MINUTE OF THE MINISTER FOR FINANCE ON REPORT, DATED 28 FEBRUARY 1974, OF THE COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS ON THE APPROPRIATION ACCOUNTS 1970-71.
PART I—GENERAL OBSERVATIONS.
REPORT DATED 23 JULY 1969.
Paragraph 1—Fees for professional services in connection with building projects.
As a result of discussions with the Restrictive Practices Commission and the Examiner of Restrictive Practices, the National Prices Commission have commissioned a consultant to carry out a study on this subject, the results of which are expected to be available later this year. The Committee will be informed of developments.
Paragraph 2—Difficulties in recruitment of civil service staff.
The following statement shows the authorised establishment and the number of vacancies in certain general service recruitment grades since 1st July 1973. In the past it has not always been possible to fill vacancies as they arose because all qualifiers at the latest competitions may have been offered appointment and consequently it was necessary to await the result of a fresh competition. The improved recruitment procedures, which have been introduced, are, however, aimed at ensuring that a supply of candidates will be available, from either open competitions or competitions confined to serving civil servants, to fill vacancies as they arise. The position in regard to the filling of vacancies has improved considerably in recent months.
Authorised Establishment and Number of Vacancies in Certain General Service Recruitment Grades from 1st July 1973.
The following statement shows by grade the number of open competitions for general service entry grades held between May 1973 and April 1974, the number (a) who sat for the competitions, (b) qualified, (c) offered appointments and (d) who had accepted appointment.
The Committee will see that many successful candidates at competitions still decline an offer of employment. This is an indication that alternative job opportunities are available to candidates.
REPORT DATED 12th NOVEMBER, 1970.
Paragraph 3—Question of duplicate control of certain activities of the Department of Defence.
As already stated, a further communication will be sent to the Committee when the examination of the recommendations of the Review Group in regard to the Department of Defence has been completed. This may take some time as the issues involved are somewhat complex.
Paragraph 4—Deficits of Voluntary Hospitals.
From 1st April, 1974 the deficits are being met directly by the Exchequer through the Health Vote (subhead G2 entitled “Payments to Health Bodies other than Health Boards”). The change does not require legislation.
Paragraph 5—Capital developments by University College, Dublin, at Celbridge, Co. Kildare.
In January 1974 the World Bank agreed in principle to give a loan to help finance capital developments (buildings and equipment) for the Faculty of Agriculture at Belfield and Celbridge. The bulk of the facilities will be provided at Belfield in keeping with the FAO report of 1971 which recommended that the main developments should be centred on the university campus.
Paragraph 6—Current expenditure on Comprehensive Schools.
The Minister agrees with the suggestion of the Department of Education that, for the reasons set out in his minute to the Committee of 11th October, 1973, the Committee might reconsider the question of the submission of annual accounts for each comprehensive school.
The Minister has been advised by the Department of Education that improved budgetary and cost control procedures for comprehensive and community schools have been introduced as from 1st April, 1974. This will mean that returns of expenditure, compared with forecast estimates by major expense item, will be furnished to that Department quarterly. This procedure should ensure more effective control over the financing of these schools.
The Minister intends to keep the effectiveness of these new arrangements under review.
REPORT DATED 13th JULY, 1972.
The Minister has difficulty in reconciling the statement that the Committee does not accept his view that there might be justification for exempting expenditure from certain grants-in-aid from the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General with Paragraph 81 (1) (5) of the Committee’s Report of 13th July, 1972 which reads:
“(5) That the Comptroller and Auditor General have the right to inspect the books of a person or body which receives a Grant-in-Aid unless a clear statement to the contrary is contained in the estimate presented to and agreed to by the Dáil”.
This recommendation seems to the Minister to allow that there may be exceptions to the general rule of scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
At present all grants-in-aid are in fact subject to scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General either because he is the auditor of the grantee or, in other cases, because he has the right to inspect the books and the accounts of the grantee. The Committee may take it that there will be no change in this practice without sufficient reason and that any change will be brought to the notice of the Dáil in accordance with the Committee’s recommendation quoted above.
Attached for the information of the Committee is a copy of a circular letter in relation to grants-in-aid which the Minister has had issued to all Accounting Officers.
Paragraph 8—Recovery of moneys.
The position under German law has not yet been fully clarified. It is understood that the Attorney-General is hopeful that he will be in a position to advise the Minister at an early date.
REPORT DATED 28th JUNE, 1973.
Paragraph 9—Financial rationalisation in relation to State Funds.
All Departments have examined the funds under their control and have found that there is at present no fund in respect of which any change would be appropriate.
Paragraph 10—Audit of accounts of State-Sponsored Bodies.
The Department of the Public Service is now engaged in discussions with Departments on proposals for a system of Parliamentary review of State-sponsored bodies, having regard to the aim of restructuring the public service on the basis of the Aireacht/Executive Units concept. On completion of these discussions there will be an early submission to the Government. The Committee will be kept informed of developments.
Paragraph 11—Payments to Special Regional Development Fund (Grant-in-Aid).
The Minister notes the Committee’s comments about the county development teams and will keep them informed of developments.
Paragraph 12—Payments in respect of overtime.
Paragraph 13—Accommodation grants to hotels and guest houses.
These paragraphs do not appear to call for comment.
PART II—PARTICULAR ACCOUNTS.
Paragraph 14—Charging of expenditure to a subhead which did not make provision for it.
The Minister concurs in the Committee’s view that to charge a payment to a subhead which does not cover it contravenes an important principle of government accounting. He agrees that in this case his sanction should have been sought to account for the expenditure in a new subhead. The Department of Education has noted the position.
Paragraph 15—(i) Accounting for running costs and capital costs of Regional Technical Colleges; (ii) Surrender of unspent balances by Vocational Education Committees.
The Minister has been informed by the Department of Education that, since the commencement of the financial year 1971-72, the Vocational Education Committees concerned have submitted separate estimates and annual financial statements in respect of the Regional Technical Colleges. The running cost of these Colleges, including teachers’ salaries and other expenses, are being charged to Subhead I.1 and payments for new equipment are being met from the capital subhead I.3 of the Vote for Vocational Education.
The Committee’s observations in relation to the issue of £360,000 from Subhead I.1 towards the end of March 1971 to meet expenditure on equipment have been noted. The Minister agrees, that, excluding grants-in-aid, issues should be made only in respect of matured liabilities.
PUBLIC WORKS AND BUILDINGS.
Paragraph 16—Changes in accommodation requirements in National Schools.
The accommodation to be provided in National Schools is determined by the Department of Education. The Minister is assured by the Commissioners of Public Works that they will continue to take all possible steps, in conjunction with the Department of Education, to keep to a minimum the number of cases where belated changes in accommodation arise. It will be appreciated that, with accelerated house building in new urban areas and with the development of central schools, changes in accommodation requirement are inevitable at short notice in some cases.
Paragraph 17—Cost/benefit study of arterial drainage schemes.
The cost/benefit analysis of drainage proposals for the Maigue Catchment (mainly in County Limerick) has been completed and the report is at the drafting stage. When the study has been completed, the evaluation of data gathered in respect of the much smaller Groody catchment will be proceeded with.
The methodology devised for the Maigue study is also being adapted to a further study now being undertaken in respect of the Corrib/Mask/Robe catchment. The Steering Group for the Corrib/Mask/Robe study will continue to be representative of the Department of Finance, Office of Public Works, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and An Foras Talúntais. The Committee will be kept informed of developments.
Paragraph 18—Contribution due from University College, Dublin, towards the cost of works carried out at Central Heating Station, Government Buildings.
The Minister is informed that agreement has been reached between the UCD authorities and the Office of Public Works on the method of payment of the sums assessed as the capital contributions due from the College towards the cost of the new heating plant and electrical distribution system to serve the State Group of buildings including the College of Science. This agreement involves payment by UCD of annual sums of £1,100 and £600 for the heating and electricity systems, respectively. These payments commenced only from 1971-72 in recognition of the fact that the equipment had to be replaced before the end of its useful life because of the extension to Leinster House. The amounts are payable for 20 years or for such reduced period as appropriate if the College vacates the buildings before the elapse of 20 years.
Paragraph 19—Use of native fuels for heating of buildings erected for State occupation.
When designing buildings for State occupation the Commissioners of Public Works provide, as far as practicable, for the use of native fuels such as turf and anthracite coal. However, in relation to the projects referred to by the Committee, electricity had to be used in telephone exchanges because of the vital need for a dustfree atmosphere in such buildings. Also, a sizeable number of Garda Stations are not manned on a full-time basis so electricity is the only practicable fuel for heating purposes.
SAVINGS BANK FUND DEPOSIT ACCOUNT.
Paragraph 20—Exchange of Government stocks between an Assurance Company and the Savings Bank Fund Deposit Account.
Instructions have been issued that
(1) in the unlikely event of a transaction of the kind referred to being found necessary again a detailed written record of the considerations involved should be kept; and
(2) in future all queries from the Comptroller and Auditor General are to be dealt with promptly.
Paragraph 21—Provision for wireless equipment.
As recommended by the Committee this item has been transferred out of the miscellaneous provision in Subhead B (Travelling and Incidental Expenses) of the Garda Síochána Vote. It is now being accounted for specifically under a new subhead —Subhead H (Equipment) of the same Vote.
An Roinn Airgeadais,
Sráid Mhuirfean Uacht.,
Baile Átha Cliath 2.
10 Meitheamh, 1974
CONFIDENTIAL CIRCULAR NO. 2/74.
1. I am directed by the Minister for Finance to refer to this Department’s Confidential Circular No. 2/72 regarding the rules governing expenditure of public funds by way of grants-in-aid and to convey the following additional instructions
2. Rule (6) in paragraph 4 of the Circular should be extended to oblige the Accounting Officer of the Department concerned to:
(e) notify the grantee of the purposes and conditions under which the money will be issued to ensure that the grantee is fully aware of his responsibility in connection with the subsequent disposal of such moneys.
3. The examination of grants-in-aid requested in paragraph 3 of the Circular should be regarded as a continuing process with a view to converting, where appropriate, existing grants-in-aid into ordinary grants. Where it is proposed that provisions should continue to be treated as grants-in-aid after the current financial period, the reasons for such treatment should be reported to this Department as soon as possible. Where the Comptroller and Auditor General does not at present act as auditor to a grantee and it is proposed to continue this practice, the reasons for so doing should also be reported to this Department.
4. Where the creation of a new grant-in-aid is being proposed by a Department and it is not intended to appoint the Comptroller and Auditor General as auditor to the grantee, that Department should, when submitting the proposal, give the reasons why such an appointment is not considered appropriate.
5. The Minister has accepted the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee that the Comptroller and Auditor General should have the right to inspect the books of a person or body which receives a grant-in-aid unless a clear statement to the contrary is contained in the Estimate presented to and agreed to by the Dáil. You are requested to ensure that, where in accordance with Confidential Circular No. 2/72 the Comptroller and Auditor General need not be given this right, the required statement is included in any draft estimate (including any supplementary or additional estimate) which you submit to this Department.
6. Any problems arising out of this Circular should be sent in writing to this Department.
Mise le meas,
C. H. MURRAY.
To all Accounting Officers.
(a) All candidates were called but offer of appointment was subject to their qualifying at an interview.
(b) This is the number who accepted appointment from among those who came forward for and qualified at the interview.