Committee Reports::Report - Appropriation Accounts 1941 - 1942::11 November, 1943::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 11adh Mí na Samhna, 1943.

Thursday, 11th November, 1943.

The Committee met 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), and Mr. C. S. Almond (An Roinn Airgeadais), called and examined.

VOTE 63—ARMY (Resumed).

Lieutenant-General P. MacMahon called and further examined.

1021. Chairman.—You may remember that yesterday we were considering the question of supplies and in the course of that consideration I directed your attention to the figure for the consumption of bandages at the Curragh Military Hospital. I think there has been some misunderstanding and that we have taken dozens insteads of units. Perhaps, General, you could give us some further information on the point?—I did not know that that particular item would arise, and I had not got the figures yesterday. For a period of 15 months in 1939-40, at the Curragh, 2,526 dozen were used, representing 181,872 yards. For the 12 months in 1941, at the Curragh, 1,480 dozen were used, representing 106,560 yards. For the corresponding periods for St. Bricin’s Hospital, the figures were 1,600 dozen, representing 115,200 yards, and 439 dozen, representing 31,608 yards. The increase at the Curragh as against St. Bricin’s is due to the fact that one figure covers 15 months and the other only 12 months, and that the consumption in both years represents not only consumption in the hospital itself, internment camp, and in treating soldiers’ families, but also emergency issues to all units in the Command. In other words, they supplied medical officers down as far as Kilkenny and Waterford from the Curragh.

1022. So that instead of taking the figure of 1,265,328 yards for the Curragh in the 15 months ending 31st December, 1940, as we thought was correct yesterday, the correct figure for the period is 181,872 yards?—That is correct.

Deputy Dockrell.—That is satisfactory.

General MacMahon.—There was another

point raised yesterday, but perhaps I had better wait until Deputy Briscoe arrives before dealing with it because it was he who raised it.

Chairman.—I suggest we wait until the Deputy arrives, when we can interrupt the proceedings to deal with that topic or, at the conclusion of the Vote, you may care to say a word on it.

Marine Coast Watching Service.

“65. A number of mine casings was purchased at a cost of £110 each. Subsequent to delivery it was ascertained that some of these casings were defective as incorrect drawings had been utilised and I have inquired as to the circumstances in which the error arose and whether steps were taken to rectify the matter.”

1023. Chairman.—Anything to add, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have had a communication from the Accounting Officer in which he has explained that the firm to whom the contract was given had submitted a specification and drawing which were presumed to be the same as those previously used in the manufacture of mines by another company and which had proved satisfactory. After delivery it was discovered that the dimensions of the fuse container provided for in the specification were incorrect. Forty-four incorrect containers were delivered. The correct fuse container was incorporated in the remainder of the mines.

1024. Chairman.—Have you anything further to add to that, General?—Unfortunately the technical officer in this case did make a mistake and certified that the specification submitted by the firm was correct, and the contract section on that certificate issued the order. It has not yet been decided what will be done about these mines, and until it is decided we do not know whether we shall hold the officer responsible for the full sum or for a proportion. The matter is in abeyance at the moment.

1025. It was a serious oversight on the part of the technical officer not to check up the plans carefully?—Very serious.

1026. I take it that the Comptroller and Auditor General will be notified in due course how far the payment for these mines becomes a nugatory payment?—The Department of Finance will be notified, and if the Comptroller and Auditor General requires the information, we shall pass it on to him.

Note 65, continued:—

“A tender submitted in September, 1940, provided for the supply and erection of three calibrated petrol storage tanks at a cost of £1,088. The specification which accompanied the tender did not, however, provide for calibration and the order for the work was issued on the basis of the specification. The contractors declined to accept responsibility for the calibration of the tanks, one of which was subsequently calibrated by another contractor at a cost of £47 0s. 3d., and I have inquired as to the circumstances in which the order was based on the specification without any reference to calibration.”

1027. Chairman.—What exactly is calibration?—A graded scale which enables the quantity remaining in the tank to be estimated.

Mr. Maher.—The Accounting Officer has informed us that the original invitation to tender provided for calibration of the tanks before delivery. The firm, however, offered to carry out the work in accordance with the specification submitted by them, which included the provision of an ungraduated dip-rod and did not, accordingly, provide for calibration. As the firm was the only one in a position to supply the tanks and as it was necessary to have the work commenced without avoidable delay, the order was placed on the basis of the specification.

1028. Have you any observations to make on that, General?—What we did in that case we did deliberately. We got in touch with the only three firms which could possibly supply the tanks. None of the three would agree to supply them calibrated, saying that they could not do it at present. This firm submitted a specification of their own which we decided to take.

1029. Was the Department of Finance consulted before terms other than those laid down in the invitation to tender were accepted?—They were not, because this was in fact a new tender, but the Government Contracts Committee was aware of it. It was not necessary for us to go to Finance in this particular case.

Mr. Almond.—I think that if the contract had been for calibrated tanks the Department would obviously have had to pay more. I do not think there is any real loss here. The fact that the Department had to go to another firm to have the calibration done did not necessarily involve any extra expenditure.

1030. Deputy Dockrell.—I take it that the price tendered by the three firms would have been commensurately increased if they had been in a position to calibrate these tanks?—Definitely.

Paragraph 65, continued:—

“It would appear that although petrol supplies have been issued to the other two storage tanks they have not yet been calibrated and I have asked for information regarding the method by which the issues from these tanks are controlled.”

1031. Chairman.—Have you received any rejoinder, Mr. Maher?—We were informed that the issues are controlled by measurements indicated by instruments on the motor torpedo boats and by diprods carried on the vessels. As soon as the tanks are empty, arrangements will be made to have them calibrated.

1032. Has that yet materialised, General?—No. It has not, but we can judge the amount of petrol passed from these tanks into the motor torpedo boats because there is an indicator, the same as on a motor car, which shows the amount of petrol in each M.T.B. tank, and we can use the dip-rod as a check.

1033. You do intend to have the tanks calibrated in due course?—It is not absolutely definite that we shall. This petrol was wanted at a particular spot in a hurry, and these were the only tanks we could get. It depends on whether we have a marine service after the emergency or not. I do not think the Government have decided finally on the matter.

1034. Deputy Dockrell.—Are these under-ground or over-ground tanks?— Over-ground.

1035. Deputy Briscoe.—In relation to petrol tanks generally, what method, if any, have you laid down for the checking of the contents? It is well known that there is a seepage of water into tanks. You have a dip-rod which tells you that there is so much petrol in the tank, but if you do not immediately afterwards dip another rod which will tell you what amount of water is at the bottom of the tank, you can never tell exactly what the contents are?—A number of our officers were trained in that regard in the big petrol companies. We asked the petrol companies to facilitate us, and these officers went around with representatives of the companies and got the necessary training. I personally am not in a position to indicate how they do it, but I know that they are trained and take these matters into consideration.

1036. You know that it is essential to have a form of check?—Yes.

1037. Is there, in fact, some system whereby you can tell fairly reasonably at any time the amount of petrol in every tank?—There is.

1038. You dip the tanks regularly and test and check the dippings?—Yes, the technical officers do. It is done every month.

1039. Chairman.—I believe there is a procedure by which one can apply a chemical to the dip-rod, and if it comes in contact with water the chemical changes colour, while, if the contents are exactly petrol, the chemical does not change. That test is carried out approximately once a month?—That is so.

1040. You mentioned that Deputy Briscoe raised a matter yesterday on which you had some further and better information which you would like to give to the Committee?—Deputy Briscoe said that he was of opinion that our military policemen had not sufficient powers, especially in the matter of recovering stolen property belonging to the Army. I went into that matter very definitely last evening and I find that they have in fact all the powers that are desirable. Deputy Briscoe referred to a threat made by a solicitor in the courts. A solicitor did make threats at a court-martial where a corporal was being court-martialled for the loss of a blanket, but our legal advisers did not take it very seriously. They felt that he had to let off a certain amount of hot air and they regarded his threats as so much hot air.

1041. Deputy Briscoe.—But in fact that particular corporal was not convicted?— He was not.

1042. That is the point. The solicitor did raise at that particular court-martial the question of the legality or the illegality of the method by which this corporal had been brought before the court-martial and of the recovery of the blanket, and the court must have held that his threat was well-founded?—That is not so. I examined the file——

1043. You are quite satisfied that these men should continue as heretofore?—I will deal with that point later. In regard to this particular case, I went through the file. This corporal was accused of stealing a blanket. The military policeman went to his mother’s house and asked: “Would you mind if I looked over your house to see if a missing blanket is here?” She said: “Not at all,” and the military policeman went through the house and the blanket was not there, but I should like to assure the Committee that there is no connection whatever between the solicitor’s threats and the fact that the corporal was acquitted.

1044. You are quite satisfied that they can continue to adopt the method which they thought they had a right to adopt?— The Department felt it would be inadvisable that a military policeman, an officer, N.C.O., or man, should walk into any private house whatever and examine it. What they do is, where they have a suspicion, to go to the Gárdaí and the Gárdaí in every case give them full facilities. A member of the Gárda goes with the military policeman and we think it better so, because if we gave unlimited powers to a military policeman, an evilly disposed private in the Army might go to a house, and, representing himself as a military policeman, search the house and take away things he should not take away. It is much better that no military policeman and no man in military uniform should ordinarily walk into a house and search it.

1045. He is entitled?—He is not entitled in every case. We think it would be wrong to give him unlimited power. If he has a suspicion, he can go to a member of the Gárda, who have facilitated us at all times.

1046. That is for the purpose of making an arrest. But the military policeman, I understand, has a document which cites the Emergency Powers Act under which he has a right to conduct a search for a deserter or property belonging to the Army which was in the control of the deserter. It is on that point I wish to raise the question. Is he precluded from exercising the right which your Department thought he had under the Emergency Powers Act?—No. He has all the powers that we intended giving him under the Emergency Powers Act. But apart from that he has not the power of entering a private house and searching. If it is necessary to do that, he must go to the Gárda.

1047. Deputy Allen.—He has power in relation to deserters only?—Yes.

1048. To search for deserters or their equipment?—If he is after a deserter, he can go into his house at any time.

1049. Deputy Briscoe.—He can go in to look for a deserter or his property?—And for his property.

1050. Have you seen the document which they have?—I saw it some years ago.

1051. Will you look at it again?—I will send a copy of it to the Deputy. In any case, everyone concerned—and I discussed it with the Provost Marshal—is satisfied that the military police have all the powers they require to carry out their duties.

Provision of Accommodation for the Troops.

“66. In the year to 31st March, 1941, a number of wooden huts were provided for the accommodation of troops. The huts were constructed and erected partly by direct labour under the direction of the Corps of Engineers at an average cost, excluding transport and administrative charges of £403 6s. 2d. and partly by contract at an average cost of £499 1s. 10d. Owing to the urgent necessity for providing winter accommodation the contracts were placed with a view to securing completion within the limited time available. Further hutting accommodation of smaller dimensions was provided in the year to 31st March, 1942, some huts being providel by direct labour at an average cost of £368 12s. 6d. and the remainder by contract at an average cost of £438.

I have asked for further information as to the basis on which certain contracts were placed.”

1052. Chairman.—Have you any further information you can give, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Since the report was written, the Accounting Officer has replied to our request for further information. We notice that invitations to tender for huts were issued to local firms only and, as the prices vary considerably, we inquired why the lowest tenderer in a particular district was not invited to tender for the supply of huts in other districts. But the Accounting Officer has informed us that the firm in question would not be in a position to carry out the work at any considerable distance from their workshops, in addition to that already allotted to them. In another case, we were informed that, on grounds of urgency, it was decided to divide the contract between the lowest and the second lowest tenderers.

1053. Chairman.—Have you anything to add, General MacMahon?

General MacMahon.—In connection with one particular contractor, we felt that he was doing all the work he could possibly do for us at the time and it would be foolish to ask him to tender for additional work. He could only tender on the condition that he would carry out that work when the other work was completed. But the work was urgently required and we could not wait.

1054. Chairman.—May we take it, Mr. Almond, that that procedure met with the approval of the Department of Finance?

Mr. Almond.—Yes.

Paragraph 66, continued:—

“A contract for the provision of a number of concrete huts at a total cost of £5,139 19s. 8d. was placed in August, 1941, and was due for completion on the 29th September, 1941. Following an inspection carried out by an officer of the Corps of Engineers the contract was terminated on the 27th September owing to the inferior quality of the work and the contractor’s apparent inability to complete the contract within the specified time, and the contract was placed with the next lowest tenderer at his original price of £5,355 5s. 11d. less an agreed sum representing the value of the work already done. Proceedings were instituted by the original contractors for damages arising out of the termination of their contract and I have asked for information concerning the basis of the claim made and how it was disposed of.”

1055. Chairman.—Have you received a rejoinder to that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, we have been informed that a settlement was reached in this case whereby the contractor was paid £700, each party bearing its own costs.

1066. Chairman.—Can you tell us, General MacMahon, why it was that this man received any payment if he had done inferior work and was not fulfilling the terms of his contract?

General MacMahon.—We acted on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor from the time we proposed to terminate the contract. In actual fact, he agreed with the terms of the letter we sent. Then, when proceedings were instituted, the Attorney-General was of opinion that the contractor might possibly win the case and there was the question of costs, etc., and he advised us to settle for £700. We acted on the Chief State Solicitor’s advice from the start. Anything we did in the matter from the time it was reported that the man was not carrying out his contract was done on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor.

1067. Chairman.—I take it, Mr. Almond, that the Department of Finance was consulted in this matter?

Mr. Almond.—We were, at every stage. It was a victory for the contractor on a peculiar technical point. The contract was terminated while it was still alive, so to speak. The opinion given by the Attorney-General in recommending a settlement stated that the contractor was legally entitled to remain in possession and that his contract should not have been terminated until midnight of the day when he was due to complete the work.

1068. Chairman.—I suppose the case was that the contractor might have represented that if he had the remaining 48 hours he would have put right whatever appeared to be wrong?

Mr. Almond.—And would have completed the contract that was unfinished. That was the argument behind his case. Of course it was stupid, in point of fact, but in law it was a good one.

1069. Chairman.—I do not see how the Army could do other than act on the advice they had from the Chief State Solicitor?

General MacMahon.—I think Judge Hanna on a previous occasion stated that a contract should be terminated before the period expired; and that that was why the Chief State Solicitor advised us in the first instance to terminate it before the period actually expired.

Paragraph 66, continued:—

“A contract for the provision of certain hutting accommodation for the sum of £4,567 was placed in May, 1941. Owing to urgency the contract was placed without competition. The final account submitted by the contractor amounted to £5,775 18s. 5d. and included an item of £790 13s. 6d. for ‘General Extras’. As the charge for extras appeared to represent an abnormal amount of work additional to the original specification I have communicated with the Accounting Officer on this and other matters arising out of this contract.”

1070. Chairman.—Have you any retort to that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—The figure of £4,567 was for the erection only of nine huts and the supply and erection of five huts. The relatively high cost of the extras is due to the original tender and specification being incomplete. We are informed that there was no time in this case in which to prepare the usual plans, specifications and bill of quantities. It was necessary to bring the prospective contractor personally to the site before he could furnish a quotation and, although it was known at the time that plumbing work and the other extras would be required later, it was impossible to specify these to the extent necessary for the preparation of a quotation.

1071. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make on the peculiar circumstances surrounding this contract, General MacMahon?

General MacMahon.—The huts had to be erected on a bog near Lombardstown, County Cork, really out in the wilds. The Director of Engineering and the engineers felt that it would be very difficult in the peculiar circumstances to draw up specifications. In any case, they felt that the only contractor likely to undertake the work was one of whom we had considerable experience and we gave the contract to him.

1072. The procedure of placing the contract without competition was exceptional?—It was very exceptional, due to the fact that this was such an isolated place and so difficult to get at.

1073. Chairman.—What are your views, Mr. Almond, on the exceptional procedure?

Mr. Almond.—The facts were not reported to us until the expenditure had been incurred. We have gone into the matter very fully and, subject to whatever observations the Committee may make this morning, we are prepared to give covering sanction. We feel that the circumstances were quite exceptional. No loss has been incurred as a result of the procedure.

1074. Chairman.—I take it, General MacMahon, that there must have been some degree of urgency?

General MacMahon.—Yes. The Construction Corps were working there and they had to be accommodated. It is a very exposed place and the time which would be occupied in getting tenders and comparing them would be very considerable. The men could not be left there under canvas in the interval.

1075. Is it impracticable to use the Army technicians for work of this kind?— They perform a lot of work of this kind. In actual fact, in connection with the extra work which we had to get the contractor to do later, we did hope that the Corps of Engineers would do the work there, but their hands were full doing work in other places. It was an exceptionally difficult time and they were fully engaged otherwise or we would have got them to do this work.

1076. I have heard a good many complaints from soldiers who have joined the Army hoping to be engaged at their trade in the Army and who are in fact functioning as ordinary infantry men. Would I correctly infer from that that there are resources in the Army which are not being fully exploited for undertaking work of this character?—We have an establishment for tradesmen, carpenters and fitters, etc. Of course, we cannot exceed that establishment unless we can put up a very strong case for it. In actual fact, I think that the Corps of Engineers are not fully up to establishment and, if there are cases like that, I should like to hear of them. Possibly these men have not passed the trade test. There are many handymen who think they are good carpenters but, when they go up for the test, they fail.

1077. Deputy Briscoe.—I imagine that if they took on all these tradesmen permanently they would always have to find work for them. I understand that the Corps of Engineers take on men from outside; that when they can do the work themselves with their own supplies, they do so, and, if they are short of men, they take on civilian tradesmen?—Yes, for a particular job.

Paragraph 66, continued:—

“Pending the erection of hutments, accommodation for troops was provided in houses which were rented for the purpose and it was noted that in certain cases the occupation of these houses continued after the completion of the hutments. I am at present in communication with the Accounting Officer on this matter.”

1078. Chairman.—Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have since been assured that the premises mentioned were acquired specifically for the accommodation of troops on a quasi-permanent basis and not as a temporary measure pending the erection of huts. In one of the premises was accommodation surplus to the requirements retained.

General MacMahon.—I think the misunderstanding arose here from a letter addressed by the Officer Commanding the Southern Command to the Chief of Staff. I think the terms of that letter were misunderstood and gave rise to that comment.

1079. Chairman.—I take it that the explanation of the Accounting Officer was satisfactory to the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, Sir.

Paragraph 66, continued:—

“Payment of £148 2s. 4d. was made to a local authority for the services of its Fire Brigade in connection with a fire which occurrel at a building occupied by a military unit. I have been informed that the extent of the loss of military stores has not yet been ascertained and that no responsibility has been held to attach to military personnel. Considerable damage was done to occupied buildings and the position regarding the Department’s liability for restoration has not yet been determined.”

1080. Chairman.—Has there been anything further, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—I understand the matter is still under consideration.

1081. Chairman.—Have you any further information you can give us in regard to that matter, General?

General MacMahon.—The value of the Army stores destroyed amounted to £2,945 6s. 5d., and we have asked the Department of Finance to write off that amount.

1082. Chairman.—Has any responsibility for the fire been established yet?— No. It was purely an accident. The Court of Inquiry held that there was really no one responsible. Simply, a spark got into woodwork in the chimney and set it off.

1083. Deputy Briscoe.—The question as to who is responsilbe for the restoration of the building, I imagine, must be still outstanding.

1084. Chairman.—Might I ask, before you pass to that, who on earth put woodwork in the chimney?

General MacMahon.—Whoever built it, Sir. We have had a very small number of fires throughout barracks due to that very same thing. A spark gets into some joists or some wood and sets it on fire.

Deputy Briscoe.—This seems to be an old building.

1085. Deputy Dockrell.—Is this possibly a result of using turf now where originally coal was used? There have been many chimney fires due to the deposit left from turf?—That is what is responsible.

1086. Deputy Cosgrave.—How is it that there was no military fire brigade or fire fighting unit available?—They had only the usual appliances attached to a unit of that type. We have a brigade only in the principal places, like the Curragh and Athlone. We used to have one in Cork but we depend now on the local brigade. In Dublin we rely on the Dublin Fire Brigade.

1087. Chairman.—Have you any observations, Mr. Almond, to make on the question of the ultimate liability for the restoration of the house?—Not at this stage, Sir. It is a very complicated business. Insurance companies are involved and it will take some time to get to the bottom of it.

1088. Chairman.—It is sub judice?

Mr. Almond.—Yes. I am afraid there may be legal proceedings in the matter and I prefer not to comment on it.

1089. Chairman.—And the result of these will be communicated in due course to the Committee?

General MacMahon.—That is so, Sir. In any case, we are not responsible for restoring the building until we evacuate it, and we still occupy it.

1090. Chairman.—Quite. I take it that the experience gained by the occurrence of fires of this kind is being used for the purpose of taking precautionary measures in any other buildings the Army may occupy?—Yes; the Director of Engineering examines all these particular cases and as a result, has looked for similar flaws in other buildings so that he can remedy them.

1091. Chairman.—Quite. Might it be desirable, if his staff was inadequate to cover all such possibilities exhaustively, to invite the co-operation of the Board of Works to carry out a general architectural survey of these buildings with a view to ensuring that flaws of this kind are not present?—The Director of Engineering did not complain of shortage of staff. If he did, we certainly could do that or we could engage men specially for that purpose. In actual fact, in connection with some work done in civilian houses for A.R.P. purposes, we employed civilian engineers and we could do it here, if necessary, but no complaints so far have been received of shortage of officers.

1092. It occurs to me that if fires have occurred as a result of defective flues in some old houses taken over, it might be a desirable thing to have a general survey made of the flues of the old houses, as one might do of the sewerage of a house, in order to ensure that accidents of this kind would not occur in the future?—I will discuss it with the Director of Engineering.

1093. Deputy McCann.—I know the Contract Section deal with the major contracts. Is it true that they do not deal with all contracts? Are there any smaller contracts? Is it in the power of any Commanding Officer to place a contract of any description?—If a Commanding Officer is sent to an inconvenient post and we have not a food contractor in that particular post, he can, in order that his men will be properly fed, get three tenders from traders and he must accept the lowest of the three. He must immediately then notify our Contract Section of the action he has taken and our Section then puts the matter in order at the earliest possible moment. It is only just a temporary thing to ensure that the men have enough food at all times.

1093a. Deputy McCann.—Take the question, say, of reconditioning certain type of equipment?—Oh, no, not at all. It applies only to foodstuffs. There is a provision that where the Director of the Corps of Engineers requires some article very urgently, he can purchase it urgently and report it afterwards, but it is only up to a very small amount and in exceptional circumstances. But he cannot place a contract.

1094. Deputy McCann.—Say for a sum of about £500?—Oh, no. He could not possibly do that. £5 would be the maximum. He can only expend the £5 in very exceptional circumstances.

1095. Deputy Briscoe.—And even then that £5 is subject to examination and he is subject to surcharge?—Exactly.

Purchase of Soldiers’ Boxes.

“67. In July, 1940, tenders were invited from a limited number of contractors for the supply of Soldiers’ Boxes and contracts were placed for the supply of some of the Boxes required at a cost of £1 5s. 0d. each, being the lowest quoted rate. Fresh tenders were later invited by public advertisement for the supply of the remaining Boxes. A considerable number of quotations was received and the Boxes were obtained at an approximate average price of 17s. each. In view of the lower price obtained through the wider competition which resulted from public advertisement I asked for information with regard to the basis on which the invitations to tender were issued in the first instance. I was informed that the firms known to be the usual contractors for this work were invited to tender and that the lower tenders received following advertisement were submitted by contractors who in ordinary circumstances would not tender for work of this kind but who decided to do so owing to the almost complete cessation of their normal activities at the time.”

1096. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make on that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—No, Sir. The Accounting Officer has given us all the information we require. I should say in passing that as a result of inviting tenders from only a limited number of contractors an additional charge of approximately £2,000 fell on the Vote.

General MacMahon.—Yes, but we invited tenders from all the firms that had until then engaged in that type of work and we actually got quotations from 13.

1097. Chairman.—What induced you subsequently to invite tenders by public advertisement?—Because we realised that the building trade had come to a standstill and that there was a possibility that some of them who were not previously interested would become interested. They did become interested on this occasion but subsequently they refused to touch the work at any price. Those particular firms that quoted at 17/- would not after that quote at any price. They refused to quote.

1098. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make on that, Mr. Almond?

Mr. Almond.—We do not think there was any real loss in this case because we think the capacity of these building firms was exhausted after their first effort. When the Department went back a third time for tenders these people were unwilling, probably unable, to carry out the work or, possibly, had lost heavily on their first effort.

1099. Deputy Briscoe.—In the third tender which you speak of did you go back to a higher price?

General MacMahon.—We asked them to quote a price and they would not quote at all.

Mr. Almond.—They had to pay a higher price,

1100. Deputy Briscoe.—And you are back again to the £1 5s. price, or higher?

General MacMahon.—Higher.

Deputy Briscoe.—I do not blame the original contractors.

Local Defence Force.

“68. The Local Defence Force under the control of the Minister for Defence which was established as from 1st January, 1941, absorbed members of the former Local Security Force, Group A., and as from that date issues of stores to units were made from Army stocks. Investigations carried out subsequent to the reorganisation of the Force revealed a deficiency of 3,564 brown denim uniforms which had been issued to members and I have inquired whether the sanction of the Department of Finance has been obtained for the write-off of the deficiency.

1101. Chairman.—Has that sanction been obtained, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have received a reply since the date of the Report informing us that the sanction of the Department of Finance has not yet been obtained for the write off of the deficiency. The matter is still under investigation but Department of Finance sanction will be sought when the investigation is completed.

1102. Chairman.—Has that investigation been completed yet, General?

General MacMahon.—Not yet, Sir. We have a new organisation and we have military operating now instead of members of the Gárda but we have not arrived yet at the complete figure as to losses. We hope to be able to recover some of the uniforms that at the moment cannot be accounted for but we are not yet in a position to give a complete picture.

1103. Deputy Briscoe.—Could the General indicate are these losses actual missing stores or are they merely that people who received uniforms have not turned up and the uniforms have been written off on that basis?—That is it. No uniforms have been pilfered. It is simply a question of men joining up, getting uniforms and then leaving the Force and the Gárdaí finding it impossible to recover the uniforms.

1104. Mr. Dockrell.—It is not just a question of their not signing for them, as was the case, perhaps, with the gas masks?—Unfortunately a number of them, especially in the early days, did not sign for them, but there have been losses even in regard to uniforms issued to men who did sign for them.

Paragraph 68, continued:—

“Local Defence Force Regulations 2/1941 which were promulgated in March, 1941, prescribe the method of accounting for stores on issue to the Force and I have asked for certain information in relation to store accounts which have been furnished.”

1105. Chairman.—Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—We have been informed that the Local Defence Force is at present undergoing complete reorganisation and in the process arrangements will be made regarding stock-taking, and that we will be informed later, when reorganisation has been completed.

1106. Chairman.—Has that process as yet been completed?—Witness: Not yet, Sir.

1107. Have any advices been sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General?—We are not yet in a position to do that. We could not give him a complete picture yet.

1108. But, as soon as you are able to do so, a note will be sent to the Comptroller and Auditor-General?—Yes, Sir, definitely.

Paragraph 68, continued:—

“In September, 1941, the Government decided that serge uniforms should be provided for the members of the Force and existing contracts for the supply of denim uniforms were terminated. The Department of Finance sanctioned expenditure not exceeding £248,625 on the purchase of uniforms and leggings, subject to the recall of existing denim uniforms and their disposal as far as possible for Army purposes. I have asked for information regarding the issues of serge uniforms and the surrender and utilisation of the denim uniforms.”

1109. Chairman.—Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—From information now furnished to us, it appears that considerable discrepancy exists between the number of denim uniforms surrendered to the 31st January, 1943, and the total number of serge uniforms issued to the same date. The Accounting Officer has informed us that this matter is still being investigated.

1110. Chairman.—Have you anything further to tell us about that, General?

General MacMahon.—Again, I must say, the matter has not been brought to a conclusion but we are working very hard on it, as are also the officers responsible, but we are not in a position to give final figures yet.

1111. I take it that we cannot relate precisely the surrender of denim uniforms to the issue of serge uniforms, because certain persons who surrender denim uniforms will drop out of the Force and those who re-enter the Force will be issued with serge uniforms?—Yes, that is so.

1112. So that all we can say with regard to the final surrender of denim uniforms, and the ad interim surrender of these uniforms, is that it has to be related to the supply of serge uniforms?— Yes, but we hope soon to be able to give a complete picture of the situation, and we hope the situation will be very much improved in the future as compared with what it was in the past.

1113. But I think you will agree with me that the Army could not be expected to render a very strict account of the denim uniforms, because of the circumstances under which they were issued, which would make it extremely difficult to keep an accurate check upon them?— Yes, many of these denim uniforms were issued by the Gárda Síochána. Originally, the Force was divided into two groups, the A group and the B group. Later on, the Army took over the A group, and the A group was furnished with those uniforms. We shall have to try to account for these now, but it will be a very difficult task.

Deputy Allen.—I think that the denim uniforms took a very prominent part in the tillage drive.

1114. Deputy Briscoe.—Is there any chance of debiting the Gárda Síochána in connection with these uniforms?

Chairman.—I think, Deputy, that it would be better not to start Mr. Almond off after a hare of that kind.

1115. Deputy Briscoe.—But is it not obvious, from what General MacMahon has said, that the Army authorities will have great difficulty in tracing what happened to these denim uniforms when, in fact, they were delivered in bulk to the Gárdaí, who then distributed them? Would it not be putting a rather impossible burden on the Army authorities to try to trace these, seeing that they had nothing to do with their final disposition?

General MacMahon.—Well, when we go to the Department of Finance, we shall not forget to impress upon them that we had nothing to do with that end of it.

1116. Chairman.—In any case, General, these denim uniforms served a very useful purpose?—Undoubtedly, and in such cases there are bound to be losses.

Statement of Losses.

“69. Losses written-off during the year were as follows:—





Cash losses charged to “Balances Irrecoverable”




Deficiencies of stores and other losses not affecting




the 1941-42 Vote





The corresponding figures of losses in the previous year were £611 2s. and £23,644 16s. 7d.

Details of the losses have been omitted from the published account but full particulars have been furnished to me and the sanction of the Department of Finance has been obtained for the write-off in each case. The sum of £28,850 14s. 10d. includes an item of £9,083 10s. 3d. in respect of damage to huts and stores caused by fire at an Internment Camp.

1117. Chairman.—Have you any comment to make on that, Mr. Maher? Would you explain to us the exact difference between cash losses charged to “Balances Irrecoverable”, and deficiencies of stores and other losses not affecting the 1941-42 Vote? What is the meaning of the words “not affecting the 1941-42 Vote”?

Mr. Maher.—These are losses of material or stores, and are not written off in the same way as cash losses which appear under “Balances Irrecoverable” in the Appropriation Account.

1118. Chairman.—Would I be right in saying that cash losses are all irrecoverable whereas, in the case of deficiencies of stores, it would be a matter of the amount of stores actually consumed?—In the case of stores consumed there might be deficiencies or losses of stores which could not be represented as cash losses.

1119. Deputy Briscoe.—I do not think Mr. Maher has given an explanation with regard to the question of the Chairman as to what is meant by the words “not affecting the 1941-42 Vote”.

Mr. Maher.—In the Vote we are considering, that is the 1941-42 Vote, the value of stores lost is not included in the total figure charged to the Vote.

1120. Deputy Briscoe.—Yes, but it says here “not affecting the 1941-42 Vote”? —If you will look at the paragraph, you will see that the total amount of cash losses charged to “Balances Irrecoverable” is £754 13s. 11d. As regards the remaining £28,850 14s. 10d.—Deficiencies of Stores, etc.—that does not appear under “Balances Irrecoverable”.

1121. No, but it appears on page 225 in the Losses statement, which is not part of the Appropriation Account.

1122. Chairman.—Would I be right in saying, Mr. Maher, that these words “not affecting the 1941-42 Vote” imply that the stores lost in the 1941-42 period had been paid for out of a Vote for a previous year?—Yes, or even in that year, but are not included in the balances irrecoverable subhead.

1123. Deputy Briscoe.—You have the same wording in this note, and is this a thing that is being gradually built up?— No, the sum of £28,850 14s. 10d. relates only to the year of account, 1941-42.

1124. Deputy Dockrell.—Is that sum of £28,000 odd deemed recoverable, while the other amount is deemed irrecoverable?— No, both are deemed irrecoverable.

1125. Chairman.—May I put it this way: that in the case of deficiencies of stores, the losses occur before they are taken on charge, and that there is a difference in the way they are referred to in the account as compared with stores which are lost after they are taken on charge?—It is broader than that. I think that the explanation I have given in the past is that if such stores are used in connection with Army service they are not regarded as lost but if they are used in some way in which is not an incident of Army service, such as loss by theft or by damage due to negligence, then they are treated as lost.

1126. Deputy Allen.—Is it not a fact that this procedure has been going on for years?—Yes, it has been going on for the past 20 years, and probably the Committee would understand the matter better if we were to take a specific case.

1127. Chairman.—We fully appreciate. I think, that there is nothing exceptional in this, but I find myself in agreement with Deputy Briscoe in not being clear as to the meaning of the words “not affecting the 1941-42 Vote”?—The answer is that the only sum brought to account there are the cash losses of £754 13s. 11d., and that sum is included in the total, whereas the sum of £28,850 14s. 10d. for loss of stores is not.

1128. Deputy Briscoe.—What I am trying to get clear is, what is the purpose of bringing this figure to the notice of this Committee unless it is to have it ultimately written off, and for sanction to be received from the Department of Finance to write it off, and particularly to indicate that these losses took place over a particular period. The fact of using the words: “not affecting the 1941-42 Vote” would seem to indicate that these are deficiencies which have only now come under notice and that they may have happened even 10 years ago and will ultimately be written off when the Department of Finance are satisfied that they are definitely irrecoverable. I cannot understand why they should be brought in if no indication is given as to when these deficiencies or losses occurred or as to what the position will be ultimately?— They are brought in on page 225 as a note to the account and in order to give this Committee and the Oireachtas an opportunity of considering these losses.

1129. Chairman.—What is created in your mind, Mr. Almond, by these words “not affecting the 1941-42 Vote”?

Mr. Almond.—The figure of £754 13s. 11d. is included in the Appropriation Account as expenditure. It is brought into the total. You will see that, in addition to the total expenditure, under snbhead A., of £8,126,103 5s. 8d., there is, as Balances Irrecoverable, a sum of £754 13s. 11d., making a new total of £8,126,857 19s. 7d. Those “Balances Irrecoverable” were actual cash losses. They were moneys paid out, and not charged up previously to subhead A. For instance, if we pay a contractor £100 too much and do not succeed in recovering from him, that sum is charged to Balances Irrecoverable, and does not appear on any other subhead of the Vote. In regard to “Deficiencies of Stores and other Losses, not affecting the 1941-42 Vote”, that clearly means that there is no expenditure necessary to be charged to the Vote, over and above what has already been spent. If, for instance, 50 motor cars are destroyed through accidents, they have already been paid for, either under the 1941-42 Vote or previous Votes. The money has been spent and has been a final charge against the Vote, and so there is no new charge.

1130. I see it now. The amount of £28,850 14s. 10d. refers to losses of goods which were paid for out of the sum of £8,000,000 originally granted, or out of grants paid in previous years, whereas the cash losses, amounting to £754 13s. 11d., are losses which have accrued since the Estimates were drafted, and for which special provision had to be made?—Some of the amounts included in the £28,850 14s. 10d. might have been final charges on the Votes of previous years.

1131. Yes, but these words really signify that the losses referred to did not operate to increase the total of the Vote? —Quite.

1132. Whereas the losses of £754 13s. 11d. did so operate?—Yes.

1133. Deputy Briscoe.—And these are not the total amount of losses? There are losses upon which you have not yet got a definite judgment?—They include every loss that has been written off, but there may be some other losses that have not been investigated yet, and consequently not written off.

1134. Which have not yet been reached? —There is always a definite time-lag in connection with these losses. In the case of a motor car accident, for instance, it might be a year before you could find out the amount of damage that has to be written off.

1135. Or, alternatively, in the case of a deficiency of stores, there might be a delay in connection with stocktaking, for instance?—Yes, there is the delay due to stocktaking there.

Are we to take it, Mr. Chairman, that these deficiences are not to be discussed here?

Chairman.—Not at all. Any item coming under the control of the Comptroller and Auditor General can be discussed here.

1136. Deputy Briscoe.—Well, there is one item here to which I should like to refer, and that is with regard to the damage to huts and stores caused by fire at an internment camp?

Mr. Maher.—Particulars have been furnished to the Audit Office of all these losses and we have satisfied ourselves that Department of Finance sanction has been obtained.

1137. Deputy Briscoe.—So we do not discuss them then?

Chairman.—You are perfectly at liberty to ask any question you wish arising out of the note of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

1138. Deputy Briscoe.—I do not wish to introduce anything that might not seem desirable. You do not include in this figure losses which arise in regard to Mess accounts?—Witness.—Mess accounts are handled by the Mess. They are not public funds.

1139. This is a question which I want to get clear. The procedure of checking ordinary stores, or indeed any kind of stores, I understand, is that officers of the particular unit check the stores and will then issue a statement to the effect that they have found the stores correct. These then are ultimately the subject of a further check by the Quartermaster General’s staff, who can make a check over and above the local check?—The figures you refer to are audited by our staff but the Quartermaster General’s inspecting officers can inspect stores and take stock any time they wish. Our audit staff cannot carry out a 100 per cent. check in every case—you would want a very large staff to do that—but they make spot checks and frequently, in any case where there is a suspicion of fraud, they make a 100 per cent. check.

1140. The Unit Commander or the Corps Commander appoints his own Quartermaster staff. They are under his control from a disciplinary point of view as well as from the point of view of the guardianship of the property. These officers are under his direct control and he can put them in or take them out as he feels disposed?—Not at all.

1141. These Quartermasters have to be subject to approval by the Quartermaster General?—All these appointments are made after discussion between the three military members of the Defence Council —the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General. If the appointment is an important appointment, a senior officer’s appointment, it must also have the Minister’s approval.

1142. In the checking of stocks in a local unit, the local officers are supposed to take stock regularly or at regular periods?—Every storekeeper does.

1143. His stocks are checked by officers who are not on the staff of that particular Quartermaster?—He wants to ensure that he himself is protected, that there is a check on his Quartermaster.

1144. Have you ever found cases where the local officers have given “O.K.” to the stores when, in fact, the Quartermaster General’s check found that that was not the case?—I have no recollection of such a case. It might possibly occur but I have no recollection of any such case.

1145. Deputy Briscoe.—I wonder would the General ascertain whether that has not in fact occurred and whether it might not mean that junior officers are checking senior officers, a proceeding that would be very undesirable?

Chairman.—Our function here is to examine the appropriation accounts for 1941-42 and I do not think we have a roving commission to go over the whole field of Army organisation since 1921. If there is any specific matter arising out of the deficiencies of stores amounting to £28,850 14s. 10d. referred to by the Comptroller and Auditor General in his report, which the Deputy believes is due to any improper checking, that is a proper question to ask General MacMahon but broad general questions are not within our terms of reference.

Deputy Briscoe.—I do not want to take the General at any disadvantage but I think I am asking something which may be a fact if he looked it up.

Chairman.—I think you will find that the General is a very old hand as an accounting officer and I venture to say that if you were in a position to give him any information he will certainly act upon it.

1146. Deputy Briscoe.—I have been informed that that has happened practically in every year, and certainly in the year under review, and if some other system was thought out, it might obviate delays in checking the losses or preventing losses. The system that is followed in the Army is, I understand, that officers of a unit are delegated to check stores and in some cases the officers delegated to do that are junior officers. They have to check senior officers?—A junior officer is never sent to check a senior officer. He may be junior to the officer whose stores he is checking but he is acting with the responsibility of his seniors. A Second Lieutenant of the Quartermaster General’s staff can go in and carry out a check with the full authority of the Quartermaster General, but the kind of case to which the Deputy refers never occurs. You never have a junior officer in a unit checking the work of a superior officer. I think you are referring to a board of officers appointed by the Quartermaster General, the G.O.C. of a division, or by a Command O.C., but never by the local unit. As far as that is concerned, I can assure you it works all right. The case you referred to could not arise—at least I do not think so. You really suspect that a junior officer, through fear, will say that particular accounts are correct, when they are not. That could not happen. Any member of that board would be responsible to the Quartermaster General. Again, they have their own future to look to. If they issued a false certificate, they would be court-martialled and, even if they were not dismissed, their future in the Army would be destroyed.

1147. Deputy Briscoe.—What I am suggesting is that the Quartermaster General’s Department cannot possibly carry out a check in every unit regularly. Nobody knows when these officers are coming but, nevertheless, each unit has to conduct its own audit at a specified period.

General MacMahon.—If you refer to a storekeeper taking stock in his stores, that is done by the officer responsible for the store.

1148. Deputy Briscoe.—You are quite satisfied that the system is as good as it could be and that the Quartermaster General is, in fact, acquainted with the officers who are in charge of the large stores and units?—Definitely.

1149. Deputy Briscoe.—Before passing away from this Vote, I should like to call attention to a note appearing on page 227 which says “Stores to the value of £4 10s. 0d., which were surplus to the requirements of this Department, were sold to Aer Lingus Teoranta.” Could we be told what was the original cost to the Army of these stores?—I do not think I have the particular item here now but I am perfectly certain we charged the full value. We had the approval of the Department of Finance for the transaction. I have not the particular file here now.

Chairman.—If Deputy Briscoe wants a special note on that it will be supplied. It is not a very important matter.

Deputy Briscoe.—It would be an important matter if this were an item that cost a considerable amount of money originally and it were sold to Aer Lingus Teoranta for this small amount.

Chairman.—If you wish to have a note on the matter the General will supply it.

Deputy Briscoe.—An informal message would satisfy me.

1150. Chairman.—Perhaps at your convenience you will let us have that note?— I have just come across the item now. The £4 10s. 0d. is composed of items salvaged from crashed aircraft—a tank belonging to an old obsolete aeroplane and some obsolete controls, 30/-; and some items which had been in the stores for over ten years, pressure heads, switches, dopers, filters and indicators, belonging to obsolete aeroplanes, £3. Department of Finance sanction was obtained, of course.


Lieutenant-General P. MaoMahon further examined.

Subhead L.—Defence Forces (Pensions) Schemes, 1937 and 1940.

“70. Paragraph 1 (b) of the Third Schedule to the Defence Forces (Pensions) Scheme, 1937, provides that in the case of an officer who at the date of retirement had less than five years’ pensionable service in the rank held by him at that date, not having been reduced to such rank from a higher rank within five years of retirement, his retiring rank shall be deemed to be the rank held by him on the day five years before the date of his retirement. Paragraph 2 of the Schedule prescribes the basis on which the retired pay of an officer of any of the ranks indicated shall be calculated but no provision is made for a rank below that of Lieutenant. I observed that a pension of £108 per annum, together with a gratuity of £210, being the award appropriate to the rank of Lieutenant, was granted to an officer whose retiring rank was, by virtue of the above-mentioned provisions, that of Second Lieutenant. Owing to the absence of express provision in the Scheme for the rank of Second Lieutenant doubt existed as to the entitlement to pension of the officer in question and the matter was referred to the Law Officers for advice. The Attorney-General advised that the officer was entitled to the benefits of the Scheme but pointed out that it may not have been intended that the amount payable to Second Lieutenants and to Lieutenants should be the same. In reply to my inquiry as to whether it was proposed to continue to allow to officers with the retiring rank of Second Lieutenant the rate of pension appropriate to the rank of Lieutenant I was informed that when further amendments to the Scheme are introduced advantage will be taken of the opportunity to regularise the position.”

1151. Chairman.—Have you received any further communication, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—No, Sir, that paragraph sets out the position.

1152. Chairman.—Can you give us any further information, General MacMahon, in regard to this matter?—We never anticipated that a Second Lieutenant would retire. We felt that a Second Lieutenant would be promoted Lieutenant or possibly Captain before his retirement and therefore no special provision was made in the scheme for Second Lieutenants. We have now gone to the Department of Finance for permission to amend this scheme. Some other amendments are also due but whether they will be carried through before the end of this year I do not know.

1153. How do you propose to deal with the individual whose case is the subject of the note?—We propose to give him the same rate as a First Lieutenant; in other words, we will make the scheme retrospective to cover this case.

1154. Chairman.—That will meet your views, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, Sir.

1155. Chairman.—In regard to Subhead J., if a man is retired on pension in the ordinary course—not a disability pension—and subsequently becomes ill and requires protracted hospital treatment, is there any means whereby he can get assistance from the Army?—No, Sir. If his disability is due to service, if he is entitled to a disability pension, and if he applies under the Disability Pensions Acts in time and gets a temporary disability pension, the Board can then bring him up for treatment, in an effort to reduce his disability, but if, on the other hand, they give him a 100 per cent. disability pension or a final pension, they cannot go further. A military service pension does not entitle an officer or man to treatment.

1156. Deputy Cosgrave.—If he contracted the disability on Army service he would not be entitled, if in receipt of pension, to any hospital or medical treatment after his discharge?—Unless it was a temporary pension, in which case he would be brought up in the hope of reducing the disability, but if he had a final pension he could not be aided.

1157. Deputy Briscoe.—If you have a man getting a good pension for disability you try to cure him, in order to reduce the disability?—Yes.

1158. Deputy Allen.—In the case of a man discharged from the Army for tuberculosis do you make any provision for hospital treatment?—We make arrangements for their return to their own county for treatment in the county sanatorium.

1159. Do you satisfy yourself before discharging them that there is provision for them there?—We try to, but we do not succeed in every case, though we try very hard.

1160. Deputy McCann.—In surgical cases of tuberculosis that were sent to Dublin hospitals, could you tell me the weekly figure paid to Dublin hospitals for maintenance and treatment?—It was 5/in some cases and 6/- in other cases, per day.

1161. Deputy Cosgrave.—In the event of a man contracting tuberculosis while on Army service and being subsequently discharged, has application to be made for payment?—The man himself has to apply on an application form which goes to the Army Pensions Board, who call him for examination as soon as possible. If the Board is of opinion that treatment will help to cure him and reduce the percentage of disability, he is kept in hospital.

1162. In the event of not being able to get him to hospital, does the Army officer proceed to his home to examine him?— That happens frequently. If possible, an ambulance is sent and if not, the Board proceeds to his home.

1163. Deputy Allen.—Are you aware there is a very long time-lag between his discharge from the Army and his being brought before the Board?—The Board is handling a very big number of cases but we impress on them the necessity of having them dealt with in as short a time as possible so that the men may cease to draw pay and be put on pension.

1164. Could there not be a provision whereby a person in the Curragh or St. Bricin’s would be assisted, if he is helpless altogether for the Army, by giving him his pension sooner, instead of having him brought for examination from one hospital to another and throwing him on the world for six months?—In certain cases, we have authority to keep them in hospital as free patients. We could have brought them by ambulance to St. Bricin’s, which is the headquarters of the Board.

1165. That is something I would like you to look up?—I will do so.

1166. Chairman.—Do you have many cases of soldiers invalided out of the Army through tuberculosis?—Quite a number.

1167. Has it never occurred to the Army that, if the number is considerable, sending them home to their own counties in many cases means sending them home to hospices for the dying? Has the Board considered the desirability of providing some annex to St. Bricin’s or the Curragh where treatment could be provided for these men before they are sent home?—It was considered, but it was not considered that either the Curragh or St. Bricin’s would be ideal. The opening of a special annex would involve big overheads, staffing, etc., and the Department of Finance do not look kindly on it. They feel that the local authorities should handle the matter and that, possibly, additional sanitoria should be built locally. We had to approach that Department on a number of occasions on matters similar to this and they are not very sympathetic.

1168. Deputy Briscoe.—Is it on this Vote that dependents or widows of officers or men who have met their death through active service are paid pensions?—Yes, under Subhead H.

1169. Will the recent Act come under this heading in future accounts?—Yes.

Chairman.—We are very much obliged to you.