Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1938 - 1939::20 April, 1939::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 20adh Abrán, 1939.

Thursday, 20th April, 1939.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:


B. Brady.




R. Walsh.

D. O’Briain.



DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.

Mr. J. Maher (Roinn an Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste) and Mr. C. S. Almond (Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.


Lieutenant-General P. MacMahon called and examined.

Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has a number of notes on this Vote. The first is:—

Subhead A.—Pay of Officers, Cadets, N.C.Os. and Men.

“The Public Accounts Committee in its report on the accounts for the year 1934-35 had occasion to comment on the unsatisfactory position which existed regarding the additional pay of soldier tradesmen. Apparently it has not so far been feasible to apply the provisions of Defence Force Regulation No. 36 of 1931 in its entirety for the reason that soldiers belonging to certain classes would suffer a reduction in the rates payable to them. A new regulation prescribing consolidated rates of pay and additional pay was authorised in November, 1937, but it has not been promulgated, as it seems that it is open to the same objection, and it was not considered desirable that any soldier should suffer a reduction in his emoluments. Proposals have, I understand, been submitted to the Department of Finance to apply the regulation in a modified form.”

540. Has anything further developed in that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Not yet.

541. Have you any further comment to make?—We understand that proposals have been made to the Department of Finance to apply this latter regulation to new entrants only, and to soldiers who would not suffer loss thereby and to soldiers who, on advancement in grade or rank, could be placed on the revised rates without suffering any loss. I am not aware whether a reply has yet been received.

542. We shall be glad to hear from you, General, when agreement has been reached in this matter between yourselves and the Department of Finance?

General MacMahon.—Yes.

543. The next paragraph of the Report reads:—

“A senior officer was due to retire on 17th June, 1937, when the maximum period of sick leave to which he was entitled had expired, as the Army medical authorities had certified that there was no reasonable chance of his resuming full military duty. In order to enable him to avail of the advantages of the scheme of retired pay referred to in the next paragraph he was permitted, with the sanction of the Department of Finance, to postpone his retirement to the 29th October, 1937, the additional amount paid to him in respect of pay and allowances being £230.”

Mr. Maher.—In previous reports, we pointed out that the manner in which cases such as these were dealt with involved expenditure in excess of that provided for in the regulations, but in all those cases the Army medical authorities had certified that there was a reasonable chance of the officer or officers being able to resume duty. In this case the medical authority certified that, at the termination of 12 months’ treatment, there was no reasonable hope of the officer being able to resume. Consequently, there was no authority under the Defence Forces Act for the retention of the officer, and the Comptroller and Auditor-General thought it desirable to call attention to it.

544. General MacMahon.—At that particular time, a pension scheme was under consideration. An Act had been passed authorising the Minister to produce a scheme, and it was under consideration. In actual fact, it was ready, and would have been passed much earlier had the Dáil not adjourned unexpectedly. The Minister felt that, as this officer had been a very able officer and a very hardworking officer, it would be unfair if he were sent out with a gratuity in view of the fact that he would have got a pension had the scheme been produced as early as it should have been produced.

545. Were there any steps which the Minister could have taken to regularise this concession he was making to the officer?—He approached the Minister for Finance and got the concurrence of the Minister in the action he was taking. That really regularised it. A regulation becomes a regulation when signed by the Minister for Defence and counter-signed by the Minister for Finance. If the two Ministers agree in writing to amend that regulation, that agreement has the effect of an amendment of the regulation, and, in this case, we hold that the fact that the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Finance agreed to give this officer this concession brought it within the regulation.

546. I think the Committee will all agree that the Minister was very well advised in making the concession to this special officer, but it would be interesting to know if there is any difference of opinion between the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Department as to the propriety of the procedure employed?

Mr. Maher.—No, there is no difference. The Auditor-General simply called attention to this case in view of the fact that it seemed to be outside the Regulations, but he mentions in his Report that the sanction of the Department of Finance had been obtained.

547. And that procedure was regular and in accordance with the practice of the Comptroller and Auditor-General?

Mr. Maher.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General generally calls attention to anything that is definitely outside Army regulations.

548. Deputy McMenamin.—The new regulation covers this case?

General MacMahon.—Not this particular case. I should explain to the Chairman and the Committee that our regulations are not like regulations that have to be passed by the Dáil. They are simply an agreement between the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Finance that certain things can be done in order to avoid the delay and difficulty of going to the Department of Finance in connection with every matter. We believe that when the Minister for Defence puts up a proposal to the Minister for Finance, and gets his concurrence for something outside the Regulations, the agreement has the same effect as a Regulation, and that, in fact, the Regulation is not broken.

549. I think the Committee will agree that, in this case, they would entirely approve the course adopted by the Department. The next paragraph of the Report is:—

Subhead A 2.—Resignation, Retirement and Discharge Gratuities.

“The payment of gratuities from the amount provided under this subhead was discontinued as from 27th October, 1937, the date from which the Defence Forces (Pensions) Scheme became operative. All payments made after that date in respect of retirement and discharge allowances of members of the Forces fall to be borne on subhead P of the Army Pensions vote (No. 66).”

550. Chairman.—I take it that the Committee understands that the Defence Forces (Pensions) Scheme is the one that you have referred to?—That is correct. A case similar to the one we are discussing cannot occur again.

Chairman.—The following note. No. 83, by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, says:—

Subhead B.—Marriage Allowance.

“In the course of audit of the expenditure under this subhead some cases came under review in which the payments would not appear to be strictly in accordance with the relative regulation. This regulation is somewhat ambiguous regarding certain of its provisions, more particularly those relating to cases in which the home ceases to be maintained, and I understand that it is proposed to clarify them.”

551. Has that clarification taken place? —No, but it is under consideration.

552. Chairman.—I take it that you will endeavour to see that the ambiguity is removed?

Mr. Maher.—The issue narrows down to cases where the wife of a soldier is being maintained in rate-aided or State-aided institutions. The Accounting Officer has informed us that he has aproached the Department of Finance regarding the particular case on which the matter arose.

553. Chairman.—I take it that you will direct your attention to the fact, and that I am right in interpreting the Committee’s views, when I say that ambiguity between the Department and the Comptroller and Auditor-General should be disposed of, so that the Committee may have a clear conception of what his duty is.

554. Paragraph 84 of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Report reads:—

Subhead K.—Provisions and Allowances in lieu.

“Statements have been furnished to me showing the cost of production of bread at the Curragh Bakery, and of meat at the Dublin and Curragh Abattoirs. The unit costs are as follows:—





per lb.

per lb.

Cost of production




Cost delivered Dublin
















The average prices of cattle purchased for the Dublin and Curragh areas were £20 10s. 10d. and £18 8s. 1d. per head respectively, as compared with £15 9s. 9d. and £13 8s. 6d. in the previous year, while the average production of beef per head was 763 lbs. and 680 lbs. respectively, as compared with 779 lbs. and 708 lbs.”

Mr. Maher.—That is an annual paragraph.

Chairman.—On this occasion the Committee will be excused if they are tempted to stand up and cheer.

Deputy O Briain.—For what?

Chairman.—The value of cattle has gone up.

Deputy O Briain.—It has not. Cattle are cheaper now than last year, although the tariffs are gone.

Chairman.—Then you should question Mr. Maher.

Deputy O Briain.—No, I am questioning what you said.

Chairman.—Have you read the note?

Deputy O Briain.—I am talking of the position in the country, and of things with which I am familiar. Probably you are not as familiar with the position.

555. Chairman.—I am quite prepared to accept the fact that the cattle were bought as cheaply as they could be bought.

556. Paragraph 85 of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Report reads:—

Subhead M.—Clothing and Equipment.

“£17,000 was provided under this subhead in connection with a scheme whereby soldiers would be credited with a cash allowance in respect of clothing instead of receiving free issues in kind. Owing to some difficulties regarding its operation the scheme was not, however, introduced during the year; but the resulting saving on the subhead was reduced to £15,560, mainly by the payment of special dress uniform allowances in excess of the provision therefor.”

Mr. Maher.—No part of the £17,000 was expended on the service for which it was provided, and attention is drawn to the fact that it was not all surrendered, and that £1,440 was used to make good expenditure in excess of expenditure provided for other services.

557. Chairman.—What is your view, Mr. Almond, as to the propriety of failing to surrender under subhead M in entirety, when no expenditure was incurred under it?

Mr. Almond.—In connection with the item, £17,000, under subhead M, there was a corresponding item under Appropriations-in-Aid made for the same amount, item 6 of subhead Z. The fact that that cash allowance was not issued did not affect the estimate, because the items cancelled one another. When the decision was taken to have dress uniform for officers, the money was available and was used for the debit of subhead M.

558. Chairman.—You do not regard the subdivision as such, as binding on the Accounting Officer.

Mr. Almond.—Virement does not arise unless the total of the subhead is exceeded. The items are informative, and the Accounting Officer is not bound to keep within the particular items of the sub-head.

559. Chairman.—Does that correspond with the views of the Comptroller and Auditor-General?

Mr. Maher.—Mr. Almond’s statement is quite correct. The reason the Comptroller and Auditor-General called attention to it was that there was a variation from the figures in the subhead.

Mr. Almond.—I might say in amplification of what I said that proposals for the dress uniform came before our Department, and we understood that the expenditure would be met from this subhead, so that there was definite approval by the Department of Finance.

560. Chairman.—The note continues:—

“In connection with the supply of waist belts for the Forces an additional charge on public funds of approximately £184 arose out of a decision to adopt a different type of belt after orders had been placed for a supply of belts of approved pattern, and after some deliveries had been made. In view of the procedure followed in this case, I have asked that the covering sanction of the Minister for Finance be obtained for the extra expense incurred.”

Has that sanction been obtained?—Not yet. I think it well to point out that we had, in fact, the sanction of the Department of Finance to purchase belts at a much greater cost than we actually paid. We had sanction to purchase belts at 2/-and, in fact, even when we got the approved belt, the cost was only 1/4½. We were well within the sanction, and for that reason were entitled to get them. Since the Comptroller and Auditor-General raised the matter we approached the Department of Finance for sanction.

561. What became of the belts delivered and which were unsuitable?—They were improved and altered to conform with requirements.

562. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. Almond, that sanction of the Department of Finance will be forthcoming?

Mr. Almond.—Subject to any views expressed here on this matter by the Committee, we are prepared to give sanction.

Chairman.—In view of what has been stated, I take it that the Department will endorse the action taken.

563. Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, paragraph 86:—

Subhead R.—Fuel, Light and Water in kind, and Fuel Oils.

“The claims paid during the year in respect of electric current amounted to, approximately, £14,500, and the examination of the accounts supporting this expenditure showed that the consumption of current at the principal military stations had increased appreciably in recent years, but the means of ascertaining the cause of this increase are not available. It appears, however, that due regard is not paid to economy in the use of current, and instances were observed in which it was used for power purposes for varying periods and paid for at the rates chargeable for lighting. There is no means of enforcing the observance of the existing regulations at some of the principal stations, and they do not provide for an effective method of controlling consumption or preventing wastage. I am in communication with the Accounting Officer on this matter and on the question of a revision of the rates payable for current.”

Mr. Maher.—Since the Report was written, we have had a very full reply on this matter from the Accounting Officer, and it would appear that the whole question of the simply of electric current to the Army would require looking into. For instance, in Portobello Barracks, there is only one meter to register the entire consumption. It is impossible to fix responsibility in these circumstances for excess consumption, particularly in married quarters. In another barracks, in the married officers’ quarters, we notice that the consumption for one year cost over £30, while in another case, in the same barracks, it cost about £25 odd. In view of these figures, we felt that current was being used at lighting rates for power purposes. It would also appear that there is no real system of control in the Army to prevent the use of appliances by electricity which is charged for at lighting rates, or to prevent the use of lamps of high wattage. We understand from the Accounting Officer that this matter is receiving his close attention at the moment.

General MacMahon.—We are not entirely satisfied with the position, but a great deal of the electricity consumed is due to the fact that we have Volunteers in class-rooms in barracks at night, when the lights are kept on. We have also at Baldonnel for some time considerable practice in night flying. During night-flying the Camp has to be flood-lit. We have also machines driven by electricity which were formerly driven by oil. These things have increased the consumption, but while we have a regulation in force prohibiting the installation by Army officers in quarters allotted to them of heaters or appliances of that kind, we more than suspect that that regulation is not being adhered to. We have been giving the matter thought for a considerable time, and we feel that the only way to get over the difficulty is to instal a separate meter in each officer’s house. We shall decide the allotment of electric light based on the floor space of the house. Any quantity in excess of that amount consumed will have to be paid for by the officer occupying the house. We are going into the case of the two houses in Beggar’s Bush, referred to by Mr. Maher, and we shall recover the cost of the excess electric light consumed by one of the officers. The second officer has left the Forces. He had been so ill that it was impossible to remove him from his home to an Army hospital or any other hospital. Two nurses were employed to look after him for a considerable period and, in fact, lights were on every night for a very long time. On considering the matter, we felt that the case was exceptional and that we would take no action, but we shall recover the amount from the other officer.

564. Chairman.—I feel that the main abuses suspected is the use of electricity for power purposes from the lighting meter. I suggest that it would be desirable to instal appropriate meters for power and lighting such as are to be found in other citizens’ houses. I wonder whether consultation with the Electricity Supply Board would not suggest the possibility of installing a fuse in the lighting system which would make it impossible to use electric irons or other appliances from the lighting system without blowing that fuse and thereby, constraining officers to use the current passing through the power meter. I imagine that that would effect a material economy?—We have been in communication with the Electricity Supply Board for some time on this matter, but we have discovered that it is possible to get small appliances for ironing and other purposes which will not fuse the ordinary electric lighting system. Our engineers have been considering that for some time, and they ascertained that there are appliances on the market which you can attach to the ordinary lighting system without fusing it. These are the type that we suspect have been in use in officers’ houses. In future, they will have to pay for any excess consumption.

565. Will you instal in any houses to which this excess consumption really applies a power meter and points from which power electricity can be drawn?— That is one of the matters we are discussing with the Electricity Supply Board. The question of cost is involved and, if it is not too expensive, we shall do that. If it is expensive, the officer will have to pay for the excess amount.

566. If you take the long-term view, these houses are going to be occupied for many years, and in any modern house power electricity ought to be available. Even if some capital expenditure were necessitated, surely it would be worth while in view of the fact that power electricity costs something about 1⅛d. and that lighting electricity costs about 4d.? —We shall consider that and put the whole case up to the Department of Finance.

567. Deputy McMenamin.—In discussing this matter with the Electricity Supply Board, did you put up to them the question of getting a flat rate?—We have special terms from the Electricity Supply Board so far as the Army is concerned.

568. I mean a flat rate for power and lighting?—They would only agree to terms which would be unfavourable to us in that regard.

569. Do I understand that where current was used for heating purposes in these cases, no coal would be used in that particular room?—We only suspect the use of current.

570. Should there not be a set-off in that case?—There should be but, in fact, there was not because we could not prove the use of these appliances. The coal account was the same.

571. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has mentioned in his supplementary remarks the desirability of restricting the wattage of the lamps employed. I do not know what members of the Committee feel, but I am not in sympathy with that proposal. I think that, if the excess charge scheme be introduced, it will be up to the officer himself to determine what wattage of lamp he employs. Is there any scope for negotiation with the Electricity Supply Board with a view to getting a reduced rate for electricity used in Army barracks? I understand that the Army enjoyed a concession of that kind from the old Dublin Corporation?—We had a conference with them, and we are to discuss the matter further. No decision has been reached.

572. Deputy McMenamin.—I would not approve of restricting an officer as regards the candle power of the lamp he uses. In a room where children were studying, a lamp of 40 c.p. might not be sufficient?—Under this new arrangement the officer will have to pay for the extra light consumed.

573. Report of Comptroller and Auditor-General, paragraph 87:—

Subhead U.—Compensation.

“A sum of £250 is charged to this subhead in respect of compensation paid to a person who was injured by an official car while it was being used on a repayment basis by an Army organisation. The rates paid by organisations which are permitted to use official transport are estimated to be sufficient only to recoup public funds the running expenses. As the additional expense arising out of accidents to vehicles while being used by those organisations does not seem to be a reasonable charge against public funds, I have communicated with the Accounting Officer regarding the question of indemnifying the Department against loss in such circumstances.”

Mr. Maher.—The rates paid by organisations are sufficient only to recoup public funds for running expenses. In the case of Army chargers which are allotted to Army officers, the Army is indemnified against loss, as every animal so allotted must be insured by the officer. When the Army lets halls for boxing tournaments, meetings, and so on, there is an indemnity against loss and damage, and we think the same should apply in the case of transport utilised for semi-official or unofficial purposes.

General MacMahon.—We regard this case as somewhat different from the cases mentioned by Mr. Maher, inasmuch as the Army Athletic Association are doing very good work for the Army. The Army Welfare Boards are also doing necessary work. We represented that to the Department of Finance and we are in correspondence with them at the moment. We have not convinced them, but I have been talking to Mr. Almond and he has put up another proposal to which I think we shall have to agree. We hope to have the matter settled in the near future.

Chairman.—We shall leave it over and probably an agreement will have been arrived at by next year.

Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, paragraph 88:—

Subheads V.—Barrack Services, and Z.—Appropriations in Aid.

“The relatively high cost of work performed at the Eastern Command Laundry was the subject of comment by the Public Accounts Committee in its report dated 12th November, 1931, From the annual cost statements submitted to me, it appears that the work performed during the past three years on a repayment basis cost over £6,000, but less than £3,000 was brought to credit of appropriations in aid in respect of it. Most of this work consisted of the washing of soldiers’ personal laundry and, as explained in a note appended to the Estimate, the soldiers are required to pay for it; but the fixed charge of 4d. per bundle is insufficient to defray the cost and the excess remains a charge on the Army vote. With regard to the laundering of public clothing, the cost appears to be much in excess of the contract prices paid to commercial laundries for similar work.”

574. Chairman.—Why should the cost of Army laundering be greater than the prices charged by commercial laundries?

General MacMahon.—We had not got the turn-over. The work was confined to soldiers in Dublin and, naturally, we could not compete in price with the laundries outside. I do not know whether you, Mr. Chairman, are aware of it or not but the laundry has been closed since the 31st December last.

575. Chairman.—You are now getting the work done by contract with commercial firms?—Yes.

Chairman.—That disposes of the matter.

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

Subhead X—Incidental Expenses.

“89. With a view to providing for an alternative source of power in times of emergency, experiments have been carried out for some years past in the use of a high-speed gas producer plant for mechanical transport. Experiments with this and other kinds of gas producers will, I understand, be continued according as circumstances permit, and a decision on the use of this type of equipment for Army mechanical transport will be taken when the experiments have been completed. Over 15 tons of charcoal, which was obtained from a test carbonisation of Irish peat in 1936, has not so far been utilised, but it is anticipated that it will be used in those experiments.”

576. Have you any information, General, to give us on the progress of these experiments?—They are satisfactory up to a point. We want to extend the matter and purchase additional plant, but have not got the authority of the Minister for Finance to purchase it so far. The fuel that is there will undoubtedly be consumed in further tests.

577. Have you used any of the Irish peat charcoal fule to date?—We used Irish peat that had been sent to London and carbonised there. We have not plant here to carbonise it.

578. How did it turn out?—Very satisfactorily.

579. And, in fact, the experiments are being continued?—Yes.

580. The next item is paragraph 90:—

Subhead Y 2.—Army Reserve.

“This sub-head includes a provision of £4,677 for the hire of halls and fields for the use of the Volunteer Force, against which the sum of £5,886 was expended. Agreements for the renting of a number of halls were terminated in the course of the year, as it was ascertained, when the question of renewal was being considered, that the use made of them would not justify their retention, and that some of them had not been used for a considerable time previously. The unnecessary expense involved in the retention of halls after they ceased to be required for Volunteer Force purposes would seem to be due to the absence of any general instructions which would secure uniformity of practice throughout the country. In my communication to the Accounting Officer on this matter, I have inquired whether the conditions which have been revealed will affect the proposed expenditure on the construction of new halls.”

Did you receive any reply to that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, we have had a reply on this question. Generally, the position seems to be that quite a number of halls were not being utilised fully. The Army people represented that it is not considered desirable to close these halls, as it would have an adverse effect on future recruiting. An examination with regard to 46 halls showed that little or no use was made of 26 of them, and that the use of nine others would not justify their retention. The average attendance would be very low.

581. What is your view, General?

General MacMahon.—There is an Accommodation Committee in being which examines this question. There are two considerations to be taken into account: First, to meet the requirements of existing Volunteers, and second, the inducing of young men to come in. You cannot judge the usefulness of a hall merely by the number present there at a particular time. As regards the point raised by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, I do not think it will affect our scheme for the building of new halls. We will still go on with the idea.

582. And you are now going on with a special recruiting campaign for Volunteers?—Yes, and under the new scheme of organisation we believe we will be able to recruit up to our requirements.

583. I take it, gentlemen, that the Committee will agree that it would be better to let this matter stand over until we see what effect the new recruiting drive will have on the situation.* Now, the next paragraph reads as follows:—

“During the period from December, 1935, to February, 1938, a soldier clerk attached to the headquarters of a Reserve regiment fraudulently obtained possession of, and negotiated, a number of money orders and payable orders issued to reservists. He was convicted in the Civil Court on charges of forgery and obtaining money under false pretenses, and was discharged from the Army. The gross amount involved in the 46 cases brought to light was £265 9s. 5d. Of this sum, £185 19s. 3d. has been charged in the accounts of previous years, and the balance, which was issued in the year under review, is charged to a suspense account pending a decision regarding claims for reimbursement.”

I take it that is a merely informative paragraph?

Mr. Maher.—We understand that claims have been made for reimbursement.

General MacMahon.—Claims have been made, and we are endeavouring to recover this money from the banks and the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. We think we will be able to recover it.

Deputy O Briain.—Do you not think it strange, Mr. Chairman, that this was going on from 1935 to 1938 and was not discovered until the end of three years? Does not that seem to indicate that there is some serious flaw in the administration of this money?

Mr. Maher.—That is the point we have in mind, because we understand that the system which facilitated the frauds in this area applies in other areas.

Deputy O’Briain.—Every year, on the Army Vote, we have cases like this arising, and they do not seem to arise in the other Departments, or at least they are few and far between. It would appear that there is some serious weakness in the system of control. Last year we had a case in which we were told that some minor officers in the Department were being punished, and it would appear to me, at any rate, that if the responsibility for defalcations of this kind is to be thrown on minor officers in a Department, it shows a serious flaw in the system.

Chairman.—Yes, and you will recall, Deputy, that, on the last report,* we made special reference, in paragraph 11, to the regulations and, as you pointed out, to the facilities that officers seem to enjoy for fraud and so forth. It does seem to put temptation in the way of juniors or inexperienced persons to do wrong, as in this case.

General MacMahon.—There were no regulations broken in this case. This fraud could not have occurred if the banks and post offices had done their duty and carried out the regulations. For that reason, we propose to recover from them. It was not our system that was at fault.

584. Deputy McMenamin.—Well, how was it done?—Through forgery, of course. In one particular case the bank negotiated three different orders, of three different men, and handed the money to the same man. It was their duty to identify the man and it is also, in the case of the Post Office, where money orders are concerned, their duty to identify the man, but both the banks and the Post Office failed to do that.

585. It passes out of the Department altogether?—The fact that the banks and Post Office did not carry out their instructions or regulations in the matter facilitated this thing being carried out.

586. Chairman.—As far as I can see, the soldier clerk was the person charged with the responsibility of delivering to the man?—No.

587. How did the soldier clerk come in? —Well, the reservists were paid off on the completion of their annual training, but they were not paid the whole amount, and the balance was paid to them at Christmas. It is necessary for a reservist to notify his commanding officer if the reservist changes his address, and it is also a matter of routine orders. In this particular case, this N.C.O. was able to forge the reservist’s signature to a document stating that he had changed his his address from one particular place to another. When that notification of a change of address was sent to us we sent the order there. It is necessary for the reservist, when he changes his address, to go to the local sergeant of the Gárda and get that sergeant to identify him, and it is further necessary for the reservist to send that identification form signed in the presence of the Gárda to his Commanding Officer. The man not only forged the signature of the reservist, but also forged the signature of the sergeant of the Gárda.

588. Chairman.—I must say that it appears to me that this is a case in which the Army regulations were observed, but they came up against a peculiarly resourceful criminal.

Deputy O Briain.—Is there not some system by which the Army would see that these regulations are effectively carried out?

Chairman.—I have the greatest confidence in General MacMahon, but I do not see how he could possibly watch every branch bank, local post office and Gárda station in Ireland.

Deputy O Briain.—I am not referring to General MacMahon, but I think there must be something wrong with the system.

General MacMahon.—Perhaps I may mention that following upon this we have decided to pay the full sum to the reservist when he completes his annual training, so that, it will not be necessary to pay him the balance at Christmas.

589. Chairman.—The only question that occurs to me is that if you had a particularly resourceful criminal, such as this person appears to have been, do you think you would keep him there for three years, or would you put him out?

General MacMahon.—In this case the matter was only discovered—and could not have been discovered otherwise—by reason of the fact that one of the reservists concerned wrote in saying that he had not got his money. It would appear that the N.C.O. in question was able to convince these reservists that they were not entitled to this money, and they believed him; but one of them wrote in for his money, and we then replied that he had already been paid. Inquiries were then made, and that is why it is only at the end of three years that the fraud was discovered.

Chairman.—Well, although it may look bad, I think it is the experience of all of us that the best embezzler is generally the one who is least suspected, and I think we may agree that the Army did take reasonable precautions, but that they were up against an exceptionally resourceful criminal in this particular case, and that they could not be reasonably expected to anticipate what in fact did occur.

590. The next paragraph reads as follows:—

“A case came under review in the course of audit in which an officer of the Reserve was admitted to hospital on the day on which he reported for annual training and remained in hospital until the day preceding the date of demobilisation. He received his pay for this period, together with the gratuity which is payable only on completion of a period of continuous training. As the procedure followed in dealing with this case does not seem to conform with the regulations, I have communicated with the Accounting Officer.”

I hope, General, that this member of the forces is quite recovered from his temporary indisposition?

General MacMahon.—As a matter of fact, it was a case of appendicitis. The facts are as stated by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. An Army Medical Officer did not carry out the regulations, and we propose to recover the amount that would otherwise not be paid to the Reserve Officer from the Army Medical Officer concerned.

Chairman.—I think that is a very prudent procedure in all the circumstances.

591. The next paragraph reads as follows:—

“In connection with the payment of an initial grant of £34 to officers of the Reserve to enable them to provide themselves with uniforms and equipment, the resignation of officers a short time after they are commissioned occasions some loss, and I have inquired whether any action is taken with a view to recouping public funds in such cases.”

Have you received any reply to that inquiry, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, since the report was written, a reply was received from the Accounting Officer. We noticed that quite a number of officers remained only three or four months and that, in other cases, they remained less than a year, and as there was an initial grant of £34 made to them for uniforms and equipment it would appear that a certain amount of that money might be regarded as lost. Whether or not it is possible to insure against loss in that way, I could not say, but I should like to hear from the Accounting Officer.

592. Chairman.—What is your view on that matter, General MacMahon?

General MacMahon.—It was never the practice in this Army to recover the officer’s uniform, nor, so far as I know, was it ever the practice in the British Army or any other Army that I know of. This arose through the fact that two Volunteer officers, soon after being commissioned, approached a British officer in order to get employment in England, and as soon as that was discovered it was felt they were not the type of men who should be allowed to retain their uniform, and, accordingly, we took them from them. It is doubtful whether we were legally entitled to do so, but in any case, we did it. It is quite possible that we may try to recover uniforms from officers who serve for only a short time, although, under the new regulations, he must serve for at least five years. I think, however, that there is very little involved here. It would not have arisen at all were it not for the fact that we had recovered two uniforms that were not on store charge, and we did not know what to do with them.

593. It is not likely to occur again?— No.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note:—

Subhead A A.—Expenses in connection with the Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act, 1931.

91. The Constitution (Special Powers) Tribunal ceased on and from the 29th December 1937, the date of the coming into force of the new Constitution, and payment of the special allowances to the former members was discontinued. Payments amounting to approximately £600 in respect of car allowances and the custody and maintenance of prisoners were continued to the end of the financial year, and are charged to this subhead.”

That is a purely informative paragraph.

594. The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note:—

Subhead Z.—Appropriations in Aid.

“92. Under a regulation dated 18th May, 1936, volunteers belonging to cyclist squadrons were afforded the opportunity of obtaining fully equipped service cycles at one-half the estimated value of 25/-, including 12/- in respect of fittings, on condition that they provided themselves with serviceable cycles of approved pattern when called out for training or other purposes. Approximately 600 cycles were issued under this scheme, the cost to the State on the basis of the above figures being nearly £400. During the subsequent periods of annual training, however, the volunteers did not provide themselves with cycles and official cycles were supplied to them instead, in order, I am informed, to save the expense of transport from the volunteers’ homes to the training centres. No advantages appear to have accrued from this scheme, and it has been discontinued for the present.”

Where would you get a bicycle for 25/-?— We auctioned similar bicycles to these and the average price we received for them was 8/-. They were obsolete machines—old Lucania and Pierce bicycles.

595. They were in the Army stores?— They were purchased in 1922, and, in fact, a number of them were not new even then. The Volunteers were not to blame for not bringing up their bicycles. They were told not to bring them up. In the case of Volunteers coming from the West of Ireland to the Curragh for training, we considered it better to issue bicycles to them —bicycles were available at the Curragh— rather than pay train fare on bicycles from the West to the Curragh, and in other cases from Wexford to Kilkenny, or from Wexford to Dublin. Considerable value was obtained from these bicycles, due to the fact that they were used for overnight camps, and for weekly drills and parades. From their use of them the Volunteers concerned became good cyclists. I think we got good value for these bicycles.

Mr. Maher.—The object of the paragraph is to call attention to the fact that nearly £400, which might be regarded as an indirect loss, was incurred under the scheme.

596. Deputy O Briain.—Supposing you had not given these bicycles to the Volunteers what would have become of them?

General MacMahon.—They would have been sold for about 8/-.

597. By auction?—Yes.

598. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note on “Stores,” the first portion of which reads:—


“93. For some years past peat has been used instead of coal for the general heating of military barracks and posts, but owing to the variation in the quality of the peat the accounting for issues and stocks presents considerable difficulty. The stocks held in store have not so far been reconciled with the book records, and no basis on which the quantities might be assessed for this purpose has been decided on. Somewhat similar difficulties have been experienced in accounting for anthracite coal. Under the accounting system at present in operation an independent periodical stocktaking is regarded as essential in order to ensure that the regulations governing issues are observed and that the stocks are adequately safeguarded. I have communicated with the Accounting Officer on this matter; and also regarding certain aspects of the system of accounting for medical stores.”

Have you received any reply, Mr. Maher, to that communication?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, a reply has been received in which it is stated that no standard measurement has been prescribed for turf. A standard measurement for anthracite has been in existence, but it has been found, in practice, to be too low. At present no effective method of ensuring that issues are in accordance with regulations, and that stocks are adequately safeguarded against pilferage, is in force. The monthly fuel account is simply a statement of entitlement and may have little or no bearing on the actual issues. The present method of accounting for fuel is entirely dependent upon a strict measurement of the stocks remaining at the end of each year. In our view the stock should be taken by an independent board.

599. Chairman.—What is your view, General MacMahon?

General MacMahon.—I did not quite catch some of the points made by Mr. Maher. I think he inferred, from the fact that we have not a definite measurement, that it gave rise, to some extent at least, to the possibility of fraud. It is true that we have difficulty regarding the turf, due to the fact that it is hand-won turf. The Turf Development Board segregate peat into four grades, and they have two sets of figures for each grade. Even they have a difficulty. In our case, where the turf at the Curragh is brought in either by lorry or cart and stacked there, it is very difficult to fix a standard of measurement. What we have been doing up to the present is, taking stock when the turf is at its very lowest: that is before the new year’s supply comes in. As a result we are perfectly satisfied that there is not a loss. While we are satisfied regarding that, we still are investigating the matter to see if we can arrive at a system of measurement that is fair. As far as the anthracite is concerned, the trouble there is that the system gives fictitious surpluses, and the military have asked that the basis of measurement be increased from 25 cubic feet per ton to 35 cubic feet per ton. I think we will have to agree with them there. The system of measurement, of course, does not affect the quantities issued.

600. Are you considering the making of regulations for the control of the whole of this fuel question?—It is not a question of control. It is merely a question of agreement on a system of measurement. We are perfectly satisfied with the control. The only thing in question is the system of measurement. The difficulty is this, that if Mr. Maher sent one of his officials down to the Curragh to see if the stocks of turf were in accordance with what appeared in the ledger, he could not do it. That is his difficulty at a particular time, but that does not affect the control of the turf. It merely means that while there is a considerable quantity of turf there it is impossible to say accurately the number of tons that are there. We have had this difficulty since we started to consume turf. We felt that the best way to satisfy ourselves with regard to the quantities of the turf that were there was to wait until the end of the season when there was very little turf in stock. It was possible then to measure it, and to convince ourselves that the actual amount that should be there was there.

601. In fact the difficulty is that one sod of turf does not weigh the same as another sod of turf, and so you cannot arrive at the weight of a clamp of turf by measuring it, whereas you can arrive at the weight of coal by measuring the cubic capacity of the box if you ascertain the standard weight of the coal. That is the difficulty?—Yes.

602. You think, Mr. Maher, that the coal ought to be more carefully supervised.

Mr. Maher.—There is no question with regard to coal. The anthracite comes into this with the turf because turf, I understand, constitutes from 70 to 80 per cent. of the army consumption of fuel. The coal, I think, is on a fairly satisfactory basis.

603. Deputy Walsh.—I think the way they weigh turf in the county homes is this: that they have a wooden box of a certain cubic capacity. That is the standard I think they have adopted. Of course, you can have no guarantee about the weight because one box of turf may weigh twice as much as another.

General MacMahon.—The difficulty about turf is this that if you pack turf carefully into this room you can put in three times as much of it as if you simply threw it in any way. As regards ordinary coal, there is no difficulty about it. In connection with the anthracite, there is really no great difficulty except that when stock is being taken under the 25 cubic feet per ton basis it would appear as if there were much more anthracite there than actually is the case. We propose, therefore, to change it to the new basis of 35 cubic feet per ton.

604. Deputy O’Briain.—The difficulty that you have is only in the case of the hand-won turf?—Yes. We use nothing else for the Army. In the Department, we use the machine-made turf.

605. Chairman.—Have you any observations to make, Mr. Maher, on the concluding words in this paragraph regarding the system of accounting for medical stores.

Mr. Maher.—With regard to the medical stores we have had an exhaustive reply from the Accounting Officer. It is pointed out that it will be realised that it is a matter of considerable difficulty to control medical stores in the way that other Army stores are controlled. I may say that we found that medical stores are issued from the store at St. Bricin’s Hospital. They are issued to dispensaries and to out-patients, but there is no real detailed method of accounting, in force. Consequently, it is very difficult indeed to know whether the stores have been properly used. Apparently the practice is that medical stores are to be accounted for by taking the difference between the total receipts and the actual stock on hand at the close of the account. The difference is regarded as having been properly used in the course of Army duties.

General MacMahon.—This does not apply to medical stores generally—only to the pharmacy account. We have a difficulty in ensuring that a specified quantity has been used in a particular prescription. There are great difficulties in the matter, but we are examining it to see if we can evolve a better arrangement. I may say this does not apply to ordinary army medical stores.

606. Chairman.—I find that coming within the sphere of pharmaceutical stores are 15 bottles of brandy which no doubt have an excellent therapeutic effect, but which in certain conditions might be liable to abuse?—We are transferring that particular item to the other account. As far as the brandy is concerned, I had better explain for the information of the Committee that this was issued in the September of the year under reference when there was a serious outbreak of influenza at the Curragh. Owing to the fact that the hospital could not accommodate all the patients we had to get many of them looked after in their own billets and in the case of married N.C.O.’s or men in their own homes.

607. We may take it that you are looking into the matter generally with a view to making any reforms which you consider practicable?—Yes.

608. We now come to the second part of paragraph 93 which reads:—

“Reference was made in previous reports to the difficulty of controlling articles of clothing and equipment on issue to members of Volunteer Units, and to the losses which have occurred. Further losses of a similar nature are recorded in the account under review. With regard to the Officers’ Training Corps, which was disestablished as from November, 1935, the final clothing account shows the net deficiencies to be £120 (included in Item 12 of the Statement. of Losses) and the balance of stock held for this Unit, valued at £161, will, I am informed, be re-issued to recruits. Item 12 of the Statement of Losses also includes over £1,200 in respect of deficiencies in the kits of resigned and discharged volunteers. As the number of kits on issue to members of the Volunteer Force appears to be much in excess of the number of volunteers who periodically take part in training, there seems to be the possibility of further loss arising under this head and I have asked the Accounting Officer whether any arrangements have been made to enable the responsible officers to deal with this matter.”

Have any steps been taken in that direction?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, a reply has been received in which it is stated that it is very difficult to estimate the loss on kits on the second line Volunteer units. The attendance of Volunteers for training is optional. There is a difference of 2,000 in the number attending for training—men who are on the Volunteer strength— 2,017 represents the second line of Volunteers who may not attend for training unless they wish to do so.

609. What happens, suppose you have 2,000 Volunteers enrolled in 1935 and provided with equipment, and in 1936 you enrolled an additional 1,000, and 1,000 of the first lot dropped out. You issue new kits to the newly enrolled 1,000. What becomes of the 1,000 kits of the men who have retired from the Volunteer force?

General MacMahon.—The Commanding Officer endeavours to recover the kits from the men who have dropped out. If he is not successful he calls in the Gárda Síochána and they try to recover the kit from the Volunteer who has dropped out. If they fail to recover the kit we write the matter off as a loss. That item represents 976 kits. It is not very big because the cost of the kit is not very much. If we recover the kit we take a certain portion of it and re-issue it. Volunteers are entitled to a second uniform, and if parts of the kits suit they are re-issued as part of the second uniform to the newly recruited Volunteer.

610. How many kits have, in fact, been recovered and how many have been lost in the year under review?—There were 976 kits in connection with that particular year. I am sorry I cannot give you particulars of the number recovered, I have not the information at the moment.

611. Would you able to let us have a note * showing how many kits have been taken back, converted into second-hand equipment and how many lost since the Volunteer force was established?—Yes, I can let you have particulars of these.

612. Chairman.—And also how many kits were actully abandoned and written down as irrecoverable?

General MacMahon.—Very well, Sir.

Chairman.—We now come to the next paragraph—paragraph 94:—

Statement of Losses.

“Losses written off during the year are detailed in a statement appended to the account. The total is made up of:—

Cash losses charged to ‘Balances Irrecoverable’ with the sanction of the Department of










Deficiencies of stores and other losses not affecting




the 1937-38 Vote





The corresponding figures for the previous year were £116 17s. 9d. and £1,001 1s. 8d.”

613. Is there any special comment, Mr. Maher, to be made on that sum of £2,200 8s. 7d.?

Mr. Maher.—No, that is an annual paragraph inserted for your information. The details are in the account on page 221 of the Appropriation Accounts.

614. Yes, that is so; the bulk of that figure is comprised in the deficiency in the kits to which we were referring?— Yes, the particulars are given there on page 221.

615. Chairman.—We now come to the Vote itself and the sub-heads. With reference to subheads H and J, what is the distinction between “Transport of Troops” and “Mechanical Transport”?

General MacMahon.—Mechanical Transport refers to our own lorries and motor-cars and Transport of Troops is the expenditure incurred in transporting troops by train and bus.

616. I suppose sub-head K, “Provisions and Allowances in lieu,” deals with marriage allowances?—No; sub-head B deals with marriage allowances. Sub-head K is the ration or rations allowance where the men do not actually draw the rations. Sub-head B deals with the marriage allowance and K is where the men are allowed to draw the ration or the value of the rations.

617. In what circumstances are unmarried soldiers allowed to draw allowances? —Unmarried soldiers are not allowed to draw allowances. It is only married soldiers, and not all of them, who draw allowances. If a soldier is accommodated in the barracks he is on a different footing from the soldier who is living outside.

618. Under sub-head W there is £11,724 11s. 4d. for insurance. I take it that the Army is peculiar amongst Government Departments inasmuch as it does insure its property. I think I am right in saying that other Government Departments do not insure?

Mr. Maher.—I take it this insurance does not include ordinary insurance?

General MacMahon.—That is so. This particular insurance is National Health insurance.

619. Oh, you are quite right. The Army does not insure its men against providing compensation under the Employer’s Liability Acts?—We do not insure in any case except in the matter of certain plant and machinery. We do it in those particular cases because the insurance people inspect them and we feel it is worth while, from that point of view, to insure them.

620. That would be boilers and things like that?—Yes.

621. Subhead Z, Appropriations in Aid. I notice that item 11—Sales of Supplies on Repayment—realised £24,607 16s. 1d., while you estimated only £16,800?—That is principally for meat and bread sold to officers and. married men.

622. It happens that there was more meat and bread sold than you had estimated for?—It is very hard to estimate the amount of bread that may be sold in a year.

Chairman.—I take it that there is no other question on this Vote.


General MacMahon further examined.

623. Chairman.—There is a note here from the Comptroller and Auditor-General, paragraph 95 which reads:—

“The Defence Forces (Pensions) Scheme, 1937, which is authorised by the Defence Forces (Pensions) Act, 1932, became operative as from the 27th October, 1937. It provides for the payment of pensions and gratuities to (a) officers on retirement; (b) the widows and children of deceased officers; (c) other ranks and (d) the Army Nursing Service; all payments made thereunder being chargeable to a new subhead of this Vote—subhead P.

The Army Pensions Act, 1937, came into operation as from the 2nd June, 1937, its main purpose being to extend the provisions of the Army Pensions Acts of 1923, 1927 and 1932, and to provide for the payment of allowances to the relatives of the Signatories to the Proclamation published on Easter Monday, 1916.”

That, I understand, is purely informative. That being so we will turn to the subheads in page 226 of the Appropriation Accounts. Under subhead J there is £1,287 18s. 11d. expended out of a grant of £2,250 on hospital treatment. If the soldier becomes incurably ill—take the case of a man who gets tuberculosis— he is treated but if it is eventually determined that he cannot get well, what becomes of him?

General MacMahon.—He is discharged and we arrange that he is taken into hospital for treatment. That hospital is usually in his own district.

624. You would not relinquish the responsibility for him—you would not allow a situation to arise in which no institution would take him in?—If he is a bad case he is transferred from the Army hospital to a sanatorium.

625. Well the reason I asked the question is that recently I came across a member of the Gárda Síochána who was suffering from tuberculosis. He was treated for that but eventually he became incurable and his relatives informed me that he was sent home. There was no place to which he could go and he had eventually to be taken home to a house where there were three children. That could not happen to a soldier?—No, the State takes responsibility for the soldier. They do not. take responsibility for the Gárda.

626. But you certainly have full responsibility for him until he is cured or until he dies?—Until he is transferred to another institution.

627. The man I am referring to was transferred to Crooksling and at a certain stage the Crooksling authorities said they would not keep him there, that he was not going to get well. Would you allow that situation to arise?—I am afraid so, yes. Once he is discharged and transferred to another institution we have no responsibility for him or, at least, we accept no responsibility for him other than, of course, that we give him whatever he is entitled to in the way of retired pay. If the disease is due to service he may get a pension.

628. But, where a man becomes incurably ill, the Army practice is to discharge him?—Yes. I should say that the statement I made that he was entitled to a pension is wrong. He would not get a pension. He would not come under the retired pay scheme.

629. Really?—No.

630. Deputy McMenamin.—Even on the service he had given?—No.

631. Chairman.—I am obliged for the information but, as to the propriety of the procedure, we can raise that in another place?

General MacMahon.—If a soldier could prove that he contracted a disease before the establishment of the Forces, 1st October, 1924, we could give him a pension.

Chairman.—If there is no further question on this Vote, Gentlemen, the witness may withdraw.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned at 12.30 p.m.

*See Report, Par. 17.

* Report on Appropriation Accounts 1936-37, dated 16th February, 1939.

*See Appendix IX.