MIONTUAIRISC NA FIANAISE
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 17 Samhain, 1960.
Thursday, 17th November, 1960.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY COSGRAVE in the chair.
Mr. E. F. Suttle (Secretary and Director of Audit), Mr. C. J. Byrnes and Mr. J. McGartoll (Department of Finance) called and examined.
VOTE 10—EMPLOYMENT AND EMERGENCY SCHEMES.
Mr. R. Ó hEigeartuigh called and examined.
71. Chairman.—There are four paragraphs by the Comptroller and Auditor General, numbered 22 to 25. They read as follows:—
“22. Provision was made under subhead E (Urban Employment Schemes) and subhead F (Rural Employment Schemes) for grants towards expenditure by local authorities on road and amenity schemes, etc., to provide employment. The grants, amounting in all to £265,591, were paid in instalments, during the progress of the various works by the Department of Local Government acting on behalf of the Special Employment Schemes Office. The accounts of the expenditure on the schemes are examined by Local Government auditors whose certificates are available to me.
As shown in the account the vote provision under subhead E was fully utilised and was supplemented by moneys made available from the National Development Fund.
23. The expenditure charged to subhead G (Minor Employment Schemes) and subhead H (Development Works in Bogs used by Landholders and other Private Producers), amounting to £288,663, relates to schemes administered by the Special Employment Schemes Office. In certain counties these schemes were carried out by the county engineers acting as agents for the Office.
24. The scheme for which provision was made under subhead I (Rural Improvements Scheme) was also administered by the Special Employment Schemes Office either directly or through the agency of county engineers. The works carried out included the improvement and construction of accommodation roads to houses, farms and bogs, small drainage works, the erection or reconstruction of small bridges, etc. Only works which are estimated to cost not less than £40 are approved and the grants may vary from 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. of their cost. The gross expenditure amounted to £194,649 and contributions by beneficiaries, which are appropriated in aid of the vote, totalled £32,366.
25. The amount charged to subhead J (Miscellaneous Schemes) comprises expenditure on archaeological works and sports fields by the Special Employment Schemes Office, on foreshore and flood relief works by the Department of Local Government, and on improvement works on small fishery harbours and piers by the Office of Public Works.”
72. On paragraph 25 which covers foreshore and flood relief works, could you say, Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh, where that work was carried out and what was the expenditure involved?—This is under our Miscellaneous Schemes subhead. The work was carried out partly in Wicklow and partly on the Ulster Canal in Monaghan. The foreshore works at Wicklow were specially authorised. It is not what would be described as coast erosion but rather coast protection works to remedy damage to those which were originally built in 1907. Some further work was done in 1933/34, 1938/39 and 1940/41 making a gross expenditure of almost £50,000. Unfortunately, during 1958/59, a very bad storm occurred with the wind in a certain direction, and this resulted in two or three holes being made in the protection works. We had to do immediate protection work to the holes otherwise all the previous expenditure might have been wiped away. Those were the circumstances under which the Wicklow grant was given. The expenditure was approximately £4,000 but it is not all here. The works in Monaghan were an adjustment of the Ulster Canal. Our Miscellaneous Schemes subhead is invariably used where there are no other State funds available and where it is undesirable to create a precedent. There were very special reasons why the State did not want to come legally, so to speak, into the arrangements for the Ulster Canal. In fact, the canal is not now operated at all. There were three or four parts which were creating a public nuisance and the Miscellaneous Schemes subhead was used to finance the work. Actually the expenditure there would be something over £3,000, although only £2,000 is shown in this year’s account. Another £1,000 will appear next year.
73. Normally the State does not assume liability for foreshore protection?—This was a very special arrangement which was to save the previous expenditure of £50,000 over the years.
When you say the previous expenditure, that expenditure was not actually on foreshore work?—It is not really foreshore. It is very hard to describe the difference between foreshore protection works and works at a place like Bray. I do not know whether the members are aware of the position in Wicklow but most of them know Bray. The promenade in Bray protects the town but it is also a promenade. There is a somewhat similar position in Wicklow. The protection works in Wicklow started away back in 1907 and it was a question of protecting that investment or allowing the sea to wipe away the whole place and come into the river. The town would have been in danger if something had not been done immediately to stop up the holes created by the storm.
Deputy Sheldon.—May I make the comment that other Departments have, on occasion, been criticised by this Committee for failure to do this type of work quickly and for the fact that, while wasting time wandering around looking for precedents and rights, many thousands of pounds had to be spent where hundreds of pounds would have sufficed if there had been no delay. In this case they appear to have stepped in quickly.
74. Chairman.—As I understand it, normally the State has refused to accept liability for foreshore damage?—That is the position.
They are doing some experimental works at Rosslare but up to this they have not accepted liability and the present work there is exploratory?—The work in Rosslare is exploratory but in this Wicklow case the difference was that this was a State investment of about £60,000, started in 1907, continued in 1933/34, 1938/39 and with some expenditure in 1940/41 and where we did in fact undertake expenditure amounting to £5,000 in 1955/56. It was a question of whether we moved reasonably quickly and blocked the holes created by the storm and thus saved the remainder of the protection works.
Chairman.—The approach seems to have been quite sensible if I may say so.
75. Deputy Jones.—With regard to paragraphs 23 and 24 in what counties do the County Engineers act for the Special Employment Schemes Office work on bogs and local improvement schemes? —The Special Employment Schemes Office supervises the schemes in 13 counties— Clare, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon, Tipperary, North and South, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow. Although these are only 13 of the 26 counties they represent approximately 62 per cent. of the total expenditure on minor employment, bog development and rural improvement schemes. The counties where the work is supervised by the county engineers are as follows:— Carlow, Cavan, Donegal, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Sligo and Westmeath. The expenditure in these 13 counties on the three types of schemes is about 38 per cent. of the total.
76. Deputy Moloney.—I should like to inquire about the position in regard to subhead E.—Urban Employment Schemes. Do I take it that these particular grants are allocated from time to time by a direct notification through the Department of Local Government to the various local authorities? And arising out of that I should like to know why special works, such as footpaths in particular, are specified for the expenditure of certain sums under these grants?
Chairman.—I do not think that comes within the province of Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh.
Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh.—Actually the procedure is that, through the Department of Local Government, we notify each of the local authorities of the amount that will be available to them each year, subject to a certain contribution, and we ask the Department to get the local authorities to submit schemes with the highest possible unskilled labour content. The schemes are submitted by the local authorities to the Department of Local Government who examine them from the technical point of view as to their suitability, and that Department then submits them to us for approval before the local authorities are authorised to proceed with the works. The local authorities are at liberty to submit road schemes and footpath schemes and, in fact, any amenity scheme that comes within the functions of the local authorities. Proposals submitted include footpaths but ordinarily road works from the bulk of schemes. Apart from those we do parks; we have done a ball alley in Tralee, and we have also done football pitches. Anything that the local authority can do within their statutory functions can be included in our schemes provided no immediate money from other sources is available to do it. In other words, if ordinary local authority funds could undertake the job either this year or next year we would not regard it as a desirable thing that our money should be used to finance the employment that would be ordinarily given by the local authority.
77. Deputy Moloney.—I wanted to deal with paragraph 23 and to inquire as to the procedure adopted by the Special Employment Schemes Office in the allocation of minor employment scheme grants particularly. I do not think it would be relevant to special employment scheme grants because they are contributory? —Minor employment scheme grants are allocated on the basis of the number of unemployment assistance recipients in the various electoral divisions. There are about 2,870 electoral divisions in all, but something less than 400 qualify for grants under minor employment schemes. They are practically all on the western seaboard. If you come from the North down we put them in Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork West, a small area in Roscommon, on the Mayo-Sligo border, and a few also in Cavan and Longford —12 counties in fact. The total money, £130,000, is first divided among those twelve counties. Then, inside the county, the money is divided among the electoral divisions there which qualify for grants. To qualify for grants we fix a minimum number of unemployment assistance recipients. The minimum number in Kerry is 16. In other words, unless there are 16 unemployment assistance recipients in an electoral division, the area would not qualify for a minor employment scheme grant at all. We apportion the money more or less in relation to the number of unemployment assistance recipients but we operate also on a minimum grant. We earmark £150 as the minimum for any electoral division in which we propose to give a grant. In the result, electoral divisions with as many as 100 unemployment assistance recipients do not get their full proportion. We fixed the number 16 more or less on the basis that, within that number, there will be sufficient able-bodied men within walking distance of the site of the proposed work to form a gang.
78. That is a most satisfactory explanation, Mr. Chairman. There is only one point I should like to clear up. There is a qualifying date, I take it. Is it a different date every year?—We take a census on the third Saturday of January each year, through the Department of Social Welfare, of all persons in receipt of unemployment assistance in the week ending that Saturday; and we add to that the number of persons whom the Special Employments Scheme Office or the Department of Local Government, from our moneys, or the Gaeltacht Department, through their special funds that we administer, employ that week so as to reach a total. Those formerly in receipt of unemployment assistance but taken off it as a result of our schemes are added to the actual number drawing unemployment assistance for the week and that is the determining total.
79. Deputy Geoghegan.—You spoke of money allocated to electoral divisions and about taking the total number on the register as unemployed at a given date in January. In the counties that you have mentioned do you actually spend money in every electoral division where you have people unemployed?—No. There are people unemployed in almost every one of the 2,875 electoral divisions but they are not in receipt of unemployment assistance.
I am speaking now of people who are in receipt of unemployment assistance? —We only spend money in an electoral division which has the minimum qualifying number. There are a number of other electoral divisions in each of these counties which have a number of unemployment assistance recipients but the numbers are less than the minimum of 16 or 12 in some counties. Is that the point you had in mind, Deputy?
It is. One particular electoral division occurs to me where there are a lot of people in receipt of unemployment assistance or benefit, as the case may be? —We do not take persons in receipt of unemployment benefit into consideration.
I am referring to unemployment assistance recipients. There are a few townlands I noticed when I was going through the list this year and there was nothing about them?—We do not operate by townlands. We operate by electoral divisions.
Deputy Geoghegan.—They are within electoral divisions. I do not think there was anything spent on them this year.
Deputy Moloney.—I take it that if you have all these qualifying factors in regard to an electoral division and if there are no applications by an electoral division for schemes, it is not considered. Do I take it that applications have to be submitted?
80. Chairman.—Has an application to be submitted?
Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh.—In actual fact, in the approximately 400 qualifying electoral divisions we have in 90 per cent. of the areas pools of work which are available from which to pick schemes. I doubt even if there are 20 areas in the whole country that we have not more schemes than we have money for.
Deputy Moloney.—If they had not qualified last year, they come in this year?—They remain in the pool. If they were not done, they remain, as well as any new ones that have come in in the meantime.
81. Deputy Geoghegan.—In the counties where Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh has his own engineers—he mentioned Galway and Clare—13 counties, I think, he said altogether—
Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh.—That is right.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I think there could be more co-operation between these and the local authorities. If there were more co-operation you would have a better job of work done. I have heard it commented upon.
Chairman.—That is mainly a matter of policy but the Deputy might raise it at the local authority.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I have raised it already.
Deputy Moloney.—In my county, schemes are administered directly by a suboffice or branch office of Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh’s head office. I do not see any evidence of lack of co-operation.
Chairman.—That is not relevant. The Vote is on page 25.
82. Deputy Sheldon.—In regard to the Appropriations in Aid, Mr. Ó hEigeartuigh seems to have been exercising a very useful credit squeeze—debt collecting —I see?—Under miscellaneous receipts, yes.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 8—OFFICE OF PUBLIC WORKS.
Mr. H. J. Mundow called and examined.
83. Deputy Sheldon.—I notice that the amount realised on several of the items in the Appropriations in Aid were considerably below the estimate. I also notice that in respect of all these, except subhead J.5. on Vote 9, considerably more was spent in all the subheads than had been estimated. Even on No. 6—the amount recovered from Vote 49 (subhead M.7.), in relation to the land project— there was a supplementary vote of £200,000 and there was still a slight excess on the subhead and yet there was very much less recovered. Could Mr. Mundow explain how it is that in most of these things, for instance under No. 4 in Vote 9, because of the favourable weather a great deal more work was able to be done, yet the amount recoverable from that Vote in respect of salaries and travelling expenses was down on the Estimate? It would appear to be contradictory?—There is not any contradiction in fact. The explanation of the deficiency in the Appropriations in Aid is that there are only three quarters of the year represented there. In order to hurry up the Appropriation Account it was decided not to include the January-March quarter and what we have there is nine months, not including the last quarter. That explains, I think, four of those deficiencies.
Deputy Sheldon.—Thank you.
Chairman.—That quarter will be brought in the following year?—There will be four quarters in future.
84. Deputy Booth.—Does that mean that the explanation of the Appropriations in Aid for Nos. 4 to 9 is not quite accurate? The explanation is that the volume of work undertaken by technical staff was less than expected. It now appears that the volume of work was probably the same as was expected but that it was not charged?—I think the second part of the explanation is the relevant part—some receipts estimated for did not mature within the year. “Mature” might not be the best word. It is the right word because we did not receive them until after the 31st March.
Deputy Sheldon.—Still, the explanation that the amount of work undertaken was less than expected looks a bit odd when everyone of these subheads and, in fact, their explanation, would give the idea that more work was done because of the favourable weather.
Deputy Booth.—Is this the first time that the receipts were reckoned only for nine months?—Yes.
VOTE 9—PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS.
Mr. H. J. Mundow further examined.
85. Chairman.—Paragraphs 14 and 15 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General read as follows:—
“Subhead B.—New Works, Alterations and Additions
14. The charge to the subhead comprises £304,976 expended on general architectural and engineering works and £1,543,300 in respect of grants towards the cost of erection, enlargement or improvement of national schools. Of the latter sum £826,578 was paid to managers who undertook responsibility for carrying out the works and £716,722 was expended directly by the Commissioners. A school grant represents not less than two-thirds of the full cost, the balance being met by the manager from local contributions.
15. As stated in paragraph 50 of this report agricultural institutions at Johnstown Castle and Grange Farm were transferred to An Foras Talúntais during the year. Structural works of improvement and repair which were in progress at these centres were continued after the date of transfer. As shown in a note to the account the cost of the continuation of these works during the year was £2,733.”
86. Chairman.—On paragraph 14, what is the range of the work carried out by the school managers as distinct from that carried out by the Office of Public Works? —Generally speaking, the larger schools are done by the managers’ own architects and the smaller schools are done direct by the Office. It cannot be represented in terms of the number of schools because one large school might provide for as many pupils as 10 or 12 smaller ones. The expenditure is probably the best indication: £826,000 went to managers and the balance of £716,000 was spent by the Office.
Deputy Moloney.—I take it that is all for building projects? There is no maintenance or ordinary repairs included in that?—It is for building and reconstruction.
87. Deputy Sheldon.—On paragraph 15, was this continuation of the structural works part of the agreement?—Yes.
88. Chairman.—Paragraph 16 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“Subhead B.B.—Coast Protection.
16. The survey and experimental works in connection with the prevention of coast erosion at Rosslare Strand were continued and £14,723 was expended during the year. The total expenditure to 31st March, 1960 on this project amounted to £35,576 towards which the Wexford Co. Council contributed £8,596.”
Are the survey and experimental works at Rosslare still in progress?—They are still going on and are likely to continue for some time.
89. Deputy Moloney.—Why are these works described as experimental at this stage, Mr. Chairman?
Chairman.—I think it was the first time the State has done anything about coast erosion?—It is, and we have got to the stage now when we have a firm of consultants to discuss the matter with us to see how far we have got and whether the experiments have been successful.
Deputy Moloney.—I take it that what are described as experiments are something the same as was done in days gone by where there was a certain type of barrier erected to prevent the inflow of the sea at a particular point of danger? Are there some technical operations carried out now which we have never seen before?
Chairman.—Can you indicate the nature of the work?—Yes, I have a note here: the work so far comprises experimental groynes of varying types at selected points of the beach, direct protection works on the central portion of the beach where the threat is most serious and wind breaks of various types where this type of erosion has been evidenced. A land and hydrographic survey of the general area has been recorded.
90. Deputy Booth.—Would we be right in assuming it is only after the lapse of a certain period of time that you can get any indication as to whether the calculations are correct. You have to see how the ordinary tidal flow is affected and whether by blocking it in one place you are letting it in somewhere else?
Chairman.—I suppose that is a technical matter?—It is. A lot depends on the kind of weather that comes. Last winter there were very severe storms and we learned a good deal from those.
91. Deputy Moloney.—Has this very important problem been studied by some members of the engineering personnel of the Office of Public Works having gone abroad to countries which have similar difficulties?—Our Chief Engineer has been to Holland.
92. Chairman.—Paragraphs 17 to 21 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General read as follows:—
“Subhead J.2.—Arterial Drainage —Construction Works
17. The charge to the subhead in respect of construction works in progress during the year amounted to £558,061. In addition the value of stores issued and charges for the use of plant were assessed at £280,865. The cost of each scheme to 31 March 1960 was:—
A certificate of completion of the Feale catchment drainage scheme was issued on 9 December 1959 by the Minister for Finance pursuant to section 13 of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945.
The balance of the charge to the subhead is made up of sums amounting to £402 in respect of remanets of expenditure on completed schemes.
Subhead K.—Purchase and Maintenance of Engineering Plant and Machinery, and Stores
18. Acceptances on behalf of the Commissioners of two tenders were withdrawn and cancelled during the year because of the failure of the successful tenderer to supply the items of plant and equipment required at the quoted prices. The Commissioners were advised that the acceptances of the tenders did not constitute enforceable contracts as they were not under seal or under the hand of an authorised officer appointed under section 23 of the State Property Act, 1954. The contracts for supply were later awarded to the next lowest tenderers at an additional cost of £730. I have been informed recently that the defect in the contract procedure has been rectified.
19. Reference has been made in previous reports to stores control and accounting records at the Central Engineering Workshops. In 1954, in reply to questions regarding the control of the purchase of spare parts, the Accounting Officer stated that a system of material control had been set up for the compilation of limits for maximum and minimum stocks but that it would take some time before figures for all items could be determined. A recent survey disclosed that spare parts, mainly new, to an approximate value of £50,600 were no longer required. It is understood that additional items valued at approximately £45,000 will also be surplus to immediate requirements. I asked for information as to the circumstances in which these supplies were purchased. I was informed that the parts were bought on the best technical advice available to the Commissioners at the time and that further inquiries in regard to the purchases were in train. I was further informed that the system of material control did not prove fully effective due to staffing difficulties, and that since May 1959 the organisation of the workshops has been the subject of investigation pending the completion of which purchases are being confined to essential current and short-term requirements.
20. In paragraph 22 of the report on the accounts for 1957-58 reference was made to the second complete stocktaking at the Central Engineering Workshops which commenced in January 1957. I have recently been informed that investigation of discrepancies had been almost completed but that a final report will not be available for some months.
21. Expenditure of £19,436 was incurred by direction of the Minister for Finance on the acquisition of a site for a television transmitter and the construction of an approach road. The cost has been charged to a suspense account. I have deemed it desirable to draw attention to the matter as funds for this purpose had not been provided by the Oireachtas.”
93. Deputy Sheldon.—On paragraph 18, I find it disturbing that this whole contractual work is done on a hit or miss basis, finding out by the hardest possible way that something has gone wrong. Perhaps this is not fair to Mr. Mundow but, may I ask has any general survey of contractual systems right through the public service been made or can it be made to prevent this type of thing happening? The system seems to be that, when a mistake occurs and it is discovered that that was a bad way of making a contract, the defects in the contract procedure are rectified?—It is a long term process. There are so many different practices and methods that it cannot be all done in a very short time but we are having a great number of our procedures investigated at present. We are trying to improve them but it can be done only in stages.
94. Deputy Sheldon.—On paragraph 19, has Mr. Suttle anything to say on this question?
Mr. Suttle.—Of the £50,600 worth of surplus spares referred to, about £5,000 worth were retained for transfer to other Departments and the balance was sold by public auction. I have no further information to add to that contained in the Report regarding the additional £45,000 worth of surplus spares.
Chairman.—Can you say what was the outcome of the sale?—Yes. We got something over 10 per cent. of the book value of the material.
They realised only 10 per cent. of their book value?—Yes.
Does it follow from that that they were over-valued?—No, they had—
Deteriorated? — Not so much deteriorated as become obsolete.
I suppose these stores were in hand for some considerable time?—Yes.
95. Deputy Jones.—In regard to the sentence in paragraph 19 which reads: “… additional items valued at approximately £45,000 will also be surplus to immediate requirements”, is there any information in regard to that lot of material?—It has been put aside. It is not so certain that that will not be wanted as it was in regard to the £50,600 worth. That was clearly not likely to be required in the future. The stores covered by the £45,000 are very slow-moving and we are having an investigation to see if we can reduce the amount so as not to be carrying what probably will not be required.
Is there a firm order for those or have they been delivered?—They are in store.
96. Deputy Booth.—I am rather concerned about the reference to the £50,600 worth of stock “mainly new”. Does that mean that some stuff had been returned to stores after having been used for some time in various equipment or does it mean that it was mainly fairly recently acquired?
Mr. Suttle.—That really is a misnomer on the part of our Office. This equipment could better be described as unused.
Deputy Booth.—Not recently acquired?
Mr. Suttle.—No, not recently acquired. They were in store, but “unused” would be a proper description of the spares.
97. Deputy Booth.—It is said that the stock worth £50,600 and the additional amount worth £45,000 were purchased on the best technical advice available, and the concluding sentence of paragraph 19 states: “… purchases are being confined to essential current and short-term requirements.” Does this mean that the other amounts which are now found to be surplus were not essential current requirements, were bought on a long term basis, and if this is a fact does it mean a substantial amount of equipment has been disposed of and been replaced by other new equipment? It does seem to disclose a very bad long-term plan. If you keep on changing your equipment you are bound to run into this question of surplus spare parts. It is very doubtful if a sudden and drastic restriction now may not lead to additional expense because if equipment cannot be serviced by the supply of spare parts it means a lot of equipment is going to be left lying idle from time to time. A very careful balance would want to be struck between overstocking of spare parts and——
Chairman.—That is a question of policy. Can you say whether that is unusual?—The stores were set up when proper records were not available; there was no system in operation and when one was put into operation it did not work successfully because it was not able to cope with the arrears. When it became fully manifest that it was inefficient we arranged for this investigation which is still in progress and which we hope will put things in proper condition for the future.
Deputy Booth.—Has Mr. Suttle any further information as to the circumstances in which supplies were purchased?
Mr. Suttle.—No. We are still awaiting further information on that point.
98. Deputy Sheldon.—How much, if any, of the £95,600 referred to in this paragraph is included in the value of stores at £180,000 on page 19?—I should say the £45,000 is there.
99. Chairman.—Has the stocktaking in the Central Engineering Workshops been completed yet?—Yes, and we are satisfied that the shortages and surpluses will more or less balance out. The main cause of the discrepancies was a misidentification of items.
100. In regard to paragraph 21, has this procedure under which money was expended on the purchase of the site in the construction of the approach road been regularised? I see it was charged to a suspense account?—Yes. The latest development is that we have been directed to have this suspense account cleared by a recovery from Radio Éireann and we have also sent them a bill for further works carried out by Wicklow County Council.
Deputy Booth.—The account will then be closed altogether?—We have sent a receivable order to Radio Éireann for a balance and when the amount is received that will enable the account to be closed.
Deputy O’Toole.—This is in connection with the road to Kippure?—Yes.
101. Chairman.—The Vote itself is on page 17.
Deputy Booth. —On subhead A.— Purchase of Sites and Buildings—there are some small amounts mentioned in the Notes. There is the sum of £2 mentioned for a Garda Station in County Donegal, £29 for a Garda Station in County Longford and £31 for a Garda Station in County Tipperary. Are those sums for the acquisition of sites?—I believe so.
Are they for extensions rather than sites, or straightening out boundaries? I cannot imagine a site for a Garda Station costing £2?—They might be small balances.
102. Chairman.—On subhead B—New Works, Alterations and Additions— we have copies of the Statement of Expenditure on New Works, Alterations and Additions, 1959/60.* These are statements submitted about various items of expenditure.
103. Deputy Sheldon.—In regard to No. 2—Oireachtas, Leinster House— Reconstruction of Loggias—which have been completed, I presume the £13,347 is not the final cost?—That is for one side which has been completed.
104. Chairman. — In connection with No. 20—Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Mailboat Pier—Improvements—when do you expect the work to be completed?—Well, it is being done in stages and it will probably be some years before everything is finished. At present the arrangements are in progress for taking cars from the boats for next year.
In connection with No 18—the Garden of Remembrance—have tenders been invited for that work?—They have and a contract is about to be placed.
105. Deputy Sheldon.—On page 2, items No. 22 (4), 24 (1), and 26 (4) are noted as “completed” and the amounts are very considerably below the estimate. Do balances remain to be paid although they are completed?—The explanation is that we do not pay the full amount of the contract until some time has elapsed. We keep what we call “retention money” and that is payable after a stated period when we are satisfied that the works are going to stand up.
Surely item No. 22 (4), Improvement of Water Supply—is not retention money, the amount involved would be more than 50 per cent?—The work is completed but the final account has not yet been agreed on.
106. Chairman.—In connection with No. 29—Courts of Justice—Renewal of defective stonework—is there any explanation as to what caused the defects in the stone?—It is mostly time. Most of the stone is old and weathering has produced a lot of this trouble.
107. Deputy Jones.—In regard to Pallaskenry, at No. 33/22, I think I asked last year whether this Garda Station is owned by the State or is rented property? And what was the nature of the work which was carried out?—I would have to inquire about that.
Chairman.—At your convenience you might send us a note Mr. Mundow?—I shall.*
108. Deputy Sheldon.—On page 3, what is the nice distinction between No. 47— Fishery Harbours; Works of Economic Development — and No. 47A — Fishery Harbours Development? Is Killybegs Harbour not considered an economic development?—I think the explanation is that the big one is the small one— the small amount, No. 47A, relates to the big works, major fishery harbour development, but the expenditure on that up to date was very slight. No. 47 is minor works and No. 47A would be major works.
109. Chairman.—On page 4, No. 66— Curragh Camp—New Catholic Church— could you say who designed the church? —One of our Assistant Principal Architects.
Deputy Sheldon.—The design of these new post offices certainly reflects the greatest credit on the Department. The one I saw in Letterkenny was certainly a very big improvement.
110. Deputy Booth.—In regard to No. 50—Dublin—New Central Sorting Office —I think we raised this on a previous year’s account and we were informed that planning was fairly well advanced. There does not appear to have been any progress made and there was no additional expenditure during the year under review?
Chairman.—Has any progress been made on the new Central Sorting Office, Mr. Mundow?—The working drawings are in preparation and they are proving to be very troublesome. The work is slow because the architect cannot give all his time to it, he has other work in hand but he tells me it is getting on to his satisfaction.
111. Deputy Moloney.—In regard to No. 69—Arbour Hill Detention Prison— Memorial to 1916 Leaders—I notice that this work is still in progress and I should like to know what remains to be done? There seems to be a fairly big gap between the estimate and the amount spent?— At present the 1916 Proclamation is being inscribed on the wall at the back of the plot. It is a very slow process and is being done by hand. It will take a long time but it has been started.
Chairman.—Otherwise the work has been completed?—There will probably be some other works but they have not been defined precisely yet. The major works are all completed.
112. Deputy Geoghegan.—With regard to work No. 33—Garda Station, Carna, I notice that the work is completed. Has the money been paid out in full to the contractor?—All I can say is that £9,205. 17s. 11d. has been paid. There may be retentions if the work was completed recently.
Deputy Geoghegan.—It has been completed for a couple of years?—If there is no dispute about the final account and the work has passed the architects, there is no reason why it should not have been paid in full by now.
113. Deputy Sheldon.—With regard to Minor New Works, Work No. 1—what new work in connection with the inauguration of the President took place in Leinster House, costing £700?—There was a reception held in Dublin Castle, as you know and whenever a major reception is held there certain works have to be carried out and the charge is debited, of course, to the Department which is bearing the function.
Deputy Sheldon.—I understood that the costs of the reception in these cases was borne by the Department of the Taoiseach rather than the Oireachtas. It is a finicky point, if you like?—Perhaps I should have said “inauguration”. There was a reception also but that would be it.
Deputy Booth.—Are these permanent works or temporary works like the setting up of a platform or dais, and so on?— Temporary, yes.
114. Deputy Sheldon.—With regard to Work No. 66—Ordnance Survey Office— Refrigeration Cabinets—what does the Ordnance Survey Office do with refrigeration cabinets or is that a fair question to put to Mr. Mundow?—I am afraid I do not know. I will find out.*
Chairman.—I suppose it has wider application than to the Ordnance Survey.
115. Deputy Sheldon.—I suggest that Mr. Mundow ought to be careful when he puts dashes in. I refer to Work No. 75/4—Department of Finance. “Phoenix Park, Papal Nunciature—”. “Do. — Additional Football Pavilions”, I presume refers to Phoenix Park. The dash might have been placed after “Phoenix Park” rather than “Papal Nunciature”?—Yes.
116. Deputy Sheldon.—With regard to Work No. 75/25 of 1955/6—E.S.B. Transformer Station—how does it arise that a transformer station is being put up by the Department of Agriculture and the Office of Public Works rather than the Electricity Supply Board?—Probably it is just for our own use and not a general public service.
Deputy Booth.—I think, Mr. Chairman, the normal procedure is that the user erects the transformer station building and leases it to the Electricity Supply Board at a nominal rent of one shilling per annum or something like that. That might be the position in this case. I do not know. The Accounting Officer may know. That may be just the building itself in which the transformer is situated. The Electricity Supply Board put in the transformer.
Deputy Sheldon. — The Electricity Supply Board are not as generous about their rents.
117. Chairman.—We shall now deal with the remainder of the Vote.
Deputy Booth.—In regard to Appropriations in Aid, No. 2—Harbour tolls, dues, etc.,—the amount realised was £5,500 more than estimated. That is explained by extra mailboat traffic. Last year I raised a question of other harbour dues apart from the dues raised on the British Transport Commission in respect of the mailboats and I think it was stated that the general question of harbour dues was under consideration.
Chairman.—Is the question of harbour dues still under consideration, Mr. Mundow?—We have advanced with it and we hope by 1st April to have a new scale of dues for pleasure boats and other users of the harbours.
Deputy Booth.—None of this, of course, is in respect of that yet?—No, it will not amount to anything like that figure, of course. The amounts are quite small.
Deputy Moloney.—Dealing with the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park, I notice from the accounts issued every year that the excess of expenditure over revenue is approximately the same, £9,000 or £10,000. This property is costing the State a certain sum of money to maintain and various suggestions have been made with regard to putting it to use. Is there any explanation as to why we should go on losing money?
Chairman.—That is a matter of policy.
Deputy Moloney.—It is more than that. There is a deficiency which, as a member of the Committee, I think I am entitled to query.
Chairman.—I am afraid it is a matter of policy. You could raise it on the Estimate.
Deputy Moloney.—Am I not entitled to ask for an explanation as to why such a deficiency should exist when we can possibly see a way of turning it the other way round?
Chairman.—Once the money that is voted is spent in accordance with the Vote, Mr. Mundow has nothing more to do with it. You can raise it on the Estimate, Deputy.
Deputy Moloney.—I see. Thanks.
119. Deputy Booth.—There are particulars under subhead B.—New Works, Alterations and Additions (including Furniture for New Buildings) on page 22 of the Appropriation Accounts. The total amount expended was £1,848,276, over £200,000 less than estimated. Is there any particular reason for that? Is that only that works did not materialise in time to come into the accounting period or were works which were estimated for not in fact proceeded with?
Chairman.—The total sum voted was £2,110,000 of which £1,848,276 was spent.
Deputy Booth.—The Department of Lands estimated £17,100 and only £1,323 was actually expended?—When the Estimates are being framed we try to make sure that the money will be available for projects which seem likely to mature and come into operation in the coming financial year, but it is very hard to be accurate. A number of items do not get to the stage where money is being spent. There may be work done but no payments due until after the end of the financial year, which accounts for most of these savings.
Deputy Booth.—That is the point that I wanted to clarify, that it was not that projects had been abandoned but simply that some projects had not come to fruition, as it were?—Yes.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned.