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



Minute of the Minister for Finance dated 17th June, 1943.


Export Subsidies on Cheese and Dried Milk Powder.

1. The Committee notes that the Minister for Finance considers it would be impracticable to fix any definite procedure which would be appropriate in circumstances similar to those commented on by the Committee in paragraph 11 of its Report on the Appropriation Accounts for 1939-40. It trusts that the arrangement now made for prior consultation between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Finance will prevent any recurrence of the objectionable procedure adopted in the instance under review.


Extra-statutory Repayments of Levy from the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund.

2. The Committee is glad to note that whenever possible, an appropriate amending Order will be made to regularise any departure from the financial provisions of an existing statutory Order but that, where this is inexpedient, the Minister for Finance has emphasised that his prior sanction should be sought in future where any transaction affecting the Fund is proposed which is not expressly covered by the statutory provisions.


Local Government and Public Health.

3. A Supplementary Estimate taken during the year provided for payment of grants for home assistance in certain cases. The grants were made at the rate of 50 per cent. of the expenditure incurred by Public Assistance authorities on home assistance afforded to persons debarred from receipt of unemployment assistance by reason of the operation of the Unemployment Assistance (Employment Period) Order, 1941. The State contribution was limited, however, to 50 per cent. of the amount of unemployment assistance which, but for the Order, would have been payable to each person assisted. In the case of persons who were in receipt of unemployment assistance up to the date of commencement of the Order, it was not found possible to ascertain the appropriate amount of such assistance that would have been payable in each case during the currency of the Order, as these persons ceased to report to the local officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce, and these officers were not consequently in a position to determine in accordance with the Unemployment Assistance Acts, the rate and duration of assistance that would have been payable in each case.

The claims furnished by Public Assistance authorities for payment of grants were prepared on the basis that the rate of unemployment assistance payable to each person prior to disallowance would have continued during the period of the Order. The Committee was, however, informed that the rates of home assistance granted to persons assisted were generally less than the amounts which they had been receiving at the time they ceased to draw unemployment assistance.

The Committee recognises that a difficulty, apparently unforeseen when the Supplementary Estimate was framed, presented itself when it was found that it was not practicable to determine in the ordinary way and in accordance with settled procedure the amount of unemployment assistance that would have been payable to each person assisted and in respect of which a State contribution not exceeding 50 per cent. was payable under the terms of the Estimate. The Committee nevertheless considers that when it was realised that it was not feasible to comply with the terms and conditions laid down in the Estimate for payments of grants from this subhead steps should have been taken to have the position regularised so that expenditure charged to the account would conform with the provisions and requirements laid down in the Estimate, and the Committee desires to point out the necessity for altering the conditions in future Estimates so that the payments made may be in accordance with the terms.


4. The Road Traffic Act, 1933, provided inter alia for the making of Regulations governing the inspection, verification and stamping of taximeters, and for the collection and disposal of such fees in connection therewith as might be prescribed. Regulations were made in July, 1938, for the guidance of special inspectors in the performance of their duties, and in September, 1938, Regulations were made prescribing the payment of a fee of 2s. 6d. to a special inspector for each taximeter verified and stamped. Under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act such fees are payable to the Commissioner and are to be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer, save that such proportion (if any) of such fees as the Minister for Finance shall direct shall be paid into the Gárda Síochána Reward Fund. The Committee is informed that the Regulations have not yet been put into operation, owing to difficulty in obtaining certain equipment necessary for testing purposes.

The Committee views with concern the delay regarding the enforcement of these Statutory Regulations which were made in 1938 and trusts that all practicable steps will be taken to have them put into effect at the earliest possible date.


5. Expenditure amounting to £175 was incurred in connection with the compiling, printing and binding of an historical work to theorder of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. It appears that specimen copies of the printed work revealed philological errors, due apparently to the compiler’s poor knowledge of Middle Irish, which were so numerous as to require the reprinting of the work. As it was then discovered that the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies was engaged on a similar work, it was decided to abandon publication. The Committee finds it difficult to understand why the imperfections in the manuscript were not discovered before the volume was printed and bound and trusts that in future all possible precautions will be taken to ensure that only competent persons are entrusted with work requiring highly specialised knowledge. It notes the steps taken to prevent overlapping of the work of the Irish Manuscripts Commission with that of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.


6. Attention was directed to the position with regard to the repayment of sums advanced, in the summer of 1941, by way of guaranteed loans made for the production of turf to Muintir na Tire guilds in Tipperary and Bray. The arrangements entered into with the guilds provided for the repayment of the loans by instalments, the final instalment in each case being payable in March, 1942, by which time it was assumed that all the turf produced would have been sold. It appears that of the sum of £3,000 advanced to the Tipperary guild the sum of £1,300 has been repaid, leaving a balance of £1,700 still outstanding, and with regard to the Bray guild £500 of the advance of £1,500 has been repaid and the remission of the balance of £1,000 was authorised in June, 1943. The Committee, while making due allowance for the exceptional conditions that existed at the time the advances were made, is of the opinion that when future applications from voluntary bodies for loans are under consideration the outcome of the above transactions should be carefully borne in mind with a view to safeguarding public funds.


7. Under Section 5 (2) of the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1935, the Revenue Commissioners were required, whenever drawback is paid in respect of sugar made in Éire from beet grown in Éire, to pay a bounty of an amount equal to the difference per cwt. between the Excise duty paid on such sugar and the Customs duty chargeable, at the time the Excise duty was paid, on like sugar not manufactured in Éire and not made from beet grown in Eire. Bounty at this rate was paid accordingly until, by Emergency Powers (No. 60) Order, 1940, which came into operation on 1st January, 1941, the above sub-section was amended to read that the bounty should be at such rate per cwt. as may, from time to time, be determined by the Minister for Finance, after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

The payments of bounty in the year under review were made at rates determined in accordance with the terms of the Order, but the explanatory details in Part III of the Estimate stated that the bountieswere to compensate for the difference between the duty-free price of home-produced and imported sugar. The Committee was informed that owing to the difficulty of arriving at the duty-free price of foreign produced sugar, of which none was imported during the year, the bounty on exported sugar had necessarily to be determined arbitrarily with due regard to the equitable relief due to exporters. It is clear, therefore, that the basis of calculation of the bounty as set out in the Estimate was not adhered to.

Whenever this situation arises, i.e., where circumstances necessitate a departure from the conditions on which the Dáil passes an Estimate, the Committee is of opinion that the position should normally be brought to the notice of the Dáil by the introduction of a Supplementary Estimate.


8. Issues in respect of flour subsidy were made to Grain Importers (Eire) Limited representing the difference between the cost of wheat imported by the company and the amount received from the millers to whom the grain was allocated, and in determining the allocation price, remuneration of £216,000 per annum, representing 6 per cent. on a capital sum of £3,600,000, was allowed to the milling industry as a whole. The Committee was informed that examination of the millers’ accounts for the cereal year 1941-42 disclosed that the agreed remuneration had been exceeded by £56,847, that this sum was paid over to Grain Importers (Éire) Limited, and that the subsidy payments were reduced by a corresponding amount. While the difficulty of determining the precise allocation price of imported wheat which will ensure the agreed remuneration is appreciated, the Committee feels that every effort should be made to fix it at such a rate as to avoid even a temporary overpayment of subsidy.

The Committee trusts that the arrangements made regarding the remuneration of the industry as a whole secure an equitable distribution of profits among individual milling concerns.


9. The Committee has had again under consideration the unsatisfactory position regarding the custody and control of medical stores which was referred to in its last report. Stocktaking carried out by members of the civilian staff of the Department of Defence disclosed a considerable number of deficiencies and surpluses and the deficiencies included stores covered by certain constructed vouchers which had been rejected for reasons already stated. Having regard to the explanations submitted by the Department of Defence, and to the conditions operating in the Army Medical Service during the early years of the Emergency, the Minister for Finance has sanctioned the writing-off of the deficiencies and the adjustment of the surpluses. The Committee notes the Minister’s view that, having regard to the considerable number of surpluses disclosed, the discrepancies to be adjusted represented, in the main, paper losses and gains arising from unsatisfactory accounting.* It notes further, however, that the position regarding stores covered by certain other rejected vouchers has not yet been determined and accordingly the total extent of the deficiencies cannot be regarded as finally established. It will be glad to receive a further report when the position in this respect has been clarified.

10. Reference was also made to deficiencies which had been disclosed at a stocktaking of certain items of Barrack Service Stores and the Committee has been informed that the method of dealing with the matter was under consideration. It desires to be furnished with a further report when a decision has been reached.

11. The Committee would like an assurance from the Department of Finance that a system of physical checking of Army stores of all kinds is now in force which, in the opinion of that Department, is as satisfactory as can be designed. Moreover the issue of constructed vouchers to cover deficiencies is strongly deprecated by the Committee.

12. The Comptroller and Auditor-General referred to the fact that considerable savings of provisions accumulate at the larger military posts owing to the absence on week-end leave of men for whom rations are drawn. The Committee understands that these savings are the property of the troops and are applied towards the provision of additional meals, and it is glad to note that responsible officers are charged with the supervision of the savings since these stores are not on charge in any account and are outside the general scope of the store-accounting system.

13. Attention was drawn to an instruction under which men proceeding on indefinite leave were permitted to retain part of their kit. This instruction was at variance with the relevant Defence Force Regulations which provided that the kits should be withdrawn. The Committee has been assured that no material loss to Public Funds has resulted but points out that the sanction of the Department of Finance should have been obtained before any departure from the Regulations was permitted.

14. In connection with contracts placed by a local authority for the construction of air-raid shelters, part of the cost of which was borne on the Army Vote, it appeared that it was agreed with the contractors that mechanical excavators, etc., should not be used, thus increasing the labour content and cost of the work. The Committee considers that the sanction of the Department of Finance should have been obtained before any portion of the additional cost which resulted from the agreement with the contractors was admitted as a charge against Public Funds.

15. A contract was placed for the supply of a number of mine casings at a cost of £110 each and it was discovered after delivery that 44 of the casings were defective. It appears that examination by Technical officers of the Department of the drawing and specification submitted by the Contractor failed to disclose that certaindimensions were incorrect and an order for supply, to the incorrect specification, was accordingly issued. The Committee is informed that owing to changes of policy the question of the employment of these mine casings is uncertain and that, should rectification of the defective casings become necessary in the light of future decisions as to policy, the sanction of the Department of Finance will be sought for any resultant expenditure. It considers, however, that as the casings were not suitable for the purpose for which they were purchased the covering sanction of the Department of Finance for the expenditure incurred should now be obtained.

16. A contract for the provision of certain hutting accommodation for the sum of £4,567 was placed without competition owing to urgency and the contractor’s final account included £790 13s. 6d. for general extras. It was explained that this relatively heavy charge for extras was due to the fact that owing to the nature and urgency of the work it was not possible to draw up detailed specifications on which to base a quotation. It would appear that the original quotation provided only for certain portions of the work and arrangements were made with the contractor by which additional works would be dealt with as the project progressed and as exact details became known. It is considered that these facts should have been made clear when the sanction of the Department of Finance was being sought for the expenditure and when the matter was being reported to the Government Contracts Committee for covering authority for the placing of the contract.

17. The Comptroller and Auditor-General drew attention to contracts for the supply of Soldiers’ Boxes in which much lower prices were secured as a result of the public advertisement of the invitation to tender as compared with the prices which resulted from the issue of invitations to a limited number of contractors. The Committee notes the circumstances in which a wider area of competition was secured and, while realising the difficulties in securing competition for many types of contract under present conditions, would stress the desirability of extending the competition, where available, over the widest possible field.




24th February, 1944.