Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1971 - 1972::04 July, 1974::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 4 lúil, 1974.

Thursday, 4th July, 1974.

The Committee met at 11 a.m.

Members Present:





H. Gibbons





DEPUTY de VALERA in the chair

Mr. S. Mac Gearailt (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) and Mr. A. J. Fagan (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.


Mr. D. Ó Riordáin called and examined.

730. Chairman.—Paragraph 90 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Córas Iompair Éireann

Subhead D.1.—Grant to Córas Iompair Éireann

Subhead D.3.—Additional Grant to Córas Iompair Éireann

In paragraphs 87 and 88 of my previous report I referred to the provision of financial assistance to CIE by way of non-repayable grants in the period 1st April, 1964 to 31st March, 1971 and to the deferment of interest payments by CIE for the years 1969-70 and 1970-71 on Central Fund advances.

The additional grant of £4,464,000 under subhead D.3. was provided by way of supplementary estimate. A specific undertaking was given in a note on the face of the estimate that £1,918,000 would be repaid to the Exchequer in the form of interest on capital advances. As the company only paid £1,496,825 on foot of interest I have asked the Accounting Officer for an explanation.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph draws attention to the fact that CIE, having received the additional grant of £4,464,000 under subhead D.3. failed to comply with a specific condition which was attached to that grant by Dáil Éireann. Instead of repaying to the Exchequer £1,918,000 as interest on capital advances as was stated on the face of the Supplementary Estimate the company paid only £1,496,825. Copies of the explanation furnished by the Accounting Officer have been made available to the Committee. In brief he says that CIE’s deficit for 1971-72 amounting to £6,428,000 exceeded by £428,000 the estimated deficit on which the Supplementary Estimate had been based. Funds envisaged when the Estimate was passed were not available to the company for the payment of the balance of interest on capital advances (£422,591). Moreover, it was apparent at the commencement of 1972-73 that CIE’s financial position in that year would be critical unless proposed increases in fares and rates were approved. The board, therefore, considered it prudent to withhold the interest payment of £422,591.

Chairman.—The net amount withheld was £422,591?

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—Yes.

731. Chairman.—Would the Accounting Officer like to comment?

—The position was that CIE did not have the money and we had to deal with the matter as best we could. It was repaid by a Supplementary Estimate later. CIE were not financially in a position to comply with the original conditions of the note for a Supplementary Estimate.

732. When was this payment due to the Exchequer?

—In the year ended March, 1972.

733. When was the Supplementary Estimate brought in?

—In the following year.

734. Would that be the normal time for bringing it in or should it have been brought in during the year in question?

—It was brought in to supplement the grant already provided for in the main Estimates for the year and to cover the inadequacies of the grants in the previous year which included, of course, the provision to repay the interest.

Was the original Estimate for the year 1971-72?


Should the Supplementary Estimate have been moved in that year?

—It could not have been because we did not know what the position was in good time.

That means that the Supplementary Estimate was brought in in the next year. Is that right?

—Yes, we brought it in as soon as we were able.

735. This Committee is not concerned with policy but it is very much concerned with accounting procedures and accounting. It appears that the grant was made subject to a specific provision in legislation for repayment. Has this happened before?

—I do not think so. We could not be sure in advance that CIE could not pay this sum at the end of the financial year when it was due. They had hoped to increase their rates and fares, but the application for the necessary increases was delayed for a very considerable time. Therefore, they did not have the receipts that would enable them to pay, and it was at the end of the year and impossible to take a Supplementary Estimate in the time available.

736. Over the last few years this Committee has been particularly concerned with procedures, and for that reason I would like to hear a comment on this matter from the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—Dáil Éireann attached specific conditions to this grant and we observed that those conditions had not been complied with. It was our duty, therefore, to draw this to the attention of the Committee. Whether it was possible for a Supplementary Estimate to be taken towards the end of March to meet this, I am not in a position to say. The Accounting Officer says they were not aware of the shortfall until after the end of the year.

—This was not so much a condition of the Vote as the normal statutory requirement of CIE to pay interest on the stock to the Minister for Finance. What effectively happened is that CIE defaulted on their statutory obligation because they just did not have the money nor a hope of getting it. Otherwise they would not have been able to pay their wages bill.

Chairman.—This is quite clear, but the very fact that one meets with a default in complying with a statutory condition raises a serious situation. If this Committee were to allow such a principle to go, then Parliament would be abdicating. I am speaking for myself, but I am sure the Committee fully understand and sympathise with your problem. What we are concerned with is complete and accurate accounting in the first instance, and, secondly, that if Parliament legislates, then that legislation should be paramount to everything else, in theory anyway and we must uphold that theory. That is why there must be an explanation of this matter.

737. Deputy Tunney.—Do I take it—I am not sure if I heard correctly—that the reason it was not paid at the time was that CIE were in the position of looking for permission to increase their fares?


738. CIE were in such a bad position that they would not have been able to meet the wages of the workers and staff, so there was no other option. Is that correct?

Chairman.—They had no money and they defaulted.

—There was an application lodged with the National Prices Commission to increase their rates and fares to an extent that would enable them to pay this. If they could have been assured at the end of the year that this price increase would be granted rapidly, then I think they could have paid it, but in prudence they had to hold it up for the time being.

739. Again I emphasise we are concerned only with the accounting side and we do not want to intrude on policy. However, although bearing in mind the history of CIE and its chronic financial difficulties—about which I think the whole Committee sympathise and would cast no reflection on CIE in regard to it—Parliament must be the controlling authority. Let me put it this way: if it was a question of CIE—this is purely hypothetical—having difficulty with some bank institution or other such organisation, the parliamentary requirement should rate first and the others should be dealt with in Parliament, urgently if necessary. Have I, I wonder, made myself clear?

—Quite clear.

740. Having said that—I trust to the satisfaction of the Comptroller and Auditor General—will you take the Committee’s point of view into account? If problems of this nature are likely to arise can a solution be found which will comply with the two conditions we require? First, there is the sovereignty of Parliament: there must be no abrogation, explicit or implicit, of legislative authority to anyone. After all, the procedure for getting the necessary authority from the House, particularly in a matter of some urgency, is a fairly quick procedure. No short cuts of this nature may or should be taken. Secondly, the correct procedure must be rigidly adhered to, to the satisfaction of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Now, we quite understand your practical problems, but I recommend what I have said for consideration in the preparation of next year’s Estimate?

—This was done with the agreement of the Department of Finance who agreed to waive the interest payment for the time being.

But the Department of Finance is not Dáil Éireann?

—I agree.

Deputy Tunney.—I would hope that it would not be interpreted from the record of these proceedings that the Committee would accept the principle that, if any semi-State organisation can show that, were it not for this, they could not have been able to pay the workers and staff, I would accept that in toto. This is a very emotive matter and nobody likes saying: “I would be opposed to paying workers and staff.” If, however, any semi-State organisation presented that as an excuse for failing in its duty in other respects, that would certainly not meet with my sympathy.

Chairman.—All we are concerned here here is accounting.

Deputy Tunney.—It was given as an excuse for this happening. If it had not happened the workers could not have been paid. It arises very properly, I think, on this point.

Chairman.—There is really no difficulty between us. This ties up with the arrangements that have to be made to meet a hypothetical situation. When I referred to a “banking” situation I was saying much the same as Deputy Tunney is saying. But whatever happens in cases like this it is the responsibility of the Dáil and there is no excuse for not bringing it in as an urgent matter. Secondly, accounting procedures have to be observed. These are the only two points. Deputy Tunney is quite right in saying that the excuse is acceptable in that form.

Deputy H. Gibbons.—As I see it, at that particular point CIE had a choice. One would be to seek legislation to get this money by having a Supplementary Estimate passed. I doubt if that could have been done in time for accounting purposes on 31st March, 1972. The other choice would be to seek the money from the commercial banks and pay it back to the State. I expect they would have got permission to do that. They were on the horns of a dilemma; they could not pay their way.

741. Chairman.—That, I think, is what the Committee feel and that is why I ask that, for the future, these two points should be watched. They are very important.

—Oh, I quite agree.

742. Paragraph 91 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

“The following information has been extracted from the published financial accounts of Córas Iompair Éireann for the years 1964-65 to 1971-72:


Trading Receipts

Net Deficit

Government Grants





































Section 6 of the Transport Act, 1964, enabled the Minister for Transport and Power to pay to Córas Iompair Éireann a subvention by way of a non-repayable grant of £2 million in each year in the period 1st April 1964 to 31st March 1969.

The Act also enabled the Minister to vary the amount of the grant in the year 1969-70 and the annual grant for that year and each of the four succeeding years was increased to £2,650,000 under the Transport Act, 1964 (Section 6) Order, 1969.

As the subventions paid to CIE in the five years ended 31st March 1969 were inadequate to the extent of £642,460 a grant of this amount was paid in the year 1970-71 under the provisions of the Transport Act, 1969. A further additional grant of £2,980,000 was made to the company in that year under the terms of the Transport Act, 1970. In the year under review the grant of £2,650,000 authorised by the Transport Act, 1964 (Section 6) Order, 1969 was paid to the company and an additional grant of £4,464,000 was provided by supplementary estimate but without statutory approval such as was given to additional grants in the year 1970-71. The Public Accounts Committee in paragraph 12 of its report dated 20th March 1952 expressed the opinion that in any future case in which the introduction of an estimate at variance with existing statutory provisions became necessary such variation should be expressly mentioned and explained on the face of the estimate. The Minister for Finance in his minute of 23rd July 1952 gave an undertaking that regard would be had to the views of the Committee on this matter. I have invited the observations of the Accounting Officer.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—As the additional grant of £4,464,000 under subhead D.3. did not have specific statutory approval such as was given for earlier grants by the Transport Acts 1964, 1969 and 1970, I asked the Accounting Officer for his observations. In his reply, copies of which have been circulated to the Committee, he stated that the legislation was not considered necessary because it was made clear on the face of the Estimate that the grant was additional to the statutory grant.

743. Chairman.—Does the Accounting Officer wish to make any comment here?

—We did this in consultation with the Minister for Finance and, subsequent to the Comptroller and Auditor General taking it up with me, we took it up with the Minister for Finance, who held it was in accordance with the undertaking he had given to the Committee in July, 1952, because of the note that was submitted with it.

744. What note?

—The footnote to the Supplementary Estimate showed that part of the additional grant was for the purpose of enabling CIE to meet interest payments due to the Exchequer and the position was fully explained to the Dáil in the Minister’s speech on the Estimate on 25th November, 1971. There is a matter of principle involved here but I think it lies between the Committee and the Minister for Finance if the Comptroller and Auditor General has any further difficulties about it. We operated in accordance with the sanctions of the Minister for Finance.

745. That is appreciated. As in the former case, in this case, too, we are concerned with principle. There is no implied criticism where you are concerned. There are two things here: the Committee must look to the laws which govern us and, secondly, what a Minister says in his speech introducing his Estimate is not law. It would be a very dangerous principle, indeed, if the reports of the Dáil were considered to be law. In the Transport Act, 1964, there is the following provision:

6. (1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, the Minister shall in the financial year of the Board beginning on the 1st day of April, 1964, and in each subsequent financial year of the Board make to the Board, out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, a grant of two million pounds.

(2) The Minister may, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, in the financial year of the Board beginning on the 1st day of April, 1969, and in every fifth subsequent financial year of the Board by order vary the amount of the grant payable under subsection (1) of this section.

You will agree that is a basic piece of legislation?


746. Subsequently there were amendments to the Transport Act and there was also a statutory order and everything was quoted in the Estimates for the year 1970-71. There was an additional grant to CIE. In that Estimate there are the words “contingent on the enactment of legislation”. As I understand, the legislation was duly enacted by the Transport Act, 1970. So far everything is in perfect order. Now we come to the point at issue. The necessary statutory order or authority for the transaction which we are considering was not made in the same way. Is that correct? In other words, the contingent legislation or order was not made. On the face of it something must be done to correct this procedure. Coming back to the purely legal point of view, I understand that a decision was made not to proceed as they had done in the previous year. The Health Act, 1970, has provisions for grants of local contributions to health boards. Section 32 of this Act deals with this point. These are not the basic sections. The sections in the Transport Act, 1964 and the Health Act, 1970 are very different. There is a much wider discretion in the Health Act, 1970, and therefore, from that point of view I construe the Comptroller and Auditor General as saying that this particular expenditure is without the necessary statutory support. Again, it is necessary for me to say that we are not questioning policy. As Deputy Gibbons and Deputy Tunney said, this does not come into it. But from the accounting point of view, the Comptroller and Auditor General has raised this question and we should clear it. You have said that you consider that this is a matter for the Department of Finance, and the Committee accepts that. If you have any documentary evidence that it is the decision of the Department of Finance, we would like you to give it to us.

—We consulted the Department of Finance before proceeding in this way in the first place. We received the approval of the Minister for Finance. The reason we wished to go ahead with a supplementary estimate rather than a new enactment was that while the original policy in its financial aspects had dissolved under our feet, we were not yet in a position to make substantive proposals to replace it. We consulted the Department of Finance who agreed that the Supplementary Estimate would be sufficient. We consulted them again when we got the query. They advised us that in their opinion the taking of the Supplementary Estimate and the procedure adopted do not represent a breach of the undertaking given to the Committee of Public Accounts by the Minister for Finance in July, 1952, and accepted by the Committee in paragraph 6, Part 1, of their report dated 26th February, 1953. We were guided by that. I feel there is a general principle here rather than a particular one. I do not, however, feel very competent to argue about it. It is a matter which lies between the Minister for Finance and the Committee in the first place and, of course, ultimately the view of Parliament will prevail.

747. It is the accuracy of the accounting which is our concern. When I say “accuracy” I am not suggesting that there is anything inaccurate in the figures. Perhaps it may seem that we are insisting on very rigid procedures but the machinery of the State is so vast that if one does not have them it would be impossible to cover these accounts. It is as simple as that. I do not understand the subject as well as I should but do you think that the whole argument simply depends on whether there was subsequent enactment of legislation to support the estimate?

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—There has not been any subsequent amending legislation.

—Not so far.

748. Chairman.—Could that be done by Order?

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The statutory grant can be altered by Order every fifth year under the 1964 Act.

—We will have to abandon this particular form of subsidy as members of the EEC. We will now have to support our railway in accordance with the different directives of the Community and money will have to be paid under different headings. We are exploring this but we have not yet come to final conclusions as to how exactly this will be done. If we were to take some of the directives at their face value, this could be very troublesome indeed. We hope to get the understanding of the Community to take the broadest possible view.

749. Chairman.—Having made that point about accounting, we can understand that there is a very wide area covered here. We are very satisfied with the facts. I have made two points: to comply at all costs with statutory requirements and to comply with procedures so that it would be unnecessary for the Comptroller and Auditor General to comment. What has the representative of the Department of Finance to say?

Mr. Fagan.—I accept it was a decision of the Minister for Finance and that in this particular case legislation was not considered necessary. The Accounting Officer has already said that it was clearly shown on the face of the Supplementary Estimate that this was an additional sum to the statutory payment but under a different subhead. With regard to enactment of legislation we would take the view that the sum involved subsequently appeared in the Appropriation Bill which became the Appropriation Act for that year and this would give statutory cover for the payment.

Chairman.—I concede there may be substance in that point, which would require more careful legal consideration before we could say yes or no to it. Leaving that point aside, would you feel I was making a very harsh comment if I said that this is a very good example of how the slip can occur? You have in the previous year an additional grant which appears to be on all fours with the one in question. In that Estimate you have the words “contingent on the enactment of legislation”. That was probably not put in by accident. It was only put in at that time because it was considered that legislation was necessary. The following year that significant note was omitted and there was no legislation. This indicates just precisely the type of thing we are here to try to help everybody to avoid.

750. Paragraph 92 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

“As stated in paragraph 91 grants made from this vote to Córas Iompair Éireann in the year under review amounted to £7,114,000. Payments from other votes during the year in respect of specially-negotiated transport schemes were as follows:—

(1) £3,715,047 from Vote 27—Office of the Minister for Education (subhead D.3.) for school transport services

(2) £1,183,645 from Vote 47—Social Welfare (subhead K) for free travel for old age and blind pensioners and their spouses and for certain other persons

(3) £308,543 from Vote 44—Army Pensions (subhead M.) for free travel for veterans of the War of Independence and their spouses

The trading receipts of the company for 1971-72 as indicated in paragraph 91 were £43,016,494, including the payments mentioned at (1), (2) and (3) above.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information only. I should mention that the figures given here are figures which are fairly easily identified. They do not purport to be the full amount of State Department payments to CIE, but it will probably be informative for the Committee to see them.

751. Chairman.—Paragraph 93 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Bord Fáilte Éireann—(Grants-in-Aid)

Grants issued to Bord Fáilte Éireann to 31 March 1972 were—


For administration, operational and general expenses and interest grants (subhead F.1.)











prior to 1971-72


























For resort development (subhead F.2.) (statutory limit, £3·25 million)











prior to 1971-72


























For development of holiday accommodation (subhead F.3.) (statutory limit, £11 million)




prior to 1971-72


























For development of supplementary holiday accommodation in western counties (subhead F.4.)




prior to 1971-72

























The accounts of Bord Fáilte Éireann are audited by me. In my report on the accounts for the year ended 31st March 1972 I referred to a payment of £10,000 made to a New York firm of consultants in settlement of a claim for fees and expenses incurred on a consultancy project. I was informed that, although the project had not been commissioned by Bord Fáilte Éireann, settlement of the account was taken over by An Bord.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph shows the cumulative grants position of Bord Fáilte Éireann at 31st March, 1972. Attention is drawn to the settlement by Bord Fáilte Éireann of an account for consultancy services provided by an American firm which was apparently not commissioned by the board.

752. Chairman.—Paragraph 94 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Subhead P.—Commissions, Committees and Special Inquiries

In October 1970 the Minister for Transport and Power appointed a committee to investigate the financial position of Córas Iompair Éireann and in December, 1970, a consultancy firm was engaged to assist the Committee. Fees and expenses paid to the consultants amounted to £58,310 including £32,020 charged in the year under review. The charge to the subhead also includes a sum of £2,932 being the cost of printing and publishing the consultants’ report.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information. The consultants in their report produced in July, 1971, made certain recommendations including the streamlining of railway operations, the development of other public transport services, changes in the method of financing CIE and modifications of its management structure.

753. Chairman.—Paragraph 95 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Subhead S.—Investment Grants for Ships

Reference was made in previous reports to the Shipping Investment Grants Act, 1969 under which grants were made to Irish shipowners towards capital expenditure incurred by them in acquiring, for use for the purposes of their business, a new ship or a new part for a ship or in converting a ship for such use. Including £244,795 in the year under review, the aggregate amount of grants issued to 31st March 1972 was £3,612,240 relating to thirteen ships.

The scheme was withdrawn in October 1971 but payments will continue to be made for a number of years in respect of grants already committed.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information only. I have no further comment to make.

754. Chairman.—Paragraph 96 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Subhead U.—Grant to Royal National Lifeboat Institution (Grant-in-Aid)

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which is managed by a committee based in London, has had control of all lifeboat stations in Ireland since 1851. The Institution is dependent on voluntary contributions and the grant of £10,000 was paid towards the cost of the services provided.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The institution is responsible for the lifeboat services in Ireland and Great Britain. The grant-in-aid of £10,000 was made in view of the increasing costs of running the Irish part of the service.

755. Chairman.—Paragraph 97 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

Subhead V.—Appropriations in Aid Passenger load fee at Airports

With effect from 1st April 1971 the passenger service charge levied on persons embarking at Airports was replaced by a passenger load fee payable by airlines in respect of aircraft departing on international flights. An increase in airfares was approved from the same date to offset the additional cost to the airlines. Aer Rianta, as agent of the Minister, collects the load fees from the airlines.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—Following on a recommendation of the European Civil Aviation Conference in July, 1970, the passenger service charge, which was considered an inconvenience to passengers, was replaced by the passenger load fee.

756. Chairman.—Paragraph 98 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads.

“Landing fees at Airports

The Minister for Transport and Power, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, approved an increase, with effect from 1st April 1969, of 27½ per cent. in landing fees incorporating an increase of 7½ per cent. to replace a fuel levy of ½d. per gallon.

The airlines agreed to meet the increase of 7½ per cent. in lieu of fuel levy but some refused to pay the balance of the increase. The Minister for Transport and Power instituted proceedings in 1972 in the High Court against an airline company for the recovery of the increased landing fees. The Court held that the Minister had not shown that he had any right to recover these fees and accordingly dismissed the action. The Minister has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. At 31st March 1972 amounts withheld by airlines in respect of the increase totalled £224,087.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The Supreme Court in its judgment delivered on 6th March found in favour of the Minister. I understand that Aer Rianta are now in the process of recovering all landing fees which are due following the decision of the court.

757. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead C.— Equipment, Stores and Maintenance—what exactly is meant by “Stores”? Is that the physical stores?

—Physical stores, in particular rocket equipment for the Coast Life Saving Service; that is the recurring item. Then there are consumable stores in the Meteorological Service, meteorological balloons, which are sent up.

What about maintenance?

—Ordinary maintenance, replacement capital stores, minor items, not major capital expenditure.

758. On Extra Remuneration—this is an annual question in respect of the additional amounts, sums varying from £101 to £1,455.

—It is the same problem. We hope we are improving our staffing position. Salaries are going up.

759. I was just thinking of the efficiency of that particular officer. That must represent a fair amount of overtime?

—It does. One of the problems there is that overtime is essentially voluntary. Some officers do not wish to work any; other officers are quite enthusiastic about overtime. When you take into account the double pay on bank holidays and Sundays—

As long as we are happy that the service which he is giving is as efficient as is should be, and that the man does not have to be protected from himself in working whatever amount of overtime is involved there.

—The man in question is a technical radio officer. To a large extent his overtime would consist of standing-by. In other words, if the equipment goes out of commission he has to be there to repair it. He might not do an hour’s work in the course of the overtime.

760. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Is there any report from the investigation into the efficiency of the ESB?

—We had an investigation into the efficiency of the ESB in the Fletcher Report and that was published. It was a rather technical report. It did not go in so much for clear judgments as recommendations of various areas for investigation by the ESB. All of these recommendations have been followed up so far as they could be and many of them have been implemented. On the financial side, the report recommended an alternative approach to the financing of the ESB to that provided in the 1927 Act. This is being looked at, but it is not regarded either by my Minister or the Minister for Finance as a matter of urgency. It is really more a question of whether a more sophisticated approach should be adopted. On the other hand, the existing financial provisions have proved satisfactory for 50 years or so and I cannot say as of now what the ultimate decisions may be.

761. Chairman.—You do understand the points we made earlier and, for our part, there is a full understanding of your problems?

—I quite agree with the points you made, Chairman.

762. You were up against difficulties and the type of problem Deputy Tunney mentioned is fully understood. I take it the Department of Finance will have another look at the matter?

Mr. Fagan.—Certainly, Chairman.

Chairman.—There is just one other small point. On 20th March, 1952, there is a report of this Committee signed by Mr. W.A.W. Sheldon, then Chairman, in which the following sentence appears:

The Committee cannot accept, without qualification, the view that it is open to the Dáil to vary or modify the provisions of a statute by way of a Supplementary Estimate which afterwards receives confirmation in the Appropriation Act.

I draw your attention to this so that you will have it in mind when you are looking at the matter?

—Thank you, Chairman.

The witness withdrew.


Dr. B. J. Hensey called and examined.

763. Chairman.—Paragraph 107 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:

Subhead G.—Grants to Health Boards, etc.

The Health Act, 1970 provides for the payment of grants out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas to defray one half of the net authorised expenditure, other than expenditure on capital items and expenditure on loan charges, of the eight Health Boards established under the Act to undertake the administration of the health services of the State as from 1st April 1971. In addition, the Act provides for the payment of supplementary grants, as determined by the Minister for Health after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and with the consent of the Minister for Finance, towards the reduction of the amount of health expenditure to be met from local rates. The original estimate for this subhead made provision for supplementary grants to enable the health rate increase generally to be limited to 44 pence in the pound. A further sum of £5,510,000 was made available by way of supplementary estimate to meet increased expenditure by health boards during the year.

Provision was made in Vote 49 for the expenses of the Central Mental Hospital for the year ended 31st March 1972. The administration of the hospital was transferred to the Eastern Health Board with effect from 1st September 1971 by the Central Mental Hospital Order, 1971 made under the 1970 Act and provision was included in this subhead by supplementary estimate for the hospital expenses as from that date. The cost of operating the hospital is now borne by the Board. I am informed that the accounts to be kept by the Board in respect of the hospital will be in the form used for other hospitals administered by the Board and that the accounts will be audited by the local government auditor appointed under section 28 of the Act.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information. It sets down the provisions made under the Health Act, 1970, for the payment of grants and supplementary grants out of voted moneys towards the expenditure of the health boards. It also draws attention to the revised arrangements for the administration and financing of the Central Mental Hospital.

764. Chairman.—Paragraph 108 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:

Subhead R.—Appropriations in Aid

The Health Contributions Act, 1971, requires persons who have limited eligibility for services under Part iv of the Health Act, 1970 to pay, with effect from 1st October 1971, contributions towards the cost of the services provided. The contributions are appropriated in aid of this vote in accordance with regulations made under the Health Contributions Act and amounted to £1,939,093 in the year under review.”

Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information only. I have no other comment to make.

765. Chairman.—There is a note on subhead C—Microfilming of Records in Oifig an Ard-Chláraitheora: “There was unavoidable delay in starting this work.” What was the nature of the unavoidable delay?

—This relates to the microfilming of the records. A tender by an outside agency to enable the work to be carried out had been accepted and it subsequently turned out that that particular agency was not able to fulfil the tender and other arrangements had to be made, so there was a delay in starting the work.

766. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead J.— Grants to An Bord Altranais—for what particular purpose would this grant of £100 have been provided for? It seems a mere token?

—It is a token provision. In the Nurses Act, 1950, it is provided that, if there is a deficit in the financing of An Bord Altranais —in other words, if the revenue from fees from nurses for examinations and registration are not sufficient to meet the board’s expenditure—the deficit is made good from the Department’s Vote. Some years ago the board raised the fees for registration and examinations sufficiently to eliminate the need for paying this deficit. For some years past we have included a token provision, but it has not been necessary to make a grant.

767. On subhead P.—Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies—the note says that equipment of the smaller installations yet to be completed did not proceed as quickly as had been anticipated. I presume the equipment was ultimately supplied at the price at which it had been quoted?

—Unless otherwise provided for in the tendering arrangements, we would assume that equipment was provided at the tender price but, if the Committee wish, I can have that verified and send you a note on it.

Chairman.—Only if there was any big discrepancy.


Dr. B. J. Hensey further examined.

768. Mr. Tunney.—On subhead D.2.— Post Office Services—there seems to be a remarkable difference between the amount granted and actual expenditure.

Chairman.—Is that covered by the note at the end?

—I do not think so. This was a transitional year so far as the Central Mental Hospital was concerned. Its administration was transferred to the Eastern Health Board from 1st September. While the original provision was intended for a full year the actual expenditure related to five months. I agree that in this case it is nowhere near 50 per cent. It was simply a technical point that the accounts for postage had not been furnished before the liability was transferred to the health board.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned.

*£2,650,000—Transport Act, 1964 (Section 6) Order, 1969 £4,464,000—Supplementary Estimate