Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1959 - 1960::22 February, 1961::Report




1955-1956 Accounts.


1. The Committee notes that it has been decided to seek the approval of the Dáil by means of an appropriate provision in the Vote for Fisheries to write off the net deficiency of £186,000 in respect of repayable advances made to the former Sea Fisheries Association for which An Bord Iascaigh Mhara was made liable under section 27 of the Sea Fisheries Act, 1952.

National Gallery.

2. The Committee regards it as unsatisfactory that progress has not been made towards the compilation of a complete inventory of the pictures in the Gallery. It attaches importance to this question and expects to be kept informed of developments.

1957-58 Accounts.

Rates on Government Property.

3. The Committee notes that duplicate payments amounting to approximately £2,000 were made during the year 1957-58 for water supplied to State-owned premises but that this figure may fall to be reduced considerably in the light of a review being made by the Commissioner of Valuation of the scale of payments for water supplied to military barracks. These duplicate payments relate apparently to only one year and the Committee presumes that duplication may also have occurred in earlier years. It has noted the arrangements made to prevent a recurrence of duplication, but it has not been informed whether any action has been taken to recover from local authorities the overpayments already made.

The Committee is concerned that the lack of co-ordination between Departments in the above cases has led to avoidable losses of public funds.

Posts and Telegraphs.

4. The Committee notes that £88 has been recovered in respect of the erroneous payment of £400 and it wishes to be informed when this matter is brought to a conclusion.

1958-59 Accounts.


5. The Committee notes that the report of the agreement concluded at a conference in the Department in 1947 which was signed by the Chairman of the Company and the Secretary of the Department was regarded as constituting a formal agreement; but it observes that the Department obtained legal advice in 1950 that the Company could not legally be held liable for the payment of compensation to the Department in respect of its outlay on the jetty. In the circumstances the Committee must regard the initial procedure followed as unsatisfactory.

6. The Committee is perturbed to learn that the regulations relating to fire protection at all barracks and posts are considered inadequate. It trusts that a complete revision will be carried out without further delay.

Public Works and Buildings.

7. The Committee attaches importance to the maintenance and check of inventories of furniture in Embassies and Legations abroad and it notes the progress made towards this end since it commented on the subject. It expects to be informed at an early date of the completion of all the inventories.


8. The Committee notes the views of the Minister for Finance regarding the control of expenditure from voted moneys on the health services. It recognises that some latitude must be allowed to local authorities which are responsible for the administration of these services but it is concerned to ensure that the substantial sums made available by the Oireachtas are administered wisely and with due regard to economy. It welcomes the Minister’s comment that the operation of recent health legislation and the administrative action which is being taken to remedy deficiencies in services should tend to produce a more uniform pattern of expenditure throughout the country.

In order that the Committee may be able to observe future trends it would like to be furnished annually with a statement of expenditure by health authorities on lines similar to those made available in Appendix XVII to its report dated 6th April, 1960.


Exchequer Extra Receipts.

9. In paragraph 4 of its report dated 13th June, 1957, on the accounts for 1954-55 the Committee suggested that, unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, recurring trivial receipts might be brought to account in aid of the votes instead of being treated as exchequer extra receipts and thus reduce the volume of accounting. While the Minister for Finance agreed with this view and some progress has been made in this direction, the summary of the accounts for the year under review indicates that small sums continue to appear in the Appropriation Accounts. The Committee trusts that the examination of this matter will be completed before its next report.

National Development Fund.

10. In the years 1953-54 to 1955-56 £11 million was provided by votes of the Oireachtas for the National Development Fund, established under section 2 of the National Development Fund Act, 1954, to finance projects which in the opinion of the Minister for Finance were of a public character and in the national interest. Section 7 of the Act made provision for the winding up of the Fund immediately after 31st March, 1957 and for the surrender for the benefit of the Exchequer of the balance not required for the discharge of any liability of the Fund existing on that date.

The Committee has noted that £3,200,000 was surrendered to the Exchequer and that £2,650,669 was transferred to a winding up account to meet outstanding liabilites. At 31st March, 1960, the balance to the credit of the winding up account had been reduced to £1,219,037 and it is stated in evidence that this sum will be required to discharge expenditure on approved schemes.

Having regard to the provisions of the Act, the Committee wishes to point out that the winding up process has taken a longer time than the life of the Fund, and it feels that this was scarcely envisaged when the legislation was enacted. Definite information is accordingly requested regarding the outstanding commitments.

External Affairs.

11. When considering the excess on this Vote the Committee was informed that the failure to discover before the close of the financial year that excess expenditure had been incurred was mainly due to delays in the submission of sub-accounts by missions abroad. The Committee would be glad to learn whether these delays are a normal feature of the accounting system in the Department and whether any regulations exist regarding the submission of these accounts.


12. The Committee was informed that there had been a considerable increase in the consumption of electricity in recent years partly due to the use of unauthorised electrical appliances in soldiers’ married quarters. It is stated that measures taken to control the consumption had failed and that effective control could only be achieved by providing a separate meter for each married quarters. The Department approached the Electricity Supply Board to take over the lighting of the quarters, but so far without success. It is noted that the Department of Finance has been asked to sanction the purchase and installation of the meters at public expense, but that Department would like to be certain that a saving would accrue to the State sufficient to justify the capital cost of purchase and installation of the meters. As this question has been under consideration for a number of years with a possible accumulating loss to public funds, the Committee trusts the matter will be brought to a conclusion at an early date.

Public Works and Buildings.

13. Two tenders for the supply of plant and equipment which were accepted on behalf of the Commissioners of Public Works were subsequently withdrawn and cancelled because the successful tenderer failed to supply the items at the quoted prices. The Commissioners were advised that the acceptance 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. The Committee is perturbed to learn of such haphazard procedure relating to contractual work. It notes that the defect in this instance has been remedied, but it was stated in evidence that there were many different practices and methods to be investigated and that this would be a long term process which could only be done in stages. The Committee cannot but express its dissatisfaction with the manner in which this matter is being dealt with. It would have expected that from the Commissioners’ experience and the experience of other Departments a well defined procedure for the enforcement of Government contracts would have already been established and it trusts that this question will receive immediate attention.

14. Stores control and accounting records at the Central Engineering Workshops, Inchicore, have been subject to discussion and comment by the Committee in earlier reports.

In the year under review the Comptroller and Auditor General stated that a system of material control had been set up in 1954 for the compilation of limits for maximum and minimum stocks of spare parts but that it did not prove fully effective due to staffing difficulties. A survey had disclosed that spare parts to an approximate value of £50,600 were no longer required and further items valued at £45,000 were surplus to immediate requirements. It is stated that these parts were bought on the best technical advice available to the Commissioners at the time and that pending the completion of an investigation purchases are being confined to essential current and short-time requirements.

The Committee was informed that of the spare parts valued at £50,600 items valued at £5,000 were retained for transfer to other Government Departments and the balance was sold by public auction realising about 10 per cent. of the book value. It notes that the organisation of the Workshops is again under investigation and that it is hoped as a result to have an effective system of stores control.

Before commenting on the circumstances in which the surplus spare parts were acquired the Committee will await the further report promised by the Accounting Officer on this matter. It is, however, gravely concerned that after nearly ten years of operation the difficulties of the earlier years have not yet been solved nor has a proper system of control been devised.

Primary Education.

15. Pending the promulgation of a scheme to be made under the provisions of the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1928 for ex-gratia payments to certain retired national school teachers the sum of £360,000 provided by supplementary estimate was transferred to a suspense account. No payments were made during the year, but it was stated in evidence that payments amounting to £323,534 had been made subsequently, while the scheme was still in course of preparation. The Committee would have expected that the scheme should have been promulgated before payments were made.

Posts and Telegraphs.

16. Attention was drawn in previous reports to the absence of a formal contract with Coras Iompar Éireann for the carriage of letter mails by rail, and the Committee expressed the view that in a continuing service of such magnitude it was highly desirable that the contractual position of the parties concerned should be clearly defined. Evidence by the Accounting Officer and a memorandum subsequently furnished by him have helped to clarify the position. The Committee notes that owing to the changing pattern of the railway services the existing arrangements are considered satisfactory by the Post Office authorities. Nevertheless, it trusts that the matter will be kept under regular review.

17. The Comptroller and Auditor General drew attention to a number of irregularities which came under his notice relating to Post Office services. In 1958 it came to light that telegraph fees amounting to £90 had not been brought to account at a sub-office; and a survey of receipts at other offices disclosed that sums amounting to £26 had been misappropriated at another office. A system of checking these receipts by the Accounts Branch was as an economy measure dropped in 1945 but this check has been revived. While the Committee recognises that excessive routine checking could prove quite un-economical it considers that some system of check should be applied to all receipts. The sums involved in these cases are comparatively small in relation to the turnover of the Post Office but the Committee has not been made aware of the extent of the survey referred to above and it is possible that other irregularities have remained undetected.

18. In another case an official in the headquarters of the Post Office obtained a number of money order forms in the course of his duties, issued them irregularly to himself, cashed them at busy Dublin sub-offices and suppressed the relevant official records. The loss to public funds in this instance is expected to reach £1,400. The official was prosecuted and dismissed. The Committee notes that all procedures have been revised with a view to preventing the occurrence of similar irregularities and it trusts that these measures will prove effective.

19. A third case related to the embezzlement of sums amounting to £4,500 received at a sub-office as Savings Bank deposits and for the purchase of Savings Certificates. The frauds had been carried out over a number of years and the sub-postmaster and his wife were prosecuted and convicted. The Committee was told that the frauds were facilitated by the trust placed in the sub-postmaster, in that bank deposit books were left in his custody and savings certificates paid for were not collected from him. The Committee is perturbed to learn that these frauds could have remained undetected over a number of years despite the fact that various inspections had been carried out.

20. The Committee was further informed that six cases involving losses totalling approximately £16,000 which came to notice in the past three years are still under examination. A Departmental Committee is carrying out a comprehensive examination to ascertain whether more effective measures can be devised to safeguard public funds. The Committee is glad to learn that this action has been taken and wishes to be informed of the outcome.



22nd February, 1961.