. O’Neill.—This, of course, is not a panel case. It is a case of a redundant teacher.

217. Chairman.—But there is an analogy?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

Deputy O Briain.—This is one of those cases in which exceptional hardship would be inflicted if the provisions of the panel were strictly enforced but I agree with the Chairman that, with the exception of the few cases of that kind which will turn up—one or two per cent. of the whole number—the panel arrangement should be strictly enforced. I should not like the Chairman to get the idea that I was opposing his view when I referred to the matter previously. I was referring only to cases of exceptional hardship, such as this case. I happened to learn of a case of that particular kind.

218. Chairman.—It occurs to me that it might be worth while for the Department to consider whether they would not set up a body analogous to the Appointments Commissioners, the identity of whom nobody would know in advance, before whom a teacher might seek arbitration if he or she were required to take up a job which they thought involved unreasonable hardship. The decision of that tribunal should not be open to appeal. In that way, the Rule could be enforced without opening the Minister to the pressure which we Deputies will be required to bring upon him if he has to exercise his own discretion. I merely throw that out as a suggestion.

Deputy O’Rourke.—It is with the managers and not with the teachers that you have to deal.

219. Chairman.—Anonymous bodies have a very effective way of dealing with managers. The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General proceeds:

“The average attendance at a certain school fell below the figure required to warrant the continuance of the normal recognition of the Assistant Teacher for the four consecutive quarters ended 30th September, 1937, and grants were continued to her, in a redundant capacity, for an additional period under the provisions of Rule 82 (8). The teacher in question reached the age of 60 years in March, 1937, and formal permission to continue in the service to 31st March, 1939, was issued to her in July, 1938. I inquired whether, in considering the question of granting permission to the teacher to serve after reaching the age of 60 years, regard was had to the position of the average attendance at the school, and I was informed that it had been decided that the regulations under which efficient women teachers were retained after the age of 60 years applied to redundant teachers equally with non-redundant teachers.”

Mr. O’Neill.—Redundant teachers have always been treated in exactly the same way. Redundancy first arose under the amalgamation question. We were always very keen on getting schools to amalgamate, and the redundancy provision was brought in as a protection, and as an inducement to the schools to amalgamate. Consequently, whatever privileges other teachers had were always extended to redundant teachers. That was the principle upon which we worked here.

Mr. McGrath.—I admit that I am on the border-line of administration in this case, and I merely mention the matter in the words I used in the paragraph. I am not prepared to go further than that.

220. Deputy O Briain.—Has this been introduced since the new regulation as regards the retirement of women teachers was brought into operation?

Mr. O’Neill.—This was not a case under the new regulations. Under the new regulations we are not letting women get off at all if we can. I think the issue referred to here is more or less a dead issue now.

221. Chairman.—In this case, the rules were not departed from?

Mr. McGrath.—No. We merely drew attention to the case of a teacher over 60 years of age being retained in a school where the average was not up to the mark. We thought that rather strange, but we were on dangerous ground.

222. Chairman.—The next paragraph of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is as follows:—

“I have already referred, at paragraph 30, to the steps taken to deal with the problem of unemployment amongst teachers. In this connection, revised regulations, taking effect from the 1st April, 1938, have been approved by the Minister for Finance. These regulations provide for certain reductions in the averages of attendance required for the appointment and retention of teachers.”

This is merely an informative note?

Mr. McGrath.—Yes.

223. Chairman.—As regards Non-voted Services (Reid Bequest Scheme—Section A), paragraph 33 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is as follows:—

“The scheme for the distribution of the income of this fund provides that the Managers of the schools to which moneys are allocated shall submit vouched accounts of the expenditure for audit by the Department’s Inspector. I have inquired as to the submission of these accounts for the school year 1936-37.”

Have you received the vouched accounts?

Mr. McGrath.—I have received the vouched accounts in respect of all the schools except one, the manager of which died some time ago. The Department are in communication with his successor and I am quite satisfied with the way the matter stands.

224. Deputy O’Rourke.—As regards subhead C 6, which deals with grants towards the cost of heating schools, are the new regulations yet in force?

225. Chairman.—Are there new regulations?

Mr. O’Neill.—There are.

226. Chairman.—Were they in operation when this account was in progress? —No.


Mr. Seosamh O’Neill further examined.

227. Chairman.—Paragraph 34 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is as follows:—

Subhead EGrant towards Publication of Irish Textbooks.

“I referred in paragraph 35 of my last Report to expenditure incurred in connection with the preparation of a glossary of words and phrases in use in a Gaeltacht area. Payments amounting to £313 10s. 0d. in respect of this work have been charged to this subhead, but expenditure in respect of it is borne on the Vote for Science and Art as from 1st April, 1938. I understand that new arrangements are being made for the completion of this work.”

Does this refer to the glossary of words in the Dingle peninsula?

Mr. O’Neill.—Yes.

Mr. McGrath.—Developments are taking place in connection with this matter at present and I think the Committee ought not to discuss it just now.

228. Chairman.—You are satisfied that the views expressed by the Committee in their last Report are being considered and that attempts are being made to meet them?

Mr. McGrath.—I am satisfied that the Department is attempting to meet the views of the Committee.

Chairman.—It may be well, since the matter is sub judice, to leave it over and we can return to it next year if the necessity should arise.


Mr. Seosamh O’Neill further examined.

229. Chairman.—Dealing with subhead B (Annual Grants to Vocational Education Committees) the Comptroller and Auditor-General, in paragraph 35 of his report, says:—

“The charge to this subhead includes a sum of £205 9s. 7d. being a special grant paid in March, 1938, to a Vocational Education Committee under section 103 (2) of the Vocational Education Act, 1930. As the Minister’s Order under section 103 (1) of the Act had not been made at that date, I have asked for an explanation of the payment. I observed that the payment of the special recurring grant under section 103 (2), to enable this Committee to meet certain charges was sanctioned by the Minister for Finance on the basis that the Committee was unable to meet any of these charges out of its own resources. In view of the financial position of the Committee in question, I have addressed a communication to the Accounting Officer.”

Mr. McGrath.—As regards the first part of the paragraph, the grant was made prior to the promulgation of the Order. That was only a technical matter and it has since been righted by the Accounting Officer. Regarding the second part of the paragraph, I had to draw attention to the fact that this committee had a considerable sum of money to their credit of which, so far as I know, the Department of Finance were unaware.

Mr. O’Neill.—The Committee concerned was the Cork Committee, and the Cork Committee has a very big income and very big expenditure. Vocational education committees get their grants from the rates and from us only at the end of each quarter. Consequently, they must have, during that quarter, roughly the amount necessary for the current expenditure. Otherwise, they would have an overdraft at the bank on which they would have to pay interest. The Cork Committee spends about £24,000 or £25,000 in the year. In other words, its quarterly expenditure is about £6,000, and that was the amount it had to credit. It had to credit merely sufficient to cover the quarter’s expenditure, and we could not very well take that into account as a reserve. The £208 additional was paid for a different thing.

230. Chairman.—When the Department of Finance was considering this matter, did they advert to the fact that the Committee had funds in hands, though they were earmarked for another purpose, or did they believe that the Committee had no funds?

Mr. Almond.—The form in which the proposal was put to us by the Department of Education did not indicate that the Committee had any funds. We were given particulars of receipts and expenditure for the previous three years, and estimates for the next two years. In four years out of five, expenditure was shown to exceed the receipts. That was satisfactory, from our point of view, but we should have been informed at the time that the Committee had a balance in hands. However, I do not think that, if the Department had adverted to that balance, and it had been explained to us that it was necessary for carrying on working operations and to avoid recourse to the bank, we would have objected merely on the ground that that balance existed.

231. Chairman.—Do you, Mr. O’Neill, agree that the form in which the proposal was made to the Department of Finance did not make it clear that the Committee had certain funds, the Department of Finance being left under the impression that there were no funds at all, though the funds in question were earmarked for a special purpose.

Mr. O’Neill.—That seems to be the case, but the excuse of our people is that they are so accustomed to the arrangement by which a committee must have a certain sum in hands to meet the quarterly expenditure that they do not think of these moneys as a reserve fund at all. They consider that these moneys are absolutely necessary for the working of the Committee. If there had been any money, over and above what would be required during the quarter, it would have been noted and the Department of Finance would have been informed. But there was no real reserve fund. The moneys in hand were only sufficient to meet current expenditure.

232. Chairman.—The Department of Education might, in future, be even a little more explicit than they have been in the past in their correspondence with the Department of Finance. As regards subhead D (Grants to Schools providing Continuation Education or Technical Instruction), paragraph 36. of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is as follows:—

“In my report last year, I referred to the payments made from this subhead to schools and classes not established or maintained by Vocational Education Committees and to the question of framing regulations under section 109 of the Act to provide for such classes. I understand that the approval of the Minister for Finance has been obtained for the basis of the proposed regulations and that the grants paid to certain classes will be discontinued in future years.”

Mr. McGrath.—It will be noted that the grants payable to certain classes will be discontinued in future years. I draw attention to that. These are, I understand, very important classes.

233. Chairman.—Why is it proposed to discontinue the grants?

Mr. O’Neill.—We have felt for quite a long time that these were grants which should hardly be made under this particular subhead. The institutions concerned were the College of Surgeons, Trinity College, for medical and dental classes, and the Dental Hospital. We inherited this responsibility and our view was that, if these grants were to be given, they should be given on the University Vote. We were quite glad to get rid of them. We had informal discussions for some time with the Department of Finance with a view to getting rid of them.

234. Chairman.—Is it proposed to continue the grants?—Not by our Department.

235. What are the classes affected?— Medical classes and dental classes, and payment was at the rate of 3d., 6d. or 9d. an hour according to the type of class.

236. They were really university classes?—Yes.

237. Since when have they been diccontinued?—They were in last years Estimates, but they are not included in the Estimates for 1939-40 for our Department.

Mr. Almond.—Perhaps I am a little more acquainted with this matter than Mr. O’Neill is. In one case, the grant will be continued for 1939-40 and will then terminate. In the other two cases, the grants will be paid for 1939-40 and 1940-41 and will then terminate.


Mr. Seosamh O’Neill further examined.

238-9. Chairman.—As regards subhead B 1 (Publications in Irish), paragraph 37 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is as follows:—

“A scheme for the publication of illustrated booklets for children was sanctioned by the Department of Finance and the arrangements provided that the rights in the books should revert to the author when the State expenditure had been recovered from sales. It appeared, in connection with one of these booklets, that the sale of the first edition resulted in a loss of £58; that this loss will be increased by the issue of the second edition and that it will not be possible to recover the costs of production on the basis of the present sale price. I have addressed a communication to the Accounting Officer on the matter.”

Mr. McGrath.—It seems that the more of these books that are sold the greater the loss, and I think the cost of production cannot be recovered on the present sale price.

Mr. O’Neill.—No.

Mr. McGrath.—It will be necessary to make some other arrangement.

240. Chairman.—The only result of not recovering the cost is that the Department retains the right to the book?

Mr. O’Neill.—The author loses. It is rather a difficult position because the author is really being mulcted. She will not get the book for many years, if ever.

241. Chairman.—What good is the book if it yields no profit?—We have not taken up the publication of books on a profit and loss basis. If there were a profit to be made in this particular matter, we should not be publishers. We should leave it to the ordinary commercial publishers. We publish books which the ordinary commercial publishers will not publish in order to provide our schools with suitable material. One of our requirements were little, illustrated books for children. In England, excellent little books for children are turned out for 3d. You can get them in English in Woolworth’s and they contain beautiful illustrations. We wanted to turn out something of the same sort which would compete with the English books. We priced our books at 6d. but we found that, while the English book was seemingly selling at a profit at 3d., the Irish book was selling at a loss at 6d. The difficulty seems to be that printing in Ireland is very much dearer than it is in England where these other books were printed. There is, of course, a little addition to the cost because the book is in Irish, but we were quite surprised when we discovered that we were losing on the sale of the book. We do not come in at the stage where the contract is made, as the business is shared between two Departments. The Stationery Office handles that end of the matter. We make a calculation, so far as possible, at the beginning. We price the book on the basis on which it will be obtainable by the ordinary poor child in school. That is the whole aim of our being as publisher. In this case, we could hardly charge more than 6d. If we charged a shilling, the loss would have been greater because nobody would buy the book. Actually, we should have to charge 2/9 per copy for this little book of 50 pages to cover the cost.

242. Chairman.—The Committee will, I am sure, take the view that, in the peculiar circumstances surrounding these publications, the Department must do the best it can and we shall not be hypercritical. We must leave the matter to the Department.

Mr. McGrath.—Of course, I have to bring the matter forward.

Deputy O Briain.—The books are well turned out.

243. Chairman.—That is a welcome change. Better to lose a little money and turn out a decent book than to make money and turn out a poor book. Paragraph 38 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is as follows:—

“The amount charged to this account includes a sum of £15 10s. 0d. for adaptations fitted to certain Bronze Age specimens. In view of the exceptional nature of this expenditure, I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be obtained.”

Mr. McGrath.—The Department of Finance have sanctioned the expenditure.

244. Chairman.—What were the specimens referred to?

Mr. O’Neill.—A Bronze Age trumpet. We were rather interested in experiments carried on in Denmark, where they have a very good selection of Bronze Age musical instruments similar to ours. They had these instruments fitted up in such a way that they could have a Bronze-Age concert, with specially written music. Our Director was very keen on having something similar done here, so that we might be able at certain functions to have a Bronze-Age concert., e.g., on the occasion of some national festival. He got Colonel Brase to examine these instruments and to write certain pieces for them. A mouthpiece had to be fitted to the trumpet. It had been broken and had to be completed. It has been the practice in the Museum, when one of these exhibits was incomplete in any way, to have it repaired, so as to bring it to its original form. We did this and the Comptroller and Auditor-General queried the item.

Mr. McGrath.—We thought at the time that it was a rather peculiar outlay—outlay for the purpose of modernising things in a museum.

245. Chairman.—The same thought occurred to me, but Mr. O’Neill has explained the reason why this particular antique was adapted to modern usage.

246. Deputy Walsh.—Is there any system in the Department of Education by which antique articles accidentally found in the country can be obtained for the public benefit before they are destroyed?

Mr. O’Neill.—Yes. We have agents all over the country dealing with that. Our director is in touch with people everywhere in the country. He also keeps in touch with the police. The result of activities for the past five or six years is that the whole country is very much alive to the value of antiquarian objects found.

Deputy Walsh.—One or two cases came to my notice where the things found went to loss.

Chairman.—What were the things?

Deputy Walsh.—In one case, when the Land Commission were doing some excavation work, they found a canoe, which was left in the care of the parish priest, and there is no trace of it.

Mr. O’Neill.—That is extraordinary. Is that of recent date?

Deputy Walsh.—About three or four years ago. In another case the discovery would not have been known but for the local teacher. He was giving a lesson to the children on Celtic ornaments, and one of the boys remarked that he found one of these ornaments in a bog. He told him to bring it in to the school, and he found that it was a gold clasp, weighing eight or nine ounces. It was solid gold.

247. Chairman.—Has any circular been sent out to teachers directing their attention to the necessity of watching out for these objects?

Mr. O’Neill.—We have not circularised teachers about this particular matter. We circularised them about folklore and similar things.

248. Chairman.—Do you think that it would be a useful thing to circularise teachers on this subject?—Yes.

Deputy O Briain.—The Land Commission are vandals sometimes in regard to matters of this kind, the destruction of old monuments and so forth. They have a peculiar inclination to knock down things. It is an easy way out. Could not the Department of Education have some arrangement with the Land Commission and other such Departments by which finds of this kind would be brought to the attention of the Museum authorities so that they would have an opportunity of inspecting them and ascertaining if they were of value from the antiquarian point of view.

249. Chairman.—Is there any liaison between the Department of Education and other Government Departments in regard to these matters?

Mr. O’Neill.—No, but the Board of Works have been extremely good. They have been dealing with rivers and there has been a close connection between one of their officials and our Department. It has been chiefly the Board of Works which has been helping us with finds. These finds were made along the Barrow and elsewhere.

250. Chairman.—Have you considered the desirability of getting in touch with all these other Departments which are operating in the country?

Deputy O Briain.—It would be very desirable to get in touch with the Department of Lands because they have many opportunities owing to the type of work they do.

251. Chairman.—As regards subhead B 3, is the production of Irish county histories still going on?

Mr. O’Neill.—Yes.

Deputy O Briain.—I hope the Chairman will spare us his annual outburst about this matter.

Mr. O’Neill.—The editor has been supplying us with the MSS. in English, and we have to turn it into Irish. The Roscommon history has already been published in Irish. The editor has supplied us with five books in English, and two more are in hands. Publication is rather slow, but that is our fault.

252. Chairman.—Have any books been published, in fact?—Yes, the history of Roscommon.

253. What are they used for?—We hope they will be used in the schools.

254. Are they on the approved list of books for national schools?—We should hardly put them on the list for national schools. They are a bit too difficult in Irish for national schools.

Deputy O’Rourke.—The teachers use them.

255. Chairman.—Are they primarily designed for secondary schools?—They would suit the top class in national schools, but they are somewhat too learned for the other classes in national schools. They would be used by teachers in national schools, but not by the pupils.

256. Are they sold through “Government Publications” or through the booksellers?—Through “Government Publications.”

257. Is it proposed to continue the scheme under the existing arrangements until all the counties are completed?—Yes. There is a similar scheme in England by which they have done all the counties.

Chairman.—I demur to the use of the word “similar.”

Deputy O Briain.—The Chairman would demur to anything as regards this matter.


Mr. Seosamh O’Neill further examined.

258. Chairman.—There is a note in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General regarding this Vote as follows:—

“As stated in a note to the account, a Collector of Parental Moneys was prosecuted for embezzlement and pleaded guilty. The total ascertained amount involved, as reported to the Guaranteeing Insurance Company, was £47 17s. 0d., and this amount was determined by reference to documentary evidence. I understand that it was claimed by certain persons that other moneys, not brought to credit, had been paid to the Collector, but no evidence was available to establish the accuracy of these claims.

Sums amounting to £2 4s. 9d., due to the Collector at the date of his suspension, have been withheld.”

Mr. McGrath.—That paragraph is merely for information. I understand that the amount will be recovered.

Mr. O’Neill.—Not the whole amount. The Insurance Company are seemingly not bound to refund more than has been lost during the past year. Consequently, we should only get back half the amount.

259. Chairman.—The defalcations had gone on for some time?—Yes.

260. What are these Parental Moneys? —Parents who are able to pay a little towards the upkeep of their children in reformatory and industrial schools are required to do so by the Justice when committing the child. In the country, the moneys are generally collected by the Gárda, but in Dublin we have not been able to get that done, because the police have always been too busy. We have had to have collectors for that purpose in Dublin. They give a receipt for the money they collect, and then they come in and pay the money over at a certain date. What happened in this case was that the collector gave receipts for the amounts paid to him, but did not actually pay in the full amount to the office. He gave a false account of the moneys received in the vouchers handed in to the office. That had been going on for some time before it was detected.

261. Has he been dismissed?—Yes.

262. Have you considered the advisability of having an insurance policy covering all losses due to default of the insured person?—We have been going into that and we have been going into the question of preventing this sort of thing from happening again by not allowing any of these collectors to give an absolute receipt for money received. They should only be allowed to give a provisional receipt and, on this provisional receipt, there should be a notice stating that, if an absolute receipt be not received from the office in so many days, the receipt issued will be invalidated.

263. As regards subhead C (Places of Detention) what is the average number of children in Summerhill?—Between one and two.

264. And they are alone in this barrack? This is not the proper place to inquire as to why this infernal place is still being used?—Artane has refused to take these boys and they are within their right in doing so. We must have some place to which to send them.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned at 1.45 p.m.

* See Appendix VII.