Committee Reports::Report - Appropriation Accounts 1941 - 1942::10 November, 1943::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Dé Céadaoin, 10adh Mí na Samhna, 1943.

Wednesday, 10th November, 1943.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:




L. Cosgrave.


M. E. Dockrell.








DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.

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

Chairman.—Before the Accounting Officer comes here at 11.15 we thought it expedient to have a few moments for consultation as to procedure. I think Deputy Briscoe wants to raise some matter with regard to the scope and relevance of our proceedings.

Deputy Briscoe.—I have been giving the matter some consideration as to what procedure we should adopt. I have been studying the Appropriation Accounts and there is sufficient in them to give us an opportunity of bringing out the points I had in mind. What I wanted to get down to was this. I am not satisfied that there is the form of control over stores which is, from our point of view, satisfactory and I was hoping that we might get an opportunity of finding out from the Accounting Officer what is the position as regards control of stores. I do not know to what extent the Comptroller and Auditor General exercises powers, if he has them, of independent physical checks of the stores as distinct from the checking of accounts. I do not know to what extent the Department of Finance has powers, or uses them if it has them. But I feel that we ought to be assured by the Accounting Officer, if these powers are not exercised by this Department, that at least the Quartermaster-General’s Department will be at all times responsible for and in actual control of stores. From what I tried to gather, I believe that the position throughout the country is that Unit Commanders or Corps Commanders themselves choose Quartermasters and that these Quartermasters are responsible to the Commanders through their immediate senior officers, but that they in fact can be moved or changed at the will of the Unit Commander without any regard to the responsibility for the stores in relation to the Quartermaster himself. I was hoping then, if we are satisfied that there is an opportunity of improving control, that we might be able to suggest that the Quartermaster-General or his Department should in fact be the officers who should examine the people who are to be made Quartermasters and that these Quartermasters should be directly responsible to them, while being under the discipline of the Unit Commanders.

Chairman.—As I understand it, our purpose for the moment is to clear our minds as to the appropriate procedure to-day. It seems clear to me from what the Deputy says that to-day we should devote ourselves to eliciting from the representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General, or the Accounting Officer, or from Mr. Almond, who will appear on behalf of the Department of Finance, any details that the Deputy may want as to the stores administration. Having elicited all the information, then the taking of evidence will have been completed by this Committee. I will then proceed to draft a report and a meeting of the Committee will then be held. In the interval between my having completed the drafting of the report and the next meeting of the Committee, each member of the Committee will receive a copy of my draft report. If he finds there is no paragraph in the report which covers any matter that he has elicited by question and answer to-day or on any other day of our proceedings, it is quite open to him to draft a paragraph for the report himself and to hand it in to the Clerk of the Committee and ask him to put it on the agenda of our next meeting as an amendment to the draft report. When the Committee meets for the purpose of considering the report, we can consider the draft report, we can consider the amendment and, if any Deputy desires to amend an amendment which is before the Committee, it is quite open to the Committee to adopt the amendment or the amended amendment or to make any other alteration which the Committee thinks desirable.

Deputy Allen.—Or to amend the draft report.

Chairman.—Or to amend the draft report. I think I should say that, although I would not be prepared to rule categorically against it, custom has established that if a Deputy wants a new paragraph put into the report he should submit that paragraph by due notice to the Clerk of the Committee so that the Committee will have some notice of it.

Deputy Allen.—Just as in the Dáil.

Chairman.—Yes. If, in the course of our discussion, we can arrive at agreement on a revised form of that amendment, I would have no hesitation in permitting the revision to be made at a meeting of the Committee.

Deputy Briscoe.—I think your suggested procedure is the ideal one. What I want to make clear to you and to the Committee is that I feel this Committee has a definite responsibility for retaining absolute Parliamentary control over State expenditure and stores that are in the custody of State Departments. If that is the position and that is the desirable and proper thing, even allowing for the emergency and things we do not want to discuss here or do not want to discuss during the emergency, we should see that the principle of absolute Parliamentary control shall be preserved. I do not know that I would be as optimistic as the Chairman as to completing examination of the accounts of the Accounting Officer to-day, because the notes of the Comptroller and Auditor General are very long and the Vote itself is a long and detailed one. I was going to ask for the indulgence of the Chairman and the Committee if we find it necessary, following a discussion amongst ourselves, to have the Accounting Officer back in order to elucidate certain matters arising out of what may develop.

Chairman.—The Committee has full powers at all times to send for persons and papers, whoever or whatever they may be. They have full rights to compel the production both of persons and papers which the Committee think requisite in order to give an adequate report to the Dáil. I think, perhaps, it may be expedient at this stage to remind Deputy Briscoe that in our report on the Vote for 1941-42, in paragraph 16 on page xix, we have commented on the “Stores” position. In the last paragraph we say: “Having regard to the difficulty of replenishing stocks at the present time, the Committee takes a serious view of the manner in which these stores have been dealt with, and it desires to be further informed when investigations have been brought to a conclusion”. Naturally, the Comptroller and Auditor-General will be referring back to that paragraph, as will the Accounting Officer, no doubt, when considering his notes on stores in regard to the Vote.

Mr. Maher.—Yes, in paragraph 59 it is specifically referred to.

Chairman.—Although we are ordinarily reluctant to ask a busy Accounting Officer to attend on two days, I do not wish any Deputy to forbear for a moment from asking any question, purely on the ground of sparing time, which he thinks should be asked. If the Committee require the Accounting Officer to attend on two days, I have no doubt that General MacMahon will be very glad to attend.

Deputy Briscoe.—You referred to the report for 1941/42, which the Comptroller and Auditor-General will probably be referring to. Might I draw attention to the Appropriation Accounts for 1940/41, paragraph 72, which states: “The manner of accounting for medical supplies provided for the Army was discussed before the Public Accounts Committee on the occasion of the review of the accounts for the year 1938/39, and an accounting instruction on this matter was issued by the Department in June, 1940. The general position does not seem to have greatly improved, however, and the Department’s audit staff have found it necessary to report that this instruction was not being complied with.” I can find no reference in the discussions as to why that was not possible. I can find no note on it at all. I believe the Department of Finance has promised some further report on it.

Mr. Maher.—That matter is referred to in paragraph 59 of the current report.

Deputy Briscoe.—But not in any conclusive way. I found no definite conclusion.

Mr. Maher.—There is no definite conclusion yet, so far as we are aware. It will come up again.

Deputy Briscoe.—I do not want to delay the Committee any further.

Chairman.—The Deputy is probably aware that the Minister for Finance makes a Minute which is in due course communicated to us. On the 17th June we received the Minute of the Minister for Finance, and paragraph 16 says that the investigations referred to by the Committee are nearing completion in respect of medical stores and the Committee will be furnished in due course with the views of the Minister for Finance. The Clerk to the Committee has since applied to the Department of Finance for the views* of the Minister and has been informed that they are not yet ready. That is probably due to the recent indisposition of the Minister; work has got delayed. I am afraid the Minister’s views will not be available to the Committee to-day.

Deputy Briscoe.—We may be able to get them before your report, Chairman.

Chairman.—I hope we will. Finally, I would direct Deputy Briscoe’s attention to question 731, on page 79 of the Report and Evidence of the Committee on the Vote for 1940-41, where I say:

“May I suggest that we should not examine the Accounting Officer too closely on the losses of our equipment? In the ordinary course, we may depend upon the Comptroller and Auditor-General to advise us on any matter which demands close scrutiny, on the grounds of carelessness or inattention, but questions as to the losses of our equipment at the present time are scarcely questions for public record, and I would remind the members that the records of our proceedings are available to the public.”

Deputies will recall that, when we were considering this Vote, one of the very serious losses that the Department of Defence had experienced was the raid on the Magazine Fort and it did not seem expedient in that year to dwell too deeply on the losses of ammunition which we might have sustained because that was a matter of grave consequence, the publication of which, it seemed to me as Chairman of the Committee, was inexpedient at that time. For that reason, I think the examination of the Army Vote was somewhat cursory in the year under review—but for that excellent reason, that we did not wish to communicate to the public, information, which we thought it better to keep confidential.

Deputy Briscoe.—On page 225 of the Appropriation Accounts, 1941-42, item No. 1, under the heading, Losses Statement, and its explanation would rule that out from your reference to the previous loss. You see the item No. 1 there?

Chairman.—I do. What arises?

Deputy Briscoe.—The expediency of the matter you have just referred to. That would not be in the same category.

Chairman.—I think we can be all agreed that so close a discretion will not be necessary now as was necessary some twelve months ago.


Lieutenant-General P. MacMahon called and examined.

Chairman.—There are notes by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The first note is paragraph 58, on page xxiv, as follows:—

“58. The usual details showing the distribution of the grant amongst the several heads of expenditure were not included in the Estimate presented to Dáil Eireann and, accordingly, the Appropriation Account shows only the aggregate amount expended. The normal system of accounting was, however, continued within the Department and particulars showing the allocation of the grant against the various subheads of expenditure, as approved by the Department of Finance, have been furnished to me. Where the expenditure under a particular heading exceeded the allocation the covering sanction of that Department was obtained for the application of savings under other headings to meet the excess.

The account shows that, including a surplus of Appropriations in Aid of £40,859 3s. 0d. the total surplus remaining to be surrendered is £297,567 3s. 5d. or 3.6 per cent, of the net estimate.”

909. Chairman.—In accordance with our annual practice, we refer briefly to a special subhead* that was opened in the course of the year and did not appear on the original Estimate. The special subhead on this Vote is Balances Irrecoverable opened by the sanction of the Department of Finance, and amounts to £754 13s. 11d. The reason, I suppose, General, for not having a subhead in the Estimate for that item is that the incidence of such an item cannot be foreseen with certainty?

Genaral MacMahon.—That is so, Sir.


“59. Reference was made in paragraph 72 of my last report to the method of accounting for medical supplies and to certain deficiencies in stocks which had existed. In view of the procedure which has been adopted in dealing with these deficiencies I have asked that the matter should be reported to the Department of Finance. I have also asked for information regarding the apparently abnormal consumption of medical stores at a General Military Hospital.

I also referred in my last report to a certain dislocation in the system of accounting for barrack service stores arising out of emergency conditions. Arrangements were completed for a check of all barrack service items on inventory to, or in use by, troops during a stated period and I have asked whether this check has been carried out; and, if so, with what result.”

910. Chairman.—In regard to the first part of that paragraph, Mr. Maher, concluding with the words, “I have also asked for information regarding the apparently abnormal consumption of medical stores at a general military hospital”, is there anything you care to add?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, Sir. The method of control and accounting for medical supplies was commented on in the auditor’s reports for 1938-39 and again in 1940-41 and was considered by the Committee in its examination of these accounts. Two main points are involved:—(1) the lack of effective store accounting and control of decentralised stores; and (2) the apparently abnormal consumption of certain drugs and dressings at the Curragh Hospital. As regards (1), the position was admittedly unsatisfactory and we asked that the matter should be reported to the Department of Finance and this has since been done. It is not clear that the full deficiencies have been reported to that Department and we have asked for further information on this heading. In our earlier investigation we took exception to the method by which certain deficiencies at Command Stores were disposed of, by the preparation of consolidated issue vouchers and the vouchering off to the hospitals of the stores deficient. We were unable to accept these vouchers and asked that the matter be reported to the Department of Finance and the Committee last year agreed to this procedure.

911. Chairman.—Have you any comment you care to make on that, General?

General MacMahon.—We have reported the full facts to the Department of Finance. If there is any particular point that you wish to raise in connection with it, I would be glad to answer it.

912. Chairman.—Mr. Almond, have you anything to tell us from the Department of Finance point of view?

Mr. Almond.—In the Minute of the Minister for Finance on the previous year’s Accounts,* Sir, it was said that: “The investigations referred to by the Committee are nearing completion and the Committee will be furnished in due course with the views of the Minister for Finance.” A Minute has been prepared setting out the views of the Department of Finance on the whole question, but it is awaiting the approval of the Minister at the moment. If you wish, Sir, I can give you the salient points of the Minute, which, if approved, will be presented formally to the Committee.

913. Chairman.—I think it will help us if you give us the salient points, simply stating them on behalf of the Department of Finance.

Mr. Almond.—Of course, this Minute covers the whole ground and I am not sure whether you wish to be given the whole contents—it contains three pages.

914. Chairman.—I think I can leave it to your discretion to say whatever you think it is relevant to say at this stage on behalf of the Department of Finance.

Mr. Almond.—The medical stores which were referred to by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the first instance were described as reserve stocks. It should be made clear at the outset that these stores were not in the nature of reserve stocks intended to be kept intact for use in the event of a major emergency but were simply stocks ordered in advance of normal requirements in order to guard against a possible future shortage of supplies. The Minister for Finance is informed that, owing to shortage of staff, it was not possible to take these stores on charge immediately but that they were taken on charge as part of the normal stocks at the first available opportunity. As regards the other matters raised by the Committee, the Department of Finance considers, after investigation, that, in general, the manner in which medical stores were accounted for during the period in question was far from satisfactory. Issues were made from the stores purchased in advance before those stores were taken on charge and even after they had been taken on charge issues from the joint stocks were in several instances unsupported by vouchers. Vouchers were subsequently constructed to cover all issues. but the Department of Defence were obliged to reject some of these vouchers because they were unable, owing to lapse of time and the absence of adequate records, to determine whether the issues had or had not been made legitimately. The question then arises about the particular voucher referred to in the minutes of Evidence last year. I do not think I need to refer specifically to that now. We have an explanation from the Department of Defence as to why this unsatisfactory state of affairs arose. I can, if you wish, go over the various reasons they give.

915. Chairman.—Perhaps General MacMahon, before we go further, would like to say a word on this general question of the block vouchers and vouchers which have been rejected by the Department of Finance as being unsatisfactory?

Mr. Almond.—They were rejected by the Department of Defence.

General MacMahon.—I think it would be well to explain at the outset that it was necessary to get in supplies urgently. There was grave danger that if we did not get them in urgently we would not get them at all. We ordered them. They came and they were handed over to the Command Medical Officers. In pre-emergency days the Command Medical Officer was responsible for the medical supplies in his Command. He had a very small staff to deal with then. The emergency, apart from the question of medical stores altogether, increased his work tenfold. On top of that he had these supplies sent in. It was physically impossible for him to take them in and deal with them in the normal way. When this was realised we proceeded to recruit a Command chemist for each Command—an officer whose only duty would be to receive stores, see that they were properly taken on charge, and duly issued. In the interval, the Command Medical Officer, when supplies were granted, took them from the stocks he previously had, or if they were not there, from the new stocks. We feel that it was physically impossible for him to do otherwise until he could supply additional staff. As far as the particular voucher was concerned, he was so rushed that in many cases he had to issue supplies without writing them off properly, and, when he got time, he tried to reconstruct the matter with regard to the voucher. He said, in effect, that he had so many men in his command for whom, on an average, such-and-such a quantity of medical supplies would have to be issued. The voucher, quite possibly, may have been right, but in the circumstances we could not regard it as a proper voucher, and, therefore, had to reject it; but I should like to satisfy the Committee that the Command Medical Officer was quite honest in regard to this matter, and that there was no question of trying “to wipe our eyes”. He explained that the voucher referred to was a reconstructed one based on what he believed to be the quantity of medical supplies necessary for the troops he had to cater for during the period.

916. Chairman.—Am I correct in believing that the way in which stores are taken in would be more or less as follows: Let us take one item—that that 1,000,000 Protonsil tablets are ordered, and that they are delivered, physically, to the Curragh; that there is an officer there who receives them and that, on his receiving them and taking them into his stock, they are then put upon charge?—That is correct.

917. And that he then issues a voucher? —That is correct.

918. Am I correct in saying that in this case 1,000,000 Protonsil tablets—I am only just taking that as a figure—were delivered to the Curragh Camp and that, before they were properly accepted on the charge books, the Command Medical Officer took some of them and used them for therapeutic purposes and that, then, the officer concerned constructively booked those tablets which had already been used as on charge, and accepted from the Command Medical Officer, who had actually used them for therapeutic purposes, a voucher in lieu of the tablets?—Yes, that would be correct, but as the voucher was constructed after these medical supplies had been issued we felt that we could not accept the voucher.

919. Was it a question of the man who took this on charge or of the Medical Officer?—In ordinary circumstances, we would have held the Command Medical Officer as being responsible, but his duties had increased tenfold, and he could not possibly handle them without additional staff. We explained that to the Department of Finance. We realised that there were certain deficiencies, but there were also considerable surpluses, which practically amounted to the same sum as the deficiencies, and we told the Department of Finance that, in the Minister’s opinion, we could not hold the officer concerned responsible, having regard to the circumstances then existing, such as his lack of staff and the additional work that he had to perform. In the meantime, we proceeded to remedy the position so far as we could by appointing to each Command, a chemist whose sole duty would be to receive medical supplies, take them on charge, and see that they are properly issued.

920. Have you any comment to make, Mr. Maher, on the facts communicated to us by General MacMahon on this matter of medical stores and the issue of the block voucher?

Mr. Maher.—No, Sir, except that I do not think General MacMahon has given the circumstances exactly as we found them. There were considerable discrepancies, and the gap was covered by this voucher which we referred to as G. 10, and these facts, I understand, are before the Department of Finance for their consideration at the moment.

Chairman.—With regard to this matter of medical supplies at the Curragh, does any Deputy wish to ask any question?

921. Deputy Briscoe.—Has there been any further information in regard to that portion of the paragraph which says: “I have also asked for information regarding the apparently abnormal consumption of medical stores at a General Military Hospital”?

General MacMahon.—In that regard, I should say that you cannot compare the General Military Hospital at the Curragh with St. Bricin’s Hospital in Dublin, and I think that Mr. Maher must not be aware that, in addition to the men ordinarily stationed at the Curragh, there were 2,000 extra men who were not attached to any unit and who had to be supplied with ordinary medicines. In addition to these, there is also the question of medical supplies for the wives and children of serving soldiers living in the Curragh, and also for internees—both our own internees and those from belligerent countries. All those people had to be supplied and I think that that explains the difference between the consumption of supplies at the Curragh and that at St. Bricin’s.

922. Chairman.—I think that your attention, General, was directed to certain rather remarkable discrepancies in connection with these medical supplies. For instance, in the fifteen months ending 31st December, 1940, the consumption of bandages, of all widths, was 1,265,328 yards, whereas in the 12 months ending 31st December, 1941, the consumption of bandages at the same hospital was 117,216 yards, or approximately one-tenth of what had been consumed in the previous five months. How do you account for that?— As far as that is concerned, we are perfectly satisfied that only the correct quantity of bandages were used. One has to have regard to the different types of cases to be dealt with. One particular type of bandage may have had to be used more frequently during one period than during the other. We have to leave it to the discretion of the Medical Officer as to what type of bandage he will use or the quantity he will use. We cannot very well do otherwise.

923. I think that, certainly, is right, but still. allowing a very wide discretion to the Medical Officer, would it not be wise for the Department to inquire why, in the one hospital, the Medical Officer used over 1,000,000 yards of bandages in one period of fifteen months and, in the ensuing 12 months, used only 117,000 yards?—It would depend on the number and the type of cases. That was examined very carefully by the Director of Medical Services and his staff. He is a doctor himself, and he felt that he could not interfere with the discretion of a Medical Officer with regard to the question of the quantity of material used.

924. Deputy Briscoe.—Reducing it down to a clear picture of what you are trying to bring to the notice of the Committee, I think that if you take it by the month it would appear that, approximately, 84,000 yards of bandages per month were used in one year, as against, approximately, 9,000 yards per month in the succeeding year?—When a doctor is treating a man for sprains, broken legs, and so on, you cannot possibly ration the amount of bandages to be used. Men may be out on exercises, and you may be fortunate and have no accidents, whereas, six months later, you may be unlucky and have quite a number of accidents.

925. Deputy McCann.—Would it not be correct to say that the period ending December, 1940, was an abnormal period, inasmuch as very many more men were coming into the Defence Forces?—Yes, that would be so—very many more men.

926. Deputy Allen.—And the percentage of accidents would probably be higher as a result of the intensive training of new recruits?—Exactly, and according as these recruits came on for advanced training there would be the likelihood of more accidents.

927. Deputy Briscoe.—Would it not be simpler, then, for the Hospital itself to state how many cases it had treated in the year as compared with the previous year?—Yes, but even that might not completely answer the question. One surgeon may use more bandages than another. That does happen, and the Director says that it is quite usual for one surgeon to use more bandages than another, and I do not see how any Director of Medical Services could take the responsibility of saying to any doctor that he should only use such-and-such a length of bandage.

928. Deputy M. E. Dockrell.—Were any steps taken to ascertain how this came about? Nobody would like to see wounded soldiers short of bandages, but are you satisfied that your medical people treated a commensurately increased number of soldiers in the earlier period than in the later period? Surely, there would be some bearing on this matter of the discrepancy in the amount of bandages used and the amount of cases treated during the two periods?—Of course, there were greater numbers of men in the Defence Forces, but even that did not completely explain the discrepancy. Our experience, in dealing with the medical people, is that if the medical officer concerned says that a certain amount of bandages is necessary, his superior medical officer could not say to him that he would have to do with a less amount of bandages, and that, to some extent, has affected the position. All we know is that these bandages were used for soldiers or, perhaps, in some cases, for the families of soldiers, or, as I have already pointed out, for internees; but we were satisfied that they were properly used, and the medical people feel that no one is entitled to dictate to them what quantity of bandages should be used.

929. Chairman.—Well, I do not think that that is a view to which this Committee would subscribe, whatever may be the medical point of view. For instance, if the Army medical authorities were to suggest that they would require a sufficient quantity of bandages to swathe the whole Army from head to foot in bandages, then this Committee would deem it expedient to inquire why they should so swathe the whole Army. I think, General, that your attention is drawn to the fact that in 1941—the year we are dealing with—something like 18,000 aspirin tablets were used at one hospital, while, during the same period, 51,910 aspirin tablets were used at the Curragh Hospital, and that a G. 10 voucher was submitted for 21,520 tablets in addition, meaning, I take it, that 21,520 tablets of aspirin were unaccounted for, and that a block voucher was given. Is that correct, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, that is correct.

930. Chairman.—I fully appreciate that you cannot now answer in respect of each item, but I am merely giving you examples so as to indicate the lines upon which the Committee’s mind is running?—If you take Protonsil tablets used in the treatment of V. D. cases, larger quantities are used in St. Bricin’s.

931. Chairman.—I observe that explanation and I forebore dealing with that particular item. Do I understand that discussions are proceeding between your Department and the Department of Finance in regard to this matter?—We gave a complete report to the Department of Finance and we have not heard from them yet.

932. Chairman.—Mr. Almond, has the Department of Finance anything to say in connection with this matter?

Mr. Almond.—Examination has been completed, but our conclusions are subject to the approval of the Minister.

933. Chairman.—Can you summarise the Department of Finance view in regard to this matter?*

Mr. Almond.—Yes, subject to that reservation. As the General has told you a chemist of commissioned rank was appointed to each Command between September and December, 1941. Complete stocktaking and audit in the stores of each of the Command chemists were carried out by civilian staff of the Department of Defence on the following dates—Curragh, January, 1942; Mallow, April, 1942; Dublin, July, 1942; Athlone, September, 1942. Total deficiencies amounting to £1,247 7s. 8d. and total surpluses amounting to £1,275 4s. 6d. were disclosed. The value of the stores covered by the rejected vouchers to which I referred before is included in the total deficiencies. The Department of Finance is prepared to sanction the writing off of the deficiencies and the adjustment of the surpluses. In agreeing to this course, the Department has been influenced by the conditions obtaining in the Army Medical Service during the early years of the emergency. The difficulties with which the Army Medical Service had to contend at that time have been explained to us by the Department of Defence as follows:—(a) The procurement in a short time of considerable quantities of medical supplies in excess of normal peacetime requirements; (b) the urgent distribution of these supplies with particular reference to eventualities envisaged at the time, (c) the recruitment and training of considerable extra medical personnel, both commissioned and non-commissioned; (d) the formation of field ambulances; (e) the selection and establishment of additional base and reserve hospitals; (f) the co-ordination of the Red Cross organisation, A.R.P. and other voluntary medical and nursing bodies with Army requirements and training. The Department of Defence pointed out that, pending recruitment and completion of training of extra personnel, the existing administrative work had to be carried out with a peace time staff which did not include any accounting officers professionally qualified to handle the various types of medical supplies and that, consequently, accurate store-accounting was a matter of great difficulty. The Department took into account those matters and the additional considerations advanced by the Department of Defence:—(a) that quite a considerable proportion of the discrepancies could be attributed to the fact that, prior to the appointment of Command chemists, the Medical Store Accounts were operated by personnel who were not qualified chemists and consequently could not be on their guard sufficiently against mistakes arising from—

(i) The employment in the profession of both Avoirdupois and Apothecaries’ tables of weights;

(ii) The quantities of liquids which appear in the account, all of which have different specific gravities;

(iii) The method usually employed of dispensing stock mixtures by eye rather than by accurate measurement in fluid ounces to save unnecessary waste of time;

(iv) The measurement by eye or guesswork of tablets and pills—for example, aspirin, pot. permang., pill No. 9, etc.—where normal issues are made in units of 100.

and (b) that discrepancies would also be caused by the fact that dispenser’s scales could not be obtained until well on in 1942. Moreover, in view of the largeness of the surpluses disclosed, the Department inclined to the view that the discrepancies disclosed by the stocktaking and audit represented in the main paper losses and gains, resulting from unsatisfactory accounting arrangements. Revised Accounting Instructions dealing with medical and dental stores were issued on 9th December, 1942, and the Department of Finance is assured that the accounts are now being operated satisfactorily in all the Commands under the revised procedure.

934. Chairman.—Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—As regards Mr. Almond’s final remarks, we are at present examining these particular accounts in connection with the next year’s Appropriation Accounts.

935. Deputy Benson.—Before you leave that matter, might I return to the question of bandages? General McMahon has advanced various reasons as to the disparity between the 15 months’ and 12 months’ period. Have we figures for any other hospital where, I presume, similar conditions obtain which will support that view?

936. Chairman.—We have not got the figure for the consumption of bandages at St. Bricin’s hospital during the period that the Curragh Command consumed 1,265,328 yards of bandages?—Yes, Sir, we have the consumption in St. Bricin’s as well. St. Bricin’s for the 12 months ended the 31/12/’40 consumed 678 dozen.

937. Chairman.—The period to which I refer is the 15 months ending the 31st December, 1940?—I am afraid I have not these figures now, but I can send them on to you.

938. Chairman.—However, I suppose we should bear in mind that the Curragh General Hospital is a much larger hospital than Bricin’s, and has a very much larger call on its services by the relatives and families of soldiers than has Bricin’s. Is that not so?—Yes, and there is also the fact that we have internees there. There are, besides, roughly 2,000 men with attached units there.

939. Deputy McCann.—Apropos of that, I suggest that there is no comparison between the Curragh out-patients’ department as such and St. Bricin’s outpatients’ department?

Chairman.—No one would dare to suggest that there is not a clear difference between the services rendered by Bricin’s Hospital and the Curragh Hospital.

940. Deputy Briscoe.—No comparison is possible, I suppose, between hospitals which are entirely different; but surely it should be possible to give us a rough idea as to the average amount of bandages consumed per case on similar types of treatment?

941. Chairman.—There again one would need to be careful, because naturally the same number of bandages would not be used in an institution which is primarily a medical hospital as would be used in an institution which is primarily a surgical hospital?

Witness.—That is true. I did not ask for that information, but if the Committee require it I can supply it.

942. Deputy Briscoe.—I am quite satisfied as a member of the Committee now that the Department of Finance say that, having realised the difficulties, they are satisfied that the deficiencies arose from nothing else than the causes stated. Once we know that a new system has been instituted, and is working to the satisfaction of the Department of Finance, I think we can let the matter rest until we hear further from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Department?

Mr. Almond.—On that point, I did not say that we were satisfied with the new system. I said that we have been assured that the accounts were now being operated satisfactorily. We have no experience in the Department of Finance as to the working of the system, and, as Mr. Maher has said, we shall have to await his report of the working of the new system before expressing any opinion upon it.

943. Chairman.—Suffice it to say, the new system is operating and you must suspend judgment until the Comptroller and Auditor General submits his report?

Mr. Almond.—Prima facie, the system looks good but we cannot say how it is working yet. We are assured it is working satisactorily.

944. Deputy Briscoe.—I understood Mr. Almond to say that this new system had been introduced by the Department of Finance?

Mr. Almond.—No, it is a new system introduced by the Department of Defence.

Chairman.—The second part of paragraph 59 states:—

“I also referred in my last report to a certain dislocation in the system of accounting for Barrack Service stores arising out of the emergency conditions. Arrangements were completed for a check of all Barrack Service items on inventory to, or in use by, troops during a stated period, and I have asked whether this check has been carried out and if so with what result.”

945. Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have been informed that complete stocktaking of Barrack Service stores including all stores on issue to the Forces, which was undertaken in 1942, could not be completed within a sufficiently reasonable time to ensure accuracy of the final figures owing to (1) the wide dispersal of the stores, (2) their continuous movement, and (3) the enormous volume of work entailed. It was then decided to take stock of the more important articles, for example bedding, and the result of this stocktaking is now under consideration.

946. Chairman.—Can you give us any further information as to the limited stocktaking you did undertake?—As a result of the limited stocktaking there is a deficiency roughly of 5 per cent. It is a big sum I will agree, but the circumstances will have to be taken into consideration there again.

947. Chairman.—Might I inquire what actually did the stocktaking cover—bedding and what other items?—Mattresses, blankets, pillowcases, sheets, furniture, etc.

948. Deputy Briscoe.—That does not include technical stores?—No. These Barrack Service stores correspond roughly to what one would have in one’s own house. In the early days of the emergency units were moved around frequently. There was a shortage of supplies and an officer who was ordered to proceed to some other post or to a new post would be afraid there would not be any equipment there and would take it with him. I should have explained originally that barrack services are on charge to District Barrack Officers, who are responsible for them. They issue them to the various units. In normal times, when a unit moved out, it proceeded to a new station where it got equipment. A number of additional posts were opened and the officers—particularly the old and experienced ones—realised they might arrive and find no equipment, so they brought their furniture with them without reference to the district barrack officer. We knew what stocks were on issue to the district barrack officers, and proceeded to find where they were and what was missing. Our check reveals roughly a 5 per cent. deficiency. In mentioning that 5 per cent., I think it is well to realise that of that property, old blankets, old mattresses, old sheets and pillows, possibly even some of the furniture, might have become unserviceable and, in normal times, would have been written off. This was bound to happen in connection with portion of it at least. Apart from that, there is a possibility that some of the 5 per cent. will be brought to light yet. If you take Collins Barrack, Cork, for example, it is a big rambling barracks, and to make certain that you have examined every article in it, it would be necessary to hold up everything for a couple of days and heap the whole lot in the centre of the square. The people at the Curragh believe that their particular shortage will be diminished by the fact that there is some stuff which was not taken in charge by the accounting officers or inspection officers. As far as 5 per cent. is concerned we have been threshing the matter out with the Quartermaster-General who has agreed to make the units responsible pay 50 per cent. of that 5 per cent., and we propose to ask the Department of Finance to write off the other 50 per cent. of 5 per cent. on the grounds that, in normal times, quite a quantity of that would, in the ordinary way, be written off as having become unserviceable.

949. Chairman.—When you say that the units will be required to pay 50 per cent. of that 5 per cent., exactly what do you mean?—That means that the unit where the material is missing will be told they have to make good that sum.

950. How?—It is usually done through their welfare funds. We have found, I am glad to say now, that in this emergency as distinct from the period 1922 to 1924 very little damage has been done to houses taken over for accommodation purposes. In the earlier period, 1922-24, very considerable damage was done, a lot of it wilful. The occupying officer is told now that if there is any wilful damage his unit must pay for it. As a result, there is very little and it is paid for by the unit. I am mentioning that to indicate that the unit knows its funds will be reduced if anything is destroyed or lost wilfully. We are recovering from units 50 per cent. of that 5 per cent., and asking the Department of Finance to write off the other 50 per cent.

951. Chairman.—On that proposal to deal with the 5 per cent., have you any comment, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—No, we are not aware of that yet.

Witness.—It has not been reported to Mr. Maher yet.

952. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make, Mr. Almond?

Mr. Almond.—The proposal has not reached us yet. I was, of course, aware of what General MacMahon has already said.

953. Deputy Briscoe.—It must be quite clear to General MacMahon that a certain portion of barrack service items is, in fact, stolen. I wonder if he can tell the Committee whether anything has been done in connection with this position. Under the Emergency Regulations, the military police have power to enter premises where they suspect a deserter to be or army property which had previously been in the custody of the deserter. On many occasions, these military policemen had located stolen property of that kind. They attempt to recover it and attempt to have the people in possession of that property dealt with; but they find that, in spite of their view that they have the right, under the Emergency Regulations, to go in and recover the goods and have the people dealt with, they are rendered powerless under the ordinary law and unless they obtain a warrant in the ordinary way they cannot get the co-operation of the Gárdaí. I am wondering whether that has been brought to the General’s notice, and if we ought not, as a Committee, suggest that if the Army has not got such power they should get it.

Chairman.—The Deputy will keep clearly distinct in his mind our duties when deliberating our report, and our duties to-day when eliciting information from the General.

954. Deputy Briscoe.—I happen to know, and I am sure the General knows, that all that has not gone astray inside the barracks but that a certain amount has been stolen. This difficulty is there and I would like to hear the General on it.

Witness.—We have not had any difficulty with the Gárdaí, but we are aware that a lot of the material was stolen. We know, for instance, that a considerable quantity of blankets was stolen from a post near Ennis and we actually traced them to the man who stole them. The matter was reported to the Gárdaí, who were most helpful, and it came before the district justice. He let the receiver off under the First Offenders Act and gave the soldier a month, and hoped it would not affect his Army career. One of our difficulties is that the courts will not, in our opinion, deal sufficiently sternly with the receivers of stolen Army property. We could deal with the soldier by court martial if nobody else were involved, but if a civilian is also involved we must hand the case over to the Gárdaí and let it be dealt with in a civil court. We have communicated with the Department of Justice and pointed out that the sentences imposed by the courts—both by Circuit Courts and, particularly, by the District Courts—are altogether insufficient to deal with the problem. The Department of Justice say they are helpless in the matter: all they can do is ask the local State Solicitor or the Superintendent of the Gárdaí to represent to the justice that this is becoming a serious matter and they would like it dealt with severely. We considered also the possibility of having this dealt with by the Military Courts, we pressed the Attorney General strongly to do so, but he pointed out that the Military Court was set up to deal with certain types of cases and that this was not one of them. Our difficulty is not with the Gárdaí.

955. Deputy Briscoe.—I do not suggest it is.

Witness.—It is really with the courts. The courts will, in quite a serious matter, let a man off under the First Offenders Act or fine him £1 or, in the case of the soldier, give him a month or a small fine.

956. Deputy McCann.—Do you get the property back?—Yes, in those cases. We feel that if a few stiff sentences were given, it would act as a deterrent and be more useful.

957. Deputy Briscoe.—I have knowledge of people in the City of Dublin who have been in possession of Army blankets and sheets which are easily identifiable. The military police, who are delegated to apprehend deserters and recover Army property which is stolen, sometimes run these to earth. Unless the deserter is present on the premises, they have to prove through the courts that this is in fact Army property, although it is obvious to anybody that it is an Army blanket. They have no power to arrest, and when they go to the nearest Gárdaí station they are informed that the Gárdaí can do nothing, that the Army men will have to apprehend these men themselves after swearing a warrant. By the time the warrant is sworn, the goods have disappeared and the military police are back again where they started. I wonder if the General would consult with the Provost Marshal about that?—We have had some difficulties. Unfortunately some years ago it was decided in selling old blankets that a much better price would be obtained if they were sold as they were, instead of reducing them to produce and putting them on sale as rags. The difficulty is to prove that these are stolen blankets rather than blankets that some dealer purchased at an auction. The difficulty that Deputy Briscoe has mentioned has not been reported to me, but I will certainly take it up with the Provost Marshal.

958. Deputy Briscoe.—Would the General not also find it very important to find out what has been the attitude of the outside solicitors at the courtmartial towards the military police—who have been warned that they can be dealt with very severely if they attempt to go into houses without a proper warrant, even in search of Army property they know to be there?—I will look into that, too.

959. Deputy Benson.—The General says he is asking for authority to write off 50 per cent. as being the amount of the equipment which would have become unserviceable in the ordinary course of events. From my Army experience I know that an unserviceable article is every bit as valuable as a good one because with the unserviceable one you can get the issue of a new one. Surely, if these things had become unserviceable the unit would have seen to it that they were gathered, so as to get new ones against them?—They would, in normal times, but the times were abnormal and they did not worry about them. Deputy Benson will realise that over the period a certain number of old blankets would become unserviceable—and mattresses, too, especially when they are moved around from one post to another.

960. Chairman.—Are you satisfied that the theft or misappropriation of Army stores is not on an alarming scale?—It is not on an alarming scale, but definitely the number of cases has increased. The number we had in 1940 was two, involving a sum of £9 18s. 5d., of which we recovered £4 18s. 5d. from the people concerned, leaving a net loss of £5; in 1940-41 we had eight cases, amounting to £107 6s. 9d., of which we recovered £105 16s. 9d., leaving a net loss of £1 10s; in 1941-42 we had 33 cases involving £107 6s. 8d., of which the amount recovered was £58 4s. 1d., and the net loss was £49 2s. 7d., which we asked the Department of Finance to write off; in 1942-43 there were 121 cases, involving a sum of £976 6s. 8d., of which we recovered £574 14s. 10d., leaving a net loss of £401 11s. 10d.

961. Deputy Briscoe.—The General is not suggesting that these cases represent the actual losses? These are only cases you dealt with where you have been able to apprehend the culprits?—I am dealing with the point which was raised. The Chairman asked if they have increased to an alarming extent. They have increased from two in 1939-40 to 121 in 1942-43. I think that is the point.

962. Chairman.—That deals with the cases that have come to light and that have been brought to trial?—Yes.

963. Speaking generally of Army stores, do you think there has been any serious increase in their misappropriation, or theft?—Those figures prove there has been a serious increase—an increase from two to 121 in the number of cases. Those are the cases we know of. As Deputy Briscoe pointed out, there may have been cases that we will never know of. On the other hand, there may be quite a number of cases that we will discover later. The Minister, the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant-General and the Quartermaster-General are very strict disciplinarians and they are most anxious to discover cases of fraud, if fraud exists, and to see that adequate punishment is meted out. The Quartermaster-General has an inspection staff whose duty it is to check stores. These men are available at all times and they can be sent to any place where the Quartermaster-General thinks there is anything wrong. Our civilian audit staff is similarly employed.

964. May we take it that any Deputy of Dáil Eireann who directs your attention and the attention of the Minister to a specific case of fraud or misappropriation can be assured that the matter will be fully investigated and the result of the investigation communicated to him? —I can assure you that every case reported to us is carefully dealt with at once. Even anonymous letters are acted upon right away. If we get information we send the civilian audit staff on the job.

965. I fully appreciate that every complaint is carefully investigated. I recognise at once that if every civilian had a right to place the Quartermaster General on trial by writing a letter to the Department, an impossible situation would arise. But, where a responsible Deputy formulates a specific allegation or complaint, may he assume that that will be investigated and the result communicated to him in due course?—He may be assured that the case will be investigated and the Minister’s opinion following upon that investigation will be communicated to the Deputy. I do not say that we will send a complete account of everything to him, but he will be informed of the action taken. We have had quite a lot of anonymous letters and we have acted on them; as a result, we did discover some cases of fraud. There has not been a case reported by Deputies or anyone else that was not acted on immediately and made the subject of a report.

966. Deputy Briscoe.—You will not say, in a particular case, which was reported by a Deputy, that that Deputy was informed, as a result of the inquiry, whether his allegations were well founded or otherwise, and what transpired?—That would be a matter for the Minister. I can assure you that every case is dealt with, but it is a matter of policy whether we can give the Deputy all the facts or not. When it comes to a matter of policy, I have to discuss that with the Minister, and I cannot commit him to anything here.

967. Chairman.—How far the result of the inquiry may be communicated to the Deputy is a matter of policy, and that is for the Minister to decide and not for the Accounting Officer. Is that not so?— Quite.

968. Deputy Briscoe.—I do not quite agree. If a Deputy is made aware of what appears to be serious misappropriation in a certain area and he brings that matter to the knowledge of the authorities and he knows from outside sources that an inquiry has taken place and he is not made aware of anything, even to the extent that his allegations were well-founded or otherwise, surely that cannot be regarded as a matter of policy?

Chairman.—There is no doubt to my mind, if a Deputy addresses a representation to the Department and, in theory, that is addressed to the Minister and not to the accounting officer, that the ultimate fate of the communication so addressed to the Minister is not a matter on which we can examine General MacMahon.

Deputy Briscoe.—General MacMahon has stated that it is a question of policy.

Chairman.—That is a technical term used by all accounting officers to distinguish between matters upon which they can be made properly answerable to the Committee, and matters which should be brought to the notice of the Minister through the medium of the Dáil, or directly.

969. Deputy O’Sullivan.—Would it be possible for General MacMahon, in the light of any information he may have and his experience of this sort of thing in other armies, to say how we fare, relatively, regarding this particular type of thing?—We can only judge from the report of the Committee of Public Accounts in England, and we think we fare very well. Of course, I may be prejudiced.

970. Chairman.—Perhaps we might put it to an impartial observer. What does the Comptroller and Auditor General think of our position in relation to this subject of loss of stores as compared with the returns for the British Army, revealed in the report of the British Committee of Public Accounts?

Mr. Maher.—I think we compare very favourably. Reading the reports of the British Committee of Public Accounts, what strikes me is the enormous amount usually involved, whereas here the amount is comparatively small.

971. Deputy Benson.—Might I suggest that in the one case you have an army at war?

Mr. Maher.—I have in mind the peacetime figures as well.

972. Deputy Cogan.—The General stated that it has been the practice to dispose of unserviceable army stores by selling them. I think that practice does make it difficult to apprehend offenders, those who might be guilty of the larceny of materials. Do you not agree that it is a dangerous practice?—At the moment we are not disposing of that type of material. I would prefer to see it reduced to produce, but everyone is not of the same opinion. I would prefer to have it reduced to produce so that it cannot be resold as an article of wear.

Transport by Army Vehicles of Turf for Civilian Population.

“60. The sanction of the Department of Finance was obtained for the hireage of 100 Army trucks and drivers for the transport of turf for the civilian population at an all-in charge of 9d. per mile provided that the rate was deemed adequate. The trucks were employed between November, 1941, and January, 1942, the total mileage covered being 554,881 and a charge of £20,808 0s. 9d. was accordingly raised against the Vote for Special Emergency Schemes. The charge of 9d. per mile for the use of light and medium vehicles was a rate which had been fixed by reference to costings taken prior to the emergency, and the adequacy of this rate, in view of increasing costs, had been under consideration for some time. Having regard to the terms of the Department of Finance sanction I inquired whether Army funds had been fully recouped in respect of the transport employed on turf haulage. I was informed that while the rate of 9d. per mile did not effect complete recoupment of expenditure in the circumstances of rising costs, the sum recovered was deemed adequate in view of the nature and urgency of the service and of the fact that the costing included provision for the pay, allowances, etc., of a soldier which would in any event have fallen as a charge on the Army Vote.”

973. Chairman.—Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—The main point is that Department of Finance sanction was conditional upon the rate charged being adequate and it is admitted that, in view of the increased cost, the 9d. rate did not effect full recoupment. The relevant authority authorises the use of mechanical transport for certain semi-Army purposes, e.g., conveyance of Army bands, personnel and property of Army clubs, etc. It also authorised the use of transport “in such other circumstances as the Minister might decide”. But in these cases there is no reference to the rate of repayment. The employment of transport on turf haulage falls within this last category and it would appear, therefore, that a special repayment rate could have been fixed outside the rate referred to in the instructions.

974. Chairman.—Have you any observations to make on that matter, Mr. Almond?

Mr. Almond.—Looking at the matter after the lapse of time from the date of our original sanction, I think we have to realise that there is no actual loss to State funds involved, for two reasons. First of all, soldiers would have had to be paid for by the State, in any case, and in the second place the loss on turf has to be subsidised by the State, so that if Fuel Importers had to pay 3d. a mile more for their turf carriage, the State would have had to subsidise them by whatever amount would be represented by that 3d. a mile. But the objection we see, and we think it is a rather serious objection, is that Fuel Importers have received a concealed subsidy to the extent of 3d. a mile. That is really the only important aspect of the matter.

Witness.—Technically we acted within the Department of Finance sanction. We got out a regulation setting out the charge per mile. The regulation was issued in March, 1939, and it stated that the charge would be 9d. That regulation is countersigned by the Minister for Finance. Therefore, it is the rate and, strictly speaking, we are entitled to tell the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, as we did, that we would charge 9d. That is the rate the Minister agreed to. Technically we are right. We knew the 9d per mile covered more than the actual costs. We took in overheads and we realised that where this would be charged, it would be charged to an outside body, and we erred on the right side from the point of view of finance. In the interval between 1939 and this period it was realised that the cost might have gone up, but until we could fix a rate we did not know there would be so big a jump as 3d. a mile. The rate is now 1/- instead of 9d.

975. Chairman.—Subject to Mr. Almond’s reservation, does anything arise on this other than as a bookkeeping transaction.

Mr. Maher.—The Audit Office point was that Army transport might be used in other circumstances, as the Minister might decide, and it seemed to us the haulage of turf came within that stipulation. Our view was that steps should be taken to ensure that if Army transport was used under that particular heading for any other purpose apart from turf haulage, an adequate rate, that is, 1/as at present, should be charged.

976. Chairman.—Am I right in saying that the danger was that if 9d. was taken as an adequate rate for turf haulage, it might be extended to other haulage contracts?

Mr. Maher.—Yes.

977. Chairman.—We are now assured, General MacMahon, that the rate is 1/and that is adequate?—Yes. At the time we were influenced by the fact that we were approached by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. We did not distinguish between the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister. We should have realised it was Fuel Importers and not the Minister for Finance, but we had no correspondence in this matter with Fuel Importers. It was the Parliamentary Secretary who asked us to do this and we thought it was a matter between one Department and another.

978. Chairman.—Is the Department of Finance satisfied that the matter is satisfactorily disposed of now?

Mr. Almond.—We are quite satisfied.


“61. Certain members of an Army unit were charged in June, 1941, with the larceny of provisions and were convicted, the value of the goods being recovered. The stores involved represented savings accumulated over a period and were not on charge in any account at the time of the offence. It would appear that considerable savings of provisions accumulate at the larger posts owing to the absence on week-end leave of men for whom rations have been drawn, and I have communicated with the Accounting Officer regarding the disposal of these savings.”

979. Chairman.—Have you any further comment to make on this, Mr. Maher.

Mr. Maher.—We have since been informed that savings in foodstuffs accumulated in units as a result of week-end leave are utilised to provide extra meals during the following week. Notwithstanding this, however, we noticed that in barracks where week-end leave was extensively availed of that foodstuffs surplus to requirements had accumulated. We understand that since the introduction of rationing of certain items, e.g., tea, sugar, etc., the week-end savings in these commodities has been considerably increased.

980. Chairman.—What are you doing with these surpluses now?

General MacMahon.—If men go on week-end leave we have either to give them rations or a ration allowance. If we give them a ration allowance, it costs the State considerably more. While men are on week-end leave, if they live convenient to the barracks they can report to the barrack for meals and have meals issued to them because they are on the strength. We have to issue the rations and the Quartermaster or some officer deputed by him for the purpose, utilises the rations that are not consumed by giving them at the evening or night meal to the troops. As members of the Committee know, the last official meal in the Army is taken at 4.30 or 5 o’clock. These rations that are saved are utilised in that way, and very often are supplemented by contributions from the Welfare Fund. These rations are the property of the troops, and there is an officer delegated to see that they are used to the best advantage.

981. Chairman.—I think you may take it that, if the Committee were satisfied that these surpluses were used by the Quartermaster to give extra rations to the troops, the Committee would be quite satisfied in their minds, but where you find large surpluses running into 1,000 eggs, 900 pints of milk, 299 lbs. bacon, one is inclined to apprehend that these might stand as a temptation to certain persons to misappropriate their use?— That is not the position now. The C.O., or an officer deputed by him, has to see that in fact, they are used, and that no great surplus is allowed.

982. And you are satisfied that they are being so used?—I am, from the reports I have received.

983. If there is no other question, I think we may pass over the second part of the paragraph, which is purely informative, and now take paragraph 62.

Disposal of kits of men proceeding on indefinite leave.

“62. Defence Force Regulations 32/1941 provide for the grant of indefinite leave to men enlisted for the duration of the emergency, and it is laid down in paragraph 5 that the kit of a soldier proceeding on indefinite leave should be withdrawn and disposed of in accordance with the Quartermaster-General’s instructions. Paragraph 4 of the Defence Force Regulations 17/1941 provides that men enlisted for the duration of the emergency may, on discharge, be permitted to retain certain articles of clothing and necessaries and the instructions issued under the first mentioned Regulations authorised the retention of these articles by men proceeding on indefinite leave. As it appeared to me that the application to these men of the conditions as to kit relevant to men on discharge was inconsistent with the requirement that such kits should be withdrawn I communicated with the Accounting Officer on the matter and was informed that it was considered that Defence Force Regulations 32/1941 empowered the issue by the Quartermaster-General of the instructions referred to.”

984. Chairman.—Have you anything to say on this, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—The effect of the instructions issued by the Quartermaster-General has placed men who are granted indefinite leave in the same position as regards the disposal of kits as the men who are discharged. Our view, however, is that this instruction was inconsistent with the regulations which stipulate that the kits should be withdrawn from men on indefinite leave.

985. Chairman.—What is your view, General MacMahon.

General MacMahon.—The Quartermaster-General in making this alteration thought that he was acting within his powers. There is no question whatever but that the new arrangement, from the point of view of the State, is much superior to the other one. The position is that the majority of the men who went on extended leave will never be recalled unless there is an actual invasion. It would be ridiculous to have their kits carefully made up and stored away. They would take up a considerable amount of space, and a staff would be engaged wholetime to overhaul them regularly, to grease boots, etc. All that would cost the State a very considerable sum. It would also mean that a lot of useful equipment, including clothing, was not available for other purposes.

986. Can you tell us how many men are on indefinite leave?—I cannot be too definite about the figure, but I think it is 2,200.

987. Can Mr. Almond give us the view of the Department of Finance as to whether the Quartermaster-General has the power to allow men with indefinite leave to take with them a pair of boots, a pair of trousers, a pair of socks, one shirt, one shaving brush, one tooth brush, a hair comb and one razor?

Mr. Almond.—In our view he acted quite wrongly. He had the Defence Force Regulations before him, and instructions issued by him were, in our view, contrary to the terms of those Regulations. I have since had an opportunity of discussing this matter at length with the Department of Defence, and while we must point out that the sanction of the Department of Finance should have been obtained for this departure from the Defence Force Regulations, at the same time those men who have gone on indefinite leave are, for all practical purposes, discharged unless a major emergency arises. Looking at it in that light, no harm really has been done.

General MacMahon.—On the contrary, quite a considerable saving has been effected.

Mr. Almond.—Quite. I understand that a few men have been recalled from indefinite leave, but that they have not been issued with an entirely new kit. The number is very small indeed.

988. Chairman.—Is there any reason why an amendment of the Defence Force Regulations should not have been made to regularise the position?

General MacMahon.—The Regulations will be amended. The Quartermaster-General interpreted this Regulation in such a way as he thought gave him this particular power. It effected, as I have said, a considerable saving. We intend taking the first opportunity to amend the Regulations so as to regularise the position. As far as the Regulations are concerned, we would not dream of departing from this particular system, because it is so good. It effects a saving to the State, a saving in space on the barracks, and a saving of personnel.

989. Chairman.—You will agree with Mr. Maher that it is a grave matter for the Quartermaster-General by an order of his to cancel paragraph 5 of the Defence Force Regulations of the 29th August, 1941, which are signed by the Minister for Defence and countersigned by the Minister for Finance.

General MacMahon.—He interpreted the Regulation wrongly and has been so notified.

Deputy McCann.—By doing so he saved money. As the matter can be regulated later, I think that he acted wisely.

Chairman.—It is a very pernicious doctrine to argue that the end justifies the means always.

990. Deputy Benson.—If these men are recalled, will the same articles be issued to them only on making a repayment?

General MacMahon.—Does the Deputy mean the articles that were taken into store?

Deputy Benson.—I mean the articles which they were allowed to retain.

General MacMahon.—They will be issued with fresh ones.

991. Deputy Benson.—On making repayment?

General MacMahon.—No. Free. I do not think that we had two cases of that kind.

992. Chairman.—I take it that your view, General MacMahon, is that if the entire equipment were taken from the soldier, in accordance with paragraph 5 of the Defence Force Regulations, it would all have to be bundled up—his uniform and all his other accoutrements—and put away and that this might deteriorate. Stock was required and a considerable staff would be needed to maintain it in condition, so that you think it is better the soldier should have this when granted indefinite leave?

General MacMahon.—And there is also the point that 99 per cent. of those getting indefinite leave will not come back. If they had been discharged they would have got all these particular items automatically, plus a civilian suit.

993. Deputy McCann.—I take it that the soldier going on indefinite leave does not get a civilian suit?—No.

Warlike Stores.

“63. A sum of £3,030, approximately, was issued to a public company for the provision of machinery for the manufacture of grenade casings, the plant remaining the property of the Department of Defence. When the machinery had been erected orders for a number of casings were issued and the contract provided that the price should be 5s. 9d. each for quantities up to 1,500 per week and 5s. 10½d. each for quantities up to 3,000 per week, the increased charge for deliveries over 1,500 per week being attributed to increased wages costs in working double or treble shifts. After some casings had been supplied at the lower price the rate of delivery was accelerated and the higher price was charged. In order to facilitate production certain additional plant was lent to the company by the Ordnance Depot and as it would appear that the provision of this plant operated to increase the company’s output I have inquired whether any adjustment falls to be made in respect of the additional charges for extra labour costs.”

994. Chairman.—Have you any further comment to make on this, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have since been informed that, notwithstanding the loan of the plant to the company by the Ordnance Depot, it was necessary for the company to work double shifts involving extra wage costs in order to reach the production figure of 3,000 grenade casings per week. Consequently no adjustment falls to be made in respect of additional charges made by the company for extra labour costs.

995. Chairman.—Are you satisfied, General MacMahon, that the charges are properly made?

General MacMahon.—Yes. I think it would be well if the Committee tried to realise what the circumstances were at that particular time. We could not get grenades from any outside source. We approached all the people in this country that we thought might be in a position to make them, that is the people that had the type of machinery required. The only firm that would undertake the work at all was the Great Southern Railways Company. When we talked about the matter to the then general manager of the company, he said that he would rather have nothing to do with it, but when we explained the situation to him he agreed to do the work. He said that he was not out to make a profit for the company on this transaction, but that at the same time he could not afford to let his company lose as a result of the transaction. He said he would be much happier turning out a small quantity per week. We wanted him to turn out the maximum quantity per week. He said that in order to produce the 3,000 grenade casings per week, it would be necessary for him to have certain equipment that could not be obtained. We had at Island Bridge certain lathes that required repairs, etc. The railway engineers were satisfied that they could utilise them and eventually were able to utilise them. We also got a loan of a lathe from another Department and gave it to the railway company. As far as our own lathes are concerned, they are in a better condition now than they were before we loaned them to the company, for the reason that they have been repaired and put into proper order. We approached the company and said: “We facilitated you in your delivery by giving you a loan of these machines and we are now asking you to reduce the cost per grenade.” They pointed out that, in actual fact, the cost of materials had gone up in the meantime. We knew that wages had gone up; that a considerable increase had been given to the workers in the interval. Their reply was: “We are satisfied to leave it as it is; we are not making any profit, but if you want to charge us for the machines we will simply have to put up the cost per grenade.” We thought that in this articular case the railway company met us very fairly. It was against its wishes that it took on the work—really for the purpose of obliging the Department. We are rather pleased with the transaction.

Deputy O’Sullivan.—I happen to know the circumstances of this case, and I can say that what General MacMahon has stated is absolutely correct. The railway company was in the position that it did not want to take on the job at all, but it did so merely to oblige the Department.

996. Chairman.—Did you go into the cost, Mr. Almond, or take any measures to check it?

Mr. Almond.—We sanctioned the original arrangement. We were not consulted about the loan of the plant and equipment subsequently.

997. Chairman.—Is the Department satisfied, in view of the change in the circumstances, that there was no option but to alter the price?

Mr. Almond.—We are perfectly satisfied but, at the same time, we think we should be consulted where the loan of equipment might lead to variation in the contract.

998. Chairman.—May we take it that we look with dismay on the Department of Finance being neglected?

General MacMahon.—Yes.

999. And that you will move very carefully in the future?—Yes.

Chairman.—Note 63 continues:—

“In connection with the provision of armoured cars a quotation for the construction and fitting to chassis of steel bodies with turrets at £320 each was accepted in January, 1941. In September, 1941, an order for the construction and fitting of additional armoured bodies was placed, the price then quoted being £448 each subject to steel being made available by the Department at £20 per ton, any increase or decrease in that price to be adjusted in the final account. The increase in price between January and September was stated by the contractor to be due, in part, to the increased cost of steel. As the higher price quoted was conditional on steel being supplied at £20 per ton, which appeared to approximate to the price of steel at the date of the earlier contract, information has been sought as to the circumstances in which the increased cost of that commodity was relied on in support of the additional charge.”

1000. Chairman.—How did they answer?

Mr. Maher.—They have answered since the report was written that the steel used by the contractors in the making of the bodies had been purchased pre-war at a price of £10 15s. per ton. The difference between this figure and £20 per ton specified explains portion of the difference in the cost. In addition the quotation of £448 in September, 1941, provided for a ball-mounting Vickers gun and a larger petrol tank with protective plating. In addition, the cost of certain materials had considerably increased.

1001. Chairman.—Are you satisfied with the explanation?

Mr. Maher.—We were not aware that the contractor had given the Department the benefit of the cheaper steel which he had in his possession at the beginning.

General MacMahon.—I think there was a misunderstanding. His steel was pre-war steel at £10 a ton. We were to supply steel at £20 a ton but he used his own steel that he had purchased at £10 a ton. I think Mr. Maher and his staff did not take that into account.

1002. Chairman.—Are you satisfied, in the light of the additional information, that the transaction was satisfactory?

Mr. Maher.—Yes.

Protection of the Civil Population against Air and Gas Attack.

“64. The approved expenditure incurred by a local authority on Air-raid Precautions Schemes in the year ended 31st March, 1940, amounted to £27,986 19s. 7d. and grants amounting to 50 per cent. of that sum have been paid under Section 35 of the Air-raid Precautions Act, 1939. The expenditure included £17,254 13s. 8d. in respect of shelters which were constructed partly by direct labour and partly by contract. It appeared that the local authority desired to adopt the direct labour method in order to provide employment, but, in view of the excessive cost involved, it was decided that future construction work should be given to private contractors, the contractors agreeing as a compromise not to use mechanical diggers or excavators. As it was not clear how far this agreement might result in uneconomic costs, which would fall to be borne in part on public funds, I have communicated with the Accounting Officer on the matter.

1003. Chairman.—Have you anything to add, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have since been informed that for shelters erected by direct labour the unit cost was £5 and those erected by contract £3.

1004. Chairman.—What is the meaning of unit cost?

Mr. Maher.—It means per person.

General MacMahon.—Accommodation for one person.

1005. Chairman.—A shelter for 100 people on one system would cost £300 and on the other system £500?—Yes.

Mr. Maher.—With regard to the mechanical digger we were informed that they were not used in the construction of shelters erected by direct labour. The agreement by the contractor not to use mechanical diggers and excavators had the effect of increasing the labour content of the work. Owing to the nature of the work, for example, shortness of trench traverses, dead ends, etc., it was considered that the use of mechanical diggers or excavators would not have materially reduced the cost of trench shelters constructed by contract.

1006. Chairman.—Have you any observations to make on that, Mr. Almond?

Mr. Almond.—We have not been consulted officially. I have, however, discussed it with General MacMahon.

General MacMahon.—This work was being done by the Corporation, which was to recover a certain percentage from the Department. In 1939 it was felt that shelters should be erected as soon as possible and it was decided that the work should be done by contract, but that in the interval, while tenders were being got out the work should be proceeded with by direct labour. The Parliamentary Secretary agreed with the City Manager that until tenders were put out and contractors could be employed men should be engaged by direct labour on the work. Tenders were got out as soon as possible and the contractors were asked not to use these mechanical devices. The Parliamentary Secretary had a talk with the City Manager at the time. He did not like to force the Corporation to do in connection with this particular job something that the Corporation had not done on other contracts they had. He agreed with the City Manager that mechanical appliances could not be used.

1007. Chairman.—Inasmuch as that was tantamount to an increased charge on public funds the Department of Finance should have been consulted.

General MacMahon.—The Parliamentary Secretary gave his sanction straight away to the City Manager to proceed and, before the Accounting Officer was aware of the fact, the contractors had been told to go ahead. We did not handle the tenders at all; they were handled by the City Manager.

1008. Chairman.—Would the Department of Finance have expected to be consulted in a case where a proviso was inserted in the contract calculated to involve cost to the Exchequer?

Mr. Almond.—Definitely. In a case like that I think we should have had to consult the Department of Local Government and Public Health as to the practice of the Dublin Corporation.

1009. Whatever the procedure, you would have expected to be consulted?— Certainly.

1010. Deputy O’Sullivan.—Did the Air Raid Precautions Act of 1939 allow a contribution from State funds up to 75 per cent.?—I think 50 per cent. and, in certain cases, up to 75 per cent.

1011. What considerations determined that figure in the case of the Dublin Corporation to be only 50 per cent.?—I may be stale on the terms of the Act now. I should like to look it up and I will send in a note to the Committee.

1012. Chairman.—Unless it had been a matter purely of administration and not a decision of the Minister we could not press the Accounting Officer in regard to it?

Mr. Almond.—I may say that it is actually a decision of the Government.

Chairman.—If it were a decision of the Government, or of the Minister, the matter would be more appropriately raised in Dáil Eireann.

1013. Chairman.—I take it that you have nothing else to say on the question of the Department of Finance not being consulted. Here I am afraid you will find the Committee on the side of the Department of Finance.

Chairman.—Note 64 continues:—

“I have been furnished with copies of the reports submitted by officers of the Department who carried out inspections and stocktaking of equipment and stores issued on loan to local authorities. Some cases of deterioration of perishable items, due to defective storage arrangements, were reported but, in general, it would appear that the relevant regulations and instructions were being observed. Considerable deficiencies were disclosed on stocktaking but it is considered that these deficiencies were very largely due to the fact that signatures had not been obtained against issues of civilian respirators to the public, and issues to the Services of equipment generally. I have inquired how far the equipment unaccounted for has been located and whether the actual loss has been established. It was observed that at one centre the deficiencies were due in part to the fact that anti-gas equipment had been issued to the public without authority. I have asked whether this equipment has been returned to store in a serviceable condition.”

1014. Is there any observation on that?

Mr. Maher.—We have since been informed that the local authorities concerned were directed to pursue detailed inquiries into all the discrepancies and to report the outcome. The principal discrepancy relates to civilian respirators issued to the public, and to steel helmets issued to the A.R.P. personnel, without obtaining signatures of the recipients. In none of the special areas have inquiries yet been completed. From interim correspondence it is clear that the investigations will be protracted as they involve a check of all respirators issued to the public as well as other equipment issued to the A.R.P. personnel. As regards the last sentence in the sub-paragraph we have been informed that a census of all respirators issued to the public in the areas concerned up to the present is being carried out by the local authorities and a final report will not be available until after the conclusion of the census. Similar action is also contemplated in the other specified areas.

1015. Chairman.—General MacMahon, have you any information to give on that?

General MacMahon.—In the case of Cork, Cobh, Dun Laoghaire and Droghada we have gone into the matter very definitely as to the value of the stores deficiencies. In the case of Cork, they amount to £94; in Cobh, £25; in Dun Laoghaire, £10, and in Drogheda, £16. We have not finally decided what will happen with regard to these particular losses. As regards Dublin, we have gone into the matter, but the authorities do not agree with our figures and further consultation is taking place. Limerick has not yet been brought to a conclusion, but we are following up and a final report is promised by the city manager within the next month. Inquiries are proceeding locally in Waterford, the value of the missing stores being about £20. In Dundalk a final report has been called for. The loss there is not very great.

1016. Chairman.—May I take it that inquiries are proceeding and that in due course you will give the Committee a full statement as to the final position. I take it that that is satisfactory?—Yes.

1017. Deputy Dockrell.—It is just a question of getting civilian signatures for the respirators?—That is correct.

Chairman.—The note proceeds:—

“Section 2 of the Fire Brigades Act, 1940, imposes on local authorities the obligation to make reasonable provision for the protection of persons and property against fires occurring in their districts. Fire-fighting equipment was issued on loan to local authorities, under Section 60 of the Air-raid Precautions Act, 1939, in order to supplement their normal peace-time requirements, it being a condition that payment should be made for so much of the equipment as was necessary for normal requirements. Information has been sought whether the peace-time requirements of the local authorities have been defined and whether liability for payment for equipment issued has been determined.”

1018. Chairman.—Have you anything further, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have also been informed that peace-time equipment, amounting in value to £19,000, has been supplied to local authorities and paid for by them. Other equipment was lent to local authorities for A.R.P. purposes, but this is not to be used without permission for peace-time fire fighting purposes. It is not clear what the peace-time requirements are in certain areas. Probably some of the equipment on loan should be paid for so as to meet the requirements of the Act.

1019. Chairman.—Have you yet determined what the peace-time requirements are?

General MacMahon.—The trouble is that peace-time requirements are decided by the local authorities and sanctioned by the Local Government Department, but we assured ourselves that any equipment issued was surplus to what the local requirements would be except in the case of equipment we purchased for them on a repayment basis. We did that in some cases where we found the local authorities could not get equipment and we could. We purchased it and recouped ourselves from local authorities. Apart from these particular items we only issued materials strictly required for A.R.P. purposes as distinct from peace-time purposes.

1020. Chairman.—Is the final position this, that you have been paid for everything that you are going to be paid for, and that for the rest they will be held by the local authorities as trustees for you, to be redeemed at the end of the emergency?—That is exactly the position.

The Committee adjourned at 1 p.m. until the following day.

* Appendix XV.

* Appendix III.

* Appendix II.

Appendix XV.

* Appendix XV.