MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 29ú Iúil, 1953.
Wednesday, 29th July, 1953.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
Mr. W. E. Wann (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) Mr. M. Breathnach, Mr. P. M. Clarke and Mr. J. E. Twamley (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
Mr. P. Ó Cinnéide called and examined.
597. Chairman.—Paragraph 98 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
“Subhead H.—Grants to Health Authorities.
In previous reports I mentioned that these grants were to be related to the standard expenditure of each of the health authorities determined in accordance with section 3 of the Health Services (Financial Provisions) Act, 1947, and that until such determination had been effected final adjustment of the grants payable for each year subsequent to 1947-48 could not be made. I have now been informed that the standard expenditure has been determined in respect of 22 health authorities and that it is hoped to have the standard expenditure for the remaining nine authorities determined in the near future.”
Have you been able to make further progress in regard to this matter?—We have. Determinations have now been made in respect of 26 health authorities, leaving five to be dealt with. In regard to these five. I think I can say that we will probably have most of them determined within the next three or four months. It all depends on the progress made by the auditors in the Department of Local Government who must audit the accounts before the Minister for Health can make a determination. The figures are very important so far as the local authorities are concerned and, consequently, the audit of the accounts must be carried out very closely. We endeavour to secure agreement with the local authorities on the figures. Sometimes there are doubtful and disputed items, and the negotiations in regard to these take a little bit of time.
598. Has there been much adjustment necessary?—Not a great deal. Pending the fixing of the standard figure, we work on an estimated figure which is very closely related to the final figure, so that, in effect, the amount of the ultimate adjustment necessary is very slight. I do not think that the Exchequer is suffering in any way as a result of the delay.
599. As a member of a local authority, it is a matter in which I am very much concerned.—I do not think the local authorities are losing very much over the delay either.
600. On subhead A, the note says that the excess was wholly attributable to the increases in remuneration. I take it that you are bound to have some vacancies?— Yes. We had to allow for the savings in connection with these vacancies in the Supplementary Estimate that was taken during the year. These savings were offset by the increases due to the increased remuneration. The actual amount drawn from the Vote for Increased Remuneration was, I think, £13,000 odd.
601. On subhead G.1.—Vaccine Lymph Supply—I take it that the amount here is recoverable?—It is recoverable from the local authorities. The purpose of the expenditure is to ensure that a supply of vaccine will always be available in case of an outbreak of smallpox.
602. Deputy Mrs. Crowley.—On subhead K.—Grants in respect of Training of native Irish Speakers in Hospital Nursing, including Training in Midwifery— can you say if the position has improved at all?—It has not, I am sorry to say. It is very unsatisfactory and remains as bad as it was on the last occasion on which I was before the Committee. In fact, we have deciled to abandon the scheme as far as the Department is concerned, and to ask the new Nursing Board, set up under statute two years ago, to see if they can suggest a better way of dealing with the matter. One of their functions is to provide scholarships and to run schemes for nurses.
603. Chairman.—On subhead L.— Grant to An Bord Altranais—why was no grant made?—The Board was only set up about halfway thdough the year, and the provision was a token provision to meet a possible deficit in the working of the Board. We did not know how the expenses of the Board would work out. The Act provides that the Minister may contribute towards the expenses of the Board, if necessary. In any case, I do not think that the accounts of the Board for the year in which it was set up would have been audited by the time this account was closed. In fact, we made some payment to them in the current year.
604. With regard to item No. 5 under the Appropriations in Aid, from whom do you recover the salaries of officers engaged full-time on regional sanatoria work?—From the Hospitals’ Trust Fund. The total cost of the regional sanatoria comes from the Hospitals’ Trust Fund.
605. Are the other officers who are referred to in the note also concerned with the Hospitals’ Trust?—No. One was lent to the Medical Research Council, the Publicity Officer was lent to the Mansion House Anti-Partition Committee, one Higher Executive Officer was lent to the Civil Service Clerical Association, another was lent to the Mass Radiography Association, and a shorthand typist to the World Health Organisation.
606. Deputy Brady.—What is the meaning of the note which refers to staff temporarily lent without repayment?
Chairman.—That is a note that you find in the case of practically all the Departments of officers lent on a temporary basis without repayment.
VOTE 68—GENERAL REGISTER OFFICE.
Mr. P. Ó Cinnéide further examined.
607. Chairman.—Are the Appropriations in Aid all of the one type? There has been no analysis made of them?— They are almost entirely in respect of certificates issued by the General Register Office.
608. So that practically the whole sum is made up of these certificates?—It is.
I think that is sufficient for the Committee.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 54—POSTS AND TELEGRAPHS.
Leon Ó Broin called and examined.
609. Chairman.—Paragraph 75 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
“Subhead E.1.—Conveyance of Mails by Rail.
As no adjustment of the annual payment to Córas Iompair Éireann for the conveyance of letter mails by rail appeared to have been effected following the restriction of services arising from the partial railway strike which continued from 18th December, 1950, to 1st February, 1951, I inquired whether any claim fell to be made under the terms of the contract with the company. I was informed that the contract substantially ceased to have effect with the disruption of mail and other train services from 1941 onwards, that the present arrangement rests on an exchange of correspondence with the company, no new formal contract having been entered into, and that in general the payment is subject to review in the event of any material increase or decrease in the services rendered by the company to the Department. The Department of Finance, however, agreed as an exceptional measure that no deduction from the annual payment need be made in respect of the period of the strike.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Wann?
Mr. Wann.—The Department of Posts and Telegraphs considered that a total of £10,968 could equitably have been claimed against the company for the non-performance of rail and normal lorry services during the period of the strike, but that against this the company could have counter-claimed for £10,200, being its costs incurred in providing emergency road services. If these figures are accepted, the net claim against the company would have amounted to only £768. The calculations involved are difficult and complicated, and there is room for differences of opinion regarding the methods used. In fact, I think the Department of Finance had some difficulty in accepting the figures. It ultimately agreed, however, as an exceptional measure, that no deduction from the annual payment need be made in respect of the period in question but, in doing so, stipulated that the sanction was not to be regarded as a precedent. It also suggested that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs should consider the question of introducing penalty clauses in any future contracts made with the company.
610. Chairman.—Have you made any attempt to enter into a formal contract?
Mr. Ó Broin.—No, Sir. We do not think the circumstances at the moment are quite suitable for that. We had, of course, a contract up to 1941, when we went into the extraordinarily difficult emergency period and we had to get a sort of working arrangement, almost from day to day, with the company—with various companies—and our present arrangements are based very largely upon these ad hoc arrangements made over the extended emergency period. I suppose, sooner or later, we will have to get down to a review of our position with them, but the present position is not unsatisfactory. I do not think that we are very much held up, if we are held up at all, by the absence of a rigid formal contract.
611. The only thing is, can you, without the formal contract, do anything about the Department of Finance suggestion with regard to a penalty clause? —No, I do not think we can, but it is something which we have, of course, noted and when we reach the point at which we are discussing a new contract it is something we will consider.
612. You are not able to say when you will start discussions?—No. I find it impossible to say that.
613. Deputy Brady.—Do I understand that Córas Iompair Éireann did carry the mail during the strike, by rail?
Chairman.—Partially, I think.
Mr. Ó Broin.—Sufficiently by rail and road to make us think that they had a valid counter-claim against the sum of money we computed we were entitled to get by way of reduction on the contract.
614. Chairman.—Was the Department of Finance fully satisfied with this write-off?
Mr. Twamley—In view of all the circumstances, yes, Sir, it was felt that the proposal of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs best met the circumstances.
615. Chairman.—I presume that in any case the taxpayer would have to foot the bill, seeing that Córas Iompair Éireann was getting money from the State?
Mr. Twamley.—That is another aspect of the question, of course.
616. Chairman.—Paragraph 76 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General deals with subhead E.5.—Conveyance of Mails by Air—and reads as follows:—
“With a view to accelerating mail services between Ireland and Great Britain the Government approved the development of a scheme for the conveyance of letter mails by air. The scheme contemplated the introduction of a night air mail service between Dublin and Manchester, the establishment of a limited day air mail service to London and other centres, and the retention of the existing packet services between Dún Laoghaire and Holyhead. An agreement was reached with the British Postal Administration which provided that the cost of the night air mail service would be shared equally between the two Administrations, and that the subsidy of £20,000 per annum payable by the Irish Administration for the conveyance of mails by the Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead sea route would continue to be paid for the present. The additional expenditure to be borne by this Administration in connection with the scheme was estimated not to exceed £37,000 a year, including £31,000 for the night service, and expenditure to this amount was approved by the Department of Finance. The night service was brought into operation on 12th March, 1951, and in the year under review the total amount disbursed in respect of this service was £58,767 19s. 11d. of which one-half is borne on this subhead, and one-half recovered from the British Administration in accordance with the terms of the agreement referred to above.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Wann?
Mr. Wann.—I understand that the annual subsidy of £20,000 per year for the conveyance of mails between Dún Laoghaire and Holyhead is still being paid to the British Post Office.
617. Chairman.—That payment is made under subhead E.4?
Mr. Ó Broin.—Yes.
618. Chairman.—Are you quite satisfied, in view of the fact that some of the mails are being diverted from that route, that the payment should not be reduced? —Perfectly satisfied, Sir.
619. On what grounds are you satisfied?—There is a number of grounds. Number one is that this is a standby service; number two, it is a service by which we send our parcel mails; number three, it is available to us at week-ends. We only have Aer Lingus arrangements for six days in the week. Number four, it is available to us when Aer Lingus cannot fly, and that has happened more frequently this year, I am sorry to say, than we had anticipated. Frequency last year was about 91 or 92 per cent., which meant that there were between 20 and 30 days in the year when we had to send all our mails, letters as well as parcels, by the surface route. As regards the figure of £20,000, that is an old figure which relates to a three-cornered arrangement which we made in 1921 with the British, covering the Six-County situation as well as our own Twenty-Six County area.
620. Would you say that there has been much, if any, diminution in the bulk of mail going by the sea route?—Yes, of course. Practically all our letter mail on the days on which the service operates is going by air.
621. I suppose, broadly speaking, you consider that £20,000, agreed to in 1921, is very different from £20,000 now?— Very different, indeed. I can assure you and the Committee that this is a thing we have looked at very closely from every angle.
622. Chairman.—Paragraph 77 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General deals with subhead H.2.— Losses by Default, Accident, etc., and states:—
“The losses borne on the Vote for the year ended 31st March, 1952, amounted to £2,921 9s. 7d. A classified schedule of these losses is set out at page 176. At page 178 particulars are given of 24 cases in which cash shortages or misappropriations amounting to £645 11s. 2d. were discovered; the sums in question were made good and no charge to public funds was necessary.”
That is for information, Mr. Wann?
Mr. Wann.—Yes, Sir.
623. Chairman.—How did the losses compare with the previous year, Mr. Ó Broin?
Mr. Ó Broin.—The total number of losses by default in 1951-52 was 20; in the previous year, 28; in the year before that, 26; in the year before that again, 25. As compared with recent years, therefore, this figure is below average. The amount involved is also lower.
624. Chairman.—Paragraph 78 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General deals with subhead H.4.—Compensation for Cancellation of Appointment as Sub-Postmaster—and is as follows:—
“A sub-postmaster was appointed in November, 1950, to fill a vacancy in a sub-post office and the appointment involved the transfer of the sub-office to new premises which were altered and adapted to meet the Department’s requirements. The person appointed withdrew from the position before being formally installed and the business of the sub-office was retransferred to the original premises in February, 1951, a new appointment having been made. A claim for £350 10s. 0d. was received in respect of the adaptation for Post Office purposes of the vacated premises, and was settled by a payment of £240 which is charged to this special subhead with the sanction of the Department of Finance. Additional net expenditure arising from the transfer and retransfer of the sub-office amounted to £505 14s. 1d. and is borne on other subheads of the Vote.”
Is that all the expenditure, Mr. Ó Broin, on this case?—The total expenditure on the case was £745 14s. 1d. That includes £240 compensation, the wages, travelling and subsistence allowances of the various staff employed in dealing with the situation, the restoration of the poles that were cut down at the time, and so on and so forth. It all works out to £745 14s. 1d.
625. Did you consider a claim for malicious damages?—We did, but we did not in this case press that, Sir.
626. Did you get sanction from the Department of Finance for not pressing it?—We did, Sir.
627. Chairman.—Paragraph 79 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
A test examination of the store accounts was carried out with satisfactory results.
In addition to the engineering stores shown in Appendix No. II as valued at £1,866,973 on 31st March, 1952, engineering stores to the value of £6,432 were held on behalf of other Government Departments. Stores other than engineering stores were valued at £867,067, including £282,650 in respect of stores held for other Government Department.”
Is there anything you would like to add, Mr. Wann?
Mr. Wann.—The value of the stores, naturally, has shown a material increase.
628. Chairman.—Paragraph 80 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
A test examination of the accounts of the postal, telegraph and telephone services was carried out with satisfactory results.
Sums due for telephone services amounting in all to £691 7s. 4d. were written off during the year as irrecoverable.”
Mr. Wann.—The amounts written off as irrecoverable relate to cases where the solicitor advised that the sums due could not be collected for various reasons, bankruptcy, insolvency, debtors leaving the country, etc.
Mr. Ó Broin.—The amount of course, is extremely small. The total telephone revenue for that year was £1,692,000 and the trifling sum we wrote off represents less than tenpence per £100.
Chairman.—That is very good. If every business showed the same bad debts they would be very pleased.
629. Chairman.—Paragraph 81 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General deals with Post Office Savings Bank Accounts and reads as follows:—
“The accounts of the Post Office Savings Bank for the year ended 31st December, 1951, were submitted to a test examination with satisfactory results. The balance due to depositors, inclusive of interest, amounted to £61,406,855 10s. 7d. on 31st December, 1951, as compared with £55,241,056 8s. 7d. at the close of the previous year. Interest accrued during the year on securities standing to the credit of the Post Office Savings Bank Fund amounted to £1,906,547 7s. 6d. Of this sum, £1,438,591 12s. 11d. was paid and credited to depositors in respect of interest, management expenses amounted to £139,393 0s. 8d. and £328,562 13s. 11d. was set aside towards provision against depreciation in the value of securities.”
Mr. Wann.—Section 19 (1) of the Finance Act, 1930, empowers the Minister for Finance in any year to appropriate for the Exchequer the excess of the interest on securities held for the Savings Bank Fund over the total interest paid or credited to depositors and the expense of the Savings Bank for that year. The Minister must, however, retain in the fund at least 10 per cent. of such excess as a provision against depreciation of securities. In fact, he retained all the excess in the year under review.
630. Chairman.—How much does your provision for depreciation amount to now, Mr. Ó Broin?
Mr. Ó Broin.—About £3,500,000.
631. How does that compare with the actual depreciation?—This matter is strictly one for the Department of Finance. We pass over the money to them and they do all the investing, etc. The figure I have given is the provision for depreciation. I have not got an up-to-date computation of the actual value of the stocks.
632. The figures fluctuate from day to day?—Yes, you would have to ask for an up-to-date computation.
633. Could the Department of Finance give a figure for it?
Mr. Twamley.—No, it is a fluctuating figure, and I have not the information here.
634. Chairman.—Paragraph 82 of the Report reads:—
“Post Office Factory.
A test examination was applied to the accounts of the Post Office factory with satisfactory results.
Including works in progress on 31st March, 1952, the expenditure on manufacturing jobs during the year amounted to £53,568, expenditure on repair work (other than repairs to mechanical transport) amounted to £32,147, and expenditure on mechanical transport repairs to £9,920.”
Is the work of the factory expanding?
Mr. Ó Broin.—Yes, somewhat.
635. We now come to the Vote itself. As to subhead A.2, what is meant exactly by the transfer of offices from the Dublin district; you save £9,000 on this subhead which was charged to another?—I think it is just an adjustment between subheads.
636. Does it mean that the boundary between the Metropolitan and the provincial areas was changed?—Yes.
637. You also refer to a saving of £8,500 due to a decline in cross-Channel parcel traffic. How did you get a saving by a decline?—You set off the excess in some items against the fall in others. That is where you get it.
638. How did a decline in parcel traffic effect a saving?—There was less work to do. There was a decline in the volume of work.
639. With regard to subhead E.2, we had a discussion last year about the conveyance of mails by departmental motor vehicle services rather than by contractors. Do I take it that you were not able to carry out your intentions during the year?—Yes. this does not mean that the Department lost £3,000, but merely that this particular subhead bore more expenditure than was expected. The departmental van services expenditure would be incurred under other subheads, for example, wages and maintenance staff out of the A subheads and stores out of G.1.
640. I do not understand the distinction made in the note between a necessity for increased payments to mail car contractors and the delay in introducing the departmental motor vehicles?—They are two independent things. We had over the year, as a regular thing, to give increases to contractors because of the increased price of petrol, etc. These were estimated apart from the cost of the service provided by our own departmental vans.
641. Are you gradually moving towards the use of departmental vehicles only?— We are not doing that as a deliberate policy. We look at each district from time to time to see whichever suits us best. We have no firm policy in that regard.
642. Deputy Brady.—Is it mainly rented to contractors?—Until some time ago it had been almost entirely done by contractors. We are moving into the field a good deal ourselves.
643. You are still moving?—Yes. In the last five or six years we have been carrying out a reorganisation of letter deliveries all over the country. Many of the reorganisations we have effected are tied up with the extension of these mail van deliveries.
644. Chairman.—As to subhead H.2, there is one substantial item which did not materialise of £2,700. It is very large compared with the other items in the subhead?—We provided against every compensation which we expected to have to pay in this year of account. The case you refer to was a misappropriation of certain registered letters in the Dublin district. It was a very bad case which you will probably be hearing about next year. It was not cleared up in 1951-52. It is the case of an overseer of the Dublin Postal District who was able over an extended period to make away with a great deal of money.
645. With regard to subhead H.3, I have a query for the Department of Finance. In the middle of the explanatory paragraph there is included: “Payment for services of a consultant to assist Organisation and Methods Officers.” I have just had a communication from the Department of Finance with regard to these officers, and no reference was made to the Post Office. It only referred to the Office of Public Works and the Department of Agriculture. Even then the sum was lumped. I wonder, Mr. Twamley, would you ask to have this matter checked again as I had asked for all the payments to consultants.
Mr. Twamley.—Certainly, Sir.*
646. Chairman.—It has cropped up because in this one case there is a definite amount mentioned. As far as I know, this is the only account where the Accounting Officer has drawn any attention to the fact that these consultants were paid. Can you say if there was any payment in the previous year?
Mr. Ó Broin.—I do not think so. I think this is the first time we have shown a payment of this sort We have been making use of these consultants. We have some at the moment carrying out an extensive inquiry. That work is going on independently of our own organisation.
647. With regard to subhead N.3, how did the ex-gratia payments arise?—This is a subhead where we actually make provision for certain payments for which the British accept responsibility. I imagine that these ex-gratia payments were negotiated by the British. We pay in the first instance and recover elsewhere in the Vote. We are not very much concerned with the nature of the transaction.
648. This would not cost us anything? —No. This relates to the implementation of some provisions of the Treaty.
649. This would be offset by a repayment under subhead T.12?—Yes.
VOTE 55—WIRELESS BROADCASTING.
Leon Ó Broin further examined.
650. Chairman.—On subhead H.— Telegrams and Telephones—there is a certain element of poetic justice in this? —Yes.
651. On subhead I.—Radio Journal— do you still consider the possibility of issuing an official radio journal?—Yes, very definitely. In the current year’s Estimate provision is still there so as to provide cover whenever a decision is taken. Whether the decision will be taken this year or in some future year, I cannot say, but it is still rather a live matter.
652. It is under active consideration? —Yes, all the time.
653. On subhead K.—Appropriations in Aid—with regard to note (2), would you say that the receipts from the sale of two pianos were greater than anticipated? You did not expect to sell them or was it that you got more for them than you expected?—We got more for them than we expected.
654. You must have got a considerable amount compared with your expectations. Of course, you had spent more on a new piano than you expected?—I imagine it is like buying a car. When you are trading in an old car you sometimes get a very good price.
Chairman.—Thank you, Mr. Ó Broin. I would like to compliment you especially for your very full notes which make the work of the Committee very easy.
The witness withdrew.
Lieutenant-General P. MacMahon called and examined.
655. Chairman.—Paragraph 83 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“Subhead C.—Pay of Civilians attached to Units.
Subhead S.—Barrack Maintenance and Minor Works.
Expenditure amounting to £10,431, consisting of £4,614 for materials and £5,817 for labour, was incurred in prior years on the provision of accommodation for the Construction Corps and following the disbandment of the corps the work was suspended in 1948, a number of buildings being left in a partially constructed condition. I inquired whether any decision regarding the future use of the buildings had been taken and was informed that a proposal to utilise them as part of an apprentice training depot was under consideration.”
Have you came to a final decision?— Yes. We are going to proceed with that project. The submission is with the Department of Finance at the moment.
656. What buildings are referred to here?—The old barracks in Naas. Part of it was given away to a couple of industries, and we held on to the balance. We proposed to make that the headquarters of the Construction Corps. The corps was disbanded, and we are now going to utilise the barracks as headquarters for a boy mechanics’ scheme. We have such a scheme in the Air Corps for mechanics, and now we are going to start one to provide mechanics for transport, engineering and other corps.
657. Have the buildings which were left in a partially constructed condition deteriorated?—The Corps of Engineers say “No.”
658. Chairman.—Paragraph 84 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“Subhead K.—Provisions and Allowances in lieu.
Statements have been furnished to me showing the cost of production of bread at the Curragh bakery, and of meat at the Dublin and Curragh abattoirs. The unit costs are as follows:—
The average price of cattle purchased for the Dublin and Curragh areas was £65 9s. 10d. and £63 17s. 4d. per head, respectively, as compared with £56 19s. 0d. and £56 18s. 6d. in the previous year, while the average production of beef per head was 698 lbs. and 682 lbs., respectively, as compared with 696 lbs. and 702 lbs.”
There is a very great difference in the increase in the cost of meat between Dublin and the Curragh?—That is accounted for by the fact that we installed cold storage down there, and while the cost of equipment for cold storage was spread out over a number of years, it was not considered that the annexe to the building really enhanced its value, and it was all charged up to that particular year. The Comptroller and Auditor General is aware of that?
659. Chairman.—Paragraph 85 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“Subhead P.1.—Air-raid Precautions.
In order to provide facilities for the practical training of instructors in civil defence the sanction of the Department of Finance was obtained for expenditure not exceeding £16,155 on the construction of a demonstration centre to simulate conditions under which those engaged on rescue and kindred duties would be required to operate. Work commenced towards the end of the financial year and expenditure on materials amounting to £2,081 9s. 3d. is charged to this subhead. As noted in the account, the charge to subhead C. (Pay of Civilians attached to Units) includes £1,724 15s. 2d. paid to civilians employed on the work. The balance of the expenditure under subhead P.1. was incurred on grants to local authorities, £88 8s. 10d.; purchase of equipment, £238 16s. 0d., and instructional courses abroad, £309 14s. 1d.”
Do I take it that such work as you got done in the year came much later than you had expected? The grants to local authorities were not very big as compared with the Estimate?—The sum of £88 8s. 10d. by way of grant paid covers approved expenditure necessarily incurred by local authorities in the storage of A.R.P. equipment and, to a lesser extent, payments on a grant-aided basis of travelling and subsistence expenses incurred by Civil Defence officers and officials of local authorities in connection with their attendance at courses of instruction at the Civil Defence School, Dublin. Grants against the salaries and/or allowances of Civil Defence officers fall also into this category. Charges under this heading will not fall fully for payment in the current financial year. There was delay in appointing Civil Defence officers. Then there is a figure of £23 16s. which relates to certain items of training and other equipment, such as cine projectors, epidascope, films and film strips, for instruction in connection with the setting up of the Civil Defence School. The cost incurred, viz., £309 14s. 1d., for courses abroad, covered the payment of school fees, travelling and subsistence expenses for officers of the Civil Defence branch attending courses of an administrative and a technical nature at selected Civil Defence Schools in England.
660. Deputy Brady.—Is the Civil Defence School still in existence?—Yes. And will be for many years.
661. Chairman.—What is the basis of the grants to local authorities?—The local authorities have to bear the expense and then we recoup them in some cases to the extent of 60 per cent.
662. Is that the highest percentage?— Yes.
663. Deputy Mrs. Crowley.—Would some local authorities not get as much as 60 per cent.? How do you base the percentage?—It is usually 60 per cent., but in Dublin it is a lesser percentage. It is 60 per cent. outside Dublin.
664. Chairman.—This expenditure by local authorities is for the provision of stores?—There is certain A.R.P. equipment on loan to local authorities and they have to store it. We have to recoup them the cost of storage.
665. The stores are the property of the local authorities? You have no claim on them?—Yes, we have. They are our stores.
666. Then it is really a grant by the local authority to you to provide the stores rather than a grant from you?— They pay for the storage and we recoup them.
667. If the stores are your property?— In that case we have to recoup the full amount, but in the case of officers coming up on courses they actually pay and we recoup them the percentage.
668. Deputy Brady.—Does the local authority pay the personnel?—That is correct.
669. Chairman.—Paragraph 86 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“Subhead R.—Fuel, Light and Water in kind and Fuel Oils.
With a view to avoiding interference with the turf supplies of domestic consumers in non-turf areas, arrangements were made whereby the bulk of the turf required by the Defence Forces for the winter of 1951-52 was obtained under contract from areas designated by Bord na Móna, and approximately 27,000 tons of turf were delivered to the various military posts at rates, including delivery charges, ranging from 43s. to 66s. 10d. per ton.”
Mr. Wann.—The bogs designated by Bord na Móna were in the Counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo and Offaly and in some cases the turf had to be transported for relatively long distances, resulting in high delivery costs. The cheapest turf was that delivered to Galway barracks at a cost of £2 3s. 1d., and the dearest was that delivered to Dublin barracks at a cost of £3 6s. 10d.
670. Chairman I take it you have relatively little to do with this arrangement?
General MacMahon.—We were told the districts from which we could purchase turf. We had no say as to the areas in which we would place the contracts.
671. I take it that the Department of Finance was concerned chiefly to secure that purchasing by the Army, say, in Dublin, would not entail running into competition with the civilian population? —We were concerned mainly with the question of prices and it was represented to us that it would be in the national interest to act in accordance with the wishes of Bord na Móna and not to place contracts for turf in areas convenient to certain barracks in the country at very high bog-side prices, simply because it would cost the Army less. So as not to upset their whole programme and plans, we deemed it expedient to fall in line with the wishes of Bord na Móna and to go to the areas where there would be a greater distribution of labour and so on.
672. Deputy Brady.—Does Dublin, for instance, draw from the bogs which are nearest? Does Dublin draw, for instance, from Portlaoise or some of those places, not to be carrying turf a long distance? —The supplies for Dublin were obtained, to a great extent, from Portlaoise.
673. Because the carriage and that sort of thing from the West would be heavy? —Exactly.
674. Chairman.—Subhead Y.—The Reserve—is dealt with in paragraph 87 which reads:—
“Reference was made in paragraph 80 of the report on the accounts for the year 1947-48 to difficulties which had arisen in connection with the recovery of articles of clothing and equipment in the possession of ex-members of An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil as regulations had not been promulgated. I understand that the proposed regulations are still under consideration. The assessed value of clothing and equipment unrecovered from members of An Fórsa and An Sluagh Muirí who were discharged or became non-effective in the years 1946 to 1950, inclusive, amounts to £13,655.”
General MacMahon.—I would like to explain, if I may, that when we went into these figures later we found the figure is really £15,415 2s. 1d. and the Department of Finance has been asked to write off that sum. The figure of £13,655 is the one we gave the Comptroller and Auditor General, but later we found there was a discrepancy and the real figure is £15,415 2s. 1d.
675. It is indicated in the paragraph that this matter was considered by the Committee on the appropriation accounts for 1947-48. The drafting of workable regulations appears to have presented considerable difficulties?—I am afraid you would have to call on Mr. Clarke to explain why these regulations have not been produced.
676. Can you tell us what the difficulties are here, Mr. Clarke?
Mr. P. M. Clarke.—Well, the difficulties had to do with the question of arrangements for the recovery of uniforms and disposal of uniforms All that was the cause of delay originally, but I would like to point out that the making of regulations would not have influenced the amount of the loss here. The loss here arises from members who either go on the non-effective list or are discharged and do not surrender the uniforms they had with them. I understand that in cases where uniforms are recovered they are often only of rag value, and the loss does not arise from the fact that there was no regulation prescribing the ways in which uniforms should be recovered, because instructions had been issued by the military authorities in these cases and serious efforts, we are satisfied, were made for the recovery of those articles of uniforms. We have come to the conclusion in many cases that the effort has hardly been worth while. Up to some time ago, at any rate, the military were anxious for security reasons to take all possible steps to recover outstanding articles of uniform. I might say also that we will be sanctioning the writing off of this quantity of clothing that is outstanding.
677. Will you say that, seeing that this happened in the past and there is nothing you can do about it, might I take it from that that you are now more successful in securing the return of uniforms?
General MacMahon.—I do not think so. I think that this problem will be a perennial problem in the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil. It is rather difficult to pursue them in the same way that you can pursue a soldier in the Forces for articles of uniform that he takes with him when he deserts—he is a deserter and it is an offence—or when he is discharged. It is not quite the same thing with the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil. First of all, a man might not attend. several meetings, in fact he might have left the country, but he cannot be treated as a non-effective member until the year is out and until the Department are informed whether or not be has completed the prescribed number of attendances at training. By that time the man may be very far away. Then in other cases I think it is well known that these items of uniform are used by the men. Many men use the trousers working in the fields, and even if you do manage to recover it you will find that it is worthless; and it is not very desirable to pursue these cases in the courts against men who have given a certain amount of voluntary service for nothing.
678. I take it in general that you are pursuing the matter of framing the regulations?
Mr. Clarke.—We will have to have regulations to govern the general issue and accounting for clothing, but it would be very difficult.
679. You are trying to make regulations which would cover these points. Do you consider that anything could be done about that?—The regulations would be to prescribe steps to be taken in order to ensure that these losses would be reduced to the minimum and to ensure that when a man is being discharged steps would be taken immediately to request him to return the uniform and to make approaches to him at regular intervals, if he cannot be traced in the first instance, so that he would return it.
General MacMahon.—I would like to support Mr. Clarke’s statement that the absence of regulations did not contribute to the loss. It is necessary to have regulations. At the moment we simply have instructions where we should have regulations, but losses will occur. They are inseparable from organisations of this type.
680. Chairman.—Paragraph 88, which deals with subhead Z—Appropriations in Aid reads as follows:—
“As will be seen from the account, receipts in respect of revenue from lands and premises amounted to £16,814 19s. 3d. A register of State properties administered by the Department of Defence showing the terms on which they are held and the use to which they are put has not yet been compiled and no arrangements have yet been made for periodical perambulation of the properties. I understand that the work of compiling a register will be commenced when a decision has been reached regarding the responsibility of the Department of Defence for lands and buildings which it administers but which are vested in the Office of Public Works, and that this question is under consideration by the Department of Finance.”
Is there anything you would like to add to that, Mr. Wann?
Mr. Wann.—I have not been informed, but apparently there is no change in the position.
General MacMahon.—I think the Comptroller and Auditor General’s statement sets out the facts correctly, Sir.
681. Chairman.—Well, I understand that the Board of Works is compiling a register of its property. Have you been able to come to any finality with the Board of Works regarding the properties which are your responsibility but which are vested in the Board of Public Works, or has the Department of Finance been able?—The Board of Works and ourselves can agree at any moment, but the Department of Finance have not made up their minds yet.
682. Well, Mr. Clarke, what is the trouble in this matter?
Mr. Clarke.—This very complex problem has been under consideration for a long time. In the pre-war period the Department of Finance took the line that the Board of Works would be responsible for all State properties, that they should all be vested in the Board of Works. During the war years the question more or less hung fire for the reason that many properties which the Board of Works had taken back from the Army—old barracks and so on—were handed back to the Department of Defence and in the immediate post-war period it was not quite clear what properties the Department of Defence proposed to retain permanently and what ones they would hand back to the Board of Works. A third factor was the pending State Property Bill in which power would be taken to vest such lands in the particular Minister of State. That is to say, at the moment the Minister for Defence can have the administration of certain properties but the Board of Works may legally be the owners and that has given rise to certain little matters of difficulty in management. We hope that will be cleared up and that when we have a line of demarcation clearly established we will be able to say to each Department: “Now you are responsible for your own properties” in compiling a register for perambulation. I would like to mention, Sir, that the danger of loss of property from lack of perambulation is not so great in the case of the Department of Defence. The Board of Works have a number of small properties throughout the country—old coastguard stations, small waste plots of ground and so on— and I am given to understand that unless they perambulate these regularly a man will have put up a fence and encroached gradually on property that is State property. In the case of the Department of Defence, their properties are occupied every day and are properties on which they have a caretaker. They have not got many of these what I might call small parcels or small holdings, so that I do not think there has been any danger. The Department of Defence well know the extent of their property and administer it efficiently.
683. Can you say, Mr. Clarke, whether this thing is being pursued actively and a real attempt is being made to get the whole thing cleared up? It is obviously undesirable that there should not be even a list of State property?
Mr. Clarke.—I think we have a list of State property.
General MacMahon.—Our contention is that we should control all property that we occupy and leave the rest to the Board of Works. I think that is the simplest way to deal with it. In actual fact, as far as the property which we occupy is concerned, there is no danger of anyone encroaching on it.
684. Perhaps the difficulty can be overcome by the Dáil. I do not know at what stage it is in yet.
Mr. Clarke.—It has reached a very advanced stage. Actually, it is in draft.
685. Chairman.—Paragraph 89 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
“An Army horse was sold during a visit of the Army equitation team to a continental horse show in August, 1951, for a sum of £500, to be paid in sterling. The purchase money has not yet been received, and I am informed that the question of recovery is being pursued through the Department of External Affairs.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Wann?
Mr. Wann.—I understand that the recovery of the £500 is being undertaken by the Department of External Affairs.
General MacMahon.—We got the Department of Finance agreement to accept payment in pesetas. That amount will be lodged to the credit of our Ambassador in Spain and, as a result, the Department of External Affairs will be able to reimburse us in sterling. It will save them the trouble of converting sterling into Spanish coinage because the price of the horse will be lodged there and the Department of External Affairs will give us credit in sterling for it. That is the way that prizes won at shows abroad are dealt with.
686. I see that this was a horse called “Blarney Stone”. It just strikes me that a cable sent by the Minister for External Affairs might have been seriously misunderstood—“Sale of ‘Blarney Stone’ approved”?—There was that danger all right. I am afraid that the Minister would be in trouble then, because the real Blarney Stone is not his property and he would be selling something that was not belonging to him.
687. Deputy Brady.—Was it on account of the name that the horse was purchased?—He was considered a good horse.
Deputy Brady.—Oh, yes, I know.
688. Chairman.—Paragraph 90 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“Statement of Losses.
Losses written off during the year are detailed in a statement appended to the account. The total is made up of:—
The corresponding figures of losses in the previous year were £87 3s. 4d. and £8,407 0s. 7d.”
Mr. Wann.—That is for information.
689. Chairman.—With regard to subhead A.1.—Military Educational Courses abroad—how did it happen that the number of courses held were less than anticipated?—We were not able to get certain vacancies. We have to wait until the British have vacancies on courses. It is not entirely in our hands.
690. With regard to subhead A.3.— Expenses of Equitation Teams at Horse Shows—does the lower expenditure mean that fewer shows were attended?—That is true. We had intended attending more shows than we actually did.
691. With regard to subhead A.4.— Emergency Gratuities and Enlistment Bounties—there was a very considerable saving here. Apparently it arose through the short-term enlistment programme. Was it not carried out or did it fail?—It failed. When Deputy Dr. O’Higgins was Minister for Defence he felt that we should have a smaller Army and a larger Reserve. He thought that he would get a bigger Reserve by this scheme. It was a failure.
692. What was the period of time involved? —Three months in the Army and two years in the Reserve.
693. With regard to subhead H.— Transport of Troops—may we take it that the reason for the fact that there was less expenditure than was anticipated was because of the failure of the short-term enlistment programme?—Yes. It was because of the failure to get short-term recruits.
694. How did it happen that the number of officers on duty with An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil was less than anticipated?—We got recruits for the Regular Army. These officers were seconded from their units to the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil, but when the question of the training of recruits arose they had to be withdrawn to train the recruits because it was considered more important.
695. I take it that the excess expenditure under subhead K.—Provisions and Allowances in lieu—and M.—Clothing and Equipment—was due to the increased strength of the Army and that your campaign for ordinary recruiting must have been very successful, considering that the short-term plan was a failure. Is that so?—Even when the short-term plan was in operation, and recruiting for the Regular Army was not being pushed, we got more men willing to enlist for two or three years than we could get to enlist for the short-term period.
696. Subhead L. refers to petrol and oils. The note is not very clear. It says: “Aviation spirit and lubricating oils were not required to the extent anticipated; partly offset by increased purchases of petrol for vehicles.” Were the lubricating oils referred to also for the Air Corps? Surely there is something very odd about buying increased quantities of petrol and not, at the same time, requiring more lubricating oil as well?— The Air Corps did not fly as much as was anticipated. The reason was that some of the machines became obsolete or unserviceable.
697. Can I take it that the lubricating oils were intended for the Air Corps?— Yes. They were intended for the Air Corps.
698. With regard to subhead P.—Warlike Stores—it appears that you were not able to obtain stores during that financial year to the extent you required. Is the position in regard to warlike stores better now?—Yes. As a matter of fact, the position is very satisfactory at present.
699. With regard to subhead W.—Insurance-may we take it that the short-term people would not affect this subhead at all?—They would affect it. We would keep the insurance up for any of them who had been insured coming in. However, it is a small item, only a three months’ period.
700. With regard to subhead X.—Incidental Expenses—the note explains that the increase was due mainly to the unforeseen cost of advertisements for a recruiting campaign. How does that arise?— When the change of Government took place we embarked upon a big scheme of recruiting that we had not anticipated when preparing the Estimate. For that reason, it was referred to as “unforeseen”. That was recruiting for two years or three years and not short-term enlistments.
701. With regard to subhead Y.2.—The Reserve—your note says that the number reporting for training was less than anticipated. Does that indicate that there were men who should have reported and did not?—Yes. We cannot compel them to report. That is our difficulty. But they do not get the grant unless they report for training. We realise, of course, that we will never get 100 per cent., but we base our estimate on the experience of previous years. Even in so doing, the numbers we anticipated did not turn up.
702. Was this in a year when ordinary recruitment was good?—This is the Reserve.
703. But you got good recruiting for the Army and yet the Reserve failed to turn up. Is that not strange?—Yes. The factor of employment may have entered into it.
704. With regard to subhead B.B.— Medals, etc.—does it not seem odd that the number of eligible persons who applied for Emergency Service Medals was less than anticipated? I thought that people always applied for medals if they thought they were entitled to them. What was the position?—These are Emergency Service Medals and there is no pension or allowance attached to them.
705. Did you not change the ribbon?— Originally it was intended to have a different ribbon for the regular soldiers and the part—time men. The then Minister felt that greater credit was due to the men who did their ordinary work and enrolled in the Emergency Services. Unfortunately, the men themselves considered it in a different light. They felt that if they had not the same coloured ribbon as the Regular Army they would be insulted. Eventually the Minister agreed and the ribbon was changed.
706. Subhead Z refers to Appropriations in Aid. With regard to item 8— sale of cast horses—would you have any note as to the original cost of the horses which were sold? Do you lose much money on them or do you make anything?—As a rule, we lose. Occasionally we gain, but, as a rule, we lose. The difficulty is that, in purchasing horses, you may get only one good horse out of four. If the authorities in the school realise that a horse is never likely to be a good international competitor they feel that it is waste of time and money keeping him. Then we sell, regardless of the price.
707. Do you have to get the sanction of the Department of Finance for that? —We have general authority.
708. Item 26 concerns miscellaneous receipts. Your note says that the amount is in respect of over-payments charged in prior years which amounted to £4,012 2s. 5d. and other receipts which amounted to £4,396 15s. 4d. I take it that that was an unexpected windfall?— I think it is not unusual.
709. Will you not agree that the sum you actually got in miscellaneous receipts amounted to more than twice what you anticipated?—That is true. I could send you a note on this, Mr. Chairman, if you wish.
710. There is no necessity to do so unless there is something exceptional about it. Do you think there is?—I do not think there is anything exceptional about it. It is just something that you cannot estimate accurately.
711. Deputy Brady.—With regard to item 25—receipts from A.R.P. equipment sold to local authorities—can we have any further information on that point?
Chairman.—That reflects the subhead which we discussed earlier where only £88 was charged to local authorities.
712. In your notes on page 198, there is one which refers to a nugatory payment of £23 in respect of goods ordered from the British Air Ministry and which were not received. Could you amplify that note?—They stated they dispatched these goods, but actually we did not get them. We had a very protracted correspondence in the matter. Eventually, the Department of Finance agreed to pay. The British were definite that they sent the goods to us.
713. How were they dispatched?—In crates. The right number of crates came and they had not been opened, but these materials were missing.
714. Deputy Mrs. Crowley.—About half-way down on page 198 there is a reference to the crashing of a French aircraft in County Wicklow. Would the Department be recouped that expenditure by the French authorities?—In that case, the Department of External Affairs recommended that we would not press for recoupment and the Department of Finance agreed that we need not.
Chairman.—Knock for knock?—More or less.
715. The reference to facilities provided for the Ordnance Survey authorities in the retriangulation of the country is not, I think, quite accurate. They did some work to assist the British Ordnance Survey in retriangulation.
716. There is an odd note with regard to an ex gratia payment of £250 to a civilian. There appears to have been considerable delay in the matter as he was wounded in 1924?—He did not claim at the time, but, after he left the job, he claimed and it was established that he was, in fact, entitled to it. His employer was a military officer and he did not worry about the overtime work done by the man and the man did not claim until he left. When he left, we investigated and established that it was due to him.
717. My question referred to a man who was wounded?—I am sorry; I was dealing with another case which happened back in 1924. The case you are referring to is one in which a military patrol in 1924 fired on a party of civilians under the mistaken impression they were engaged in armed drilling. One of the civilians was wounded in the leg and in 1927 an ex gratia payment of £300 was made to him. His hospital expenses were also paid.
Since the payment was made his condition seriously deteriorated and it was clear that the amount paid to him in 1927 could not compensate him for the disabilities he had suffered. With the approval of the Department of Finance, a further ex gratia payment of £250 was made to him in June, 1951. Our recommendation to the Department of Finance was £500, but we did not get that amount. It was stated that the gratuity originally given was not sufficient to compensate him for his expenses and so on, and the additional gratuity was given.
718. It is not the largeness but the smallness of the sum that I am querying? —We asked for £500, but did not get away with it.
VOTE 57—ARMY PENSIONS.
Lieutenant-General P. MacMahon further examined.
719. Chairman.—Paragraph 91 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
“Subhead E.—Wound and Disability Pensions and Gratuities, etc.
A claim for a disability pension under section 10 of the Army Pensions Act, 1927, had been investigated and rejected by the Army Pensions Board in 1931. Following representations on behalf of the claimant to have the case reconsidered, the Minister for Defence, in January, 1950, was legally advised that the board’s investigation of the claim in 1931 was defective as the regulations relating to the medical examination of the applicant had not been fully complied with. Consequently the case was resubmitted to the Army Pensions Board which reported that the disability from which the applicant suffered was attributable to service in the forces during the statutory period, and it recommended a pension appropriate to 100 per cent. disability. The applicant was accordingly granted a pension of £282 16s. 0d. per annum for the period 23rd October, 1933, to 31st March, 1949, which was increased to £326 12s. 0d. per annum as from 1st April, 1949, as provided by section 6 of the Army Pensions (Increase) Act, 1949. A sum of £5,264 12s. 10d. is charged to this subhead in respect of pension payable to 31st December, 1951. An amount of £553 19s. 9d. was recovered in respect of the abatement, under the Military Service Pensions Acts, of the claimant’s military service pension from 23rd October, 1933, the date from which the disability pension was granted, and is accounted for as an exchequer extra receipt.”
Mr. Wann.—In rejecting the claim in 1931, the Army Pensions Board relied on reports which, as it turned out, did not conform with the requirements of the regulations, namely, that the board should either medically examine the applicants themselves or refer the applicant for medical examination to a medical board or pensions medical officer appointed by the Minister for Defence, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. The Attorney General having advised that the board’s report was defective, the case was reopened, with the result indicated in the paragraph.
720. Chairman.—Is this case unique or are there similar cases?
General MacMahon.—I think it is unique. There have been cases before where smaller sums were involved, but it is unique in so far as the amount is concerned, but he is legally entitled to it.
721. When he was turned down in 1931, had the board medical reports?— They had a report from the Army board that discharged him, and they had a report from the Department of Justice that the man was cured, but they did not examine him themselves as they should have. If they were not able to examine him themselves, they should have appointed a medical officer for the purpose, but they did neither one nor the other.
722. I presume the board were aware of the statutory provisions?—They should have been, because they were given the Act and the regulations made under it.
723. Could you give any indication as to the possibility of similar cases cropping up?—I think it is very unlikely. The board claim that this is the only case in which they did not comply with the statutory requirements.
724. I suppose you did not consider surcharging the board for this amount, they having failed to carry out their statutory duties?—It was not the same board, and in any case, the State had the interest on this money over all the years. There was no increased payment.
725. You have a note in the Estimate which refers to gratuities on an ex-gratia basis. How did these occur?—We changed the basis of payment. At one time officers received pay and a lodging, fuel and light allowance. They were consolidated and we were in this difficulty, that an officer who was in receipt of a lodging fuel and light allowance was entitled to a gratuity when he left the Army, and, when pay was consolidated, he was not in receipt of such an allowance. We got the Department of Finance to permit us to pay these gratuities until such time as we amended the scheme. You may be aware that there is a resolution before the Dáil at the moment and we are hoping to get it through before the adjournment. It contains an amendment to cover cases of this type.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned.
* See Appendix XIV.