Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1969 - 1970::28 June, 1973::Appendix




Paragraph 1.

Following are the further observations of the Minister for Finance on matters raised in previous reports of the Committee of Public Accounts:—


25. Claims against St. Patrick’s Copper Mines, Ltd.

The Chief State Solicitor is pursuing the claim for £211 and the Committee will be informed when payment is received.


5. Fees for professional services in connection with building projects.

A Bill to amend the Restrictive Trade Practices Acts is being drafted.

11. Defaulting employers in P.A.Y.E. tax deduction card cases.

The cases outstanding have been reduced from 200 to 22. These are being pursued.

18. Cross check on accuracy of wholesale tax returns.

Cross-checking has been put on a continuing basis. The substantial volume of it done up to the present has not revealed any case warranting penalty proceedings. In each case where an underpayment was material, arrears have been collected, with interest.


Paragraph 2. Check on accuracy of returns of taxable turnover.

In all cases where audited accounts are presented for income tax purposes a cross-check of turnover tax returns is made. During the three years ended March 31, 1971, cross-checking revealed irregularities in a total of approximately 2,400 cases. In most of these cases there was little or no element of evasion and they were settled on the basis of payment of any tax due, with interest. In 75 cases evasion was discovered. Of these, 45 were successfully prosecuted and the remaining 30 were settled on the basis of payment of the arrears of tax and interest, together with an appropriate addition for penalties.


Paragraph 3 and 4. Audited accounts of bodies which receive subventions from voted moneys.

The main recommendations in the Report of the Public Services Organisation Review Group in regard to the general restructuring of the public service are still under consideration and it is not envisaged that there will be any development on the question of a parliamentary review of State-sponsored bodies until these recommendations have been decided on. In the meantime the Minister has brought to the notice of Accounting Officers the Committee’s request for the accounts of State-sponsored bodies, and has indicated that he would see no objection to the furnishing of these accounts to the Committee on the clear understanding that they are for information only and that Accounting Officers will not be expected to answer questions arising from them.

Paragraphs 5-9. Difficulties in recruitment of civil service staff.

It is not clear whether, in coming to the conclusion that there has been an “incredible deterioration in recruitment to the public service”, the Committee have given due weight to the expansion in the service which has occurred in the past decade or to the growth in competing employment opportunities.

The Minister understands that recruitment difficulties are experienced not only by the civil service but also by the rest of the public sector and many concerns in the private sector. The action taken towards resolving civil service recruitment difficulties includes (a) improvement of recruitment procedures generally and (b) an examination, for each grade where recruitment difficulties exist, of particular problems relating to it and the formulation of solutions.

As regards (a), the Civil Service Commission have adopted various means for expediting recruitment. In addition to points mentioned in the Minister’s minute of 9 February 1970 on the Appropriation Accounts for 1967-68 there have been

(1) more recruitment visits to schools and universities,

(2) improvements in advertising and information services,

(3) a speeding up of examination results, and

(4) more frequent competitions.

In addition to these general improvements, special schemes have been designed to improve recruitment to particular grades. These schemes provide for the training of civil servants to obtain higher qualifications needed for certain grades. Examples are:

(1) Scholarships are awarded to selected Executive Officers to enable them to qualify as economists, statisticians, meteorologists or psychologists;

(2) Suitable Executive Officers attend the Institute of Public Administration for a year’s course in administrative studies;

(3) Executive Officers appointed to the Land Registry are sent at public expense to qualify as barristers-at-law. A similar arrangement has long applied to Assistant Examiners in the Estate Duty Branch;

(4) Professional officers in the Department of Local Government are sent at public expense to qualify as planners;

(5) The Department of Posts and Telegraphs recruits Student Engineers who are sent to the university, at State expense, to qualify as engineers;

(6) In the Department of Transport and Power selected Meteorological Assistants and Senior Meteorological Assistants are sent for university training as meteorologists;

(7) A trainee scheme to fill posts as Cost Accountant has recently been sanctioned;

(8) The Chief State Solicitor’s Office is to take on apprentice solicitors in the hope that suitable people will become interested in a civil service career.

Schemes also exist for the training at State expense of suitable personnel with a view to their securing qualifications to fit them for appointment at sub-professional or advanced technical levels in engineering, architectural and scientific work in the OPW, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Minister is confident that the steps taken will result in a considerable improvement in recruitment. The most acute problem numerically has been to recruit enough clerical assistants. The holding of more frequent competitions of a simple character has greatly eased this problem. Generally, as far as school leaver appointments to general service grades are concerned, it is hoped to fill the great bulk of vacancies when the results of current competitions are available.




Paragraph 10. Payments to Special Regional Development Fund (Grant-in-Aid).

The Special Regional Development Fund exists to cater for economic projects in Western areas which cannot be assisted under other State schemes. The Industrial Development Authority would be precluded from assisting many of the projects aided from the Fund because the Industrial Development Act, 1969, does not envisage a role for the IDA outside the industrial field nor does it empower the Authority to make loans. There is full consultation with the IDA before industrial projects are assisted from the Fund.

Administration of the Fund by the Department of Finance facilitates co-ordination. A senior officer of the Department is chairman of a Central Development Committee on which various Government Departments, the IDA and the County Development Teams are represented. This Committee examines proposals for assistance from the Fund and acts as co-ordination of all State agencies dealing with the West.

The grants for small tourism projects were channelled through the Department of Transport and Power and Bord Fáilte and were reflected in Bord Fáilte’s accounts. These projects, which were regarded as likely to make a useful contribution to tourism development in the West, would have had to be deferred if the necessary finance had not been made available as an exceptional measure.

Paragraph 11. Public Services Organisation Review Group.

The consultants, Booz, Allen and Hamilton International N.V., were engaged by the Public Services Organisation Review Group, on the basis of a quotation for an assignment, after consideration of written proposals and oral presentations by eight firms of consultants. Their fee, like that of some of the other firms, was based on an overall price for each stage of the work rather than on a scale of charges. Their activities covered three stages:


£44,500 fees plus £6,675 expenses







(This covered a broad survey of the civil service)



£32,000 fees plus £5,940 expenses







(Broadly this covered a survey of the State-sponsored bodies and local authorities and their relationships to the civil service)



£4,525 fees and expenses








(This covered general consultancy advice in the final part of the Group’s work)






The work done at each stage was reviewed by the Group before proceeding to the succeeding stage.

The consultants began work for the Group at the end of April, 1967 and were continuously employed up to July, 1968. In the period, August, 1968 to March, 1969, they were not actively employed by the Group but there were occasional consultations. They were again actively employed from April to July, 1969.


Paragraph 12. Savings on provisions for purchase of stores.

The Minister understands that the main factors were those mentioned below.

Mechanical Transport: The non-delivery of some items (mainly trucks, refuellers and a fire engine) accounted for under-expenditure of £43,000. On purchases for maintenance purposes there was a saving of about £12,000. Partly offsetting these savings there was extra expenditure on repayable advances for the purchase of motor cars.

General Stores: £27,000 was saved by deferment of purchases of items of communication equipment and some army civil defence equipment. The non-delivery of aircraft parts accounted for a saving of £34,000.

Naval Stores: A provision of £10,000 for advance payment on a replacement launch was not spent (as it was not possible to obtain a suitable vessel in the year) and £15,000 was saved on fuels, oils and other items, due to reduced use of corvettes.

In general, expenditures on purchases are subject to fluctuations due to factors such as delays in delivery, increases in costs and decisions to defer or modify purchases. The estimates are prepared (well in advance of the opening of the financial year) on the basis of the best information available including likely carry-overs of deliveries.

Paragraph 13. Question of duplicate control of certain activities of the Department of Defence.

The recommendation of the Committee in this matter has been noted in connection with the examination of the recommendations of the Public Services Organisation Review Group relating to the Department of Defence.


Paragraph 14. Overpayments of social assistance.

The sum of £77,616 represents the cumulative total of overpayments of social assistance outstanding at 31 March, 1969: of this sum £47,714 relates to old age (non-contributory) pensions, £12,040 to widows (non-contributory) pensions and £16,574 to unemployment assistance.

Overpayments of old age and widows’ (non-contributory) pensions arise mainly from the concealment or non-disclosure of claimants’ full means. Every effort is made by the Department of Social Welfare to carry out a reasonable investigation of means, including subsequent checks on the circumstances of recipients. The procedures necessary to eliminate all such overpayments, however, would delay unduly the determination of claims and would increase administration costs to an unjustifiable extent.

The position as regards unemployment benefit and assistance has been examined, as a result of which extra staff have been appointed to operate more effective control measure on claims for and disbursements of benefit and assistance, and special arrangements have been instituted in co-operation with the Department of Justice to investigate suspected fraudulent claims. As regards the division of responsibility referred to, no practical alternative is seen in present circumstances to the existing arrangements. The matter will however be reconsidered in the light of changing circumstances and, in any event, when the National Manpower Service is fully operational.


Paragraph 15. Planning and supervision of hospital building projects.

The Minister is informed by the Department of Health that the normal procedures obtaining in regard to the planning and general control of hospital building projects financed wholly or mainly from the Department’s funds require full pre-planning and co-ordinated development. The Department maintains control from the initial stages (schedules of accommodation) right through to specifications and detailed Bills of Quantities. Tenders are subject to the Department’s approval; realistic building programmes from the appointed contractors are obtained before construction work begins; site supervisory staff are employed; and frequent inspections of work in progress are made by architectural and engineering staff of the Department. A strict control of variations and extras is maintained by the Department and final accounts must be submitted for approval before final instalments of grants are paid. In this way, effective control over costs can be achieved throughout the course of a scheme and the progress of the work in the different parts of the building can be co-ordinated.

In the case of the new St. Vincent’s Hospital at Elm Park, Dublin, there were unusual circumstances which made it impossible to achieve the degree of pre-planning control and co-ordination normally maintained on hospital building projects. In 1949, it was agreed that, in consideration of a fixed grant, the Hospital Authority would, without intervention from the Department, plan and erect a 450-bed general teaching hospital at Elm Park. Planning of the hospital proceeded on that basis and, in 1955, the foundations were laid. The economic difficulties of the 1956-58 period necessitated a deferral of further work on the project and it was not until 1959 that it became possible to consider the restoration of the scheme to the building programme. At that stage, it was accepted that a hospital as originally envisaged could not be provided within the limits of the funds available and it was decided to modify the original plans so as to provide for the erection of the full superstructure of a 450-bed hospital but to phase over a number of years, the completion of the overall project. The initial building and services contracts, placed in 1964, provided for the internal completion of only 228 beds. According as financial circumstances allowed these initial contracts were expanded and by 1965 work was proceeding on the basis of a hospital of 300 beds with temporary accommodation for nurses on the top floor of the building.

Following further negotiations with the Hospital Authority, the Minister for Health agreed in 1965 to make further grants available to enable the hospital to be completed as originally planned; detailed planning of the further accommodation required (including a tower-block Nurses’ Home, Nurses’ Training School and School of Radiography) to be subject to his Department’s supervision. The relevant contracts had again to be revised and this involved, inter alia, negotiations on prices, contract conditions, etc., and necessitated some revisions of lay-out and equipment.

Within the constrictions imposed by the manner in which this project evolved, as outlined above, all appropriate steps were taken by the Department and the Hospital Authority to ensure that no avoidable delays occurred in completing the scheme, but because of the later decision on the Nurses’ Home, it was not possible to ensure completion of the two units at the same time.


Paragraphs 16-19. Purchase of Dove Aircraft for flight checking and radar training.

The Minister is informed by the Department of Transport and Power that it did not regard the Dove aircraft project as one of high priority and that no immediacy was attached to the establishment of its own flight checking organisation. This was so because flight checking was being done by an outside agency and, despite inconvenience due to the service not always being available on call, was found to be adequate for requirements. However, factors such as the prospect of increases in the charges for this service, the growth in traffic and the provision of additional radio navigational facilities indicated that to meet obligations under international regulations the establishment of a flight checking organisation could not be indefinitely deferred.

The decision to acquire and re-equip the Dove aircraft was the first step towards the establishment of a comprehensive flight checking unit. Although at the time the Department’s Radio Technical Section was 3 engineers under strength and was engaged, in addition to the day to day operation and maintenance of aviation services, with the provision of new communications facilities to the capital value of some £1,500,000, the detailed specifications for the complex equipment to be installed in the aircraft and the arrangements for its installation were virtually completed between February and December 1967. The principal causes of delay were the contractor’s slow progress and his ultimate financial failure which necessitated the preparation of a new specification and the seeking of fresh tenders and led to a reappraisal of the project at the request of the Department of Finance.


Paragraph 20. Departure from normal procedure for placing of contracts

The arrangements made in this instance were, as already explained, exceptional and do not imply any general departure from the practice of awarding contracts on the basis of competitive tenders by reference, where appropriate, to the rules relating to the limits of preference.


Paragraph 21. Improvement works at Lough Key Forest Park, Boyle, Co. Roscommon.

The views of the Committee have been conveyed to the Department of Lands.


Paragraphs 22-26. Capital developments by University College, Dublin at Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

The Minister notes the additional information supplied to the Committee on 3 September, 1970, by the Accounting Officer of the Vote for Agriculture. He has also been informed by the Accounting Officer that the Office of Public Works estimates that the present-day cost equivalent of the elements other than cost of acquisition of the estate (£111,000) and working capital (£30,500) included in the estimate of £581,000 furnished by U.C.D. in 1965 would be some 40% greater, or about £616,000. The addition to this of the cost of acquisition of the estate, a revised figure of £60,000 for working capital and £75,000 for Plant Pathology (not included in the 1965 estimate) would, according to the Accounting Officer, account for the revised estimate (£852,000) referred to by the Committee.

With a view to the avoidance of further increases of costs, U.C.D. have undertaken to furnish a recasting of the proposals for developing the Lyons Estate (including Leixlip) to be financed within a figure of £400,000 approximately in excess of the proceeds (£442,000) of the Glasnevin lands. They have also undertaken not to enter into any further commitments until the revised proposals have been examined by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. That Department has also arranged for an appraisal by an FAO Mission of UCD’s plans generally for the development of its Faculty of Agriculture including the Lyons Estate.

The Minister understands that the Department’s experts and architect have examined the documentation furnished by UCD relating to the capital works of the Lyons Estate and have also inspected the works. They do not consider that there was extravagance in the planning of the buildings, having regard to the variety of buildings of different design and construction required by a body engaged in the teaching of graduates and under-graduates as well as in research. Neither do they consider that there was extravagance in the actual costs of the work done.


Paragraph 27. Provision of houses for married members of the Garda Siochana.

The Minister is informed by the Commissioners of Public Works that of the total of 446 houses built by the National Building Agency for married members of the Gárda Síochána, 350 have been formally transferred to the Commissioners, and the remainder are in the process of being transferred.

When the houses are accepted from the Agency they are regularly inspected and maintained by the Commissioners. Houses no longer required for State purposes are normally disposed of by public auction or competitive tender but, if required for public housing, can be transferred to a local authority at an agreed valuation.


Paragraph 28. Payment for school transport services.

Under the financial arrangements agreed with C.I.E. the Department of Education has full access to all accounts and information relevant to the school transport service and has, therefore, precise information regarding its commitments. All C.I.E. charges in relation to this service and particularly the cost of administration are subject to continuous departmental scrutiny. The Minister is assured by the Department of Education that these charges are fair and reasonable in all the-circumstances.

Paragraph 29. Payment to Royal Irish Academy.

The Minister agrees with the Committee’s view.


Paragraph 30. Current expenditure on comprehensive schools.

The Department of Education will, in future, supply to the Committee particulars of expenditure on these schools.

GIVEN under the Official Seal of the Minister for Finance this 25th day of June, 1971.

Signed: C. H. MURRAY,



Department of Finance.