MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 25 Aibreán, 1974.
Thursday, 25th April, 1974.
The Committee met at 11 a.m.
Mr. S. Mac Gearailt (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) and Mr. J. R. Whitty (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
VOTE 33—NATIONAL GALLERY.
Dr. J. White called and examined.
142. Deputy MacSharry.—On subhead D —Purchase and Repair of Pictures (Grant-in-Aid)—were any pictures purchased?
—Yes. We did purchase a number of pictures during the year. We bought a couple of small Irish paintings under this heading but everyone appreciates that the price of paintings is such that £5,000 really only pays for the frames which are used.
143. Where did you get the money for the rest?
—We have a grant. We have several bequests such as the Shaw bequest and the Lane bequest and we have an income, roughly speaking, of from £80,000 to £100,000 a year from these bequests which enable the National Gallery to remain a gallery.
144. Chairman.—In regard to the Grants-in-Aid Account this simply accounts for the money which comes from public services—is that not right?
—Yes. Subheads D, E and F are all grants-in-aid. The grant-in-aid money is carried forward and this is an account of what is being carried forward for the use of the department. You can see that we have practically nothing left in the library department for the purchase of books or for conservation of works of art. There is a sum of £3,000 carried forward in the account for purchase and repair of pictures, largely due to the fact that we try to save up and occasionally buy a picture which comes up at a reasonable price.
Chairman.—That practically completes our business with you.
145. Deputy H. Gibbons.—You were anxious to get an entrance from Kildare Street to the Gallery?
—Yes we still are—very much so. The problem is, as you are no doubt aware, that at one stage it was agreed. In earlier days prior to the thirties, there was direct access to the Gallery from Kildare Street, through the passageway on the side of the College of Art. It was agreed some years ago that this could be opened but for security reasons the idea could not be pursued. It would be an enormous advantage to us and also to the public because we have a very successful and satisfactory restaurant in the Gallery, open all day for visitors to the Gallery and it was oringinally intended that this should be used also by visitors to the National Museum and National Library. If that passage was open, visitors to the Library could slip round for a cup of coffee or a meal. Now it is understood that under present conditions, it is not so satisfactory but I hope we will be able to consider this soon when normality comes back.
Chairman.—I think it is closed since 1922. I remember coming through before 1916, about 1913, but I think it has been closed since 1922.
—I thought it was open up to the thirties.
No, I think it was closed earlier than that and for the same reason. I suppose that is not our function but is a matter for the Committees of Procedure and Privileges as it affects the Dáil and Seanad and so we cannot do anything further about it.
146. Who audits the acounts for bequests? —All our bequests are subject to audit by the State auditor every year. Naturally we do not submit the accounts for our bequests to this Committee.
Chairman.—Yours is an exceptional case and we will not say anything further about it. It does not come under the heading of the State-sponsored bodies in which we are interested.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 27—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
Mr. S. Ó Conchobhair called and examined.
147. Chairman.—Paragraph 36 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Free Post Primary Education Scheme
Reference was made in previous reports to the operation of the free post-primary education scheme including tuition, transport services and free school books and accessories for necessitous pupils. The principal costs of the scheme in the year under review were as follows:—
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph gives information regarding the main identifiable heads of cost of the free post-primary scheme.
148. Deputy Bermingham.—How do the Department allocate the money for free books? Do they allot a certain allowance to each school?
—Yes, that is right.
This seems to be a very bad system which is unfair to the teachers?
—The alternative is that we establish a system to pay them from the Department. This would be very cumbersome and inefficient. We would not be able to judge who are the poor children in a school. If we cannot get the principals to operate this system, to my mind, it will not be operable.
A principal often fails in such a situation. He has only a certain amount of money and often it is not enough.
—That is true.
A principal has to differentiate between pupils. This is a terrible ordeal for him and the pupil. As things stand now it is very hard to operate this system?
—I accept that but we have only a limited amount of money. We are trying to make sure as far as we can that the money will go to the children who need it.
I agree that is the principle, but I am not convinced that the Department are making sure that the money is spent in this way. They leave it to the teachers to ensure that the most necessitous children are getting help. This is a great responsibility.
149. Chairman.—Can you tell me what is the primary pupil population approximately?
Even if we allowed, say £1 per pupil we would still be providing for only 10 per cent.
—That is right.
150. In your opinion, is that a sufficient provision for necessitous pupils in the primary school area? How was the figure of £66,842 arrived at?
—We take a percentage. We said that about 22 per cent of the pupils would be necessitous. It depends on the amount you give them.
151. I quite agree. What was the average payment per child for books at the primary level?
—In 1971-72 we gave £1 each for necessitous children.
Taking the figure of 505,000 it is certainly not 22 per cent of that?
—There is a variation of 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 every year. I have forgotten how many pupils there were in 1971-72.
The point is that you make it on the basis of something like 20 per cent of the total population?
—Yes, but £1 is not enough.
152. Deputy H. Gibbons.—I understand that a family must have a medical card?
—We thought about that, but at the time we introduced the scheme we found that in certain counties almost every family had a medical card and that in other counties very few families had a medical card.
This is the point I was making. All families with medical cards would be necessitous but some would be a little better off than others. If the medical card system were used in my county it would be up to 45 or 50 per cent of the pupils, or perhaps more.
153. Deputy MacSharry.—What criteria were the teachers advised to use?
—If my memory is right, in Kildare when we were introducing the scheme we discovered that something like 80 per cent had medical cards.
Deputy MacSharry.—In Kildare?
Deputy Bermingham.—That is not true.
Deputy MacSharry.—The average for the whole country is 49 per cent?
—This was my point. The highest incidence of medical cards was in a midlands county and not in a western county.
Deputy Bermingham.—It was never 80 per cent in Kildare?
—We actually found this.*
Chairman.—Is this a fact? It is very interesting if it is.
154. Deputy Bermingham.—There is a story about a teacher who, unfortunately, was faced with using that criterion. He had a limited amount of money and he said: “Hands up all children whose parents have medical cards.” There should be some system for giving out this money.
—If you are really to go after systems, the only system of any use is one which gives a grant to all students for books and then there could not be any differentiation. That would cost an enormous amount of money. We get a grant and we adopt what we think is the best method of getting it down to the children. I know the headmaster is in trouble and in difficulty by having this burden put on him. He is the best person to do it. I think you will agree with that. It is hard luck on him. I can see that.
155. Are the books changed each year or are they used for two years in succession? In the past school books were changed every year?
—We do not change the books every year.
156. Deputy MacSharry.—Are the books used by the pupils and given to others the following year?
—We give the books to the pupils.
And you give them to other pupils the next year?
—They may even sell them to other pupils.
157. Chairman.—At the primary level, what books are involved?
—The Irish books we produce.
The nature of the books?
—There are a couple of text books, Irish readers.
158. The type of thing we had ourselves in primary school. I should like to follow up Deputy Bermingham’s point. Why is it necessary to change school books so frequently? Surely books of that nature for primary education should last for five or six years?
—They do. I thought you were going to say 20 years.
Twenty years would be a little long?
—What really caused the trouble this time is that we introduced a new curriculum in primary schools. There is an entirely new concept of learning rather than teaching. You must provide different kinds of material. Once you have done that you will have a respite for five or six years.
159. I cannot resist asking are those new concepts working as well as the old ones.
—This is one of the things worrying us too. At present I am holding meetings with my inspectors to try to establish some kind of criteria to see whether they are. It is going on for three years only. The trouble about education is that you do not know whether it is any good for 20 years—until the person has grown up, gone out and got married. If he is a good man then you know it has been successful. I am speaking honestly.
We know, and you have our sympathy.
—We are disturbed considerably about this.
We appreciate that.
Deputy MacSharry.—Why should you be disturbed about it? You are the people who advised that this system should be operated. It was given the OK by the Department of Education. It was your own scheme.
—It is the best, we think.
You should not be concerned about it then. You will have to wait and see if you were right or wrong.
160. Chairman.—We are wandering into policy now. Naturally the sums for secondary and vocational schools are considerably more. Would I be right in assuming that the reason is that the individual pupil would need more books and they would be more expensive?
That is a fair inference in both cases?
161. Deputy Bermingham.—The question of school transport could be argued on the same basis of eligibility as free books. There are certain guidelines. A pupil could live .05 of a mile outside the guideline and would not get free transport. I know this problem and it has nothing to do with Mr. Ó Conchobhair.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—I should like to make one point on school transport. In the depopulated areas where some children live, it is obvious from the projections that there will never be sufficient children to fill the bus in the future. It seems hard on children within two miles and three miles who are disqualified under the present regulation to see a bus going half-full or three-quarters full. Some exception should be made in those areas. I appreciate the difficulty in doing this in any area, that there will be a demand to spread it. When you have a situation established that if you extend the service this year you will have to withdraw it completely next year, I can understand the difficulty.
—My understanding is that if we can be sure that there will be vacancies, that the bus will not be filled, we can take a student as a fare-paying passenger. It will not be free transport.
I am making the point that it should be free.
—If we give it free because the bus is empty, we have to give it free whether the bus is empty or full. The most we could do would be to accept students and make them pay.
162. I do not accept that you must take them whether the bus is empty or full. My case is made on the basis that the bus is not full and will never be full in the area I am thinking of.
—If you carry them free, there is no reason why the people in the next parish who often have a full bus, cannot claim that their children should be carried free also. We are doing it on the basis: “We will let you in if we have room but you must pay”. Until the Government change their mind about distance we must operate on that basis.
163. Deputy MacSharry.—On another point, where the buses are full and written on the side of the bus is 44 or 48 passengers, you get as many as 60 or 70 on these buses. How is the insurance of these children affected?
—That is a CIE problem, not mine.
But there must be some responsibility in the Department of Education in this regard. because that does happen in many cases. Many complaints arise of torn clothes, broken schoolbags and so on, on these buses.
—We get complaints and we investigate them. We try to do the best we can. That is all we can do.
164. If 44 or 48 passengers are specified, surely you have inspectors and school managers and they must see the bus arriving with 60 pupils while written on the side of the bus is 44 or 48 passengers. I presume this has something to do with insurance or the law, and that only 44 or 48 are supposed to be on that bus. Somebody should be concerned about it. It is a very important matter. If you overload your own private car and you are “pulled” you are in trouble, and not only with the law but with your insurance company. Surely in providing this service we want to protect the children to the limit?
—Our trouble would be that we would not have anybody there.
165. But they arrive at your schools every morning. I do not think it is Mr. Ó Conchobhair’s responsibility directly, but it is tied up with school transport, which is what we are dealing with here. I presume it is a matter of Government policy to decide in regard to fare-paying passengers what the amount should be to meet Deputy Gibbons’ point. In the cases he has mentioned of buses running with room on them for children who should get transport the amount per term is rather high if they are fare-paying passengers. Is it CIE or the Department of Education that decide the amount they pay per term?
Have you no say in it?
—We have some say but CIE is our carrier.
166. And you are paying a contribution for the provision of so many vehicles?
—For carrying so many pupils.
So that in a way CIE are making a bonanza out of carrying so many fare-paying pupils?
—I do not want to get into complications on this but if we did not pay somebody else would have to pay for them.
167. Chairman.—Paragraph 37 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead A.4.—Higher Education Authority
Reference was made in previous reports to ex-gratia payments to the members of the Higher Education Authority. The charge to the subhead includes such payments totalling £7,000 made with the sanction of the Minister for Finance to the fourteen members of the Authority in the year under review.”
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information. Allowances were paid to members of the Authority on the same basis as the previous year. The Authority has been given a statutory basis from 15th May 1972 under the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971.
Chairman.—This is the £500 each that members of the Authority get. Is that not what it boils down to?
—Yes, that is so.
168. How often does the Authority meet?
—They meet at least once a month. They have a series of sub-committees and they have produced four reports already.
169. Paragraph 38 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead C.5.—Higher Education Grants
The Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Act, 1968, authorises the making of grants by a local authority to persons ordinarily resident in its functional area to enable them to attend university colleges or other approved institutions of higher education. Section 4 of the Act provides for the refund from voted moneys to local authorities of the annual cost of such grants over and above the total amount provided by them in the year 1967-68 by way of assistance and scholarships under the Irish Universities Act, 1908 and the Local Authorities (Education Scholarships) Acts, 1944 and 1961. The charge to the subhead, £683,464, represents refunds made in the year.”
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information. Grants to students are made by local authorities and are subject to a means test on a sliding scale and to residence and academic qualifications.
170. Deputy MacSharry.—How soon will it be possible for local authorities to administer a similar type of grant for regional colleges?
—We are introducing a scheme for regional colleges to be operated through the local authority system.
171. Have you decided on criteria? Will it be four honours or what?
—The only case where we have some difficulty is in regard to the academic criterion. We are asking that they must get a C in a science subject. In most of the courses in the RTC you need a science background. We want to see if we can get it. C is the bottom grade honour.
Will other honours be required as well as the C in science?
This is the kind of proposal I was making two years ago that two honours should make a candidate eligible, one to be in science. I agree with that.
172. Chairman.—I do not quite understand the emphasis on science?
—Most of the RTC courses are building or engineering or technician courses. The only one we have doubt about is the management course—what has science to do with management?
What about computers? These are relevant to management now.
—That is true.
173. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Is the standard on which educational grants are awarded the same in every local authority?
Could you circulate to the members of the Committee particulars of how these grants are awarded?
—Certainly. There is the means test also.
174. Chairman.—Paragraph 39 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead H.13.—Union of Students in Ireland (Grant-in-Aid)
I referred in paragraph 41 of my report for 1970-71 to a grant-in-aid of £1,000 paid to the Union of Students in Ireland towards the cost of a research project relating to graduate emigration from Ireland. In the year under review a further sum of £1,000 was issued by way of grant-in-aid towards the cost of this project. It is anticipated that the project will be completed in 1974.”
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information. I understand the project referred to is approaching its final stage.
—They still hope to finish in 1974.
175. Chairman.—Are the USI in official relationship with the Department of Education? What are their contacts with you?
—They are mostly concerned with activities in universities. They have spread to all third level colleges. They are in teacher training colleges and RTCs.
What do they do?
—They look after the students’ interests.
—I will give an example. They are now objecting because we are seeking a degree from the universities for primary teachers. They say we should not seek it from the universities but from the National Council for Educational Awards, the NCEA. This is among the things they talk about.
176. Deputy MacSharry.—How do you see the amalgamation of the NUI and the NCEA?
—That is a question I could not answer now.
177. Do the unions in the RTCs and other places deal with other matters?
—Yes, they do.
They can be very effective.
—Yes they can be very effective.
178. Chairman.—How do you think standards of academic proficiency and learning today compared with the standards in our time? This is outside our scope and you need not answer it if you do not wish to do so.
—I would like to answer but you will have to take a double-barrelled answer. When I was a young lad the number of people progressing to second and third level education amounted to a very small percentage. That small percentage still has the same standards we had or higher. There is a vast input into second and third level education now. If you take this into consideration naturally the standard must appear to be a little lower. That does not mean a fall in standards. For the person who is as capable now as the people of 30 years ago, the standard is just as high.
That subject is for discussion elsewhere.
—I am afraid so.
179. On subhead A.3—Post Office Services —we have been querying whether the internal accounts for post office services within the State is an economic exercise. Why should you have to account for the State services you must use?
—I often wondered about that.
That is the reason I mentioned it. It does not concern you directly.
180. Deputy MacSharry.—On subhead A.4—Higher Education Authority—what is the relationship between the HEA and the NCEA?
—The HEA recommended the establishment of the NCEA. At the present time we have a tripartite system consisting of representatives of the NCEA, the HEA and the Department to thrash out the difficulties which arise. Strictly, there should be no difficulty. The NCEA is an awarding body. The HEA is a body which makes recommendations regarding third level eduction.
All third level education?
—Makes recommendations, yes, but has no responsibility for. It is responsible for designated institutions, that is, the universities and the College of Surgeons. It makes recommendations on higher education generally.
181. Chairman.—On subhead B.3—Educational Research—of what is that comprised?
—We had been looking for money for a long time to get people to do research which we consider might be valuable for us in schools. Somebody may be taking a doctorate and looking for a subject. If he produces a proposal which suits us we will back him with money. Of course, universities produce proposals too.
182. Deputy MacSharry.—Where do the papers which are produced as a result of this research go?
—We pay half at the start to help the man get off the ground. We demand an interim report before we pay the second half. It is still his thesis but we demand sight and use of it.
183. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Is it at doctorate level that this is done?
—It is done not only at doctor’s but at master’s level.
184. Chairman.—Do you still have teachers doing a master’s degree in university under one of the statutes that allow them to do so in addition to their primary qualification?
—They do not come into this.
185. Chairman.—On subhead B.4.—Language Research—is this the same type of thing?
—Yes, it covers continental languages and, mainly, Irish.
186. On subhead B.5—Technical Assistance in Education—the scheme was not a failure?
—We thought it advisable to invite some eminent people to talk at seminars. We encourage our people to go to seminars by paying part of the costs. If we paid the full fee we would be flooded with applicants, therefore we pay two-thirds and the applicants pay one-third, if we consider the seminar is worthwhile.
187. Deputy H. Gibbons.—How does this work? Do universities make the arrangements?
—Generally this is done by teachers’ organisations because the seminars are mainly for teachers.
188. Chairman.—On subhead B.6.— Educational Tours for Teachers—this is a very round sum of £5,000 and it was fully expended?
—This is a grant. The United States put in a fairly substantial sum. I do not know precisely what it is but it is at least four times what we put in. This is to enable teachers to go over and look at the American system and they do this.
189. On subhead B.7.—Council of Europe Committee Meeting—how did this arise?
—We were hosts that year. Apparently Ireland was popular because there were more representatives there than we thought would come and it cost us more money.
190. On subhead C.I.—University Scholarships—does this comprise all university scholarships?
—No. This is a hangover from the time we used to give scholarships. They are now fading out because we have university grants. We are still giving Easter Week scholarships, of course.
191. On subhead C.2.—Scientific Research Grants to Students—how did the excess arise?
—It is impossible to forecast here because we give grants for first-class honours and second-class grade 1 and we do not know how many will make it in a particular year. We can only guess.
192. On subhead C.3.—Student Exchange Scholarships—these were not fully utilised?
—We gave three to France and the third one was not fully availed of. The recipient of the Norweigian scholarship did not stay for the full academic year. The Swiss scholarship provision is for a married man and a single man came.
This is a change since our time when you had to do a very stiff exam to get a few pounds to go abroad.
—This is my feeling about this too. There is plenty of money now.
A student in my day had to do a very tough exam.
—It was the toughest.
193. On subhead C.4.—Fellowships—what is the position?
—This is for post-doctoral research. It is in the lap of the gods. You are only guessing.
194. On subhead C.5—Higher Education Grants—have you anything to say? It is a fairly big sum.
—This is the four honours, the four Cs. It is growing.
195. Deputy MacSharry.—Have you the percentage for the number of people who avail of this £680,000?
—In 1971-72 the number of higher education grants was 4,333.
Have you got the total number attending university?
—About 18,000 at that time.
About 25 per cent?
—We were growing at that time.
196. Chairman.—On subhead D.1.— Publications in Irish—the number of works of general literature which fell due for payment was less than anticipated? What is the position in that regard now?
—In that year we published two new books and we reprinted eight and we published a piece of music. A large number of books were in the process.
197. How many copies of works in Irish did you sell after publication?
—I have no figures on that, I am afraid.
Do you have big sales?
—No. It depends. The reprints are obviously ones that are going well. There are a couple that I happen to know like Úll Glas Oíche Shamhna, which does not happen to be a Munster one but which was well worth reprinting, and Sugán Sneachta.
198. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Does this include an Irish-English dictionary?
—The foclóir Béarla-Gaeilge is one of them.
What about the foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla?
—That is not completed yet.
199. When might it be completed?
—The latest word I have—you cannot push lexicographers that far—is that it might be completed this year.
200. It is a great loss not to have such a book. In fact that loss is so great that I would suggest that since it will be some time before it will be published you should publish volume 1 or a preliminary book?
—I am told that an actual contract has been placed. I did not think we had got even as far as that. I am inclined to agree with you. Somebody should have imitated Joyce and produced “Work in Progress”. I think that the old Irish Text Society in the early 1900s produced work in progress by letter. It might not be a bad thought to do it.
I find it very difficult. I learned the older spelling?
—The Dáil translation staff produced a book. I have forgotten the title but it is excellent.
Chairman.—Gramadach na Gaeilge.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—The word “grammar” puts me off?
—The first half is devoted to spelling, not grammar. It is most valuable to help you to understand the new spelling. I had to learn the new spelling too.
201. Chairman.—On subhead D.2.— Grants to Colleges providing Courses in Irish—what exactly are these courses in Irish?
—Courses in the Irish summer colleges.
202. On subhead D.4.—Audio-Visual Teaching Aids—these are going out of fashion?
—As a matter of fact, they are not. We were only introducing them at the time and we had to introduce a special grant for them. There is an expenditure of £42,000 there but in 1972-73 we spent £134,000.
Deputy MacSharry.—It is beginning to taper off?
—The word was getting around. In 1973-74 we spent £133,000 also. The word had not got around sufficiently then.
203. Chairman.—On subhead D.5—Training Courses—Audio-visual Aids—I suppose the same applies?
204. Subhead D.6—Physical Education. To what does this refer?
—We sent a number of male students to St. Mary’s at Strawberry Hill for training because we did not have the college built. There was no college for male students. This represents the costs of these students. We have removed them from Strawberry Hill. They have finished and so this charge will disappear.
205. Deputy MacSharry.—Where are you putting them now?
—They will be down in Limerick in the NCPE. We brought them back. They are finishing this year. We left the last group there to finish the course in Strawberry Hill.
206. Chairman.—On subhead E.1—Purchase of Books, etc. (Grant-in-Aid)—there is no note but I presume that the need for a supplementary grant was due to replacement?
207. On subhead E.3—Fees and Expenses in connection with Inspection of Manuscripts and Editing of Publications—is the problem of the National Library still mainly one of accommodation?
—It is totally accommodation.
It is a very serious problem?
—It is an appalling problem. I do not deny that. I have been three years trying to do something about it and I have been failing every time.
208. Naturally the volumes are accumulating?
—They are, yes, and things are now not available that were available ten years ago. Access to the National Library is being curtailed and this is an appalling situation.
Deputy MacSharry.—For lack of room?
Chairman.—You have some old, valuable material?
—Yes, very valuable.
209. This is not very appropriate but can we be sure that nothing like what happened at King’s Inns will happen?
—I would say the opposite. We take so much care of the valuable material that it is not available to anybody.
210. Deputy MacSharry.—What is it intended to do to rectify this position?
—The Board of Works were taking blocks of space in the Setanta building across the road. There has been a certain amount of difficulty with the builders and so on. I do not know precisely what it is. I understood from them that they were to take four storeys and that one of them was to go to the museum which is also caught for space. What you say about the library applies equally to the museum.
211. What about UCD in Earlsfort Terrace?
—It will not be vacant for about ten years. I think Earlsfort Terrace might be suitable for the museum but not for the library.
212. Chairman.—On subhead F.1— National Museum; Purchase of Specimens (Grant-in-Aid)—have you anything to say?
—Again, the museum is in the same situation but they are putting a better face on it than the library because they have a show room and they fool us all that they are doing very well when, in fact, they are smothered in material also.
213. Deputy MacSharry.—On subhead F.3—Archaeological Excavations (Grant-in-Aid)—there must not be much excavation?
—This relates to Brendan O’Riordan and various other people.
Chairman.—Having regard to the total size of the estimate and the turnover as such, you are not paying a big percentage of your grants in these quarters?
—We are not paying anything like enough.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—Is £1,000 the total for archaeological research?
—Actually, a figure is put down but generally if something comes up, if we do not have the money—I must pay tribute to the Department of Finance in this case— we can go to the Department of Finance and if we can prove to them that this is valuable work nationally they will help out.
214. Chairman.—On subhead H.5—Adult Education Courses—what is involved?
—This is for the College of Industrial Relations and the Dublin Institute of Adult Education. We give them grants, £5,000 each.
215. On subhead H.10—Voluntary Youth Organisations—does that include a number of organisations?
—Yes, this is the £125,000 that is spread out among a number of institutions. There is a list of them.
216. We have the accounts of non-voted funds administered by the Department. On page 74 there are details.
Deputy MacSharry.—All this money is invested in these securities?
—Some of those we are looking at are very small, as you can see. We are consulting the legal experts as to how better we might use them.
217. Deputy H. Gibbons.—The Department of Education includes the non-voted funds here and the National Gallery does not present such an account.
Chairman.—When Dr. White was here today he recognised that he was only accounting for moneys accountable from public sources, that he had bequests and endowments and that there was no accounting of those, whereas the Department here accounts in detail. I take it the distinction is that in his case, he is not completely the State Department that the Department of Education is?
—These ones here were either left to the Department of Education or its predecessors. The Shaw bequest was left specifically to the National Gallery and I presume it is the Shaw bequest you are talking about.
VOTE 28—PRIMARY EDUCATION.
Mr. S. Ó Concobhair further examined.
218. Chairman.—Paragraph 40 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead A.1.—Training Colleges
I referred in paragraph 38 of my report for 1967-68 to the building of a Church of Ireland Training College at Rathmines and to the provision for this purpose of State aid. Direct grants sanctioned for this project amounted to £371,810 at 31 March, 1972. I noted in the course of audit that the total of such grants issued at that date was £410,890 and I have communicated with the Accounting Officer in the matter.”
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph draws attention to a State-aided building project which is running over the cost level approved by the Department of Finance. The Accounting Officer has now furnished me with copies of correspondence with Finance relating to the matter. It would appear from their letter to Finance that the view is held in the Department of Education that Finance sanctions a global figure for Education’s capital works as a whole (e.g. training colleges, national schools or post-primary schools, etc.) and that it is a matter for the Department of Education itself to determine the allocation among the different colleges or schools as the case might be; further, the view is held that capital savings on one service could be used at the discretion of the Department elsewhere for capital purposes already approved by Finance. The Finance letter states that its specific approval for capital payments to individual training colleges is not required provided the capital estimate for such colleges as a whole is not exceeded and that there is no major deviation between the amount expended and the amount approved for each college. In fact this letter indicates that there is an amount approved for each training college and at least implies that specific Finance sanction should be sought for capital payments to a college, where there is a major deviation from the figure approved. There may be a difference of opinion as to what constitutes ‘a major deviation’. We would suggest that payments amounting to £39,000 over an approved limit of £372,000 at 31st March. 1972, i.e., over 10 per cent should require such specific sanction. In fact, these additional payments had increased to £70,000 at the 31st March, 1973, i.e. almost 19 per cent over the approved limit. When this project was commenced there was a level of State commitment fixed. This level was subsequently raised by specific Finance sanctions to the figure of £372,000 at 31st March, 1972, as mentioned in the paragraph but Education continued to make capital payments to the college above that level. I find this disturbing, especially as Finance had refused sanction for further capital payments in the case on at least two occasions, in December, 1969, and February, 1970, and expressed the view that this college had already been treated very generously from State funds. We have no evidence to show that Finance has changed its view in this respect.
—We are in a quandary in relation to the Department of Finance. One, they talk to us about programme budgeting and tell us specifically that once they pass the budget on a particular subhead that the essence of programme budgeting is that they devolve authority. On the other side, there is the traditional system where we go to Finance for every sum. We are caught between the two. I know programme budgeting is fairly new but we were the first to take it up, at the specific suggestion of the Department of Finance. We have since adopted the attitude that if programme budgeting means a thing—and the Department of Finance are pushing us to use it—we should be allowed to operate it. We went back to the Department of Finance and got this letter. I do not know what “a major deviation” is any more than the Auditor General does. At that time we did it because we were operating on the basis that if programme budgeting meant anything, and provided we did not exceed the Estimate of the amount of money voted by the Dáil, we were within our rights. We understood that we had tacit authority from the Department of Finance. We are very upset about this because it will make a mess of the way we are preparing our Estimates. I am sorry to be so vague.
219. Chairman.—I can see the difficulty in which the Department of Education are, as expressed by their Accounting Officer. On programme budgeting Devlin suggested that the traditional system should be kept on. We have had no indication from Finance on this. Can their representative help us clear up this point?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The letter we got from you would seem to imply that if you got £1 million it would be up to you to decide how you would spend it. In the early days this Committee were very strict about the conditions under which the Department of Finance could exercise virement between subheads within the Vote. In fact, Finance gave a definite undertaking that for each occasion their sanction would be obtained. There was no intention at any stage that Finance would give anyone a blanket right to exercise virement in advance. There was no intention of allowing switching between Votes. If you switch between Votes you are in breach of the Appropriation Act.
Deputy MacSharry.—Do you mean between subheads or between Votes?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—I am not too clear because in the Department of Education the example given is between primary schools and post-primary schools. They are two different Votes. If there is a question of switching money from one Vote to another that is in breach of the Appropriation Act. This is very unsatisfactory from the point of view of financial control if, as you say, you have been given a global figure to use as you think best.
220. Chairman.—This is a very complex problem. If there is any looseness then the Comptroller and Auditor General’s job and ours becomes a farce. We must agree with the Department of Finance that there be a proper accounting. Could we have a precise determination of the facts without thinking of responsibility or blame? Can the representative of the Department of Finance help us?
Mr. Whitty.—I will try. The Accounting Officer was talking about programme budgeting. That system is still being built up. It has not yet reached a stage where it applies to every Department in the same way. Some Departments are more advanced than others but we must maintain the traditional form of the Estimates until the time arrives when it can be replaced by the other system. An additional factor is that in the context of the existing system, we were trying to operate a form of delegation to other Departments which would, to some extent, replace the old system whereby an outside Department had to come to Finance for sanction for every tittle tattle. In relation to the capital side of it with which we are dealing, the procedure generally was that when the Department of Education submitted proposals to our Department for their capital programme they gave details showing the various projects and the estimated amounts they expected to spend. These constituted the nuts and bolts of the programme. We examined them in discussion with the Department concerned and eventually a total figure was arrived at. The understanding was that, once the total figure was arrived at and eventually approved by the Government, the Department would go ahead with the various projects included in that total. The understanding also was that if, for one reason or another, they did not proceed with one particular project they could go ahead faster on others and use the money in that way. There was an understanding, too, that if there was any major departure from the amounts approved for the various items they would let us know about it and how they proposed to make up the excess. There was no hard and fast rule laid down as to what would constitute a major increase. For instance, in recent years with all the inflationary effects on building costs it was natural to expect that there would be a substantial increase on the original estimates as time went on and for various reasons. We would not quarrel with them. The only thing we would be concerned with was whether there was some unusual feature about a particular project. If, for instance, there was any question of a local contribution and it was not forthcoming and the State had to make up the difference, and if there was some major change in the extent of the building or something like that we would like to know about that. By and large, we agreed that we were prepared to accept that the Department of Education——
221. Chairman.—So much for the generalities. Let us get down to this. There was £371,810 authorised for expenditure on this project, the Church of Ireland Training College. Is that correct?
222. Chairman.—There has been an excess expenditure of £39,080 on that project. Grants sanctioned amounted to £371,810 and grants issued amounted to £410,890. Whichever interpretation is to be put upon it, the fact is that £39,080 was overspent. Is that correct?
—That is correct.
223. Where did that £39,000 come from? Where was it in the estimate? From where was this money transferred? That money came from somewhere. Can you say that?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—There are two major savings on that vote. One was wages and salaries for teachers, £149,000 and superannuation for teachers, £150,000.
Chairman.—Let us get the facts. The books must show that £39,000 as coming from somewhere. From where? This is purely an accounting matter. Surely we can be told that. This £39,000 has been appropriated from somewhere else in the State’s accounts to make up the sum involved here. We want to know where exactly that £39,000 came from. It is purely an accounting problem and should be susceptible to a clear answer. It should be possible to have documents produced.
—This note refers to the total amount of money spent on the college up to 31st March, 1972.
Yes. That is the year we are dealing with.
—I do not think so. I think this £410,890 could cover a number of years. That is the cost up to then.
Up to then?
—Not just for a particular year.
224. But there is an excess payment of £39,000 that stands to be accounted for. So far as we are concerned it is not accounted for yet. We want to have it accounted for now.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—There was roughly £19,000 of this excess paid in the year under review. There was a saving of £17,000 on subhead A.1. So I take it that in that year this £19,000 which was paid to the college could have come from what is described in the estimate as grants for general purposes. Subhead A dealing with training colleges is made up of two figures in the estimates: Grants for general purposes, £642,000 and grants towards the cost of additional accommodation, £150,000.
—And £18,800 came out of that £150,000 for the Church of Ireland. I am sorry. It is more. It is £19,500.
225. Deputy MacSharry.—What about the explanation from Finance read out by the Comptroller and Auditor General to the effect that someone had decided this training college had got enough and would not get any more?
—I think that what the Comptroller and Auditor General is after me for is that Finance only agreed to £372,000 for this college and we spent £410,000 odd on it. There is an unsanctioned difference of £39,000 odd. Am I right?
Chairman.—That is the Comptroller and Auditor General’s point.
—That we should have gone back to Finance.
226. In order to understand that point I raised the other point on which I am not too clear. I have not got the expert knowledge of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The first impression I got was that the £39,000 came from the teachers’ salaries and superannuation but now from what you have been saying it would appear that it came out of the £150,000.
—£19,000 of it came out of that £150,000. £17,000 or £18,000 came out of that—that would be correct enough.
227. Deputy MacSharry.—Was that included in the list approved by the Department when they sanctioned the £150,000? Was that grant of £19,000 for the training college approved for that purpose and listed accordingly? That is the question?
—Of course, it must have been, because those estimates went down.
But the Department of Finance say it was not, that they had given enough when they were sanctioning the £390,000 or whatever it was.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—In December, 1969 the Department of Finance wrote to the Department of Education concerning this to the effect that the Minister was not disposed to authorise any further capital expenditure on this college and when we saw further expenditure we looked for the sanction and it was not forthcoming.
228. Deputy MacSharry.—You are not aware of Finance giving subsequent sanction?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—No, and in fairness to the Department if they had got subsequent sanction I am sure they would have let me have a copy of it. I have to assume that they did not get any further sanction.
—We sent you a letter yesterday.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—Oh yes, but this is now in the old——
—Yes, that is true.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—I suggest that the letter you got from Finance and of which you sent me a copy yesterday, does not help you. They admit in the letter, as I said, that there is a figure approved for each college and they admit that if there is any deviation from the figure you should go back to Finance.
229. Deputy MacSharry.—Mr. Ó Conchobhair, apparently you have a list in front of you which makes up the expenditure on capital works of £150,000 for training colleges in that year?
—They say two things. They say that their Department’s specific approval for capital payments to the individual training college is not required provided the capital estimates for training colleges as a whole approved by this Department is not exceeded. They go on and I admit they put in another clause “and there is no major deviation between the amount expended and the amount approved for each college.” Mr. Whitty said that what he meant there —I do not want to interpret him; he is here and he can correct me—was that if we chose to put in something into the college, that would be a different thing, such as a swimming pool. It happens that they have a swimming pool but suppose we wanted to put it in. He said that costs were rising and that these things were the PC sums and rising costs. This is happening in all buildings—that costs are rising. We are helpless in the face of them because salary scales are going up.
230. Chairman.—We understand that but let us keep to the mechanics of accounting at the moment. Your reasons are readily understandable. Am I right in thinking that the £39,000, in fact, came from the £150,000 which was granted towards additional accommodation plus the saving under the subhead? Is that where the money came from?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The £39,000 was not all incurred this year. What occurred this year was £19,000 and that came out of the £150,000.
231. Deputy MacSharry.—The simple question is—and I can be corrected if I am wrong—that in this year, £150,000 was sanctioned by Finance for training colleges, capital works and in so far as the previous letter from the Department of Finance to Education was concerned it did not include the £19,000 that the Department of Education decided to spend.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—That would be my position.
Chairman.—What does Mr. Whitty say about it?
Mr. Whitty.—There was if you like a certain latitude given to Education. Once we had approved the total capital programme, we accepted that they could go ahead on the approved basis. Usually the total that we would approve for capital expenditure would be less than what they had asked for and they would have to adjust matters themselves. Also we were aware that some increase in the individual items making up the programme would be inevitable during the year due to rising costs.
232. Deputy MacSharry.—I do not think that matters at all. You represent the Department of Finance here. We have the Comptroller and Auditor General and he has a letter from the Department of Finance concerning the Department of Education saying: full stop, no more money for this particular project. You cannot talk about latitude after that letter.
Mr. Whitty.—I do not know the precise context of that letter but there was I think a question of the fact that the college authorities had to make a contribution themselves and there might be some question in regard to not reducing that contribution or something like that.
—I do not want to hold up the committee but may I say that there is £19,000 of the sum in this year, that this building went over a number of years and there is probably some more in the previous year.
233. Chairman.—In a letter addressed to Mr. O’Mahony this paragraph occurs at the end: “Finally in the case of training colleges any deviation of consequence from the capital programme set out in the document, Teacher Training, which formed Appendix B to the 1973-74 Programme Budget document must be notified to this Department together with the reasons therefor”. Could this committee see the document referred to, Appendix B to the 1973-74 Programme Budget?
Deputy H. Gibbons.—Would I be in order in suggesting that this matter be adjourned in respect of this particular item?
Chairman.—Certainly, if you wish, I will accept that.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—I think there are two or three problems involved here, firstly the question of the programme budget. When programme budgeting was first mentioned—and it is becoming an in-word now —I was afraid to make inquiries about it in case it might be thought that we were ignorant but I think that at this stage we should ask for a satement on programme budgeting.
Chairman.—Yes, I think so, and in particular in regard to Mr. Whitty’s letter to Mr. O’Mahony in regard to the paragraph I read in referring to Appendix B.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—I should like to deal with my own point first and put programming first, that we should have on record how the Department of Finance interpret programme budgeting because there is obviously a conflict between them and the Department of Education.
—I do not think there is a conflict between us and the Department of Finance. I think there is a conflict between us and the Auditor-General on interpretation.
234. Deputy MacSharry.—From what you said yourself and what Mr. Whitty has said, Deputy Gibbons, I would say, considers that programme budgeting was causing concern, that you got a separate allocation and that you could spend it any way you liked; but if we examine programme budgeting as Mr. Whitty outlined it, and as anybody with any sense must agree, in this programme budgeting there is £150,000 for different headings. They must be all itemised and costed so that, in effect, this argument about the difference between the old system and programme budgeting does not stand up; it is virtually the same thing.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—I would understand programme budgeting as working something like this: the Department of Education say that they want extra money, that they propose to use £30,000 of a particular fund to finish this programme, they put this on record and Finance would automatically approve of it. On that other hand. I would not consider it programme budgeting if at that stage Education had to ask permission of Finance to spend this money because this would mean, as stated already by Deputy MacSharry, that there is a full stop at this stage. There is a definite conflict here on the administration of this particular programme.
Chairman.—All right. We will adjourn and discuss this among ourselves.
The Committee deliberated.
235. Deputy MacSharry.—As it is now 20 minutes to one I think we should adjourn completely until next Thursday or later if that would suit.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—We will be getting a memorandum from the Department of Finance on this and will be updated on their intentions. I do not know if their refusal to sanction further expenditure on this college has gone by the board. The more general problem which is much more serious is the question of the use of virement for capital works. Has that already been delegated to the Department of Education or any other Departments? I would hope that there is no intention of exercising virement between Votes.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This is the impression I got from the Department of Education’s letter. This Committee has been very insistent that Finance use this right very sparingly.
236. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On whom does the responsibility for providing training colleges rest? If the people concerned had to make a contribution, I take it that the obligation would then be on the State?
—If you get it down to bedrock, the obligation is on the State. Because of the particular country we are in, various religions have undertaken, in order to protect their own interests, to provide colleges. Therefore, they make contributions. If they walked out, we would have to furnish teachers.
237. Chairman.—An adjournment at this time would be best. We will continue with the Votes of the Department of Education in June. This will give the officials an opportunity to have another look at the Department of Finance’s letter.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned.
* See Appendix 6.