MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 16 Bealtaine, 1974.
Thursday, 16th May, 1974.
The Committee met at 11 a.m.
Mr. M. Jacob (thar ceann an Ard-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.
VOTE 7—OFFICE OF THE REVENUE COMMISSIONERS.
Mr. J. C. Duignan called and examined.
358. Chairman.—Paragraph 17 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
A test examination of the Revenue Account has been carried out with satisfactory results.”
Mr. Jacob.—These paragraphs, 17 to 21, are the usual paragraphs which are included for information. I have no comment to make on them.
359. Chairman.—Paragraph 17 is what this Committee have come to expect from the Revenue Commissioners. Paragraph 18 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“The budget estimates of Revenue for 1971-72 and the net yield for the years 1971-72 and 1970-71 under its main heads are shown in the following statement:—
£468,924,000 was paid into the Exchequer during the year leaving a balance of £861,844 as compared with £293,955 at the end of the previous financial year.”
This is the usual information.
—Yes. Estimates and net yield.
360. Paragraph 19 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:—
“I have been furnished with the following analysis of amounts of income tax, sur-tax and corporation profits tax outstanding:—
Comparative totals for the previous year are Income tax, £15,931,072; Sur-tax, £3,435,080; Corporation Profits tax, £3,372,498.”
Mr. Jacob.—I have no comment.
361. Chairman.—Paragraph 20 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“Extra-Statutory Repayments of Customs and other Duties
Extra-statutory repayments of Customs duties, £28,761, Excise duties, £22,718, Turnover tax, £2,909, Wholesale tax, £281 and Stamp duties, £156, were made during the year.”
Mr. Jacob.—No comment.
362. Chairman.—Paragraph 21 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“Remissions and Amounts Irrecoverable
I have been furnished with schedules of the cases involving a loss of £100 or upwards in which claims for duty under the Revenue Acts were remitted without statutory authority or passed as irrecoverable during the year ended 31 March 1972. The total amount of the items included in the schedules, £146,461, is made up as follows:—
The distribution according to the grounds of remission or write-off is:—
I have made a test examination of the items included in the schedules with satisfactory results.”
Mr. Jacob.—I have no comment.
Chairman.—This represents a small percentage of the turnover?
—Yes, the cases for remission are usually ones in which we get composition payments often because a person’s circumstances have altered and he is not in the position to pay the full amount. We accept what we think is the best we can get and we remit the balance.
There may be some irrecoverable amounts for various reasons?
—Yes, if the person leaves the country, for example.
363. Paragraph 22 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
In a test examination of income tax owed by firms in liquidation it was noted that there was a delay in follow up action for recovery of the tax in some cases. The Accounting Officer has informed me that the delay was due mainly to a shortage of adequately-trained staff. He told me that an examination of the organisation was in progress and that it was proposed to centralise the work in the Arrears Section so that more effective action might be taken at an earlier stage.”
Mr. Jacob.—This paragraph draws attention to a delay in some cases in follow up action for recovery of income tax owed by firms in liquidation. I understand that the centralisation of this work in the Arrears Branch, referred to by the Accounting Officer, has now been carried out.
364. Chairman.—In that year had you an upsurge in the number of cases you had to deal with?
—No. There is a continuous increase in the number of cases of that kind and we have set up a new division in the arrears branch and a special arrangement in our solicitor’s office to deal with these cases.
The problem would specifically arise only in cases of firms going into liquidation?
—That is so. When we introduced the computer system it took us some time to get up to date with the work but we have now achieved that.
365. Paragraph 23 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Turnover Tax on Dances
In paragraph 18 of my report for 1966-67 I referred to difficulties of enforcement of turnover tax on dances. In the year under review an examination of some defaulters’ files revealed considerable delay in taking action for recovery of the tax. In reply to my inquiry the Accounting Officer informed me that it had not been found feasible to allocate computer resources to this work. He considered that the yield from this tax did not warrant its being given priority over other more important work. He added that the manual operation involved in checking outstanding cases did not contribute to their speedy despatch to the Arrears Branch for enforcement action.”
Mr. Jacob.—I understand that although turnover tax on dances was replaced on 1st November, 1972, by a charge under value-added tax, it has not been found possible to make any improvement in the procedures for the enforcement of tax on dances.
366. Chairman.—Have you a particular difficulty here?
—To some extent, yes. The yield is not very significant and the resources we have are limited. Many of the dances we have to deal with are organised by ad hoc groups. We have no problem with collection in relation to dances organised commercially. Our problem arises from dances organised by groups who get together to arrange special dances. There is no single person that we can——
These are types of charitable affairs, tickets at the door type of thing?
—That is so.
Deputy Bermingham.—They would be organised by people with charitable objectives?
—In many cases.
367. Chairman.—It would not be such a big matter that you would need to follow it up?
—Not at all. It is a very minor part of the work and it would be unprofitable to devote too much attention to it.
368. Of course I am getting very close to policy here, but from the point of view of efficiency and from the administrative viewpoint would you think it would be a good thing if such burdens were taken from you? Where there are peculiarly commercial dances you will be able to watch the implications but in the case of ordinary charity dances——
—I would not agree that we would be particularly interested in being relieved of these duties. If it is the policy to charge tax on dances, you must charge them all.
369. This is policy outside this Committee but would it not lead to some public demoralisation if certain groups or sections were involved in a situation where taxes would be uncollectable—even from the point of view of your own officials?
—I should like to impress on the Committee and I should like it to go abroad that there is not any significant loss of revenue in this field—that there is not anything worthwhile lost to revenue.
That is accepted. It is purely a bagatelle as far as Revenue is concerned. You are satisfied that it should be left as it is?
370. Before we leave the statement of the Comptroller and Auditor General, he referred to the computer and this gives me an opportunity of asking a question on it. Have you had any difficulties with computerisation? Has it slowed down administration?
—Well, it is quite some years since we started using computers for collection work. I think it would be true to say that the old system had really broken down. The volume we have to deal with now——
—It would not be possible without the computer.
371. Do you have many cases, proportionately—I do not want figures—of people coming back to you pointing out that the computer was in error, and that subsequently complaints were made and adjustments traceable back to computer procedures? Is that a serious problem?
—That rarely happens though, of course, with the computer, the results depend very much on the accuracy of the input. We have a great many untrained staff in the tax offices. There has been a very heavy turnover. Up to now, of course, female staff retired on marriage; they can now remain on. That is a new situation. There were a great many untrained staff and very often errors arose through incorrect input and people would attribute that to the computer. Also there are certain delays which take place which we are endeavouring to eradicate now by having installed in the tax offices equipment by which we can get direct access to the computer and, on a screen, see the details of an individual case rather than having to write off for those particulars. We think that when that system is fully effective in all the offices, it should eliminate, to a large extent, the risk of errors of that kind.
372. In short, you yourselves are reasonable satisfied with your computer performance?
—I think I could say that, in the great majority of cases which I have had occasion to investigate, I have found that it is usually a human error in input rather than anything amiss in the programme. Of course, there is rarely, if ever, an error in the computer itself. Sometimes there might be an error in the programming or the use of a wrong programme for a particular process. But, more often than not, it is simply that inaccurate information was fed in.
I think that is nearly everybody’s experience?
Deputy Griffin.—Human error in the feeding-in process?
—Yes, at the input stage.
373. Deputy Governey.—With regard to the element of human error, let us take the case of a person who has a qualified accountant working for him and who gets an assessment with some error involved, that will be spotted. But a person who has not an accountant and who is assessed incorrectly—when an error does happen with the computer—is there any way in which the person involved, the person assessed, who may not be intelligent enough to spot it can have redress? Can there be cases where that would never come to light?
—No, because in fact at the end of the year everything is checked against the individual’s file in the inspector’s office and, if there was anything wrong, it would be corrected at that stage. I can assure you that our staff are as equally assiduous in making repayments to people who have been overcharged as they are in the ensuring that they are adequately charged.
374. Chairman.—I think there was a move in this direction—I am not sure if it was this year—but are you satisfied, from a purely administrative point of view, with the, progress towards simplicity of costs and procedures? I think it is important, both from yours and the public’s point of view, that the codes should be straightforward and, simple and that the procedures be intelligible to everyone and straightforward too?
—Yes. Of course, you have to prepare programmes for the computer to match the legislation. When claims are made to Parliament for special types of relief, that always means that one has to have some additional part of a programme built in and that, in turn, complicates matters. If I may take just one example, in an area in which there was considerable simplification made this year. This was in relation to children’s allowances. There were a multiplicity of different sums which a person could receive for children’s allowances because there had been a policy desire to relate the income tax allowance to the social welfare situation. In this year’s Finance Act, that has been put aside; instead of there being about 20 different amounts for children’s allowances, now there is only one. That will greatly simplify procedures both for the Revenue and for taxpayers. In truth, no matter how experienced one was, if a person asked: “What allowance will I get for five children”, one would have to ask: “What is your income; how many children have you under a certain age; how many have you over a certain age and so on?” And one had to look at a table before one calculated it. Now one simply says: “It is £200 for each allowable child.”
375. I presume that the abolition of the distinction between earned and unearned income does the same?
—Yes, that will simplify it.
376. Might I suggest that when the Committee, or its successor, comes to the current accounts, if there were any areas where in fact you had bottlenecks or complications which caused you trouble from a purely administrative, collecting and accounting point of view—we are not interested in policy—the Committee would like to hear about them.
—Yes. Of course, when one mentions policy matters, I suppose everything we are doing is related to policy.
377. Oh, yes; you are implementing it. But whether one agrees with the policy or does not, it is a fact that, like the children’s allowance matter, you are trying to do something that is a costly and difficult procedure in accounting and collecting which can lead to error too. It is from that point of view.
—Of course, we have been required to take on collection of contributions for pay-related schemes which are not directly revenue schemes. That is an enormous additional burden on us because the sums are small. It means that we have to set up an organisation for following these up and collecting them.
378. Deputy Bermingham.—You mean the health contribution; the £7?
—Yes, and the additional social welfare scheme under consideration.
I agree with you that the Revenue Commissioners are not the proper people to collect this.
—Our machine is geared to collecting tax quickly and efficiently from people who are in a position to pay the tax. We have been able to follow those up and collect the tax fairly well. But this is a different type of liability; from many of the people coming in now we will be collecting small sums only. If they are in out-of-the-way places, we have not the organisation at the moment for getting after them. That is one of the matters we are looking into now, what adaptations we will have to make to our organisation.
379. Chairman.—This Committee in its function, the watchdog of public accounts, has a duty in this respect. We would be very pleased to hear from you of any difficulties experienced there and we shall be probably asking some questions ourselves next time round.
—Thank you very much indeed. I am very pleased to hear of your interest in that.
The Revenue Commissioners have always been a very satisfactory and efficient Department. This Committee would be concerned if anything were to happen to cause you to get into arrears or to have difficulties of that nature.
—Thank you very much, Chairman. I mentioned it because you asked me.
The Committee are interested. We asked the question. Does any Deputy wish to ask any other question before we go on to subheads of the Estimate?
380. Deputy Bermingham.—The idea behind the earlier contribution was to assist a person who was under a certain figure? He had to prove he was qualified to pay £7.
—There will be difficulties. It was felt that we would be the only people with that information. It means that we have to put in a very considerable number of additional employees who are not liable to income tax. We have to bring them in to collect their contributions. They are a comparatively small number of employees for each employer and many are in areas in which we have very few taxpayers. We have not field staff to do that work.
381. Chairman.—Whatever the policy or the responsibility, we would be concerned that there should be the proper mechanisation for this.
—That is one of the matters to which we are giving attention at present.
The Committee would be glad to hear from you about this even before you come before us again. It is a subject that might cause trouble in the future.
—When we formulate our policy after consultation with the Department of Finance on this we will send you a note.
382. We come now to the Vote itself. With regard to Subhead C—Post Office Services—is there any comment?
Deputy Griffin.—It is a very sizeable amount.
Chairman.—We have raised a question with every Department about post office services. Within the public service, particularly the Civil Service proper, is there unnecessary accounting within the Departments? It is really the Department of Posts and Telegraphs who do the accounting. I gather from other Departments that what happens is that Posts and Telegraphs send a bill as they do to ordinary consumers. Is there a check on it? Are staff involved?
—It is purely an estimated figure.
There is no saving in administration?
—None whatever. There is no problem at all. We have to put stamps on letters going outside the country. That is in accordance with international requirements.
383. That seems to be the answer from all Departments. On subhead E—Motor Vehicles—having regard to the extent of dispersal of your staff and the amount of movement involved that does not seem unreasonable.
—It is mainly concerned with customs on the land frontier.
It seems a relatively small sum?
—There is a total fleet of 38.
384. On subhead F—Law Charges, Fees and Rewards—what are they?
—Rewards are partly to the Garda for discovering illicit distilling. There are awards of a small nature for seizures of goods by customs preventive staff.
385. In Appropriations-in-Aid, these are not big contributions to your collections?
—No, it is mainly for services provided. There are post office stamps and social insurance stamps and moneys for the service of officers outside ordinary hours for clearance of goods through customs.
386. Deputy Griffin.—Let me refer back to subhead I—Office Machinery and other office supplies—what about the development of Xerox copying machines? Have you got those?
—We have. This mainly refers to computers. We have a very satisfactory computer.
387. How many computers have you?
—We hire computers. The servicing is important. We are on our fourth computer. We replace them after a number of years. We have gone very carefully into the figures. The Department of Finance have examined the ways of doing this. With one or two machines it generally proves better to hire them. One would have to have engineering staff for servicing if one were to buy them outright. This matter has been examined very fully and we do what is regarded as most economic.
388. Deputy Bermingham.—Would you take in the overall running services?
—The machines we use are specially built for our requirements. We are on our fourth machine at the moment. We get it for a very low rent after a certain period on a leasing basis. We are able to hold on to the machine to use it for some other branch. We are doing customs statistics on the last machine. We are renting it at a very nominal figure. The Public Service Department examine the position. They have an overall view of the situation. The decisions in relation to purchase or rental are not made by us in isolation. They are made by the Public Service Department which have the overall picture before them.
389. Chairman.—What volume of correspondence would you have to deal with?
—There is a period immediately after the passing of the Finance Bill when we may have to rewrite the certificates of allowances in regard to which we get a number of letters. In Dublin alone at that period we get as many as 40,000 to 50,000 letters per week.
390. Chairman.—Is there any other point you would like to put to the Committee?
—First of all I should like to thank you for your courtesy. I should like to say that our office is very conscious of our main objective, which is the collection of revenue. We give all possible attention to that objective. You will notice that the situation is changing. That is due to the fact that we are now using our own solicitor to take proceedings. We also use the county registrars and sheriffs on whom there is a very heavy burden. With the new type of case coming up we are having to give very special attention——
391. You have no difficulty about getting the solicitor’s office staffed?
—It is a real problem.
I was afraid it would be. It is very important that you would have that office staffed with experienced personnel?
—It is one of our real problems. We have been finding it difficult to hold staff because of the better openings outside.
392. Your solicitor’s office has a very good reputation. Before we finish with this Vote, I wonder if there is something you have in mind that the Committee should know?
—I will let you have a note in due course as I mentioned earlier. Our main area of concern is that of collection. As you know, we have a special interest in PAYE. In the matter of income tax collection, with bank interest rates going up it pays a person to let the revenue wait for the tax even though we charge interest on arrears.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 8—PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS.
Mr. C. Farrell called and examined.
393. Chairman.—Paragraph 24 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead E.—New Works, Alterations and Additions
The charge to the subhead comprises £1,782,729 expended on general architectural and engineering works and £3,665,142 in respect of grants towards the erection, enlargement or improvement of national schools, as compared with £1,785,824 and £3,358,446, respectively, in the previous year.”
Paragraph 25 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“School grants amounting to £2,815,521 were paid to managers who undertook responsibility for having the works carried out and £849,621 was expended directly by the Commissioners. A school grant represents not less than two-thirds of the full cost, the balance being met by the manager from local contributions.”
Mr. Jacob.—These paragraphs show that about 67 per cent of the total expenditure on new works relates to national schools, and the greater portion of expenditure on schools was incurred through the school managers.
394. Deputy Bermingham.—Will you continue this new management system? Is it possible there will be a management committee?
—The managers are responsible for the bigger schools. At present the system is that we build schools up to the six classroom type and from then on the managers are responsible. Those responsibilities would pass on to the new committees of management.
395. Chairman.—We can return to this when we come to discuss the appropriate subhead. Paragraph 26 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“Subhead G.2.—Arterial Drainage—Construction Works
The charge to the subhead in respect of major construction works in progress during the year amounted to £874,821. In addition, the value of stores issued, charges for the use of plant and certain engineers’ salaries and travelling expenses in respect of these works were assessed at £322,036. The cost of each scheme to 31 March 1972 was:—
The balance of the charge to the subhead is made up of sums amounting to £84,827 in respect of intermediate or minor schemes and £9,696 being remanets of expenditure on completed schemes.”
Mr. Jacob.—This paragraph is for information. The amounts shown as the latest estimates of costs were those available at the time of the report.
396. Paragraph 27 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“I understand that an interdepartmental committee is presently engaged on a cost/benefit study of certain catchment drainage schemes. The results of the study are expected to be of assistance in considering the merits of carrying out arterial drainage in the future.”
Mr. Jacob.—This paragraph refers to a cost/benefit analysis of arterial drainage undertaken on the Maigue and Groody drainage schemes. The subject was discussed by the Committee in the course of its examination of the account of the Vote for 1969-70 and a note was subsequently sent to the Committee by the Accounting Officer. I understand that the final report of the Inter-Departmental Committee is near completion.
—It has not been finally completed yet. It is in draft form. It has been delayed for two main reasons—one, the extraordinary number of computations which had to be made and there was a difficulty in finding time on the computer. Secondly, there was the difficulty of getting the members of the Committee together, because of other commitments, to approve of the draft. I think they had a preliminary meeting on it. We did get an interim report in connection with the Maigue which showed that the benefit/cost ratio was roughly 2:1. That means for every £1 spent you get £2 benefit.
397. Deputy Bermingham.—For what period?
—Relating to the whole period. They took the complete cost of the scheme and related that to the permanent benefit. It is a once and for all job. It is not for one year but for the whole period.
That would mean nothing in actual fact because one could have a £1 benefit for every £1 spent over a period for ever. Is that the idea? Would it be a benefit for a certain length of time?
—They worked on the basis of the total cost of the schemes, what the scheme would cost and related that to the benefit which that expenditure would give.
That would be attributable mostly to land?
—Mainly to land.
398. You say there is a £1 benefit to land. Is it to the value of land?
—The value of land and the yield from the land. It is basically the value of land, and, of course, increased output.
I accept that but I did not get the gist of it. Where land is being drained, if a £1 is spent it would increase the value of the land £2?
—Yes the capital value and, of course, it would have to take account of the return from the land.
It would improve returns from the land by £2?
Where one had spent a £1?
—Where one had spent a £1, one would get £2.
399. One would improve the return. We are talking about returns. If we are talking about returns, we will have to talk about a period because if this thing went on for ever, surely it would be more than a £1? Do you know what I mean?
—You spend, say, X million pounds worth of capital—that is a terminable factor—then the return from that is 2 x X million pounds.
Return from the capital?
—Yes from the expenditure. The outlay is terminable but the return goes on.
Deputy Griffin.—It is an ongoing thing?
400. Deputy Bermingham.—I still do not understand it. How could one assess it if it is an ongoing thing?
—In practice, we took “value” to be the market value of lands directly affected by a scheme.
I accept that. If it is the market value of land we are talking about, yes, we improve the market value. But, if we improve the return from the land, that is something different. We could not estimate that.
—I suppose it is a debatable point. If you improve land, you must improve the return.
I accept that if you improve the value, I suppose you improve the return as well. Assessing it on returns is the question.
—I suppose the basic part of it is the market value of the land.
401. This is my point. You can drain land and maintain drainage.
This is vital. If the drainage is maintained, this value increase will go on for ever. But some drainage schemes have been carried out where there has been no attempt made to maintain.
—Under the 1945 Act we are statutorily bound to maintain.
402. Previous to that?
—With regard to ones previous to that, they were the responsibility of local authorities. But we are statutorily bound, under the 1945 Drainage Act, to maintain the schemes, recovering the cost from the local authorities.
Deputy Griffin.—Therefore the point at issue does not materially affect the report.
403. Chairman.—Paragraph 28 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“Subhead H.—Purchase and Maintenance of Engineering Plant and Machinery and Stores
In the course of audit at the Central Engineering Workshops, Inchicore, an examination of the system in operation for the payment of wages disclosed certain departures from normal procedures. I drew the attention of the Accounting Officer to the position and he has informed me that the departures from normal paying procedures developed from staffing difficulties. He added that these departures were unauthorised and that steps had been taken to avoid their recurrence.”
Mr. Jacob.—This paragraph refers to departures from normal procedures from the system in operation for the payment of wages at the central engineering workshops. Proper procedures are in operation at present.
Chairman.—Could you tell us what happened? First of all, what are the proper procedures at present?
—The proper procedures are that the wages are packeted. The week’s wages are paid out by one of our staff to the employees at the central engineering workshop. They are paid out in the presence of witnesses who sign the pay sheet. What happened was—and this is the matter to which the Comptroller and Auditor General drew attention—that certain money was being paid in advance to some of the workers, not in advance of being earned, but in advance of the due date of payment. Let us say that on Wednesday a man comes along and says he wants money— pay day being Thursday or Friday—he gets a certain advance.
404. Where was this cash that he could get? I take it that, first of all, there are pay lists from which the total pay packet is made up for each week?
That would comprise basic pay plus overtime?
405. And whatever else there might be, deductions and all the rest of it. Presumably, then, there is some office that makes out the pay packets from those pay sheets?
The packets are then sent to a distributing point in some way?
—Yes, in the workshop.
406. And there is some method of recording that the right person got the right packet?
407. That seems to be a very definite procedure which I think is fairly common. How come that, without authority or organisation, actual cash would be paid out in advance?
—An officer in the workshop carried an imprest of £50, a cash imprest and it was out of that that those small advances were made.
They must have been very small if they were made out of a figure of £50?
—Yes, very small. Only two or three people ever got them.
408. In other words, there was no serious breakdown of the system?
Mr. Jacob.—Not basically. Our test check revealed, as the Accounting Officer has stated, that part of the wages were given to some industrial workers before the due date of payment. Sealed packets, prepared at headquarters, for distribution to these workers were opened at the workshops prior to payment and sums, equivalent to advances made or amounts due for tools lost, were removed.
—Yes, that was wrong.
Mr. Jacob.—Also there was no discharge given in the pay sheets for wages received by the industrial workers.
Chairman.—That seems to be a very different thing from the imprest?
—No, this is the recovery of the amount. Recovery of the imprest?
—Recovery of the amount advanced out of the imprest. They paid out of the imprest and, to get back that amount, they opened the envelope, which was, of course, wrong.
409. That is serious. Different procedures are now in operation?
One can see the seriousness of it.
—Basically it arose because of illness on the part of one of our staff who was familiar with the procedure.
410. The matter has been dealt with. Paragraph 29 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads as follows:
“In the course of the same audit I noted that the duration of overhauls on nine excavators ranged over periods of approximately one to three years. I inquired as to the reasons for the delay in carrying out the work. The Accounting Officer furnished me with explanations and he considers that the time spent in effecting repairs to the machines was not unreasonable.”
Mr. Jacob.—I have nothing further to add in this case.
Chairman.—Excavators would not be under overhaul all the time.
—We have a fleet of excavators. There are 95 draglines and 62 hydraulics. The majority of them are on jobs at the moment between the Boyne and the Maigue. We have a number in reserve at Inchicore.
411. The important thing is to keep them in proper condition.
—Yes. They are put in proper condition when we see a need for them. They are looked after in the engineering workshops.
412. On subhead D—Purchase of Sites and Buildings—the Supplementary was of the same order as the original Estimate. Is there any comment on that?
—In the case of purchase of sites and buildings it is difficult to know in advance what purchases will crop up during the year. There are demands for more accommodation and services. Sites may become available sooner than we expected. It is very difficult to have a firm figure at the beginning of the year for this subhead.
You have a fairly extensive note.
—Yes. The big thing in that year was the purchase of a site for a new central Garda station at Limerick which cost £68,000. That was not foreseen at all at the beginning of the year.
That would account for most of your subhead?
413. Subhead E—New Works, Alterations and Additions—they are all set out in an elaborate schedule.* From the point of view of this Committee everything seems to be in order from the sanction point of view.
Chairman.—Do the members wish to ask any questions? I presume the sanctions were in order for all this work?
Mr. Jacob.—Yes. If they were not in order we would be asking questions.
414. Chairman.—The list is formidable and shows the activities of the Office of Public Works. With regard to ancient monuments, have you the facilities and staff to keep them in the condition in which they should be kept?
—We are short of staff. It is a service like many others in which we would like to have more staff. We are moving in that direction. Over the past five years we have done a much bigger programme of work than was done in previous years. We would like that programme to be expanded still further.
415. Perhaps we could go on and anyone who wishes to could come back to any particular point. Subhead F.1—Maintenance and Supplies—there is a detailed statement on page 29. I presume that is for 1971-72. Costs have increased since then because of inflation?
—They have gone up very considerably.
416. Deputy Griffin.—Are we satisfied with the present system of renting buildings for various Departments? We are renting rather than purchasing or building our own.
—We would prefer to build but renting is unavoidable and will be so for some time. A service is created at a particular time and there is a demand for staff to operate the new service. We are told the service must be in operation in say, four to six months, so we must rent.
Chairman.—You are building in the city.
Deputy Griffin.—Are we working towards being self-sufficient in regard to building?
—We have started. We are planning. We have built a number of buildings.
417. Chairman.—You have dispersed over a number of buildings within a stone’s throw of each other?
You have some civil service offices in O’Connell Bridge House and some in Hawkins House and now you have opened the Savings office——
—Yes, in the building known as College House.
418. Chairman.—Following up the Deputy’s point, this involves a very sizeable amount of accommodation. I take it you would be parsimonious in the provision of square footage?
—Indeed we would.
419. The point the Deputy was making is that we are accruing a large amount of rented accommodation and that a very big building programme will be necessary if the balance is to be restored?
—That is true. Of course the rented buildings carry with them the rent review provisions. It is now once every seven years at least. We got away with as long as 25 years in one case, but normally the rent is reviewed every seven years and all indications are that it will be reduced to once every five years.
420. Deputy Bermingham.—Would this apply to all rents?
—Yes, whether it is the State or the banks or anyone else. We try to have the rents reviewed as seldom as possible.
421. Chairman.—The fundamental thing in the Deputy’s query is, quite apart from the financing of it and the physical provision of the building, there is the question of sites. How are you off for sites? Have you suitable sites available for development which will be administratively suitable—not more than a mile from each other?
—We have Dublin Castle where we have a suitable site for development at Ship Street; we have Beggar’s Bush barracks which comprises about eight or nine acres and a site at Parkgate Street. There is also room for development in Kilmainham where we have the new Revenue computer building. The Garda Technical Branch may be moved to the depot in the Phoenix Park and this will leave a big site for development probably for the Revenue Commissioners. As well as all this, Dublin Corporation are willing to help us in the matter of sites in the city. So we have enough to be going on with for the foreseeable future.
422. Is there an overall co-ordinated plan as to where the State Departments will be located?
—Some Departments would like to be on the south side of the river, as near as possible to Leinster House.
423. One of your concerns, of course, would be to see that a single Department will not be subdivided?
—It will take a long time to centralise the Departments in such a way that the public would not have to walk from one building to another.
424. Deputy Bermingham.—In regard to drainage, on subhead G.3, what do you mean by the term “repayment of advances”?
—When the Barrow Drainage Scheme was started the county councils of Kildare, Laois and Offaly had to contribute to it, and to get the contributions they borrowed from the Local Loans Fund. They were obliged to repay annual sums of £21,000 odd over a period of 35 years beginning in 1938. Then the 1945 Arterial Drainage Act came along and the amount to be contributed by the county councils was reduced and it has now ceased—the 35 years ended in 1973.
425. Was there not the old Barrow rate?
—It was reduced to £7,154 and we carried the balance in respect of the residue of 35 years.
426. There is the matter of coast protection, subhead I. What is the position?
—The first scheme we had was Rosslare Strand. That was before the 1963 Act. We did Youghal, County Cork and Moville, County Donegal. We hope to start soon at Enniscrone, County Sligo.
427. Chairman.—The Murrow, in Wicklow?
—Yes, in Wicklow.
What have you done there?
—The work there consists mainly of rows of stakes driven into the sand, running at right angles to the beach. The tide flows parallel to the beach, deposits sands, and you get the beach built up again.
—Against these sorts of traps.
428. For all that you have mentioned that sum of £55,000 does not allow you an awful lot of activity, does it?
—No, it is a very tedious process—that of coast protection—and, before you design a scheme, a lot of study must be carried out to ascertain what way the sea behaves because one could carry out a scheme which could be wrecked within six months by storm if it is not done properly. The Act involves a very lengthy process of examinations.
429. I happen to know that stretch from Bray Head to Wicklow. I should imagine that even that stretch alone would cost more than £50,000 on the longterm.
—Yes, if it is badly damaged.
The railway must have expended a good deal more than that on that section in recent years?
—Taken overall, yes.
That is apart from your expenditure?
—That is apart from our expenditure; that is completely different.
430. Subhead J—Miscellaneous Marine Schemes—what would they be?
—This subhead was opened to provide for a service which had previously been a charge on the Vote for the Employment and Emergency Schemes. The works were financed partly by local contributions and partly by the grant. But they were carried out by us as agents for the Special Employment Schemes Office. This is the last year for which it will appear in our Vote because from 1972-73 onwards the service has been transferred to the Fisheries Vote. It started with the old Special Employment Schemes Office.
431. K2—Expense of Survey of Provincial Museums, Great Gardens and Historic Houses (Grant-in-Aid)—that is a large sum?
—That has terminated.
432. K3—Conservation and Restoration of Holycross Abbey (Grant-in-Aid)—is that work going ahead?
—Yes, satisfactorily. We hope to see it finished in 1975, Architectural Heritage Year.
433. We will pass on now to the Appropriations-in-Aid. In regard to No. 6—Recoveries from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs for services carried out on repayment terms—you have recovered £500,000 from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs?
434. Would you mind explaining this to us? We are interested in knowing about inter-Departmental expenditure, or accounting between the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the various State Departments. How come that you get a recovery carried out on repayment terms? This is for work?
—This is for work; it is for new buildings; new post office buildings and maintenance of existing buildings.
435. It has nothing to do with postal services?
No, not the actual postal services; it is just building work, maintenance, furniture and so on. It is the cost of the services we provide for them. Let us say we build a post office in Athy, or Kildare; we recover the cost of that from the Post Office.
And it is not in one account with your postal services?
—No, completely separate. It arises from the theory that the post office are a commercial agency and would pay for the services they get; the same as they charge us for telephones and so on. This has been going on since 1964.
436. No. 7—Recoveries from other Departments, etc. for services carried out on repayment terms—I take it this is the same type of service?
437. No. 8—Recoveries from county councils in respect of maintenance of Arterial Drainage Works (Nos. 3 of 1945 and 23 of 1955) and of Coast Protection Works (No. 12 of 1963)—that is the same?
—That is arterial drainage costs which are recoverable from county councils under the Arterial Drainage Act.
438. What is incorporated under the heading 10—Miscellaneous? There is shown there a sum of £74,000 odd realised?
—That is made up of miscellaneous matters such as adjustment of local contributions to national schools.
439. Deputy Griffin.—Might I ask for an explanation under the Notes, No. 5— Losses by Fire, not covered by insurance?
—The State acts as its own insurer on the basis that the amount that would be paid out on premiums would be much greater than the amount likely to be incurred through fire damage, or the loss likely to be incurred. We do not insure, except on a very rare occasion where the landlord of a rented property insists on our insuring the building in the joint names. But that is so rare as to be practically nonexistent.
Chairman.—I think that is all on this Vote.
The witness withdrew.
Mr. T. Ó Cearbhaill called and examined.
440. Chairman.—Under subhead G—Research—I see it says that progress was slower than anticipated on a number of research projects sponsored by the Department. What type of projects would they be?
—Projects covered by the year in question were, firstly, a survey done by the ESRI on the status of women in the labour force. This was partly for the Department and partly for the Commission which was at that time studying the status of women. Secondly, the Irish National Productivity Centre has been doing a survey on absenteeism—the title is “Withdrawal Behaviour in Irish Industry”. These were the two largest items in the year in question. Since then, we have had others.
441. On subhead J.1—An Chomhairle Oiliúna—what is the position with regard to AnCO and the payment of grants? Is this running smoothly?
—Yes. It is running smoothly. There has been no change in the method of financing since the previous year.
442. On subhead O—Losses—something of this nature is inevitable and the sum is reasonable. Under Appropriations-in-Aid there is a figure of £11,000 approximately, was there anything worthy of comment with reference to Note No. 3?
—This relates to the secondment of officers to other places.
443. There is no paragraph relating to this vote in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General who finds everything satisfactory. Is there anything you would like to say yourself?
We will be meeting you again. There is no need to delay you any further. Thank you very much.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned.
* See Appendix 10.