MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 21 Bealtaine, 1964.
Thursday, 21st May, 1964.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY JONES in the chair.
Mr. E. F. Suttle (An tArd Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) and Mr. J. Whelan (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
VOTE 55—CENTRAL MENTAL HOSPITAL.
Dr. W. J. Coyne called and examined.
61. Chairman.—Dr. Coyne is here to assist us this morning. In regard to subhead B.—Victualling Patients and Rations for Staff—do you have staff living in official quarters?—Unmarried men live in and married men live out.
How many would draw rations?—30.
62. In regard to subhead C.—Uniforms, Clothing for Patients, etc.—I notice that there is a slight excess. Have you arrived at a solution of the problem in regard to uniforms? —No.
63. Deputy Booth.—In regard to the Appropriations in Aid, there is a reference to miscellaneous receipts realised, £220. What is the source of that? Is there any major heading or is it for small items?—There was more realised than was anticipated.
Are there any particularly large items or are they small items?—Small items, particularly swill.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).— These receipts are mostly from staff rations. Is that right?—Swill and old stores. It has nothing to do with staff rations.
64. Deputy Lalor.—I am wondering if the amount realised at Note 2 of the Appropriations in Aid from farm and garden which was less than estimated was as a result of late delivery of spring seeds?—Receipts from farm and garden were less than estimated (a) because less vegetables were needed since the population was down and (b) because of the low price realised from the sale of sheep that year. As well as that, there was a failure of the carrot crop and a scarcity of cabbage as a result of the severe winter.
Had it anything to do with the fact that there was a saving of £48 as a result of late delivery of certain spring seeds?—There was probably slight cause and effect there.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 20—STATIONERY OFFICE.
Mr. B. Ó Brolcháin called and examined.
65. Chairman.—In regard to Item 1 of the Appropriations in Aid, regarding Sales of Publications, I notice there is an increase in the receipts. Are you selling more, or is this due to increased prices?—It is largely a question of the publications that become available for sale during a particular year. There are very good sellers in some years but in other years there are not so many good sellers. Some of the publications which sold rather well in 1962-63 were the Customs and Excise Tariff and a number of reports of the Committee on Industrial Organisation. We have a very fine standby—Cookery Notes. Gramadach na Gaeilge sold very well. A number of publications came in late in the year—for example, the Tariff and the CIO reports.
Are there any particular best sellers amongst the publications mentioned?—We sold over 5,000 copies of the Cookery Notes that year, about 1,500 copies of the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Small Western Farms and over 2,500 copies of the Customs and Excise Tariff. We have sold about 10,000 copies of the Reports of the Committee on Industrial Organisation since the first was published.
66. Deputy Treacy.—There are, I understand, a number of unpublished manuscripts in the Stationery Office. Some of them are there for three or four years. I wonder is it prudent to comment on why there is this loss on receipts?
Chairman.—I think that is a question which would have to be asked in the House. The Accounting Officer has only to account for the expenditure.
67. Deputy Carter.—The Stationery Office carry a fairly large range of housing plans. Do you find that there is an increased demand for those plans from the general public?—I find it difficult to answer that question. We do not keep track of all individual items. We sell a very wide range of publications. I have selected some of those which have some outstanding feature about them.
Chairman.—Does the Deputy require the information?
Deputy Carter.—No, that is all right.
68. Chairman.—In regard to Item 2— Sales of waste paper, etc.—is all the waste paper in all State Departments collected by the Stationery Office?—Waste paper is of two kinds, ordinary waste and confidential waste. The ordinary waste is collected by the Post Office as our agents and it is simple to dispose of it. Confidential waste is in a different category. The Stationery Office collect that and supervise its destruction. We have a special contract with a particular firm who collect and destroy it under our supervision.
Deputy Booth.—What would be the nature of the confidential waste? Has it anything to do with election returns?—Cancelled money orders and the like on which payment was made would be an example of a big item of confidential waste. There would also be a number of Social Welfare cancelled documents and so on.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).— How is it destroyed?
Chairman.—I think the Accounting Officer said they had some contract with a firm for its disposal?—We have entered into a contract with a firm in Dublin. Confidential waste is collected under the supervision of the Stationery Office by this firm. They have to keep it locked away until such time as they are ready to destroy it. They only destroy it when one of our officers is present.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).—Is it just burned?—The waste is bagged and pulped. If we burned it, I do not think we would get anything for it.
Chairman.—What kind of market is there for waste paper at the moment?—I understood from enquiries made recently to us by an outside firm that they were looking for someone to take waste. The demand cannot be as good as it used to be. We find we do quite well with ordinary waste. Even with confidential waste our receipts in the year are sizeable.
69. Deputy Lalor.—I am trying to tie up the relationship between the Trading and Profit and Loss Account,* as issued to us, in conjunction with this statement of sales here in the Appropriations in Aid. We have here a figure of £33,054 realised from the sale of publications. I wonder what heading that comes under in the statement which was sent out to us. What way are those accounts related to the profit and loss account?—This is a point which can cause confusion. The essential difference is that the Appropriations in Aid deal with receipts. The Trading and Profit and Loss Account deals with more than receipts. There are items in the Trading Account for which the cash has not come in. They will not appear in the Appropriations in Aid until the cash comes in. The two accounts do not deal with the same actual payments. Let us take a very simple case. If the Sale Office sell a book but have not been paid for it, it will appear in the Sale Office Account but it will not appear in the Appropriation Account.
Chairman.—Does that answer the Deputy’s query?
Deputy Lalor.—Up to a point. Here we have a value of stock of £4,318 on 31st March, 1963. On page 41 the total value of stock on 31st March, 1963 was £119,000?— That covers the value of stock in hand in the Stationery Office. We excluded publications from the stock return on the top of page 41 and appended a note which states: “This statement does not include the value of publications in stock.…”
This balance arises out of subhead E.— Paper?—Yes, and of course machinery, typewriters, and so on.
Chairman.—Could you reconcile these figures on the Trading and Profit and Loss Account with the Appropriation Account— the total of £40,019?—Since the figures on the credit side of the Trading and Profit and Loss Account are sales figures, I expect reconciliation could be made and, naturally, if the Committee wishes, we will do it. Speaking off-hand, I would say it would be complicated. One of our objectives in running the shop is to run it as inexpensively as possible. We do not keep the kind of record which would enable a reconciliation of this kind to be easily handled but certainly I could look into it if you wish.
Perhaps you would send us a note at a later stage?—Certainly.*
70. In regard to item No. 4.—Recovery from local authorities of four-sevenths of the cost of printing and paper required under the Electoral and Juries Acts—I take it that arises from subheads D. and E.?—Yes, the expenditure would be under subheads D. and E.; recoupment is partly related to a previous year.
Do you charge commission?—On that particular item we charge a very low commission, 2½ per cent.
Deputy Treacy.—How much of the figure mentioned would be printing as distinct from paper supplied?—Well, taking the figures for 1962-63, the year of account, the expenditure on printing and binding under the Electoral and Juries Acts was £50,680 and the amount for paper was £1,415.
Chairman.—Does that meet your point, Deputy?
Deputy Treacy.—I was concerned to know to what extent the local authorities are obliged to accept printing from the Stationery Office or are they permitted to do the printing of the electoral lists themselves?—The position is that the Minister for Local Government is the person who, under the Acts, procures the printing. In the ordinary course, he asks the Stationery Office to arrange for the printing. He is not compelled to do so and, indeed, under the recent revised arrangements, as you know, in certain cases he has not done so. We only arrange for list printing when asked to do so by the Minister.
Deputy Treacy.—I take it there is no obligation on the local authorities to accept the printing; they may do it themselves?
Chairman.—I think the answer was that they may.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).— You are doing it for all local authorities at the moment?—Under the new arrangement, no. We have not been asked by the Minister for Local Government to make arrangements for Dublin city, Dublin county or Louth.
But you are doing it for the rest?—Yes, and we have placed the contracts.
71. Deputy Treacy.—Could I ask to be furnished with the precise number of local authorities who availed themselves of printing, under the Electoral and Juries Acts for the last year, from the Stationery Office?
Chairman.—At the moment, Deputy, as the Accounting Officer has given the answer that, in the final analysis, the Minister for Local Government is actually responsible for asking the Stationery Office to do this, I think possibly you could get your answer by a question to the Minister in the Dáil. The Stationery Office just acts as agent for the Minister if the Minister requests.
Mr. Ó Brolcháin.—My information is that we have been asked by the Minister for Local Government to arrange for the electoral printing for all areas except three, Dublin county borough, Dublin county and Louth, and we have in fact made arrangements for all areas except those.
Chairman.—Your responsibility arises only when you are asked by the Department to do so?—Yes.
72. Deputy Lalor.—In the Notes I see that an Army truck and driver were lent in October and November, 1962 by the Department of Defence to deal with urgent deliveries of stationery. How did that arise?— Frequently we are faced with a serious problem in regard to transport and the position is becoming increasingly difficult with the growth in traffic. In this instance one of our vans, which is now very old, broke down— it is in fact being replaced—and as is customary when that happens, we called on the Army.
What type of deliveries are regarded as urgent?—It would be very difficult to say what is not urgent. For example, a Statutory Order or a Government Report is released for publication. We have to get copies down to the Sale Office without delay. If people read in the morning papers that the report has been released, then, early that day, we may have many demands for it. Therefore, we have to have copies available in the Sale Office. Also, Departments may be looking for a supply urgently. Again, there may be an urgent demand for printing, where time would be of the essence. In such a case, if dealing with printers who have asked us to deliver the paper for printing to them, we have to deliver the paper without delay so as not to lose time.
73. Deputy Booth.—I presume the Stationery Office are responsible then for all Oireachtas papers? Are they also responsible for the printing of Bills and distribution to the Sale Office? There have been a number of complaints from the public that a Bill is before the House on certain occasions or has been published for some time before it is available in the Sale Office. The same applies to the Oireachtas Debates; we may get them in the House very rapidly, within two or three days, but they are not available in the Sale Office for a week or ten days. Is that a question of difficulty of delivery, too?— I will accept that, on occasion, as is bound to happen when we deal with so many items in the Stationery Office, we may be a bit late. On occasion certain items might be released for publication and we would not be immediately notified of the release or we might not have supplies. However, you can take it that in the ordinary course, where we have supplies in the Stationery Office, we make sure supplies are sent to the Sale Office without delay. There is a suggestion that it might be a week or ten days. If there were more than isolated incidents of that kind I should only be too happy to be informed of them. I should tell the Committee that Bills and Acts are printed under a contract made by us with the printers. The Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas deal direct with the printers. That arrangement covers the Dáil and Seanad agenda, Bills, Parliamentary papers generally, reports of Select Committees, and so forth. If there is any cause for complaint that the service is not satisfactory, the matter is reported to us and we take it up with the printers under the terms of the contract. The printers are always anxious to facilitate us; if they were not, we would bring pressure to bear on them. The papers are made available to us quickly as a rule and we make them available to the Sale Office for sale almost immediately. Sometimes there may be a run on them and stocks are sold out quickly.
Would it be the case that the printer would give priority to deliveries to the Oireachtas office and subsequently deliver the main supplies to the Stationery Office?—It is difficult to answer that question because the printers deliver to us quickly; we send the printed matter down to the Sale Office quickly. Priority is naturally given to the House. The rule about the debates is that they should be in the hands of the Oireachtas office on the second day after the sitting. If for some reason or other printers cannot arrange this, copies are sent by post to the members and the Sale Office receive supplies about the same time.
Deputy Booth.—I was not meaning to be unduly critical of the Stationery Office. I can see now, in view of the point that Deputy Lalor has raised, that there are apt to be emergency deliveries which the Stationery Office cannot foresee and I can see too, more clearly, what their transport problems must be.
The witness withdrew.
Mr. P. S. Ó Muireadhaigh called and examined.
74. Chairman.—In regard to subhead F.— Expenses in connection with Advisory and Consultative Bodies—how many of these bodies are there?—The main bodies are the National Health Council which is a continuing body, Comhairle na Nimheanna, that is the Poisons Council set up under the Poisons Act, 1961, two Commissions of Inquiry, one into the problem of the mentally handicapped, the other into the question of mental illness. There is a special survey on dental caries and fluorides, initiated in collaboration with University College, Cork, and which is still at a very early stage. There is a Cancer Consultative Council, set up some years ago to advise the Minister on any question in relation to cancer which he might refer to it. That Council had only an inaugural meeting and has not met since. There was provision of £1,000 in the subhead for this service but only £89 was spent, which accounts very largely for the saving on the subhead.
How long are these various Councils going and have you any idea of the over-all cost?— The National Health Council is a continuing Council. Members are appointed for a term of two years and they meet regularly during their term of office. A new Council was appointed on 1st April, 1962. The Cancer Consultative Council was set up in the year with which we are dealing, 1962-63. It is a continuing Council but it deals only with matters which are referred to it and, as I have said, nothing has been referred to it yet. Comhairle na Nimheanna is a continuing Council also. It will be there permanently but the members may change. It was set up in 1962. The Commissions of Inquiry into the problems of the mentally handicapped and mental illness will continue until they finish their task. The first meeting of the Commission of Inquiry into the problem of the mentally handicapped was held in February, 1961. We expect that that Commission will report during the current financial year. The first meeting of the Commission of Inquiry into Mental Illness was held on the 31st July, 1961, and we expect that the work of that body will go on into the next financial year.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary):— Does that meet frequently?—It does. I think both the Commissions on average, have a two-day meeting each month. They have appointed various sub-committees to look into particular aspects, and these meet in between the meetings of the Commissions.
Chairman.—We have no figures of the total cost of the Commissions from year to year?—On page 159 it is stated that included in the expenditure shown under subhead F. are sums of £923 and £1,426, in respect of the expenses of the Commissions of Inquiry on Mental Handicap and Mental Illness. The cost of secretarial assistance brought the total to £1,674 and £2,177 for the year of account. The total expenditure up to the end of the year we are dealing with amounted to £4,738 in the case of the Commission on the Mentally Handicapped and £3,265 in the case of the Commission on Mental Illness.
Those are the only two you have?—These are the two on which there is substantial expenditure.
75. In regard to subhead G.—Grants to Health Authorities—what is the position in regard to the audit of the accounts of these authorities?—It is satisfactory. As I mentioned last year, the number of accounts to be audited is now down to 35 as a result of the amalgamation of the various authorities in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. All accounts are audited up to and including 1960-61. In respect of the year 1961-62, 28 of the 35 accounts are audited and two are with the auditor. In respect of the year 1962-63, 12 of the 35 accounts are audited and five are with the auditor. That is well up to the standard of last year.
76. Deputy N. Egan.—In regard to subhead H.—Contributions to Local Authorities for the Improvement of County Homes and for alternative Accommodation for certain Classes hitherto maintained therein— what type of people are they and what is the alternative accommodation?—They may be unmarried mothers and their children who formerly were kept in county homes and who, in general, are no longer kept in these homes. They go into special homes. One special home was established at Dunboyne, County Meath, because the existing special homes were not catering for certain classes of women. The north-eastern counties combined and paid a certain sum to a religious order to establish this home at Dunboyne. That is the only special home in respect of which expenditure is charged to the subhead.
77. Deputy Lalor.—Is the statement of Expenditure by the various Health Authorities*, a copy of which we have received, covered in subhead G. or is it a separate item?
Chairman.—Subhead G. gives the total expenditure by the health authorities.
78. Deputy Lalor.—I notice that expenditure on tuberculosis accommodation is coming down in most cases. Reference was made last year to the fact that it had increased in Cork but it has decreased appreciably in the year under review. There are seven or eight Counties where it still continues to increase. I am wondering if there is an explanation for that. Waterford especially has gone up to an enormous extent. Is there any reason for that?—Waterford went up from £12,500 in 1961-62 to £39,400 in the following year, the year under consideration. That arises out of a revised classification of expenditure. The tuberculosis accommodation in Waterford is portion of the accommodation in what is now the county hospital at Ardkeen. The health authorities had wrongly classified expenditure on that accommodation and put it in under another heading instead of under the proper heading of tuberculosis institutions, much the same as Cork had done as I explained last year. In the mixed institutions it is hard to get the local authorities to segregate their expenditure properly.
79. I notice that in Waterford there is a big fall off under the heading General Hospitals?—The total under general hospitals and tuberculosis hospitals in 1961-62 in Waterford was £188,800 and in the following year it was £197,200, which conforms to the general pattern.
In about six or seven counties, there is a slight increase whereas in all the other places there is a falling away. It is a sort of status quo whereas there is an improvement in some other counties?—The general explanation is the correction of previous wrong classifications. It takes a long time to get these things done correctly.
Chairman.—While there is an increase over the previous accounting period of roughly eight per cent., there is a satisfactory drop in the others?—In the case of tuberculosis hospitals expenditure is down by about 20 per cent. and in the case of the infectious diseases services, including field services in relation to tuberculosis as well as other infectious diseases services, there is a slight increase of two per cent. Overall the drop is pretty substantial.
80. I wonder could we hope for a reduction due to better health because of the extensive services now being provided?—I am afraid not. There has been a considerable reduction in the cost of tuberculosis services and I have no doubt that, with advances in medicine, and due to better organisation, the number of patients in our mental hospitals will go down appreciably and probably the cost will go down under that heading also. In relation to general hospitals, however, I do not see much prospect of getting the costs down. New techniques are being developed. It is possible now to operate, to give an example, for quite a number of conditions which were not operable even five years ago. The patient who dies because of an inoperable condition involves little or no cost, but if there is an operation, it costs quite an amount.
Would quite an amount of the increase in prices be due to increased wages? Are wages a very important element in the cost of hospital services?—Yes.
81. I notice the Cork Health Authority spent more on rehabilitation services than the Dublin Health Authority. In fact, Dublin is comparatively small. Can you say why?— As I think I explained last year, the expenditure under the heading of rehabilitation services up to now has been mainly on maintenance allowances for disabled persons. The amount spent on actual rehabilitation has been very small up to the present and was limited to infectious disease cases. Rehabilitation services are now available to all disabled persons and the special institutions and services will be availed of to a much greater extent. This will increase the cost considerably.
82. You were good enough to give us a figure in regard to medicines last year. Can you give us the figure for this year?—I have a table here for the information of the Committee*.
We were very interested in that last year. The increase is approximately 15 per cent, for the general hospital services, which includes maternity hospitals. I think Waterford is the only county which shows a reduction. Is that because of the explanation we have just had— the re-classification?—Yes, it is because of the re-classification of patients in Waterford.
The expenditure in Cork is about 18 per cent. higher than last year, about 3 per cent. over the average. Is there any particular reason for that?—It is probably due to the fact that the Cork Health Authority use the voluntary hospitals to a far greater extent than other counties and capitation rate payable in such hospitals was increased substantially in the year under review.
83. Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary). These figures do not show the subvention given by the Hospitals Sweepstakes to the Voluntary Hospitals to meet their expenses? —That is so. The figures relate only to expenditure by health authorities.
It looks from this figure that the big increase in general health services of almost £1 million is entirely from the general hospitals. Have you any figure to tell us how much increase there was in the subventions from the Hospitals Sweepstake to the voluntary hospitals? I should like to find out the total expenditure increase for the whole country?—I have not the figure with me but I can supply it to the Committee, if they wish.
It would give us comparable figures for State hospitals and voluntary hospitals. It is a very substantial increase from £6 million to £7 million?—The table includes what local authorities pay for patients they send into voluntary hospitals.
It does not show all the increase?—No.
84. Chairman.—As a general rule, are local authority hospitals cheaper than voluntary hospitals?—In general that is so, but Local Authorities are getting bargain prices in respect of patients they send to voluntary hospitals because the capitation rates were not increased in line with the increases in the running costs of voluntary hospitals.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).— What is the present average cost of maintaining a patient in a voluntary hospital?—I am afraid I have not got that figure here. The cost of maintaining a patient varies considerably. In the most costly teaching hospital in Dublin it is at present about £4 10s. a day.
85. Chairman.—In regard to subhead J. and the postponement of the nursing course was that course held since?—It has not been held yet.
86. Deputy Booth.—In regard to subhead K. and the decision to defer the publication and distribution of a booklet on the Health Services, when I raised this matter last year, and I think the year before, the answer we got was that, in view of the setting up of a Select Committee on the Health Services, it had been decided to defer the publication of a general booklet on the Health Services. This is the third year in succession that this matter has been raised. I think the comment last time was that this was a matter of policy. I wonder now whether the Accounting Officer can give us any further information in view of the fact that the amount of money was actually voted for the publication of this booklet and has consistently not been expended?—I think the Minister explained in the House why it was not proposed to expend it, when his Supplementary Estimate was being taken late in the year. As I explained in the note on the subhead “Account was taken of a saving of £5,500 under this subhead in arriving at the figure of £21,000 referred to in the note on subhead A. above”. The Minister replied to a Parliamentary Question on 12th May on the subject of this booklet. He pointed out that the “Guide to the Social Services” which is issued by the Stationery Office, the twelfth edition of which has been published quite recently, contains quite an amount of information in relation to the health services, extending over about 20 pages of the publication. Consequently, information in some detail is available in published form. Apart from that, a number of local authorities issue their own leaflets in regard to the institutional and specialist services and the maternity and child welfare services as they operate in their areas.
87. Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).— I do not know whether this arises at this point or not, but, in regard to the question of expenditure on medicines, has a national formulary been published as yet. It was mentioned a couple of years ago by the Minister and have any steps been taken in regard to it?—No, a formulary has not been published, but we have published, and distributed widely to doctors, a booklet containing the names of the various proprietary articles with the names of their pharmaceutical equivalents. We have had some very appreciative comments from doctors in regard to that booklet. Recently a joint working party consisting of representatives of the Department, local authorities and the Irish Medical Association was established to consider initially arrangements for the ordering of drugs. When they have disposed of that question, we hope they will go on to other matters and the formulary may be one of those matters. I think it will be appreciated that it is a rather thorny question.
88. Chairman.—In regard to subhead M.— Technical Assistance—what projects are provided for under that?—The entire provision was used for the development of rehabilitation facilities through the National Organisation for Rehabilitation. In the year under review, £370 was spent on training people in limb fitting, including visits of the National Director of the Organisation and an orthopaedic surgeon to Germany to study the problem of limbs of a special kind for thalidomide babies; £28 was spent on the establishment of a rehabilitation library; £121 was paid for obtaining expert advice and £769 was spent on the training of placement officers, youth employment officers and so on.
89. Deputy Kenny.—In regard to subhead N.—Supplements to Pensions of certain District Medical Officers and Compensation on vacating Official Dispensary Residences— does the latter part of that mean that when a dispensary doctor leaves the official residence he gets compensation?—Not as a general proposition. Some years ago a retiring age was brought in for the first time for dispensary doctors. The retiring age was 70, with exceptions to age 72 in certain circumstances. It was felt that those dispensary doctors who previously had the expectation of being able to carry on in their dispensaries until they died should get some form of compensation for the fact that at relatively short notice they would now have to leave their jobs, vacate the dispensary house which they had occupied and find new accommodation for themselves. A sliding scale of compensation for those nearing the newly introduced age limit was introduced. If a doctor retired in the first year during which the scheme operated and vacated the house he would get compensation of £500; if he retired in the second year he would get £400 and so on to the fifth year when he would get £100. The scheme ceases to operate after the fifth year. Its purpose was solely to reduce the hardship which would be caused through doctors having to leave their homes without reasonable prior notice.
These houses would be occupied by their successors?—A doctor’s successor would occupy the residence.
90. Chairman.—In regard to subhead O.— Training Scheme for Health Inspectors—what is the nature of the scheme, how many trainees are involved and what is the duration of the course?—It is a four year course for trainees which combines theoretical and practical work. It is supervised by a Board established by the Minister, the members of which are drawn from senior people in medical, veterinary, educational and administrative spheres. The formal teaching is done mainly under the auspices of the Dublin Vocational Education Committee; the practical training is largely given in Dublin with the co-operation of the Dublin Health Authority. There were ten trainees in the first batch, recruited in the year under review. These are now in their second year of study. They receive a training allowance of £150 in the first year, £175 in the second year, £200 in the third year and £225 in the fourth year. In addition, if they come from places outside Dublin, they get a commuted subsistence allowance to help pay their lodgings in Dublin. The ten who started are still persisting and a second batch of ten started a new course in October last.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 46—POSTS AND TELEGRAPHS.
Mr. L. Ó Broin called and examined.
91. Chairman.—Paragraph 70 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“Subhead F.—Engineering Stores and Equipment.
70. As indicated in the statement of receipts and issues of engineering stores appended to the account (Appendix II) stores to the value of £558,469, of the total purchases amounting to £2,083,534, taken into stock during the year, had not been paid for at 31 March 1963. I have asked the Accounting Officer for an explanation.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—In its last report, at paragraph 30, the Committee adverted to the fact that £315,000 worth of stores, or approximately one-fifth of the stores taken into stock in the year, had not been paid for by the end of the year and expressed concern at the delay in paying for stores supplied. In the accounts under review stores taken into stock but not paid for by the end of the year amounted to £550,000, or approximately one-quarter of the total intake. I have been informed by the Accounting Officer that this position has arisen as a result of the rapid expansion of the Telephone Development programme and the consequential build up of stocks. The incidence of ordering engineering stores and of their delivery, especially of those subject to long delivery periods, has resulted in peak deliveries towards the end of the financial year and made it more difficult to clear the relative claims for payment within the year. These claims are not received until some time after stores have been taken into stock—sometimes two months or more later—and even then they may require considerable negotiation with contractors about application for increased prices under contract variation clauses or disagreements about quantities approved or rejected, etc. The development (and maintenance) of the telephone service is a continuous and long term service and it is essential to have adequate stocks over the whole range of stores on hands at all times to avoid any delays to works. Approximately 75 per cent. of stores are paid for out of Telephone Capital funds which are provided on a long term basis under the Telephone Capital Acts. In relation to total purchases, the value of stores taken into stock but not paid for in 1962-63 was not disproportionate in the light of experience in recent years.
Chairman.—Last year, it was explained that the difficulty was that the intake of stores was largely concentrated on the latter half of the year, the year 1961-62. Is the position the same in this accounting year?—It is, yes.
The stores are examined and approved before they are taken in?—Yes.
Is there a bottleneck sometimes?—The position is that the estimates of stores required are prepared about the beginning of December but are not approved until about February for one reason or another. Allowing roughly 12 months for delivery, this means that the bulk of the stores does not come in until the final months of the financial year, too late to allow payment to be made within the year. As the Comptroller and Auditor General has said, however, our procedure is that a claim for payment of stores is not considered until the stores have been inspected and we have advised the firm of their acceptance. In many cases firms do not claim payment for some months after the date of delivery. Questions arise very often of increased prices under contract variation clauses or of disagreements between the suppliers and ourselves about the quantities approved or rejected. Another factor which has not been mentioned so far is that accounts divisions in all Departments are usually very busy approaching the end of the financial year. That also, in our case, can contribute somewhat to the delay in clearing accounts. However, we have been watching this extremely closely and I think we shall have better figures to show you in the next year of account.
92. Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).— As regards Post Office stores in general, I understand most of our Post Office equipment is purchased from abroad. Is that so?— A great deal, yes.
Why is that so? Is it not possible to get, for example, telephone equipment in this country?—We have gone into this very often. Much of this is specialist equipment which cannot economically be got inside the country or in the variety we desire.
A telephone receiver, for example, does not seem to me to be very complicated?—It is slightly more complicated than the Deputy imagines. We have come to the conclusion after studying this question that it suits us better from every point of view to import the material.
You imported nearly £3 million worth last year?—Yes.
That is a substantial sum?—That would be largely for exchange equipment which is not manufactured here nor could it be manufactured here economically.
Deputy Kenny.—From what countries do you import this equipment?—From various countries; a great deal from Britain and also from Sweden; those two countries mainly.
93. Chairman.—With reference to the minute of the Minister for Finance on our last report, have your investigations shown up any substantial cause for the delay in making payments?—No, except that possibly some suppliers are better at producing the goods than doing the office end of the work and sending in a bill. Perhaps to some extent they think their money is safe with us.
Deputy Booth.—When Mr. Ó Broin says the suppliers are slow in claiming payment, does that mean there is a difference between this practice and normal business procedure? In business generally, the goods are supplied and the invoice follows immediately, if it does not actually accompany the goods, and then a statement follows after a certain period. Is that the way in your case?—Our experience is that quite a number of suppliers do delay in sending in claims.
When you refer to the claim, do you mean the invoice or statement? They do not supply the paper work?—No doubt some paper work is done at the time of the delivery of the goods but the actual formulation of the accounts on the Department’s claims forms is delayed in many cases.
94. Chairman.—Paragraph 71 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
71. The charge to the vote under this heading for the year ended 31 March 1963 amounted to £5,888. A classified schedule of the losses is set out at page 129. The sum of £498 shown as due to burglary, fraud, misappropriations, etc., represents the net amount involved after allowing for £526 recovered and £26 made good by officers held negligent.
A classified schedule is given at page 129 of cases of misappropriation, theft, etc., amounting to £1,566, which came to light. The amount involved was made good in each case and no charge to public funds was necessary.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—This is the usual formal paragraph. The amount charged to the Vote was £5,888 compared with £7,469 in the preceding year. Compensation for loss of or damage to parcels and insured letters was £4,754, compared with £4,124 in the preceding year. The sum of £498 shown in the statement at page 129 as “Losses ranging from £1 to £75 due to burglary, fraud, misappropriation, etc. (57 cases)” is the net loss in a series of items totalling £1,050. Of this total burglary and theft accounted for £609 of which £526 was recovered. In respect of the remaining items totalling £441, £26 was made good by officers held to have been at fault.
Chairman.—You seem to have done well in burglary and fraud cases?—The amount of the loss is comparatively small compared with some recent years. This sum of £526 was recovered over 57 cases leaving a loss of £498. In the worst case of the year, some money was recovered from the officials who had facilitated the fraud by their negligence, and appropriated in a previous year. In the miscellaneous losses not involving suspicion of fraud or culpable negligence, we also recovered something. Our practice is to recover as much as possible.
Deputy Kenny.—From the officials concerned?—Yes, or the offenders.
95. Chairman.—Paragraph 72 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.1.—Grant equivalent to net receipts from Broadcasting Licence Fees (Grant-in-Aid)
72. Section 22 (1) (a) of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, empowers the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to pay to the Authority in respect of each of the five financial years beginning with that in which the Authority was established the amount of the total receipts in that year from broadcasting licence fees less the expenses certified by the Minister as having been incurred by him in collecting the fees and in the performance of certain functions under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926. In view of the terms of section 22 (1) (a) of the Act I have asked for information regarding the basis on which the grant paid was calculated and whether the certificates of expenses are available for inspection.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Suttle?—We have raised this matter as the Department have paid to the Authority the full amount of the grant-in-aid in each of the three years to March, 1963. The Broadcasting Authority Act requires the Department, however, to pay the total receipts in each year less certified expenses of collection, etc. The effect of the payments made is that at 31st March, 1963, the Department had overpaid the Authority to the extent of £55,000.
This position may have arisen due to the delay in assessing the expenses for the three years in question, the certificates for which are dated 1st May, 1964.
Chairman.—Are you up to date in ascertaining your expenditure?—Yes, except that it is incurred in one year—because the licence can be taken out up to the end of March—and the calculation is made in the following year.
96. Chairman.—Paragraph 73 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
73. 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 £2,068,741 on 31 March 1963, engineering stores to the value of £20,019 were held on behalf of other government departments. Stores other than engineering stores were valued at £478,370 including £205,648 in respect of stores held for other government departments.
Including works in progress on 31 March 1963 the expenditure on manufacturing jobs in the factory during the year amounted to £55,725, expenditure on repair work (other than repairs to mechanical transport) to £69,421, and expenditure on mechanical transport repairs to £14,330.
Particulars of losses of stores are set out at page 129. The loss of £138 shown under “Engineering apparatus destroyed, etc., and written off” refers to a quantity of copper wire stolen from a Dublin branch stores depot.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph contains the usual information relating to engineering and other stores held by the Post Office at the end of the year. It also includes particulars of the value of work done by the Post Office factory. As you will see from Appendix II on page 132 the stock of engineering stores increased by £663,997 between 1st April, 1962, and 31st March, 1963.
Chairman.—Were there particular reasons for that big jump in the engineering stocks?— Yes. With the expansion in our telephone programme we have to carry increased stocks to ensure continuity of the work. There must be no interruption in the flow of stores to the engineers and it is absolutely necessary that stocks should be built up.
The percentage increase would be very large—as much as 50 per cent.?—You will appreciate that we are working up now to an expenditure of £4 million, £5 million or £6 million a year and naturally stocks will have to correspond in size.
97. In regard to the loss of £138 on copper wire which was stolen was that the only or the main item?—Yes. That is the only loss of that sort that I am aware of. There was no reason at all to suspect any of the staff of the Department. So far as we know the thieves got in over the wall of the Royal Hospital grounds into our depot. Our own investigation branch and the Gardaí made close inquiries but were unable to trace the culprits. We have now, with the Office of Public Works, improved the security arrangements of the whole building.
98. Chairman.—Paragraph 74 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
74. A test examination of the accounts of Postal, Telegraph and Telephone services was carried out with satisfactory results.
The net yield of revenue for the years 1962-63 and 1961-62 is shown in the following statement:—
£11,440,000 was paid into the Exchequer during the year leaving a balance of £586,971 at 31 March 1963.
Sums amounting to £3,675 due for telephonic services provided in prior years were written off during the year as irrecoverable.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for information.
The sum of £3,675 written off as irrecoverable represents 272 cases of which 6 in excess of £100 were written off with Department of Finance sanction. In the remaining cases the amounts were written off under delegated powers.
A mechanised system for dealing with telephone accounts has been in operation since January, 1964. I have not so far had an opportunity to review the results of its operation.
99. Chairman.—Are you pleased with the mechanised system?—Yes, indeed. As you know, we had already mechanised our savings bank with a saving of £50,000 a year. As a result of a survey of the telephone accounting section in 1962, we decided that with some extra processing equipment it would be practical and economic to make use of the spare capacity of the electronic calculator on the production of the telephone accounts. The result has been an additional net saving of £5,000 a year.
100. Deputy Treacy.—Has any redundancy occurred as a result?—Yes, but we were able to employ displaced persons in other parts of the Department.
You were able to absorb them?—Yes.
How many persons were involved in the re-absorption?—I have not got the figures but to give you some idea of what is involved, one machine operated by one official can post the same number of accounts as ten girls using ten key driven machines. We had to displace quite a number.
How many machines?—I cannot tell you offhand.
Deputy Treacy.—I should like to get more precise details.
Chairman.—Would you be able to oblige? —Yes, I shall send the Committee a note.*
101. Chairman.—Paragraph 75 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Post Office Savings Bank.
75. The accounts of the Post Office Savings Bank for the year ended 31 December, 1962 were submitted to a test examination with satisfactory results. The balance due to depositors, inclusive of interest, amounted to £114,615,404 (including £17,398,820 in respect of the liability to Trustee Savings Banks) on 31 December, 1962, as compared with £107,484,344 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 £4,524,277. Of this sum £2,798,065 was applied as interest paid and credited to depositors, management expenses absorbed £270,805 and the balance, £1,455,407, was set aside towards provision against depreciation in the value of securities.”
Chairman.—Have you anything to add, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph contains the usual information about the Savings Bank. In the year 1962 the liability to depositors increased by seven million pounds. As compared with the preceding year deposits rose by two million pounds while withdrawals rose by a million pounds.
Chairman.—We have been supplied with a copy of a document dealing with the Post Office Savings Bank.*
102. Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary)— In this document under the heading “liabilities”, we see that the aggregate value of the assets listed in the adjoining column based on the Stock Exchange Securities being taken at (a) cost, and (b) market value (exclusive of accrued interest) as at 31st December, 1962, was (a) £117,186,306 and (b) £116,521,202. This would seem to be due to the fact that we are apparently entirely tied to gilt-edged and State securities?— There has been in fact a depreciation in the market value of all our stocks. All our investments are in State gilt-edged securities.
Chairman.—I think the Minister for Finance deals with investments. Would it not be the decision of the Minister for Finance in regard to investments?—We receive the deposits but it is the Minister for Finance who looks after the investments.
Deputy Treacy.—When is it hoped to increase interest?
Chairman.—I think that is a matter of policy which Mr. Ó Broin would not be expected to answer. I think, in 1959-60 when we were dealing with this Vote we were informed that a Departmental Committee was carrying out an examination. Have they reported back yet?—The report has not yet reached us. It is, I believe in draft and we expect it soon. We would have had it earlier but some of the members of the committee have been occupied on other pressing work and there has also been some illness. As I say, we expect to have the report fairly soon now.
Chairman.—We will now turn to the Vote itself.
103. Deputy Booth.—As regards subhead F.—Engineering Stores and Equipment—the note says that extra expenditure of £118,000 on direct purchases of stores and equipment was largely offset by a saving of £111,000 on works done by contractors. Could you tell us what this saving of £111,000 arose from?— This is due on the one hand to the fact that payments for contracts which we had placed did not materialise. On the other hand, there was need to get in stores and equipment.
So the saving of £111,000 was really a cancellation of items?—I would not say it was a cancellation. It was an under-spending, mainly due to the incidence of payment of accounts. The money was available to us during the financial year, and we used it to increase stocks.
It is not an overall saving; it is a post-ponement?—Yes.
104. Chairman.—In regard to K.2—Additional Grant under section 22 (1) (b) of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 (Grant-in-Aid)—I think the total payable under that subsection of the Act was limited to £500,000. How much of that has been issued?—I think the last payment was made in the following year, 1963-64.
It has now been issued?—Yes.
105. Deputy Booth.—In regard to Item No. 5 in the Appropriations in Aid, which refers to the sale of engineering stores, could you tell us what type of stores are involved in this and to whom they are actually sold?— A variety of stores are recovered from works and are returned to the Stores Branch. They are found either fit for re-issue or for scrap. Sales of scrap engineering stores are arranged periodically. Tenders are invited by the Stores Branch twice a year. The receipts from the sales are credited under this heading.
Deputy Booth.—It would be either scrap or obsolete?—It would be iron and steel scrap, old radio equipment, generators, car batteries, and so on.
106. Chairman.—In regard to Item No. 4— Stores purchased on behalf of other Government Departments—there was a reduction of the original estimate by £15,000; yet you realised more than you estimated. Is there any reason for that?—Subsequent to the Supplementary Estimate, the Comptroller and Auditor General directed our attention to the fact that we were doing something which we should not be doing in view of the revised form of the Estimate. We were dealing with certain purchases on a net accounting basis and he directed us not to do so. The change is purely an accounting matter It now works out like this, that we show an increase in the Appropriations in Aid where we had forecast a reduction in the Supplementary Estimate.
107. In regard to Item No. 9—Miscellaneous —you had a surplus of approximately £30,000. Are there any items you would like to mention as providing that £30,000?— The main item was £21,000 rent received from Radio Éireann in respect of the premises they occupy in the GPO. The other main item was £5,600, realised from the carriage of newspapers by Departmental vans.
Deputy Lalor.—You mentioned a receipt of £21,000 from Radio Éireann for rent of premises in the GPO. Had that not been budgeted for originally?—Negotiations were actually going on about the determination of the rental value of the premises. This took a little time as there were various consultations. A decision was finally reached in the year under report.
Was that figure included in the Estimates at all?—No, it was not.
Chairman.—Will they remain in the GPO?—We should like to see them out of it but it will be some years before that happens. They are nice neighbours but we need the accommodation.
108. Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary). —In regard to Item No. 1 in the Appropriationsin Aid—Recovery in respect of Telephone Capital Expenditure—I see in 1961-62 your estimated figure was £2,500,000 and here the actual amount realised is £3,673,000. That is a big increase. Can you comment on that?—In 1962-63 we estimated to receive £3,675,000 and we realised £3,673,540. In 1961-62 the estimate was £2,500,000 and we realised £2,411,700. The explanation is expansion of the telephone development programme.
Chairman.—I presume the Deputy was making a comparison between the two years.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).—I want to know how much is due to expansion and how much to increased charges. Mr. Ó Broin says it is all expansion. Some would be increased charges, would it not?—The increased charges do not come into the picture.
109. Chairman.—In regard to the notes on page 130, I was interested in No. 4, Mr. Ó Broin. It states: “A claim for £506 for the loss of services of a Postal Sorter injured in an accident was not pursued”. In what circumstances did this arise?—This was a case of a Postal Sorter involved in an accident whilst off duty. He was on sick leave for 15 months and was discharged from the service on health grounds. The accident occurred when a passenger was alighting from a stationary car and in opening the door struck this man who was cycling past and caused him to collide with a CIE bus. We were advised by the law officers that there would be considerable difficulty in establishing a claim against the passenger who apparently was responsible for this accident. We were told also that a claim could not be successfully put forward against the driver of the car or against CIE. The Department of Finance agreed that the claim should not be pursued.
110. Deputy Lalor.—Note No. 1 states “This Account includes expenditure of approximately £4,579 in respect of staff temporarily lent, without repayment, to other Departments and Offices.” Is that a usual procedure? I thought there was an arrangement whereby one Department would recoup another?—You will find a note at the front of the Book of Estimates which states that where an officer is on loan from one Department or Office to another and it is understood that the loan is for a period not exceeding six months, the parent Department or Office will bear the cost of the officer’s substantive salary without recovery.
111. In regard to the very last point concerning the commemoration stamps, I think this was referred to last year. Is this the new arrangement? They do not in actual fact cost us anything?—The stamps could in fact be used for ordinary purposes. 100,000 sets of the postage stamps, issued as part of the “Freedom from Hunger” Campaign conducted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations Organisation, were donated in response to an appeal to all countries issuing stamps. A presentation of Europa stamps was made to the Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications Administrations to enable albums to be prepared of the stamps issued by all the member countries.
Deputy Treacy.—Can we be satisfied that the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation realised the full value to the estimate of £8,000?—I hope they did.
Deputy Booth.—In actual fact the Freedom from Hunger campaign would sell them for even more than their nominal value?—In sets they could have an enhanced value.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 7—OFFICE OF THE REVENUE COMMISSIONERS.
Mr. S. Réamonn called and examined.
112. Chairman.—Paragraphs 8 to 12 deal with this Vote. Paragraph 8 of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report is on page x and reads as follows:
8. A test examination of the Revenue Account has been carried out with satisfactory results.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—My examination of the Revenue Account is carried out with a view to ensuring that adequate regulations have been framed to secure an effective check on the assessment and collection of revenue and by means of a test examination to satisfy myself that these regulations are being duly carried out. Traditional methods used in some branches of Revenue accounting are being replaced by mechanised systems. From its inception the PAYE scheme has been mechanised and it has been found possible to use the same machinery for turnover tax work. Within the past year an electronic computer has been installed for income tax work. I have not so far had an opportunity of examining the results of its operations.
113. Chairman.—Paragraph No. 9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report reads as follows:
“9. The net yield of revenue for the years 1962-63 and 1961-62, under its main heads, is shown in the following statement:—
£128,758,000 was paid into the Exchequer during the year leaving a balance of £2,021,166 as compared with £2,019,695 at the end of the previous financial year.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for information. It will be seen from the statement that the yield under all heads is up compared with the previous year.
114. I notice that the income tax receipts rose from £31 millions to £36 millions. What proportion of that would be collected under PAYE?—It is true that there was an increase in the net receipts of income tax for the year 1962-63, when the rate was 6/4d. in the £, as compared with 1961-62 when it was the same rate. The increase was £4.53 million. I might say that net receipts of income tax have been climbing steadily down the years. In fact if we go back to 1958-59 when the rate was 7/6d. in the £ and compare it with 1962-63 we find an increase of £11.194 millions. If we go back even further we find a very remarkable growth. The growth in the income tax net receipts in recent years has been very largely due to an increase in the yield of tax under Schedule E. Side by side with that there has been a buoyancy in trading profits but the remarkable feature has been the increase in the Schedule E. tax. To give precise figures, in the beginning of the year 1957-58 the estimated yield of taxation under Schedule E. was £6.9 million. Of course that was previous to PAYE. In 1960-61, which was the first year of PAYE but a half year as you will remember— PAYE began on the 6th October, 1960—the yield increased to £9.8 million. In 1961-62 the estimated yield of taxation under Schedule E. was £11.7 million and to come to the year with which we are now concerned, 1962-63, the yield of Schedule E. income tax is at an estimated figure of £14 million. The tax estimates under Schedule E. outside PAYE, that is to say, excluding the tax assessed by the Assessor for Public Departments, amounts to about £350,000 a year. Therefore, I think I can say that the growth in the Schedule E. yield is as follows: 1957-58, £6.9 million; 1958-59, £7.4 million; 1959-60, £7.6 million; then, coming to the first year of PAYE, 1960-61, £9.8 million; 1961-62, £11.7 million; 1962-63, £14 million. It is almost entirely PAYE.
Chairman.—Would the increase of £5 million, from £31 million to £36 million, be mainly PAYE?—PAYE would account for £2.25 million.
Of the increase?—Yes, and the rest would be buoyancy of trade profits. In other words, we estimate that the yield of tax under Schedule E. rose from £11.7 million in 1961-62 to £14 million in 1962-63, and the amount collected under PAYE rose from £9.1 million in 1961-62 to £11.4 million in 1962-63.
115. Chairman.—Paragraph 10 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“10. I have been furnished with the following statement of outstanding tax assessments:—
Note: The bulk of the tax shown in the following table relates to estimated assessments and assessments which are under appeal or inquiry.
Comparative totals of outstanding assessments for the previous year are—Income Tax, £5,763,500; Sur-tax, etc., £2,133,407 and Corporation Profits Tax, £869,056.”
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—This is the usual statement of outstanding tax assessments. To meet the wishes of the committee and to help clarify these statistics the statement has been amended by the insertion of the word “assessments” in the headings.
Chairman.—There has been a steady drop in the figures of outstanding assessments?— We strike the income tax arrears figure as at the 1st June. The total arrears of income tax on the 1st June, 1959, were £10.077 million and the figure calculated at the 1st June, 1963, was £4.870 million. I should rather think the amount eventually payable would be about £1.150 million. It can be seen that the most recent figure for arrears is less than half what it was in 1959.
I assume some other factor apart from PAYE is helping you?—There are arrears of tax under Schedule D, that is, trading profits, the collection of which is being vigorously pursued. We are also writing-off irrecoverable tax; in other words, where it is not profitable at the moment to pursue collection we are writing it off as irrecoverable. Of course, when we write off tax as irrecoverable it is not the same as remitting the tax. When the tax is written-off as irrecoverable it is open to us, if circumstances change later on, to collect the tax.
116. Chairman.—Paragraph 11 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“Extra-statutory Repayments of Customs and other Duties
11. Extra-statutory repayments of Customs duties, £28,540, Excise duties, £15,744 and Stamp duties, £42, were made during the year.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—The bulk of the repayments were — Diplomatic concessions £18,000 approximately, Household Coal, £20,000, Fuel Oil £5,000.
117. Chairman.—Paragraph 12 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“Remissions and Amounts Irrecoverable
12. I have been furnished with schedules of the cases involving a loss of £50 or upwards in which claims for duty under the Revenue Acts were remitted without statutory authority or passed as irrecoverable during the year ended 31 March, 1963. I have made a test examination of the items included in the schedules with satisfactory results. The total amount, £491,067, is made up as follows:—
The distribution according to the grounds of remission or write-off is:—
Have you anything to add to that, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—A test examination of the relevant papers in these cases was carried out by my officers. In the majority of the cases of Income Tax passed as irrecoverable the parties responsible could not be traced.
118. Deputy Booth.—In the latter part of that paragraph there is a description of the distribution according to the grounds of remission or write-off and a very large ground is under the heading composition settlements. Is this amount larger than before or is there any reduction? I assume the composition settlements are made where actual liability is hard to establish with accuracy. Is it possible for the revenue to be more accurate? Are they becoming more or less accurate?— I regret I do not seem to have at the moment the previous year’s figures for composition settlements. The meaning of composition settlements is that where we assure ourselves we shall not be able to collect the entire sum, we accept a lesser sum in full settlement of the liability. I now have the figure for the previous year. It is £20,907 compared with £17,087 for the year with which we are dealing. Therefore, it is round about the same level.
Those are not the figures about which we are asking. The £17,000 is corporation profits tax. The composition settlements amount to £98,000?—The income tax figure is £17,087. The corporation profits tax figure is £797.
Chairman.—I do not see those figures before us at the moment.
Deputy Clinton.—Those are not the figures we have here?—The figure we are concerned with is £17,000, is it?
Deputy Clinton.—No. There is a figure for composition settlements of £98,893?— The total figure of £98,893 for composition settlements is made up of the following components: estate etc., duties, £80,727; income tax, £17,087; surtax, £280; and corporation profits tax, £797; making a total of £98,893.
Deputy Booth.—So it was largely estate duty?—Yes.
Presumably the amount must be recoverable if the estate is there and being wound up. It is composition settlement in the case where there is doubt about the question of domicile and so on?—No. This figure I have given for death duties relates chiefly to one case. The deceased person was a lady who was Canadian by birth and nationality. She married an Irishman and acquired Irish domicile. She had no children. Her husband died and she died a few days later. The beneficiaries of the husband’s estate had no concern with the wife’s estate. She was a very wealthy lady. Her entire estate was valued at £216,547. She had Irish assets of £13,754. Because she was domiciled here, having acquired Irish domicile on her marriage, the duty and interest on her entire estate was calculated at £94,395 10s.
Deputy Clinton.—She paid for her short trip here?—The executors and residuary legatees were all resident outside the jurisdiction and we had no control over them because they were resident outside Ireland. Her Irish assets of £13,754 were made up of furniture, cash in bank, car and house. The solicitors proposed to us to pay estate duty equal to 100 per cent. of the value of the Irish assets in full satisfaction so, in the circumstances, since the accountable parties were outside the jurisdiction and since the assets were in the main situated outside this country, we accepted in full satisfaction of the liability the payment equal to the value of the Irish assets which, of course, involved remitting by composition settlement duty and interest coming to £80,640 18s. So it is all traceable to that single case so far as estate duty is concerned—mainly that case I should say. There may be some smaller cases but that was the bulk.
Deputy N. Egan.—There are not many like her coming in here.
Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary).—I notice that for remissions on the grounds of compassion and equity, the figure is very small. I take it it is getting smaller year by year.
Deputy Lalor.—I notice it is seven times the amount remitted last year.
119. Chairman.—Coming to the Vote itself, on subhead D.—Remuneration, etc., to Collectors and Assessors of Taxes, etc.—is the increase due to remuneration and not to the volume of collection?—That is so. It is due to the 12 per cent. increase in remuneration to collectors which took effect during the year.
120. On Subhead E.—Machinery and Repairs in Stamping Branch, Dies, Plates, etc.—there is a saving of 50 per cent.?— We saved £6,600 in this case because we made provision for the issue of three special commemorative postage stamps but only two were produced: one major issue and one small issue. The major issue was the O’Curry and O’Donovan commemorative stamp which cost £2,372. We printed 26 million of those stamps. The second issue was the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations stamp. We printed four million of them at a cost of £1,016. As we had expected to have to produce three, we had a saving there.
121. Deputy Treacy.—I do not know on what section to raise this question. I was hoping for some information with regard to the accounting machines installed and the cost of the electronic computer.
Chairman.—It came up last year and I think we got the information. It was a rented machine last year.
Deputy Treacy.—Has there been any further expenditure of that kind?—For the information of the Committee the hire or annual rent of the computer and peripheral equipment is £25,134.
Chairman.—A year?—Yes. We reckoned that while it was slightly more expensive to rent it than to buy it outright there were still great advantages in renting it because they are continually improving this type of electronic mechanism and when you have been using a machine for two years a greatly improved design or class of electronic tabulator or computer is produced and you can replace your existing machine with an entirely new type. Therefore there is an advantage in renting it rather than purchasing it outright.
122. Deputy Treacy.—Have we been able to ascertain how many persons this electronic computer would displace or has displaced?— There is an estimated staff saving of 60 heads which in itself represents an annual saving of £24,000. There is also the fact that the whole system of collecting income tax is being changed. In other words, the system of what is called contract collectors is being terminated. Instead of contract collectors, income tax and other duties will be collected by a civil servant known as the Collector General. This post was instituted by section 23 of the Finance Act, 1963, for the collection of income tax and surtax and under section 66 of the Act he was entrusted with the collection of turnover tax. He will also be charged with the collection of corporation profits tax. The whole system of contract collecting is going out. That system used to cost over £100,000 a year. There will be a considerable saving in this connection.
Has alternative employment been found for the people displaced as the result of the introduction of the electronic computer and other labour-saving devices which have been installed?—An arrangement has been come to between the Minister for Finance and the Collectors Association. In 1923 we had 102 collectors. The policy, down through the years, when a collector vacated his office, was to amalgamate his office with a serving collector’s collection in order to make the collection more economic. We had 57 collectors up to the years 1961, 1962 and 1963. The old system continued up to that time. In other words, contract collectors were engaged to collect tax in the old established way. This new system, which is coming in, will centralise collection with the help of the electronic computer. The old system is being terminated. In fact, it will be terminated on 31st December, 1964. The old system of appointing collectors continued up to and including 1963. That has been changed somewhat for 1964. Of the 57 contract collectors I have already referred to, 36 received appointments in the normal course. That leaves 21. Seven of that number were retired with compensation under the agreement entered into with the Minister for Finance. The remaining 14 have been employed, in connection with income tax, as local agents of the Collector General, and also in connection with the turnover tax. They have been employed for the year 1964 only under certain transitional provisions of the agreement. That brings us up to 1965. The old system will be finished on 31st December, 1964. Then, 26 out of the 36 I have mentioned, whose appointments were renewed, will be offered, where suitable, employment in an unestablished capacity in the service, as local agents of the Collector-General and the remaining ten will be retired on age grounds. The 14 collectors who are temporarily employed as local agents of the Collector-General in 1964 will, similarly, be offered permanent unestablished employment in the service for 1965.
123. Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary). —According to the report of the Income Tax Commission, it costs ninepence in the £ to collect income tax. We continue to use the red letter down the country where we have not got an electronic computer. Has there been any reduction in this ninepence in the £ as a result of the introduction of the computer and the abolition of the travelling collectors? —The cost of administering and collecting income tax, surtax and corporation profits tax for the year 1962-63 was 3.348 per cent. The cost in the previous year, 1961-62, was 3.576 per cent. for the same taxes. The overall cost for 1962-63 was 2.625 per cent. as compared with the figure of 2.585 per cent. for the previous year.
There has been an increase between 1961-62 and 1962-63?—Yes, there is a slight increase in the overall figure.
124. Deputy Treacy.—May I take it, in regard to the reshuffle that has had to take place in the personnel, by reason of the introduction of the electronic computer and other labour-saving devices, that these people have been absorbed without any loss of salary scales, status or pension rights?— Yes, as regards Civil Service Staff.
125. Deputy Lalor.—As regards the 57 contract collectors employed up to 1962, may I take it they were not permanent, and were non-pensionable up to that date?— That is so. They were not civil servants. They received a contract at the beginning of every year which was confined to the current year. When the collector was offered the contract, a figure was arrived at by measuring the volume of work in the collection. Of course, something or other was always included to cover the cost of travelling and accommodation, fuel and light. In a case where it was clear that the work was beyond the capacity of one man, something was included for clerical assistance. The total global figure arrived at was what we offered to the collector. He was paid that gross sum. It was no concern of ours how he expended that sum. It was arrived at in the manner I have described and offered to him. When he accepted that, he went ahead with the collection and we paid him the gross amount for the year.
126. Deputy Treacy.—The people who sell these electronic computers and other labour-saving machines are usually in a position to forecast the percentage saving which is likely to accrue to the office concerned. Might I ask did they indicate what the saving would be when they were selling this machine and, if so, what was it because I am concerned about the very slight saving that has accrued? —What I said hardly conveys a full picture because the electronic computer has enabled us to do things which could not have been done otherwise. The computer arrived in our Office in June, 1963, and began operations in September, 1963. I could not forecast the future use of the computer but so far we have used it first of all in connection with PAYE where we have over 26,000 employers registered. The computer is used in connection with the collection, control and accounting; it issues all relevant documents—
Deputy Booth.—May I interrupt? Does this mean that the computer was not working in the year under review?
Chairman.—No, that is right.
Deputy Booth.—Would it not then be better to defer the matter until next year?
Deputy Treacy.—Before passing on, could we find out what was the percentage saving forecast by the manufacturers of this device? —The only thing I can say in that connection is to repeat the figure I have given and to say that in March, 1961 we anticipated an annual saving at that stage of £24,000, corresponding to 60 heads of staff. But I should like to say that the computer has enabled us to do things which otherwise would have been impossible. The Commission on Income Taxation, to which one member has referred, recommended the introduction of a system known as “one taxpayer one charge” which means that the taxpayer, who might have interests throughout the country and who, under the old dispensation, would get demands from various collectors, might not be at any time aware of his precise total liability. The system of “one taxpayer one charge” meant that he would receive a unified demand representing the total income tax for which he was liable for the year. We really could not have introduced that system which is of benefit to taxpayers without the computer. What I am trying to say is that apart from precise figures being forecast as to staff saving, there are these imponderables, work that could not be done if we had not got the computer. Finally, the decentralisation of surtax was rendered possible and, although when we were ordering the computer we were not aware that turnover tax was being introduced, it was a tremendous facility for the control, collection and accounting of turnover tax to have these electronic processes. I should say, of course, that the purpose of this computer is not so much to displace staff as to liberate staff from mechanical work or repetitive work so that they can be employed on higher grade activities. In the case of Inspectors of Taxes they have been relieved of a considerable amount of purely arithmetical work and have been enabled to devote themselves more fully to the examination of the adequacy of assessments and matters of that kind.
127. Deputy P. Hogan (South Tipperary). —In regard to subhead G.—Motor Vehicles for Frontier Patrols, etc.—what is that exactly? What are the frontier patrols?— They are the Land Frontier controls for the prevention and detection of smuggling.
128. Chairman.—In regard to subhead I. —Law Charges, Expenses of Prosecutions, Fees, Rewards, etc.—I notice that the explanation says that expenditure on costs exceeded the provision by £2,624. Are these costs that were awarded against the Commissioners in prosecutions?—That is so. In fact, taxed costs amounting to £3,024 were allowed against us in an estate duty case.
Are counsels’ fees something apart from costs?—They are, yes. They are what we call brief fees and refreshers.
129. Deputy Booth.—On page 14 the reference to Extra Remuneration includes overtime. Can we take it that the amount of overtime is now down to normal?—That is a big matter. I do not want to delay the Committee with a long statement. When we met last on the 14th February, 1963, I gave an undertaking, as regards officers in the Dublin Central Collection Branch, that we would endeavour in future to see that no officer would work overtime so as to earn an amount in excess of £200 in the year. We have honoured that undertaking but I agree fully with the statement of the man who said that overtime is like a drug: it could be beneficial when administered in small doses but when consumed excessively it could prejudice the health of the entire body. We agree with that view and we would wish to reserve overtime for three classes of operations: the first is capital projects; the second is the clearance of abnormal arrears; and the third is seasonal pressure. We in the Revenue are passing through a period of great stress and strain, a period in which revolutionary changes are being introduced and a period of heavy tax legislation which it falls to us to enforce. We do not believe we shall be out of the wood earlier than about the year 1965-66 because we have assumed tremendous additional burdens. You will appreciate we cannot easily recruit staff for our purposes. We require experienced staff, and also time is always running against us. We must complete certain operations within the confines of the fiscal year and keep the revenue machine moving. Therefore, much as we dislike it, we shall have what we could describe as abnormal overtime for some time to come although we shall certainly try to the utmost of our ability to keep it down.
The witness withdrew.
The committee adjourned.