MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 26 Deireadh Fómhair, 1972.
Thursday, 26th October, 1972.
The Committee met at 11 a.m.
ELECTION OF CHAIRMAN.
497. Deputy Nolan.—I propose that Deputy E. Collins be elected Chairman.
Deputy Tunney.—I have pleasure in seconding that.
Question: “That Deputy E. Collins be Chairman of the Committee” put and agreed to.
DEPUTY E. COLLINS took the chair.
Chairman.—I want to thank you, gentlemen, for electing me chairman.
DEATH OF MEMBER.
498. It is, for each one of us to a certain extent, a sad occasion because my first duty is to propose a vote of sympathy to the relatives of the late Deputy Patrick Hogan, who preceded me as chairman. As you all know, he died suddenly during the recess. Deputy Hogan was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee since February, 1967. Many of us here got to know him well, particularly in the last two years. We knew him better, perhaps, than we know most of our colleagues in the House. We found him as chairman to be a man above politics. He was a very fair-minded man, and a decent and honourable man in his capacity as chairman.
Deputy Hogan was a surgeon of the highest degree. His standing in his profession was not equalled by many. There is nothing I can say which would add to his stature, because his stature was known to all of us as being of the highest. I would ask all the members of this committee to join with me in this vote of sympathy to his memory.
Deputy MacSharry.—I would like to say that we all agree with every word the chairman has said.
The members stood in their places.
499. Chairman.—Before continuing I would like to propose a vote of congratulation to Mr. J. Tobin, who was Clerk to the committee for many years. Mr. Tobin was promoted during the recess. Our new Clerk is Mr. Frank Geoghegan who was also promoted. We look forward to working in close harmony with him.
Mr. E. F. Suttle (An tArd Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.
Chairman.—Item No. 2 on the agenda is a matter which is to be dealt with in private.
VOTE 20—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE.
Mr. A. Ward called and examined.
Chairman.—There is no comment by the Comptroller and Auditor General and we can go to the Vote itself.
500. Deputy FitzGerald.—On Subhead A— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—I note that the short-fall in expenditure is attributed mainly to delay in filling vacancies and to staff changes involving appointments at lower points in salary scales. Could we ask the reason for the delay in filling vacancies because this is a position we have come across before? A short-fall of 7 per cent, or anything approaching it, suggests a degree of under-staffing and the question arises as to whether adequate provision was made in advance or whether there is some hold-up in recruitment or whether it is proving difficult to get recruits. We would be interested to know the reason for this?
—I think this is a problem that exists throughout the public service and not just in the Department of Justice. What Deputy FitzGerald says is true. There are difficulties in getting candidates for various jobs but this is not peculiar to the Department of Justice. As I say, it is true throughout the public service and it still is true in the Department of Justice, not just in respect of the year under review here but to a lesser extent at the moment than it was in 1969-70. The position has improved.
501. It is primarily a problem of getting sufficient qualified applicants rather than some clogging of recruitment procedures? Is that the case? In so far as people are available the procedures are adequate to recruit them in time?
—I believe so.
502. Which particular grades have you difficulty in recruiting?
—At the moment we have some difficulty in finding candidates for the grade of assistant principal on the headquarters staff. We are going outside the Department at the moment to other branches of the public service in an effort to recruit.
503. Deputy Nolan.—Could the Accounting Officer give any reason for this? What are your own personal opinions, Mr. Ward?
—As this is a problem throughout the public service, I think it would be for the Department of Finance to comment on it rather than for any other Department in particular.
504. Deputy FitzGerald.—We have not hitherto come across the problem of promotion to assistant principal grade. The problem we have heard of before in respect of recruitment is to administrative or executive officer grade or grades of that kind. Is there a special problem in the Department of Justice as regards promotion to assistant principal grades?
—No. We have expanded rather quickly in the recent past. The difficulty of recruitment at executive officer level or administrative officer level naturally had an impact one or two grades up after a lapse of six or seven years and in practice the impact of these difficulties of recruitment which were seen some years ago is now already being shown one or two grades up.
505. This is not confined to Justice but is general?
—It is not. There are problems peculiar to the Department of Justice but they do not arise on this particular Vote. This is the headquarters Vote and what arises here in relation to headquarters is something which broadly speaking is common throughout the public service.
506. So that there is a general problem of promotion to assistant principal level, of getting people from anywhere within the public service. Have you then considered, if you have not got the people for the key senior jobs, recruiting from outside the public service?
—I would say that it may be misleading at the moment to talk about special recruitment difficulties to assistant principal as a general problem. There are difficulties in staffing throughout the public service but when I speak of our difficulties of recruitment at assistant principal level, I am referring specifically to the Department of Justice. Just at this moment a difficulty is arising at that level in the Department and it is arising partly because of recent expansion in the Department and it is difficult to find people for recruitment to that grade because it is a natural consequence of difficulties that arose at recruitment levels some years ago.
I asked you earlier whether the problem of promotion to assistant principal was general and I understood you to say yes. That is what led to that line of questioning.
—I could not say that the problem is general in relation to assistant principal.
507. Deputy Nolan.—You go outside the public service or are thinking of it?
—Outside the Department of Justice.
Within the public service?
Transferring from one Department to another?
508. Deputy FitzGerald.—If recruitment to executive and administrative officer has been difficult in the public service generally for many years past, one assumes that the problem of promotion to assistant principal would also be general and the question of recruiting from outside would therefore arise?
—I would say it is not confined to the Department of Justice but whether it arises in every Department or in most Departments I do not know.
509. Deputy Treacy.—Having regard to the difficulty of filling vacancies and the work load which must have been created in the meantime, how have you dealt with this work load problem? May we take it that it is being done by way of overtime working in the main, and if so, to what extent?
—The problem with these grades is something that does not show in the form of paid overtime because the grades in question are not paid for overtime at all. There is of course a good deal of working outside what some people describe as normal office hours but which are in reality no longer normal office hours; but there is a good deal of working beyond what people think of as the normal closing hour for offices. In that sense, yes. We are partly making up for staff shortages by the staff working long hours, intensely. To some extent the problem results in work that would otherwise be done not being done.
510. Deputy Treacy.—Is there no extra remuneration for the extra work?
—That is true.
In any instance?
—There is no paid overtime in the normal course for people in the grade I have been speaking of; but there is paid overtime at some lower levels. There is reference on page 50 to five officers receiving extra remuneration.
511. Deputy FitzGerald.—How long has this problem of promotion to assistant principal been with you?
—In the last couple of months. Perhaps I should explain it is not so much that the problem has existed over a time as that we are facing the problem now, at this moment. I think I tried to explain this at an earlier stage. We are at the moment facing some difficulties in finding suitable candidates for promotion to assistant principal but that is partly due to expansion of the number of posts and the fact that these particular jobs require exceptional qualifications.
Chairman.—I am afraid we are tending to become involved in current matters whereas we are examining accounts for 1969-70.
512. Deputy FitzGerald.—I have been trying to get at this problem of how this difficulty of recruitment has arisen. Why was it not possible to cope with this and to recruit more suitable people?
—It is fairly well known, and has I believe been mentioned before this Committee on several previous occasions, that there is a general problem in relation to several Departments. I think that this Committee have actually commented on it in a report. As far as this Vote is concerned, there is nothing special as far as the Department of Justice are concerned in regard to this short-fall. This headquarters problem is part of a general one.
513. Could you offer a comment on how this could be met? Have you got any views as to how this could be overcome?
—I am afraid I would rather be expected to express any views of that kind privately to the Department of Finance rather than here in a public or semi-public way. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to do this.
514. Chairman.—I would not quite agree with you. This is the Committee of Public Accounts and I think we are entitled to know how we can improve staffing to give more efficiency within the public service?
—In any event I have no views on the matter that are not held and widely expressed by many other people. There is a problem of comparability of pay and conditions with outside employment. If you like, it is a question of competition between outside employment and the public service. That is one point. Different people put different amounts of weight on this factor. Some people argue that the public service has a bad reputation. It is not necessarily entirely a matter of pay. Indeed, pay may be less than 50 per cent of the problem. There is a good deal of criticism of Departments, much of it by people who do not understand what the problems are and who apparently do not feel it necessary or desirable to try to understand these problems. The result is that people who have other opportunities are simply not coming into the service. We know, for instance, that because of certain criticisms of the Department of Justice in recent times a number of recruits who were given an option as to which Department they would go did not come to Justice because—to use their very words—it had a poor image. Apart from that, the whole of the public service is rather under a cloud in so far as many young people looking for jobs are concerned.
515. Deputy FitzGerald.—One of the difficulties is getting people to come in. This could be due to a false image. However, there is a problem of turnover of existing staff, if one may put it like that: people join the public service and having experienced it rather than heard of its image, left subsequently. Have you had experience of that occurring at the administrative office level? On average, how many do you recruit?
—At the moment, none.
Why is that?
—They were difficult to recruit over a period of years and we did not press very hard to get one or two recruits at this grade. For instance, our recruitment of administrative officers at any given time would be two, not ten.
Two per annum?
—No, it is not a matter of two per annum. It is that our authorised establishment would be unlikely to include more than two at any one time.
—It depends on what the question “why” means—how deeply you want to go into it. That is the most, as far as I know, that has been authorised for the Department in the past 20 years. It was considered that was all that was necessary.
That the Department of Finance would not let you have more than two?
—I doubt if the Department of Finance were ever asked in the last 20 years to authorise more than two posts of administrative officer.
Would you indicate why?
Chairman.—I should prefer if we did not go into discussion on that. We are dealing with 1969-70.
516. Deputy MacSharry.—You say you have been allowed to recruit only two. But the Estimate provided for more than two. The money was provided for more but it was not spent. That is the whole point of this discussion?
—The money was not provided for the specific matter raised by Deputy FitzGerald. It has not been a question of Finance not allowing us more than two administrative officers. They did not refuse us because they were not asked.
517. Deputy FitzGerald.—While appreciating that and given that there has been difficulty in obtaining assistant principals and that we are dealing with the year 1969-70, I understand from you that you sought the establishment of only two administrative officers. I am wondering why a policy was pursued which has contributed to a situation in which there was not the next promotional grade from administrative officer although, of course, there were the other channels also?
—Partly the answer is in what the Deputy has just said—that there are the other channels also. Going back for a period of up to five years from 1969-70, it was very difficult to get administrative officers and it was common knowledge in the public service that the small number who were available were needed primarily in the Department of Finance because such is the structure of that Department.
518. Is the Accounting Officer saying that the reason why he did not seek the staff was that he was aware that he would not be given them?
—I was not the person who was involved in this in the years 1966-1968. I can only tell the Deputy that there was a shortage of administrative officers at that time.
Of course the Accounting Officer is the only person we can ask for explanations for that year?
—I understood I was being asked why we did not seek to recruit administrative officers in a period which would not be 1969-70 but a period of perhaps three or four years before then which is when administrative officers would be ready for promotion in the year 1969-70.
519. The point I am making in relation to 1969-70 is that the establishment of administrative officers was kept to two?
—It was not even that. What I intended to convey was that so far as I know we never had more than two administrative officers on the establishment at any time during the last 20 or 25 years. In fact we had no administrative officer on the establishment in 1969-70 and so far as I know neither did we ask for approval for one.
520. Surely the present situation in which there are not people in the Department to promote to the next grade is one that could have been foreseen in 1969-70. If administrative officers had been sought then the present position might not have arisen. What we are querying is the policy adopted in 1969-70?
—There are two points to be made here. First, we would not have got administrative officers at that time even if we had asked for them. Secondly, the problem at the moment regarding the finding of candidates for promotion to assistant principals is due primarily to a recent expansion in the Department which in turn is due to a widening of the functions we must discharge. I understood I was being asked earlier for an example of the grade in respect of which special difficulty is being experienced by us. It is in that context that I say special difficulty at this moment is being experienced in promotions to the position of assistant principal. There are difficulties also at the recruitment grades—clerical officers and so on—but these difficulties are common to the entire service.
521. Deputy FitzGerald.—In regard to subhead C.—Post Office Services—is the increase of one sixth here an indication that Post Office charges increased by one-sixth in that year?
That was not foreseen when the Estimates were being prepared?
—That is so.
522. Deputy H Gibbons.—What is covered in subhead D 1—Payments to the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland?
Chairman.—Publication of the Irish law reports.
Deputy R. Burke.—Is this amount granted for the purpose of enabling the Incorporated Law Society, which incurs the major proportion of the cost, to meet these extra costs? This would not be the total cost of producing the various journals?
—No, but it includes money which would cover the cost of certain publications. The publications are legal textbooks. The saving of £1,350 reflects the fact that material for publication had not reached a stage where the expenditure would have to be incurred. It is a matter of legal textbooks rather than the publication of law reports.
523. Which is it, the Department of Justice or the Incorporated Law Society that is the originating source of the books?
—The books are produced by specialists in the particular field under the auspices of this Council but the particular authors could be anybody. For instance, one of the books in the course of preparation at the moment is being prepared by the Registrar of Titles.
524. Chairman.—I take it that subhead E— Commissions and Special Inquiries—refers to the Conroy Report?
525. Deputy FitzGerald.—I notice under subhead F—Legal Aid—that only half the money allocated was spent. Does this represent a drop in the number of cases in comparison with previous years?
—The actual expenditure depends on factors which, to a large extent, have been outside the control of the Department. It is difficult to estimate beforehand what would be the expenditure because this depends in the first place on applications but perhaps what is more to the point is that it depends on the decisions of a number of district justices. The figure for expenditure has increased very much in recent times. There is not a saving at the moment. On the contrary, the expenditure is greater than what was estimated.
526. Deputy Treacy.—How readily available is this legal aid?
Deputy MacSharry.—Is it available at the discretion entirely of district justices?
—It is at the discretion of district justices that legal aid is granted but they have no control over the amount of the fees.
527. Deputy FitzGerald.—What is the procedure?
—When an application is made to the court, the court considers the situation taking into account the means of the applicant and the circumstances. If legal aid is granted payments are made in accordance with scales agreed to by the legal profession.
528. So that if legal aid is not granted, there can be no appeal?
—That is so.
Therefore a person can be deprived of legal aid by a justice and can have no recourse?
—That is so in respect of cases dealt with in the district court but if a person is going forward for trial he can apply again to the Circuit Court.
Chairman.—Perhaps it would be more appropriate to deal with this matter by way of Parliamentary Question.
Deputy FitzGerald.—I was only trying to establish the reason for the short-fall.
Deputy Tunney.—There is no short-fall at the moment.
529. Deputy H. Gibbons.—What are the channels used by the district justice to establish the means of the applicant?
—We have an expanding welfare service at the moment whereby the district justice can make inquiries. Of course, he questions the applicant. As far as I know this is the primary means of establishing the applicant’s means.
530. Deputy Treacy.—Could we have some information as to the cases refused legal aid?
—I am afraid I do not know the number.
Chairman.—Perhaps the Deputy could get this information by means of a Parliamentary Question.
531. Deputy Dr. Gibbons.—On subhead G— Appropriations-in-Aid—£200 received in connection with the purchase of historical documents—what function has your Department in dealing with or buying historical documents?
—In regard to this particular entry, it might appear on the face of it as if some historical documents were sold by the Department. In fact they were bought. I will explain this. The Public Records Office bought some historical documents in England, specifically Medieval Irish Plea Rolls, and a certain benevolent association on their own initiative produced £200 as a contribution to the cost. This is how the £200 appears there as money received.
532. Deputy R. Burke.—Under Extra Remuneration, could the Accounting Officer explain the film censorship expenditure of £11,284?
—The office of the film censor is required by the Act governing film censorship, that is the Act of 1923, to be self-supporting. The film renters, the people who import and present the films for censorship, pay fees when they are submitting the films. The fees are calculated according to the footage of the films and there are different rates for different categories of films.
Deputy FitzGerald.—It is adding insult to injury.
VOTE 21—GARDA SÍOCHÁNA.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
533. Deputy FitzGerald.—In view of my position as consultant to the Garda Síochána Representative Body, I think it would be inappropriate for me to ask questions on this Vote.
Chairman.—You are a member of the Public Accounts Committee. It is a personal decision on your part.
Deputy FitzGerald.—I am declaring my interest.
Chairman.—I appreciate that.
534. Deputy MacSharry.—On subhead E.— Station Services—what are they?
Chairman.—If you look at the Estimates for Public Services for that year, on page 58, under Station Services, you will see furniture, bedding, cleaning, fuel, light, water.
535. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Under subhead F.—Garda Síochána Medical Aid Society (Grant-in-Aid)—what does this cover?
—This is something which has an historical explanation. The old Dublin Metropolitan Division had a special arrangement whereby the cost of medicines was paid for the members. This is something which goes back to the foundation of the State and possibly before it. Then, when that area was expanded to become the present Dublin Metropolitan Area, the arrangement created a serious anomaly in that their members in one part of the area were entitled, traditionally, to free medicines. There was, of course, a wider anomaly that these members were entitled to this in certain parts of Dublin and not in the rest of the country. In order to phase that out it was agreed that an equivalent grant would be paid to the Medical Aid Society and that the old arrangements would be terminated. That is how that £3,500 comes to be paid to the Garda Medical Aid Society, which is a private organisation within the Garda Síochána.
536. Deputy MacSharry.—Under subhead I—Witnesses’ Expenses—is that for witnesses attending courts?
It does not come in under the subhead for courts but is under the Garda Síochána?
—Yes. It refers to witnesses in criminal cases, criminal prosecutions. It does not refer to civil cases and the payments are made by the Garda Síochána.
Deputy Treacy.—Has there been an increase in the allowances to witnesses at the present time?
Chairman.—Perhaps that would need a Parliamentary Question.
537. Deputy MacSharry.—In the Statement of Losses damage amounting to £4,828 is mentioned. A sum of £363 was received in settlement.
Chairman.—On foot of three of these cases.
Deputy MacSharry.—Is the figure 24 times £363 or did we waive the full losses?
—I am sorry, I do not understand your point.
Chairman.—Deputy MacSharry wants to know whether the actual amount was 24 times £363?
—£363 is the total.
538. Chairman.—Is there any explanation for this low rate of recoupment?
Deputy MacSharry—A sum of £4,828 was the actual amount mentioned?
—We only collected £363. A decision in each case was made by the Chief State Solicitor. Having said that, I would like to make clear that his decisions have to take account of certain factors and I can give the broad lines. The principal reason for such decisions is that there is a knock-for-knock agreement between the State on the one hand and practically every major insurance company on the other hand. Even if the fault is not on the side of the State driver the State pays for the damage to its own cars just as insurance companies each pay for their own clients’ loss or damage under a knock-for-knock agreement.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
539. Deputy MacSharry.—On subhead E.— Manufacturing Department and Farm—does this refer to the farms in the prisons?
Chairman.—There is an abstract statement of the manufacturing accounts of the prisons for the year ended 31st March, 1970, on page 56. There is a Note relating to the estimated daily average number of prisoners and the actual daily average number of prisoners.
540. Deputy H. Gibbons.—There is a Note which refers to a supply of fish boxes. What exactly does that mean?
—There was a contract at that time to supply fish boxes to a particular firm which went into liquidation.
Chairman.—That is all on that Vote.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
541. Deputy R. Burke.—On subhead A.— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—were the savings here due to replacement of clerical officers and clerk typists by temporary clerical assistants in Circuit Court offices? How much was saved in this manner?
Chairman.—There is a Note to subhead A at the end of the page.
Deputy R. Burke.—I am reading that Note on page 57.
—I have not got a breakdown of the figures as between replacements and the amount saved by not having as much additional assistance as was necessary.
Deputy R. Burke.—The amount is not substantial?
—I have not got a breakdown of the figures.
Chairman.—Perhaps you would be good enough to submit a note on this point.*
542. Deputy R. Burke.—On subhead D.— Appropriations-in-Aid—a sum of £73,000 approximately was realised, while the sum estimated was £68,000 approximately. Is there some statistical basis on which the accuracy of these sums is based? Does the figure vary from year to year?
—The estimate is based primarily on the experience of the previous year with a look perhaps at two or three previous years. The nature of the receipts is such that one can only give a guess as to their amount.
Deputy R. Burke.—I must pay tribute to this remarkable power of estimation.
Chairman.—Or to the remarkable persistence of crime.
543. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Could I ask, on the question of recording the actual evidence verbatim, whether information is available as to the cases where such evidence must be taken and in what cases a choice is open to a judge and under what circumstances may an outsider get a copy of verbatim evidence?
—I am sorry, I could not answer that question, giving the sort of detail which the Deputy wishes but I could submit a note to the Committee.†
Chairman.—This might be something more suited to a parliamentary question.
VOTE 24—LAND REGISTRY AND REGISTRY OF DEEDS.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
544. Deputy R. Burke.—On subhead A.— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—a figure of approximately £24,000 is mentioned in both 1968-9 and 1969-70. Could I ask the Accounting Officer if a case was made for extra staff for this particular part of his Department? Could I suggest that this point could be examined and the staff increased in view of the allegation that things are a little bit slow in being processed through that section?
—First I should say that the matter has been looked at and is being looked at and action has been taken in a number of ways. It is not simply a matter of looking for extra staff. One can easily have a situation in the Land Registry in which there is a hold-up at one particular point and it becomes a matter of getting staff of that particular grade for that particular work, for instance in the Mapping Branch or something of that kind. Because there were these difficulties, the Land Registry has been the subject of virtually continuous investigation and attention over the past several years and re-organisation proposals were drawn up. Naturally any re-organisation proposal affects staff interests and the staff are sometimes of a grade which is common to several Departments and it therefore affects the interests of other Departments as well. Looking at it from the staff point of view, some of the people concerned are members of an association which is part of a wider association covering the whole public service and that general association—for instance, the Institute of Professional Civil Servants—has an interest in what is being done. For this reason re-organisation is not an easy matter and has not been an easy matter and getting agreement on it has been very difficult. However, some temporary measures have been taken already and have already proved effective. A bonus scheme, for instance, was introduced and a system was introduced whereby the registrations for particular counties or groups of counties would be handled by particular groups of officers. In other words, a certain number of officers of grades A, B and C would be responsible for the registrations for counties X, Y and Z, that is, responsible for all transactions from start to finish and a bonus scheme was introduced to give a boost to the work and, generally speaking, the delays were substantially reduced. But the effect is offset or concealed to a fair extent by a very big increase in the number of dealings. Why there should be such a big increase is a matter for which nobody has given a convincing explanation but it is a fact that the dealings have increased very substantially. I am not sure of the figures but I think the order of the increase would be from something like 40,000 to 58,000 in one year. Naturally that takes from the impact of the arrangements made to reduce the arrears, but improvement is a continuing process and at the moment we believe we are very close to having agreement with the staff organisations concerned to a fairly substantial re-organisation in the Land Registry. The effects of the temporary arrangements have already been shown in a reduction in arrears notwithstanding the fact that there has been an increase in transactions but it is expected that there will be a further substantial improvement in the near future as a result of an agreement which may be almost at the point of acceptance.
545. Deputy R. Burke.—With regard to the Note on the Registry of Deeds in relation to fees, I take it that the difficulties which I suggested were alleged in relation to the Land Registry do not exist to the same extent in relation to the Registry of Deeds. The volume of transactions there is not quite so heavy and the problems are not quite so heavy?
—That is so.
546. So that one does not envisage an increase on the 63 persons or a substantial increased number for the particular service?
Chairman.—Thank you, Mr. Ward and gentlemen.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 25—CHARITABLE DONATIONS AND BEQUESTS.
Mr. J. S. Martin called.
The witness withdrew.
Mr. S. Ó Cearnaigh called and examined.
547. Chairman.—Paragraph 87 of the Report of Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
Statements have been furnished to me showing the cost of production of bread at the Curragh bakery and of meat at the Dublin and Curragh abattoirs. The unit costs are as follows:—
The average price of cattle purchased for the Dublin and Curragh areas was £105 and £106 per head, respectively, as compared with £99 per head in the previous year, while the average production of beef per head was 684 lbs. and 660 lbs., respectively, as compared with 676 lbs. and 655 lbs.”
Have you anything to add, Mr. Suttle?
Mr. Suttle.—This is just a standing paragraph which I include in my report for the information of the Committee. I have nothing to add to the information in it.
548. Chairman.—Are there any comments the Accounting Officer would like to make?
—No. It is a routine reference and the costings are carried out in my Department.
549. Might I ask how are your cattle purchased?
—The cattle are purchased by an agent for the Minister. This has been the practice down the years.
Has it been the same agent?
—Yes, for a great many years.
550. Could you tell us the reason for the discrepancy between the cost of meat in Dublin and at the Curragh?
—It depends mainly on the cost of labour. The labour content at the Curragh is higher. In Dublin we avail of the facilities of the Dublin Abattoir which means labour is much reduced. At the Curragh all the work is done by military personnel. Also in that year, production in Dublin was unusually high on account of catering for refugees and, of course, the higher the production the lower the cost per pound.
551. Would there be any sense in having all the meat done in Dublin?
—I do not think so. The Curragh is the major military centre and I think it is a good thing to have a separate source there to provide for the camp.
552. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Have you an abattoir at the Curragh?
—Yes, entirely staffed by military personnel.
553. Chairman.—We now come to paragraph 88 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General:
It was noted in the course of audit that two helicopter rotor blades had been repaired during the year at a cost of £975. Earlier three other blades found unserviceable had been replaced at a cost of £3,400. It appeared that the need for replacing or repairing these blades was caused by corrosion of the spars due to moisture penetration, and that this had been discovered at a stage when the blades had been in service for less than three-fourths of their then current flying life of 1,200 hours. Since these defects were discovered the supplier’s instruction manual has been amended to include a process to improve sealing against damage by moisture. I am in communication with the Accounting Officer and I have inquired whether any warranty was given by the supplier when the blades were purchased.”
Mr. Suttle.—The Accounting Officer has informed me that all the relevant maintenance instructions laid down in the suppliers’ manual were carried out. A warranty obtained at the time of purchase which had several restrictions was for six months or 50 flying hours, whichever expired first.
554. Deputy R. Burke.—I am not a technical man. There is reference to corrosion of spars. I take it the spars are of steel or some such substance?
—That I cannot say. They were used a good deal over the sea which I believe contributed to the corrosion. There is constant investigation by the makers of problems like this in the light of experience and that particular problem now has been overcome.
555. Chairman.—Have you any comment to offer in regard to subhead O.2?
—The matter has been resolved satisfactorily and as far as the company’s guarantee is concerned there was no breach of it. They did everything required of them under the guarantee.
556. Chairman.—Paragraph 89 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General states:
“Subhead X.—Travelling and Incidental Expenses
Following consideration of a recommendation by the Commission on Higher Education that the training of military cadets should be associated with university studies it was decided that suitably qualified members of the cadet class appointed in 1968 should be given an opportunity of pursuing studies at University College, Galway. A total of fourteen cadets commenced courses in Arts, Commerce, Science and Engineering in October 1969. The charge to this subhead includes expenditure amounting to £1,028 on college, registration and examination fees and text books.”
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for information. The scheme is a continuing one and similar opportunities have been afforded to the 1969 and 1970 Cadet classes.
557. Chairman.—Has the Accounting Officer anything to say about this—is it continuing satisfactorily?
—The major development there has been the sending of cadets to UCG. At the present time there are 90 cadets attending Galway University and it will be a standard feature in the coming years. On entry, cadets are required to have matriculation so that they can go on to university. We have not been able to recruit the full number with matriculation and last year we had to hold a special examination based on the leaving certificate in order to supplement the earlier intake. Possibly this practice will have to be repeated.
558. Is it matriculation to the National University?
—That is intended to be the standard for the future.
559. Would not leaving certificate standard with certain honours be sufficient rather than to have post-primary students requiring matriculation?
—They can get matriculation through the leaving certificate provided they have a sufficient number of honours.
Why specify matriculation—why not leave it at leaving certificate?
—Because we want to ensure that our cadets will be qualified to go to university. In other words, we would not take in a cadet who could not later go to university. Therefore it must be matriculation and how a cadet gets matriculation, whether by direct examination or by leaving certificate, does not matter.
560. Deputy Tunney.—Did you experience difficulties this year?
—Yes. We did not get the required number of suitable candidates with matriculation.
561. Was it that they were unsuitable otherwise? I happen to know a few people who were candidates and who were regarded as not being eligible for it?
—Quite a number were successful at the interview but when the examination results came out it was found that some were not qualified educationally. Quite a number, as many as 40, were in that position.
562. I understood you to say that this year you had difficulty in recruiting candidates who would subsequently be acceptable to the universities and that later on you had another examination in an attempt to get suitable candidates. I know some candidates who in my opinion were eligible for university but they were not successful?
—They might not be acceptable to the board who interviewed them, apart altogether from their educational standards. There are a number of reasons why an applicant might not be acceptable. One would be health. Another would be general unsuitability for military life and, of course, the third would be education.
563. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Did you say 19 or 90 cadets were eligible for university?
—I said 90. Some of those would be officers. They are commissioned after two years. The first year they spend as cadets at the Curragh and the second year they go to UCG still as cadets. They are normally commissioned after two years as cadets. In other words, some of them would be officers while at university.
564. Is it the position now that all cadets must have matriculation and must take courses at the university?
—The aim is that all Army cadets—this does not apply to the Air Corps or the Naval Service—should have reached matriculation standard. That is the policy so that all our cadets and officers would eventually have the opportunity of a university education. However we have not been able to get the full quota of cadets with matriculation standard and earlier this year a special examination was held for those of leaving certificate standard so as to supplement the earlier competition. A number of those who were recruited at the second examination, perhaps half of them, were qualified to go forward to university and they will be sent to university. A similar examination may be held later this year or early next year to supplement this year’s intake.
565. At the moment, therefore, there are two levels of entry—one requiring people of matriculation standard either direct or on leaving certificate and another requiring only the leaving certificate. Does this mean that there is to be built up two categories of officers, one of graduates and the other of non-graduates?
—That is not the intention. The aim is that all the cadets will have the opportunity of a university education but we have not been able to get the required numbers who are qualified for entry to university.
566. Is success in the subsidiary examination acceptable to the university as an entrance examination?
—No. A candidate must have the leaving certificate in order to enter for the competition but the actual selection is made by an interview board. A number of boys coming in will have matriculation or be qualified to matriculate on the basis of their leaving certificate. They would be allowed to go to university but those who have not matriculation would do all their training at the Curragh.
So that there will be a number of officers who will not be graduates?—That is so.
567. Deputy Tunney.—What is the minimum number of years that a graduate must remain in the force?
—Ten years in the case of those with degrees in arts, economics or science. In the case of an engineer it is 12 years. That means they must remain in the Permanent Defence Force for that length of time from the date of graduation plus an additional ten years on the Reserve Defence Force.
568. Deputy Treacy.—What opportunities to cadetship are available to the lower ranks in the Army?
—Each year a number of vacancies are reserved for serving personnel who have the required educational qualifications.
569. Do many avail of these opportunities?
—I have not the exact figure but the numbers who are appointed are relatively few.
570. Deputy H. Gibbons.—In the case of these people is matriculation required?
—The same educational qualifications would be required.
571. If a member of the lower ranks succeeds in obtaining matriculation, is he considered automatically for promotion to officer grade?
—He would have to enter for the competition and be interviewed by the board of selection. In the case of non-commissioned ranks there is a system of educational facilities for them. They could take their leaving certificate course while serving and there is vocational training available also for them.
572. Deputy Treacy.—Could we have some information as to the percentage who are promoted?
—Of course there are other channels of entry to commissioned rank besides cadetship and occasionally a number of NCOs are appointed. I think there were 31 appointed about a year or two ago. These were specially selected NCOs.
Chairman.—Perhaps the accounting officer will let us have a memo with further information?
573. Deputy H. Gibbons.—I suggest that included will be the number of promotions from the lower ranks to officer grade, including cadetship. Is it not possible to be promoted to officer grade without going through cadetship?
—It is not an annual event but over a period of years a selection of NCOs are appointed. First they are selected from units. They are given about a year’s training, the outcome of which determines whether they will be commissioned.
573a. Chairman.—Paragraph 90 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead AA.—Military Educational Courses and Visits
A scheme was introduced for the attendance of men of the Permanent Defence Force at courses of one year’s duration at vocational schools with a view to their obtaining the Day Group Certificate. In September 1969, one hundred and fifty-two men commenced courses in eight schools, ninety-seven taking the full day course and fifty-five a shorter night course. The cost, consisting of tuition fees and text books, amounted to £618.”
573b. Chairman.—Paragraph 91 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
The charge to this subhead comprises:—
Mr. Suttle.—This is an analysis of the compensation paid in the year.
Chairman.—We will now go to the Vote.
574. Deputy R. Burke.—In regard to subhead G.—Civil Defence—there is a Note relating to grants to local authorities. Would the accounting officer explain how the local authorities help the work of the Department of Defence?
—The local authorities are responsible for setting up their own Civil Defence schemes in their administrative areas and generally the County or City Manager is the controller of Civil Defence in his area. They have various training schemes and the expense is met partly from the Vote for Defence and partly from the rates. In the first instance the cost is met by the local authority. The Department of Defence then recoup 70 per cent of the outlay.
575. The £175,000 is approximately 70 per cent of the outlay?
—Not quite. The Department of Defence bear the cost of the central training of the Civil Defence instructors. The Department also bear the full cost of training equipment. In that year the grants to local authorities of £125,000 represented 70 per cent of their total outlay.
576. Do the Department supervise the activities of the local authorities in regard to the expenditure of this money?
—In a broad way only. Each local authority has its scheme and within that it spends its money.
577. Deputy Dr. Gibbons.—On subhead H— Defensive Equipment—what does this cover?
—All manner of weapons, ammunition, armoured vehicles.
578. Deputy R. Burke.—In the year under review approximately £367,000 was spent out of a grant of £420,000. I take it that the purchases are under some credit extension system. Perhaps the accounting officer might explain a little more the substantial amount which is falling due for payment in that period? I understand the equipment was purchased the previous year but was paid for in this year?
—Generally, when we place a contract for that sort of equipment the suppliers require a down payment of say 25 or 30 per cent and that is paid immediately on the signing of the contract against a banker’s guarantee. The delivery of the goods might not take place until the next financial year, so that in that sense the financial transaction is spread over two or more financial years.
579. In effect, the structure of subhead H is the same from year to year in terms of the amounts outstanding in respect of equipment and the amounts falling due, that the general purposes are approximately the same?
—No, the purpose could vary very much depending on the nature of the contracts.
580. Would any of this equipment be in respect of a non-sterling area which might be subject to devaluation? Would this have any effect on the amount of money which you would subsequently have to pay?
—Yes, if sterling were devalued, say against the franc, it would affect the ultimate payment.
581. Do the Department keep this particular aspect, the possibility of a loss or gain depending on devaluation or revaluation, under review constantly?
—The important factor is to get the sort of suitable equipment we want; the other is an unforeseen hazard, that is changes in the monetary rate of exchange. These are things which cannot really be foreseen. At least we do not regard them a factor in deciding where to place a contract.
582. Deputy Tunney.—Under subhead I— Medicines and Instruments—what are we buying?
—Drugs, dressings and medical instruments.
583. I am not happy about this in other areas where large quantities of drugs which become useless in a few months are bought. Is this likely to happen in your case?
—I have no note of a case at the present time. Perhaps it occurs to some extent but we do not carry heavy reserves of drugs and dressings. I do not think it occurs to any great extent.
584. Deputy Treacy.—Under subhead J— Mechanical Transport—what is the position with regard to transport? I know there was some difficulty in regard to the purchase of equipment. Has this been resolved?
—There was a saving of £15,280 due to deferment in the purchase of two tipper trucks at a cost of roughly £4,000 each. Then there was a delay in the delivery of other vehicles.
585. Deputy R. Burke.—Under subhead N— Animals, Forage, etc.—what function have horses in this day and age in the view of the Department of Defence?
—They have not any military function. It is simply something which has been handed down from earlier years when the horse had a military function.
586. It is purely the equitation school?
—Yes. We have some horses in the Curragh which are used in recreation by cadets attending the college there. The purpose is to discover any equitation talents which might be around
587. On subhead 0.1—General Stores—does that refer to signalling equipment? I take it that the Department of Defence keep in close touch with the engineering section of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs about the purchase of most of the communications equipment and signalling equipment of all kinds?
—There is contact between the Signal Corps and the engineers of the Post Office. The equipment would not be similar. This figure refers mainly to radio equipment for transmitting and receiving at the various ranges. Some equipments have national coverage and some have local coverage, depending on the type of formation using them.
588. On subhead P.—Naval Stores—the figure for maintenance is substantial in relation to the amount of money under the subhead. A figure of £106,000 out of a total of £133,000 is very high?
—I do not understand the point raised.
The maintenance of vessels is the principal item of this expenditure. Allowing for the fact that maintenance is obviously a substantial part is not the proportion of Subhead P. devoted to maintenance rather high?
—In the year under review there was no provision for new vessels. There was a question of the major overhaul of the old corvettes. They were not, in fact, overhauled at that time. They were phased out of the service and new vessels obtained.
589. Deputy Treacy.—On subhead R.— Solid Fuel, Electricity, Gas and Water—what type of fuel is used mainly throughout the Department, especially in the barracks, for heating purposes? Does it vary from one barracks to another?
—The type of fuel varies. Turf, coal and oil are used. The general policy is to use native fuel, if possible. A lot depends on local circumstances.
590. Turf would be used to a large extent in a turf producing area?
—A certain amount of turf would be used in open fireplaces and a certain amount in some central heating plants. Each installation is considered from the point of view of making the best use of native fuel, either turf or electricity.
591. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead U.— Transportation, etc.—transport comes under this heading and it also comes under subhead J.—Mechanical Transport. Would the Accounting Officer distinguish between these subheads for me?
—Transportation would cover rail transport and personnel travelling on duty. The conveyance of stores is also covered. In other words, it refers to any form of transport that is not military transport. In the case of subhead J., this refers to the actual purchase of vehicles for military use. This subhead refers to the conveyance by a carrier of one sort or another.
592. Deputy Treacy.—On subhead W.— Expenses of Equitation Teams at Horse Shows —it is very gratifying to see the equitation team attending more and more international shows. We hope they will be more successful. Has the Accounting Officer any observations to make on the position of the equitation team?
—I have no observations to make on this point.
593. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead X.— Travelling and Incidental Expenses—how does that subhead fit in with subheads J. and U.?
—This refers to payments made to staff travelling.
594. Deputy R. Burke.—With reference to subhead Y.—Post Office Services—I can understand telegrams and telephones and other expenses being incurred. Could the Accounting Officer explain what extra services over and above those being given to the public are being given to the Department of Defence which would incur a payment of £32,500?
—It is the charge by the Post Office for postal expenses.
595. Is it for ordinary stamps?
—I do not know how the Post Office assess the figure. The post is franked.
There is a franking system?
—There is a simple official stamp. The Post Office have some way of assessing the volume of post carried and the cost would be charged accordingly. This is a transfer from one Department to another.
Mr. Suttle.—The Post Office make an estimate on the basis of statistics taken in a particular week of the year as to the amount of postage in any Department. They make their assessment on such figures.
Deputy R. Burke.—This figure is based on a Post Office assessment?
596. Deputy Dr. Gibbons.—With regard to subhead CC.—Compensation—have you a knock-for-knock basis with insurance companies?
Chairman.—There is a comprehensive Note on page 142 and the Committee would probably like to go through it item by item.
597. Deputy Tunney.—With regard to item No. 3—Sale of Hides and Offals—would this be from the Curragh slaughterhouse?
598. Deputy R. Burke.—With regard to item No. 7—Refunds in respect of Treatment and Maintenance of Patients in Military Hospitals—refunds by whom?
—The health authorities, for the maintenance of military personnel in military hospitals on the basis that these are insured personnel and entitled to this facility.
599. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On item No. 6— Receipts on Discharge by Purchase—I take it these are people who want to opt out of Army service before their time is up?
—Yes, that is so.
600. The amount realised was higher than the estimate?
—Yes, it can vary.
601. Could the figures be made available later?
—There were 140 in that year.
602. Was that an excessive number or was there any particular reason for it?
—I have not the information readily to hand.
603. Deputy Treacy.—Would that be regarded as a particularly high figure and is there any particular reason for it?
—I think not. It has been the general run of the years—just about average. There are ups and downs from year to year. It is a very unpredictable type of thing.
604. Deputy R. Burke.—With regard to item No. 12—Repayments of Sums advanced to Officers for Purchase of Motor Cars—could the accounting officer explain whether these are motor cars for use on official duties or private use, or is it impossible to distinguish between the two?
—Private cars used on official business. A large number of officers, especially those on duty with the FCA, must have cars in order to carry out their duties which involve a good deal of travelling, and in order to assist them in that respect they get these repayable advances to enable them to purchase their cars. They get a mileage allowance then for official travel.
605. Deputy Treacy.—Could we have some information concerning the terms of such a loan to an officer?
—It is interest-free, and repayable, for a new car, over three or four years.
How often may they avail of such a loan?
—I do not think we have any specific rule on that.
Deputy R. Burke.—It is a very small matter in the total but I was interested in the matter to clarify the point. It is only £11,000 out of a total Defence Estimate of £9 million.
606. Deputy Treacy.—The Note on Extra Remuneration states that 21 members of the staff received amounts varying from £101 to £301 in respect of overtime. What type of staff are involved here?
—These would be civil servants employed on overtime.
VOTE 44—ARMY PENSIONS.
Mr. S. Ó Cearnaigh further examined.
Chairman.—There is no paragraph from the Comptroller and Auditor General.
607. Deputy Treacy.—On subhead F.—how many of the old Connaught Rangers are left?
—In that year there were 13. There are probably fewer now.
608. Deputy R. Burke.—On subhead H., the number of those who served in Easter Week and so on in the year under review was approximately 6,000?
—This is in respect of special allowances. I think we have reached the peak now, roughly 11,000.
609. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Receiving special allowances?
610. Deputy R. Burke.—In respect of what are these paid?
—They are allowances made to veterans. either those who have military service pensions or those who have medals. There is a means test applied and if their means are below a certain statutory figure they become entitled to a special allowance. These allowances can vary from a few pounds a year to £200 or more. The average would be £120. In the last Budget these were increased by £43 as from 1st October. Increasing the allowances in that way meant that a number of others became eligible.
611. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Are you still awarding new medals?
612. In the last year you have in mind what was the number?
—We would have had 1,000 applicants.
613. For new medals?
—Yes. The free travel would give impetus to fresh applications.
614. Deputy R. Burke.—I take it these medals are granted on the basis of records which may be available?
—A combination of records and inquiries made mainly from former officers at battalion or company level of the units of which applicants claim to have been members. It is becoming increasingly difficult now to get satisfactory verification.
615. Is there any method by which the decision of the Department can be further adjudicated on, by way of appeal to some other authority? I ask this because in one case a man felt he had a genuine case?
—The initial decision is taken by a senior officer in the Department who weighs the evidence from both available records and from officers of units, if they are available. If the medal is refused the applicant can appeal and the application is reviewed by the Minister who will then adjudicate on it. The applicant can appeal as often as he wishes and if he can produce fresh evidence it will be considered. The Minister is the final appeal.
616. Deputy H. Gibbons.—The medal is given for service up to three months of the Truce. Would it be possible to have the reason why this period has been chosen?
Chairman.—This would appear to be a matter of Government policy. Perhaps the Deputy would put down a Parliamentary Question?
—The three months pre-Truce has been there for more than 20 years, roughly since 1945 when that qualification was introduced.
617. Deputy Treacy.—It was suggested that there has been an increase in the number of persons to whom military pensions were awarded for service rendered during the insurrection of 1916. Is this true and would you have an indication of the trend?
—There have not been any new military service pensions awarded for several years. The 1949 Act allowed for reviews of earlier applications and there were then fresh applications but the administration of that Act was concluded in 1955-6.
618. I gathered from what Deputy Burke said that a number of allowances were given to 1916 veterans?
—There is a distinction between special allowances and military service pensions under the 1924 and 1934 Acts. Those who got the latter were men whose cases went before the Referee and the Advisory Committee under the 1934 Act or the Board of Assessors under the 1924 Act who investigated claims for military service in the period 1916 to 1923.
619. Any increases in these numbers would be attributable to applications for Old IRA allowances on the basis of the service medal?
—Special allowances come under an entirely different code, the Army Pensions Acts. They are allowances to veterans who are incapable of self-support. A person over 70 years is regarded as fulfilling this requirement.
620. On subhead L., could we have some comment from the accounting officer? How much more is due to us under the heading of Special Compensation to United Nations Forces?
—Roughly £500,000 outstanding.
Chairman.—We turn now to subhead O.— Funeral Grants in respect of Deceased Special Allowance Holders.
621. Deputy R. Burke.—Could we have an explanation as to why the original Estimate was nil and a supplementary one of £17,500 was introduced?
—The scheme was introduced in that year. The grant had been £25 but it is now being increased to £50. In that year it was limited to special allowance holders but it is available now also to military service pensioners.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned at 1.15 p.m.