Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1969 - 1970::16 November, 1972::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 16 Samhain, 1972.

Thursday, 16th November, 1972.

The Committee met at 11 a.m.

Members Present:









DEPUTY E. COLLINS in the chair

Mr. E. F. Suttle (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.


Mr. P. Ó Slatarra called and examined.

837. Chairman.—Paragraph 70 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:

Subhead H.—Córas Tráchtála (Grant-in-Aid)

The total amount of grants which may be made to Córas Tráchtála was raised to £9,000,000 by the Export Promotion (Amendment) Act, 1969. The aggregate amount of grants issued to 31 March 1970 was £6,031,885 including £1,384,000 in the year under review.”

Mr. Suttle.—The accounts of Córas Tráchtála are audited by me and presented to the Oireachtas. During the year under review the board out of its grant-in-aid made a grant of £153,000 to Kilkenny Design Workshops, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary.

838. Chairman.—Paragraph 71 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:

Subhead J.—An Foras Tionscal (Grant-in-Aid)

The total amount of grants which may be made to An Foras Tionscal to enable it to carry out its functions was increased to £100,000,000 by the Industrial Development Act, 1969. The aggregate amount issued to 31 March 1970 was £51,725,446 of which expenditure of £3,412,240 was incurred on the establishment and management of industrial estates at Galway and Waterford.”

Mr. Suttle—The accounts of An Foras Tionscal were audited by me and have been presented to the Oireachtas. The Industrial Development Act, 1969, dissolved An Foras Tionscal and transferred its functions to the Industrial Development Authority with effect from 1st April, 1970.

839. Chairman.—Was there any difficulty in transferring the functions and responsibilities of An Foras Tionscal to the IDA?

—No. It was possible to do that smoothly. There was always very close contact between the IDA and Foras Tionscal and the transfer was perhaps helped by the fact that at that stage both organisations had civil service staffs mainly.

840. Deputy FitzGerald.—Are the bulk of the staff of the IDA today still on secondment from the Department of Industry and Commerce?

—No. There is a completely new situation since the setting up of the new authority. Civil servants who were in the authority were given the option of cutting away from the Civil Service and staying with the IDA if they wished to do that. Some of them exercised the option and others did not. At the moment the IDA has more non-civil servants than former civil servants; they are very much in the minority.

841. What proportion of civil servants who were seconded came back to the Civil Service?

—I would not have an accurate figure for that but something of the order of 30 per cent opted to stay, but the larger number opted to go back than to stay with the IDA.

842. Chairman.—Of those who stayed, was there any difficulty in transferring their pension rights?

—Those who stayed with the IDA?


—Special arrangements were made with the Department of Finance about the transfer. There was no real difficulty in it.

I think it is important, in view of the large number of semi-State bodies, that pensions rights of civil servants should be carried over.


843. Deputy FitzGerald.—Do I take it that the reason for something like two-thirds of those involved deciding to go back to the Civil Service was not their fear of loss of pensions rights?

—No. There were various elements, including the age level; younger people tended to stay with the IDA and older people, who were used to the Civil Service and its system, might have had some hesitation. They possibly had some feeling —although it was not, I think, with any great foundation—of a loss of security if they left the Civil Service. The age element came into it to a considerable extent: younger people probably had a more adventurous outlook and tended to feel they would do better outside the Civil Service constraints.

844. Chairman.—Paragraphs 72 and 73 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General state:

Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited

Grants to the company for its general purposes, and for industrialists, are limited to £6,000,000. The total of such grants amounted at 31 March 1970 to £4,493,500.

£77,073 was paid to the company to subsidise the letting of houses at reduced rents and £46,475 as grants for new houses, equivalent to the grants normally payable under the Housing Acts.”

Mr. Suttle.—These paragraphs are for information. The accounts of the company are audited by me.

845. Chairman.—Paragraph 74 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:

Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited

The accounts of the company show a balance of cash on hand of over £400,000 at 31 March 1970. In view of the necessity to ensure economy of cash balances I have inquired regarding the control exercised over the issue of moneys to the company.”

Mr. Suttle.—I have been informed that the balance of £400,000 arose in exceptional circumstances. The company has since reviewed its arrangements for co-ordinating receipts and payments on capital account and has given an undertaking to ensure that the situation will not recur.

846. Chairman.—It is important that we have economy in credit balances throughout the semi-State bodies.

—Yes, we fully accept that and I can confirm what the Comptroller and Auditor General has told you. We have made new arrangements now with the Shannon Company and, broadly, it is that when they make their monthy requisition they now show the balances on hand in respect of non-voted capital, grants to industrialists and running expenses. In addition, the other factor, which I think will avoid any recurrence of these rather high cash balances in 1969-70, is that they have a new internal arrangement in the company with a financial controller. Where formerly several-officers might have been dealing with budgetary matters, that has now been centralised. Indeed, when you come to the accounts for 1970-71 you will see a different picture on the cash balance scene.

847. Deputy FitzGerald.—What is the position about directors from the Departments of Industry and Commerce and Transport and Power on the board of SFADCO? Does that relationship still exist?

—Yes. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has a representative on the board. The appointments are made by the Minister for Transport and Power, but our Minister nominates a representative and we have an officer of our Department.

And Transport and Power have an officer as well?


848. Chairman.—Paragraph 75 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:

Subhead N.2.—National Productivity Year (Grant-in-Aid)

As stated in paragraph 66 of my previous report a grant of £28,000 towards promotional costs was paid to the Irish National Productivity Committee which was involved in running the National Productivity Year project. A further grant of £64,000 was paid in the year under review. The expenditure will be audited by me.”

Mr. Suttle.—There is a certain amount of delay introducing accounts for this expenditure. I have since received an account and certified it in respect of a period to August, 1971, that is covering the whole period from the beginning of this scheme in September, 1968, to August, 1971, in just one account. The members have a copy of that.

Chairman.—The blue copy. Any questions?

849. Deputy Nolan.—I have just one question. I was not aware that the Comptroller and Auditor General audited the grant-in-aid.

Mr. Suttle.—Yes, I do, most of the money and more than 50 per cent of the grants.

850. Chairman.—Paragraph 76 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—

Subhead P.1.—Shipbuilding Subsidy

Subsidy payments to Verolme Cork Dockyard Co. Ltd. have been referred to in previous reports. The charge of £70,000 to the subhead is a payment on account in respect of the sixth, seventh and eighth ships. In addition to the shipbuilding subsidy the company has received from an Foras Tionscal £676,062 in grants under Industrial Grants legislation.

Shares in the company amounting to £343,000 and debenture loans amounting to £1,897,614 were held by Taiscí Stáit at 31 March 1970.”

Mr. Suttle.—The paragraph is for information. Subsidies totalling £1,363,654 have been paid from voted moneys in the period 1963 to 31st March, 1970. These comprised completed subsidy payments for the first five ships amounting to £992,354 and payments on account for the sixth, seventh and eighth ships amounting to £371,300.

851. Chairman.—The subsidy has been going down over the years?

—Steadily, from the first ship onwards.

852. Deputy FitzGerald.—What is the subsidy for a ship now?

—It depends on a number of factors. It may vary. It has gone down very considerably from the beginning of the scheme. It will have to be viewed from now onwards in relation to EEC considerations.

853. Would you give us an example of a recent subsidy in relation to the size of the ship. Is it £100,000 or £200,000?

Mr. Suttle.—It would really go by percentages.

Deputy FitzGerald.—That would be better still.

—By percentages?

Mr. Suttle.—The percentage was over 15 per cent in the beginning. It has gone down to 8 per cent.

—It is gone down to 8 per cent. This has to be viewed in the light of the EEC.

854. Deputy FitzGerald.—What is the EEC position? I know there is a special section of Article 92 dealing with this. What is the present status of that?

—There is an EEC directive in relation to shipbuilding subsidies. In our negotiations for entry we have a derogation which will carry us up to the end of 1973. We are in a position to operate the present level of subsidy to the end of 1973. That is quite clear. Beyond that it would be a matter for further discussion with the Commission.

855. Do other member countries have subsidies at the moment?

—Yes, indeed. The EEC Commission have been following the same line as we have here in trying to bring down the level of subsidies. Some years ago the level was 10 per cent and they have been getting it down since then.

856. Deputy MacSharry.—What is the level of the percentage in the EEC at the moment?

—The EEC level under a directive in 1969 was not to exceed 10 per cent.

857. Deputy FitzGerald.—On any new ship?

—Ten per cent of the contract price of the ship. We are below that figure.

858. Deputy Mac Sharry.—We are far below that.

—We would not have anything to worry about until the end of 1973. Even then we may not have to worry.

859. Deputy FitzGerald.—Why do we have a derogation if we are below the level already?

—The EEC were proposing to bring their levels down. Before 1973 they would be below our figure. We got the derogation to keep our figure until the end of 1973.

860. Deputy Cluskey.—What were they reducing it by? Was it by 10 per cent?

—The present level of the EEC is down to 5 per cent. We are above that at the present time.

861. Deputy Nolan.—Apart from the subsidy on the ships there is a grant of approximately £676,000 from An Foras Tionscal. What was that grant for? Was it for working capital?

—As well as the shipbuilding the dockyard undertakes ship repair and certain types of engineering works which are not carried out by other companies here. An Foras Tionscal, or the IDA now, would reckon that for an industrial grant in the same way as an ordinary industrial undertaking.

862. Chairman.—Paragraph 77 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Subhead P.2.—Interest Subsidy to Shipping Finance Corporation

The Shipping Finance Corporation, incorporated in 1961 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Industrial Credit Company, has been providing loan finance on a commercial basis to shipowners.

In 1966 the Government decided that the Corporation could make loans to foreign shipowners at a preferential rate of interest to encourage them to have their ships built in Irish yards and this concession was extended in 1967 to Irish shipowners. To compensate the Corporation for loss of income, a subsidy equal to the difference between the interest paid on its borrowings and the interest received on these preferential loans plus a margin of 1 per cent to cover out of pocket expenses and to allow a reasonable reserve to be built up was also approved.

The charge to the subhead, £81,219, represents subsidy payments up to 31 March 1969 in respect of loans for two ships.”

Mr. Suttle.—The subsidy payment of £81,219 was in respect of loans advanced by Shipping Finance Corporation between 12th October, 1965, and 19th September, 1968.

Chairman.—Any questions?

863. Deputy MacSharry.—On this concession for people to build their ships in Ireland, is there not the same concession in France for people to build their ships there or to buy their ships there?

—I am not familiar with the French situation. I would expect that this is quite likely. Most nations give assistance in various ways for shipbuilding.

They give loans for ships if you buy them from them, in the same way as glass-houses can be bought from Holland.

864. Chairman.—What is the position under EEC regulations in relation to this subsidy financing?

—We have not any EEC directive on this, so far as I am aware.

865. Chairman.—It would appear, since we are giving the same or more as foreign companies, that it would be within the regulations?

—Certainly it relates to companies within the European Community.

Chairman.—It would appear not to contravene the Treaty.

—I would not expect so.*

866. Chairman.—On subhead A.—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—does your Department have any trouble in relation to the filling of vacancies?

—We suffer at the lower levels from the problems which are common to the Civil Service at present in recruitment to junior grades up to EO grade in the sense that we find we are getting people who have come very low in examination results because those who have got higher places have opted to go to other occupations before they are called to the Civil Service.

867. Chairman.—What is the reason that they do not come into the Department?

—The opportunities that exist at the moment for younger people compared to 30 or 40 years ago when there was not a great deal of option—you went into the Civil Service or to the Church at that stage—do not attract them.

868. Deputy Cluskey.—The promotional opportunities are not as great in the Civil Service as they were?

—No. The outlook of young people nowadays is that they like choice and freedom. They move from one job to another regularly. This influences them at the point of entry. They see another job that pays better initially although in the long term their Civil Service opportunities might be better but they not look at it in the long term.

869. Chairman.—Possibly a way around this would be to allow freedom of movement, with salary and pension rights protected, from the Department to semi-State bodies?

—My personal view on that is that this would be a desirable thing. I should like to see an arrangement of that kind.

870. Deputy Cluskey.—Do you think it would increase the standard?

—I think it would help in various ways. For one thing, it would give people the idea of an option.

They feel hemmed in?

—It would benefit both the Civil Service and the State-sponsored bodies if you had people with a range of experience greater than what they would get either in the State-sponsored bodies or in the public service.

871. Deputy Tunney.—Would it be your experience that even the clerical officers you might be calling would be far down the list and having regard to the type of work which would be required of them at clerical officer level that they would be adequate to discharge those duties?

—The experience on this, I think, has been mixed. We have got some people about whom we might feel that if we had got somebody from higher up on the list we might have done better but, on the other hand, I must say that we have got some people from lower down on the list who are proving themselves to be not only very adequate but even more than adequate.

872. I would have a “thing” about this. It is something that might be looked at. I do not think that the examination itself is the proper criterion on which to base the quality or the potential of people who might be coming in. I am interested in hearing that it has happened that people who were lower on the list in actual work could prove themselves to be equal to and comparable with people who were higher up on the list?

—I am only taking these as individuals. They can do a very good job, even though they might have been well down on the list. This, as you know, is a subject which is being debated for a long time and I think everyone will agree that a written examination is not entirely adequate, perhaps, but to extend that to interviews for a number of people, with the present intake into the Civil Service, would be rather difficult.

873. Deputy MacSharry.—When you say you have to take people lower down on the list you are suggesting that they are not suitable as such, that you just have to take them?

—My reply to Deputy Tunney bears out that I am not suggesting that they are not suitable. I was conveying that perhaps some of them were not all that we would have liked and we felt that, if we had got people from higher up on the list we would have done better; but equally we have got people from lower down on the list and some of them were very good indeed. They were certainly well up to the average and some of them, I would say, above it.

874. I think that the initial question was whether you were getting enough staff. Just because they come off the bottom of the list does not mean that you still cannot get enough staff?

—Sometimes we have difficulty in getting staff. The list may be exhausted. The Civil Service Commissioners do not call people below a certain level. They would only call people who are actually qualified. If the list runs out we may be left for quite a while. The fact that people higher on the list have opted not to come into the Civil Service means that you can exhaust the list of qualified people more rapidly.

875. Chairman.—With regard to subhead C.—Advertising and Publicity—to what does this relate?

—In this year it included advertising for the Industrial Development Authority and Foras Tionscal who had not got the same latitude then as now; also our ordinary departmental advertising and advertising for the Fair Trade Commission and the Patents Office.

876. This advertising was undertaken by the Department?

—We publish all sorts of notices, say, in relation to the intention of the Minister to give prospecting licences.

Official notices?

—Yes, official public notices.

877. Deputy MacSharry.—With regard to subhead D.—Geological Survey—Equipment, Stores and Maintenance—the note says: “Claims for payment of equipment, ordered through the Post Office Stores in the previous year, fell due for payment within the year.” Surely if they were ordered the year before they should have been budgeted for rather than having an overexpenditure?

Mr. Suttle.—That is the system in the Civil Service, the system of accounting. You do not pay for anything until you have got full delivery. Even though you may have provided for it in one year if it is not delivered until the following year you pay in the following year.

878 Deputy MacSharry.—That is not the question. Why is it not budgeted for? It is not a question of when it is paid for?

Mr. Suttle.—You provide for it in your budget. The estimates are drawn up generally around December of the year previous. In other words, you are providing in your estimates in December for expenditure which might be incurred from four to fifteen months later. Anything can happen in that period.

879. Deputy MacSharry.—You do not look back at all when you are budgeting?

Mr. Suttle.—Provision is made for things that have not been paid for and have been delivered. You know that if something is going to be delivered in April you will have to provide in your estimate for it.

880. Deputy MacSharry.—I was asking why these things are not budgeted for in advance?

—We often budget for expenditure in a particular year in relation, say, to items of equipment. For reasons connected with the suppliers’ problems there may be a delay in the provision of this equipment and payment does not arise in the year for which the budgeting has been undertaken.

I understand that perfectly?

—In this case we were in the hands of the Post Office through whom we ordered the equipment. We had to rely on them to get it and pay the bill when they presented it.

881. Chairman.—With regard to subhead E.—Minerals Development—perhaps we could have an explanation of this item?

—An explanation of the subhead?

Yes, please?

—This is a provision for paying compensation in respect of minerals that may have been compulsorily acquired. This compensation usually results in a royalty being charged on the production of the minerals. If the Minister has acquired the minerals compulsorily he has the legal responsibility of paying the royalty and, therefore, we provide a subhead for it. The royalty is then recouped from the particular company in relation to the actual production of the minerals.

882. Deputy Cluskey.—On subhead G.— International Organisations, etc.—what exactly is that expenditure?

—These are subscriptions to a number of international organisations with which we have contact: The International Bureau of Weights and Measures; Societé Belge d’Études, the International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property, generally known as the Paris Union; the International Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Berne Union; the International Committee for Information Retrieval from Examining Patent Offices, which has a lovely set of initials: ICIREPAT; various geological bodies. What is involved is the expenses of any delegations that may have to attend meetings of any of these bodies, which are largely concerned with weights and measures, patents and geology.

883. Attendance at these conferences does not come under subhead B.1—Travelling and Incidental Expenses—insofar as the expenditure was less than the grant. The expenditure was £39,400 and the grant £45,000; yet this other heading apparently also includes travelling and maintenance of delegations?

—I think you are right there.

Chairman.—If I might be of assistance here, on page 137 of the Estimates for Public Services for the year ended 31st March, 1970, there is the following explanation: (1) Subscriptions to International Organisations, £5,460; (2) Expenses of delegations to International Conferences, £540.

—I must confess I am not entirely sure about this particular question, and if you wish to pursue it I would like to check and then give you the information.

Mr. Suttle.—Would it be possible, Mr. Slattery, that these would be expenses of outsiders as against those of your own staff?

—It has occurred to me that that might be the explanation, that we would on occasion have others involved and their expenses would be covered in this way. Our own staff, I think, would have their travelling expenses paid out of the ordinary subhead.

Chairman.—Perhaps you would clarify that small point by way of a note?

—I will, certainly, Chairman.*

884. Deputy MacSharry.—On subhead K.4 —Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited—Housing Grants—there are no Local Government grants paid?

Mr. Suttle.—These are the equivalent of Local Government grants.

885. Deputy MacSharry.—But there are no Local Government grants paid?


886. Why is that?

—That perhaps goes back to a time with which I am not entirely familiar, but I think the situation was that it was necessary to undertake a fairly intensive housing drive to get houses at Shannon. The local authorities were not geared for this and it was decided therefore that in order to have the houses provided the Shannon Company should undertake responsibility itself.

887. Are these grants and subsidies in respect of the actual provision of the houses or are they subsidies towards the rents of the people who occupy them?

—There are two elements involved. There are grants in relation to the provision of the houses which, as the Comptroller and Auditor General said, are the same as the grants under the ordinary Housing Acts and, in addition, on occupancy of the houses there is a subsidy to reduce the rents of the occupiers.

888. Chairman.—On subhead L—Export Guarantee Arrangements under the Insurance Act, 1953—to what does this relate?

—We have an arrangement of insuring risks in relation to exports. The present arrangement is a joint one which covers both commercial and political risks. It is undertaken through insurance companies and the risk is then re-insured with the Minister who has the responsibility in the event of a claim. The claim is met from the Central Fund, and we then provide in the subhead the following year for the particular amount so that the Central Fund is recouped.

889. On Appropriations in Aid—Note No. 5—Export Guarantee premiums and fees under the Insurance Act, 1953—is the service availed of to any great extent?

—Yes. We found it a very useful service, particularly in connection with our efforts to widen exports from the traditional British market and in exporting, in some cases, to rather far away areas, this availability of export insurance is a considerable help.

890. Is the Department the best agent to handle this insurance?

—The Department does not handle it as such, except in the sense of the broad policy, but the actual operation of the scheme is handled on behalf of the Minister by insurance companies, who, of course, are expert in this kind of thing.

891. On subhead M—Technical Assistance—is there any reason for the falling off in the amount claimed?

—I think it is only co-incidental in the sense that this kind of thing is likely to vary a good deal in relation to the time at which the actual claim is presented. A technical assistance grant may be approved. It may be expected to fall due in a particular year and for reasons in connection with the presentation of the claim either because it was late or it has to be queried, the payment may not be made in that year. We cannot avoid this. There is no suggesion that the interest in the scheme has fallen off.

892. Chairman.—On subhead R—Promotion of Buy Irish Campaign (Grant-in-Aid) —are there any questions?

Deputy MacSharry.—Is that campaign being continued?

—It is still going on. It is a campaign that is subject to review all the time to see if we can find any more effective means of handling it.

893. Chairman.—Its role should be reexamined?

—This is in the process of being carried out at the moment.

894. Chairman.—Personally, I do not think it is very effective for the £40,000?

—One of the difficulties is that we want a “Sell Irish” campaign as well as a “Buy Irish” campaign. All our experience has shown that if one goes to buy something one is not shown the Irish article first.

895. Deputy Cluskey.—The figure went up from £20,000 in 1968-69 to £40,000 in 1969-70?

—That £40,000 was an exceptional figure to include a special provision of £20,000 voted for the “rehabilitation” of the headquarters in St. Stephen’s Green, now called Ireland House, which is the national display centre.

Chairman.—I think that is all, Mr. Slattery. Thank you very much for coming along.

The witness withdrew.


Mr. J. Good called and examined.

896. Chairman.—With regard to subhead A.—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—the note states: “Savings due mainly to delay in filling vacancies and in recruitment of additional staff and to resignations.” Perhaps we could have an explanation?

—It is difficult, Mr. Chairman. Any vacancies in the Valuation Office are on the professional side principally. It takes time to organise a selection board panel. It is a slow process, with the best will and intent. There were not many resignations, last year anyway.

897. Deputy Nolan.—In what professions?

—The recruitment would cover engineers, agricultural scientists, economists, if we can get them, and people with commerce degrees. We have enlarged the list to include members with the degree of chartered surveyors.

898. Deputy Cluskey.—Can you give any explanation for the resignations?

—Better offers outside. It is a good training ground in some ways. I suppose we could compliment ourselves on that but, on the other hand, the loss through resignations tends to increase because of the expansion in property development. It is very hard to stop this.

899. Chairman.—Is it a matter of salary or conditions of work, do you think?

—Salary is the one, I think, that is uppermost in their minds. With regard to conditions of work, for the younger men it is a pleasant life but once they are married the pressure from the other side of the house grows a bit.

Chairman.—A common experience.

900. Deputy Nolan.—With regard to subhead D.—Stores—I see in the note that a number of accounts were not presented. Is there any reason for that?

Deputy Cluskey.—I would be very interested in that too?

—That would cover purchases of papers and chemicals primarily.

901. Chairman.—With regard to subhead F.—Appropriations-in-Aid—I have had a number of complaints about the lack of availability of certain ordnance survey maps?

—It is a slow process and, over the years, there is a long gap in producing maps due to pressures of work and what have you. I think most maps are available. Maybe they are not completely up to date but I think it is fair to say that every map that is required is available.

902. With regard to Appendix A.—Face Value of Maps Supplied to and Special Work done for other Public Departments and Offices during the Year ended 31st March, 1970, without Repayment—how do you procure them? Are these ordinary ordnance maps?

—They are the ordinary ordnance maps— if there is any work to be done on a particular map we have in stock—it is in the second column.

903. Under an arrangement with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, the Post Office services are paid for by your Department. Would it not be logical that the value of the goods supplied by your office to a Department or other office should be recouped?

—It has been done this way for a long time. I do not think I have the answer to it.

Mr. Suttle.—The position there is that the Post Office are considered to be a commercial service and, on that basis, they require every Department to pay for everything they do for them. In the case of the Ordnance Survey and Valuation Office this is not a commercial service. It is a State service which is necessary for the country. On that basis, there is no justification for ensuring that they collect every penny for every bit of work they do. It is the difference between a State service and a commercial service.

904. Chairman.—Would there be any sense in making it a commercial service?

Mr. Suttle.—I do not think so. One of the functions of the Valuation Office is to fix the valuation of new premises and, on that basis, no fee is charged.

905. Chairman.—I accept the argument in respect of the Valuation Office. I am more interested in the Ordnance Survey aspect.

Mr. Suttle.—Of course, they do collect the cost of the maps they supply. These maps are necessary from every angle, whether or not they ever get back a penny for them. It is absolutely necessary that they should be produced.

Chairman.—I accept that.


Mr. J. Good further examined.

906. Chairman.—Paragraph 30 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Subhead A.—Rates and contributions in lieu of rates, etc.

In paragraph 78 of my Report on the accounts for 1964-65 I referred to the delay in having property records compiled by the Department of Defence, and the Committee of Public Accounts was subsequently informed that this work was proceeding but would take some time to complete. For the purpose of calculating contributions in lieu of rates the Valuation Office depends on periodic returns being made by Departments of properties under occupation. In 1967 some doubts were expressed as to the accuracy of the Valuation Office records of Department of Defence properties and it was then agreed to check these records by reference to the property records held in that Department. In view of my earlier concern about the records available I inquired recently as to the progress of this check.

I was informed by the Valuation Office that in March 1969 the Department of Defence sought from the Military Authorities particulars which would enable it to compile property records, but that due to other commitments and the extensive nature of the work involved, these particulars have not yet been furnished.”

Have you anything to add, Mr. Suttle?

Mr. Suttle.—The Valuation Office has to rely on the various Departments in order to know the extent of its liability for rates. This requires two things—basic records to be agreed and subsequent changes in occupation to be notified promptly. In the case of the Department of Defence the difficulty arose in regard to the accuracy of the basic records. I understand that some progress is now being made on the check of these records.

907. Chairman.—When could we hope to have a comprehensive, up-to-date list of Government properties for the purpose of valuation?

—It will take some years, but the exact number of years I cannot estimate at the moment.

Mr. Suttle.—The problem here was that from practically 1922 to 1966 the Department of Defence had been in occupation of lands and they had been selling and buying and changing. The Valuation Office had not been notified of these changes and it is a question of going back now and building up on basic records. The Valuation Office must have this information to enable them to pay rates on all these properties to the local authorities concerned.

908. Deputy Cluskey.—Would there be that number of transactions involving the Department of Defence that it would take a number of years?

Mr. Suttle.—The Department of Defence have extensive lands and buildings all over the country and when they had failed to keep the Valuation Office records up to date, it meant they had to go back over all the transactions for those years and trace changes, sales, alterations, boundaries and all the rest, and it will take a long time to do it.

909. Deputy Cluskey.—What is the position in the meantime? They do not pay any rates?

Mr. Suttle.—They pay the rates, but it is the accuracy of the payment being made by Mr. Good which is in doubt.

910. Deputy Cluskey.—Which way is it in doubt? To whose advantage is it?

Mr. Suttle.—I do not think we would know that.

911. Deputy Cluskey.—There is no doubt as to who is guilty—the Department of Defence—so I do not think there can be any doubt as to who will carry the can.

Mr. Suttle.—Yes. That is accepted, and the Department of Defence have been working at it over the years trying to build up basic records. This is a difficulty which arises in the Board of Works as well but not to the same extent.

912. Chairman.—Perhaps the best we can do at this stage is to ask Mr. Good to keep the pressure on the Department about getting this list up to date.


913. Chairman.—On Appropriations-in-Aid—Note 4 refers to receipts in respect of premises occupied by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs?

Mr. Suttle.—This is the figure corresponding to the payments which each Department has to make to the Post Office for services rendered by the Post Office to them. Similarly, any Department which renders a service to the Post Office collects the cost of that service from the Post Office.

The witness withdrew.


Mr. W. A. Honohan called and examined.

914. Chairman.—Paragraph 93 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:

Subhead E.—Payment to the Social Insurance Fund under section 39 (9) of the Social Welfare Act, 1952

Payments from this subhead to the Social Insurance Fund in the year under review amounted to £15,562,000. These payments are subject to adjustment when the audited accounts of the Fund are available.”

Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for information. The adjusted State contribution based on the audited accounts of the fund is £15,917,487. This represents 33.7 per cent of the income of the fund as compared with £13,771,591 representing 34.1 per cent for the previous year.

915. Chairman.—Paragraph 94 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:

Overpayments of Social Assistance and Social Insurance benefits

Sums recovered in respect of overpayments of social assistance charged in prior years’ accounts were:—£21,498 in cash credited to appropriations in aid and £22,538 withheld from current entitlements. Overpayments amounting to £17,912 were treated as irrecoverable. Assistance overpayments not disposed of at 31 March 1970 amounted to £85,358 as compared with £77,616 at 31 March 1969. Overpayments of benefits from the Social Insurance Fund outstanding at 31 March 1970 were of the order of £81,000. Sums recovered during the year amounted to £20,458. Sixty-two individuals were prosecuted during the year for irregularly obtaining or attempting to obtain assistance or benefits. Convictions were secured in fifty-nine cases.”

Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for information. Overpayments of benefits from the Social Insurance Fund affect the amount of State contribution referred to in the previous paragraph and this year I have included some information as to overpayments of benefits.

916. Chairman.—On subhead A—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—is there much difficulty in your Department in relation to the filling of vacancies?

—It is a perennial problem.

917. Is there any particular cause of this in your Department?

—There is a very big turnover. We have a large proportion of girls and they are always on the move. There is always a delay in the Civil Service Commission procedure, which is slow.

918. What is the delay in the Civil Service Commission?

—It is probably inevitable. When girls leave to get married, for example, we apply for replacements and we have to wait until they come along. Our Estimate figures are based on the assumption that we will have a person in a particular post all the year around. If there is a gap of a month or two, this explains the saving.

919. Deputy Nolan.—On subhead K— Miscellaneous Grants—what do you describe as miscellaneous grants?

Chairman.—I would refer the Deputy to page 178 of the Estimate for the Public Services in this regard.

—Does the Deputy want me to call them out?

920. Deputy Nolan.—Just describe them, please?

—There are grants for school meals. There is an item for school meals in the Gaeltacht which is a special provision. We have the fuel scheme, the footwear scheme and the blind welfare schemes. The three remaining items are free travel, free electricity and free television licences.

921. Deputy Tunney.—Would reports indicate that the money is being well spent and the food well eaten?

—As regards the money being spent in the case of the Gaeltacht, there is underexpenditure. There is a small saving on the urban school meals as well—out of £122,000 there is a saving of over £3,000. In the Gaeltacht, out of a grant of £10,000 there is a saving of £6,500. The Deputy asked whether the food was well eaten and did its job. I do not know whether we have any specific answer on that point. We have not any complaints. Perhaps I can put it no better than that.

922. Have you any complaints about the scheme in the city area? It was mentioned to me a while ago in certain areas that it was thought that the food provided was not being eaten. I thought perhaps that a dietician might look at the situation and see whether something else might have the same calorific value for the children. If the children would eat the food it would be of benefit to them?

—The responsibility is primarily on the schools and the local authorities which give the grants. We only subsidise them to a degree. If we got any great complaints in that respect we could have the matter looked into. I think we do send someone around. The meals provided are simple and usually consist of bread and butter and jam, or buns and milk. In Dublin the children get one-third of a pint of milk and sandwiches or bread and butter and jam. Hot meals are given in ten urban areas. These are in special schools. Local authorities are encouraged to supply milk because of its nutritional value.

923. In the age in which we live perhaps bread and buns are not the most attractive things to children. Even though they might be hungry they will not eat them.

924. Chairman.—Could the Accounting Officer state the reasons for the shortfall in expenditure in the Gaeltacht areas?

—There are four counties involved— Donegal, Galway, Kerry and Mayo. In Donegal and Galway the expenditure was very low. This was due to the fact that only cocoa was provided. Buns and bread and butter and jam are supplied elsewhere. In Kerry and Mayo the average attendances in schools were lower than expected. I think that is the situation broadly.

925. Deputy Cluskey.—Is there any prohibition on providing hot meals other than in special schools?

—There is no prohibition. It was never intended that these meals should really replace the basic meals with the family. The idea was to help the children to continue at a time when their attention was flagging in the middle of the day.

926. Chairman.—If I may say so, with the expansion of the school bus service in the rural areas there will possibly be a case for changing the policy in relation to school meals.

Deputy Cluskey.—And to have a more substantial meal.

Chairman.—Are your Department examining the situation as it is administered in this light?

Deputy Nolan.—That would be policy.

Chairman.—I am asking him to reexamine the scheme in the light of change. It is not policy.

—The question of the future of the school meals has been considered in recent years in the Department of Social Welfare. It is no harm to say it is our view that it is really a function of the Department of Education. They have been examining this and have come to certain views. I think its future lies with the Department of Education rather than with the Department of Social Welfare.

Chairman.—Yes. I quite agree. I do not wish to pursue the matter here. It is better to pursue it in the House.

927. With regard to subhead L.— Appropriations-in-Aid—we have before us the accounts of the Occupational Injuries Fund* and the Social Insurance Fund. The Occupational Injuries Fund is self-supporting from contributions from the employers. We also have the Account of the Receipts into and Payments out of the Supplementary Unemployment Fund for the year 1st April, 1969 to 31st March, 1970. That is wet time insurance.

928. Deputy Nolan.—It sets out “Less Outstanding Orders, £7,792.”—Does that mean they have not been presented for payment?

—That is right, yes.

929. Is that not a very high figure for cheques that have not been presented?

—I do not know.

Mr. Suttle.—You are bound to have a considerable number of orders outstanding at all times. If you issue a cheque or an order today it may not come back through the bank for two or three days. Those issued during the last days of March will always be outstanding.

930. Deputy Nolan.—I was comparing it to the total amount refunded to employers. It is a high percentage of the total in the year.

Mr. Suttle.—£7,000 in £200,000.

Chairman.—Thank you, Mr. Honohan.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned.

* See Appendix 36.

* See Appendix 37.

* See Appendix 38.

See Appendix 39.

See Appendix 40.