Committee Reports::Report - Appropriation Accounts 1941 - 1942::24 February, 1944::Appendix



Observations of the Minister for Finance on par. 16 of the Report dated 16th July, 1942, of the Committee of Public Accounts.

S. 76/6/40.

Roinn Airgeadais.


Coiste um Chúntaisí Puiblí.

(1) I am directed by the Minister for Finance to refer to paragraph 16 of the Report dated 16th July, 1942 of the Committee of Public Accounts on the subject of Medical Stores for the Army, and to submit the following observations thereon as promised in the Minute of the Minister for Finance dated 17th June, 1943.

(2) The medical stores referred to by the Committee were not in the nature of reserve stocks intended to be kept intact for use in the event of a major emergency but were merely stocks ordered in advance of normal requirements in order to guard against a possible future shortage of supplies. The Minister 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 normal stocks at the first available opportunity.

(3) As regards the other matters raised in the paragraph under reference the Minister 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.

(4) The Department of Defence are now satisfied that the stores covered by the particular voucher referred to in Question 718 of the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee on the 28th May, 1942, were in fact issued during the period May, 1940 to December, 1941. In view, however, of the fact that the voucher purports on its face to cover only issues between June, 1941 and December, 1941, this voucher also has been rejected by the Department.

(5) In explanation of the position as outlined in the preceding paragraph it has been represented by the Department of Defence that for approximately the first two years of the Emergency the Army Medical Service had to deal with the problems of:—

(a) The procurement in a short time of considerable quantities of Medical Supplies in excess of normal peace-time 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) Co-ordination of Red Cross Organization, A.R.P., and other voluntary medical and nursing bodies with Army requirements and training.

(6) The Department of Defence point 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.

(7) A Command Chemist of commissioned rank was appointed to each Command between September and November, 1941. Previously responsibility for medical supplies devolved on the Command Medical Officers who were burdened with many other duties.

(8) 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 referred to in paragraph 3 above is included in the total deficiencies. Full details of the deficiencies and surpluses have been reported to the Minister for Finance who has sanctioned the writing-off of the deficiencies and the adjustment of the surpluses. In agreeing to this course the Minister has been influenced by the conditions obtaining in the Army Medical Service during the early years of the Emergency, as outlined in paragraphs (5) and (6) above, and by 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 ozs. to save unnecessary waste of time;

(iv) The measurement by eye (or guesswork) of tablets and pills (e.g. 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 Minister 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.

(9) The stores covered by the rejected voucher referred to in paragraph (4) above will form the subject of a further submission to the Department of Finance.

(10) Revised Accounting Instructions dealing with medical and dental stores were issued on the 9th December, 1942, and the Minister is assured that the accounts are now being operated satisfactorily in all Commands under the revised procedure.

(Signed) J. E. HANNA,

18ad Mhí na Samhna, 1943.

Department of Finance