MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 4 Samhain, 1976.
Thursday, 4th November, 1976.
The Committee met at 11a.m.
DEPUTY de VALERA in the chair.
Mr. S. Mac Gearailt (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.
VOTE 26—CHARITABLE DONATIONS AND BEQUESTS.
Mr. J. S. Martin called and examined.
55. Chairman.—There is no paragraph in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General so we will proceed with the Vote itself. Since no questions arise, would you, Mr. Martin, like to comment?
—The only comment I have to make is that on my 29th consecutive appearance before the Committee, I am now on the last lap, so to speak. I am due to be retired on 15th November, on attaining my 65th birthday. It I might, Mr. Chairman, I would respectfully like to record my appreciation of the invariable courtesy and consideration I have received from successive members of this Committee since 1947.
That is very kind of you, Mr. Martin. Thank you. We are sorry to hear this will be your last appearance. Is there any chance you might make a 30th appearance?
—No chance at all, I understand. “The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on.” That applies in all stations in life. It is time for me to hand over to a younger person.
We are sorry to hear that and we wish you the very best in your retirement.
—I am extremely grateful.
56. Deputy Crotty.—What exactly does this Office do?
Chairman.—It is an office which deals with charitable trusts of all kinds?
—They are a very eminent body who give their services voluntarily. They receive no payment. They exercise a general superintendence over charitable trusts. If a charity property is to be sold, the consent of the Commissioners is required to the sale. They act as trustee of trust funds. They have approximately £3¼ million in investments under their control, the annual interest from which is applicable to charitable purposes all over Ireland. In addition, the Commissioners can act in the case of disputes, where charity property is concerned. If a person has a claim against an estate the Commissioners can sanction a compromise so as to provide an economic and speedy method of settling the question and resolving the difficulties.
57. There are numbers of charities. Some are governed by statute and others by deed and any variation subsequently has to go to the courts. The Commissioners supervise all this, do they not?
—There is a new provision in the Charities Act, 1973, which gives increased jurisdiction to the Commissioners to make cy-prés applications where a charitable fund does not exceed £25,000. As you are aware, “cy-prés” means applying a charitable fund to an alternative charitable purpose closely approximating to that for which the fund was originally given and this procedure provides a very economic method of dealing with charity funds.
Rather than having to go to the courts?
—Rather than having to go to the courts, yes.
58. It is bound literally by the settlement and you can get near it or in some cases the purpose of the fund may actually fail and there may be a question of what is to happen?
—On the whole the Commissioners are disposed to avoid failures if at all possible. A charitable fund, like Tennyson’s brook, goes on forever. We hope it never comes to an end.
Deputy Griffin.—We would all like to join with the Chairman’s good wishes to Mr. Martin on his retirement.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 21—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE.
Mr. A. Ward called and examined.
59. Chairman.—Paragraph 23 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Expenditure in excess of Authorised Issues
In paragraph 6 above I referred to payments made from seventeen Votes in excess of the amounts authorised by Section 2 of the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act, 1965. They include payments of some £194,000 from this Vote and £5,925,400 from Vote 22—Garda Síochána. I sought the observations of the Accounting Officer but I have not as yet received his reply.”
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The Committee will recall that at last week’s meeting it discussed generally cases where expenditure exceeded authorised issues. Paragraph 23 calls attention to two such cases, Vote 21, the Office of the Minister for Justice, and Vote 22, Garda Síochána. Since the date of my Report I have received the Accounting Officer’s replies. He states that the expenditure involved was incurred during the change-over of the financial year to a calendar year basis when the usual parliamentary financial business had to be effected in the nine months ended 31st December 1974. The Estimates for the Votes were taken by the Dáil on the 18th December 1974 and the delay in passing the Estimates gave rise to the temporary excesses on the Votes. He added that the expenditure in both cases was in respect of matured liabilities and could not have been avoided.
60. Chairman.—When did you seek the observations of the Accounting Officer?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—In June, 1975.
Chairman.—What is the date of the reply?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The week after my Report. The 24th September.
61. Chairman.—Is there any reason why there should be such a delay on a query of that nature?
—Yes. This was a general problem that arose in several Departments. That being so, we had to go to the Department of Finance to ascertain the form of reply that should be sent because there was obviously a similar explanation right across the board. That took some time. We did not know the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report was being signed on 15th September. If we had we possibly could have sent the reply ten days earlier but that particular date did not have any special significance at the time. The main point is that it took some months to get the thing cleared because of the number of Departments involved. All the Departments involved had a common problem. In effect, the reply was suggested by the Department of Finance.
Where possible the Committee do not like to see a note from the Comptroller and Auditor General which suggests that he has not all the information when he makes his Report to the Dáil. At the same time we want to keep things up to time. We understand the circumstances in this case were exactly the same as others. As you are the first I am taking the opportunity to make the point.
62. Deputy MacSharry.—Will each Accounting Officer not take it on himself to reply in such a case? It is his responsibility. In this case it is yours. Surely you do not go to somebody else looking for an answer for something which is your responsibility?
—Not normally. I am sure it will be accepted by the Comptroller and Auditor General that we do not delay replies to queries of this kind. However, this situation was not peculiar to the Department of Justice but applied to no fewer than 17 Votes. There was not just one single explanation. A full explanation would include references to the state of work in Dáil Éireann and the priorities accorded by Dáil Éireann to different items before them. In those circumstances it was thought inappropriate that the substance of the answer should even appear to differ between one Department and another when, in fact, the explanation was the same for all. The Department of Finance, as the Department with the primary responsibility in this area, were consulted. It is fair to say that they agreed that there should be a common answer, if not in identical words, at least in similar terms. I do not mean that the explanation was in any sense concocted but simply that it was desirable that some people would not express it in one way and others in another way which might appear to be significantly different. This is a most exceptional situation. We do not delay audit queries. I am sure that is accepted.
Chairman.—Yes. We understand that this is an exceptional situation. Did I understand you to say that the report might differ in substance or that it would not?
—It would not differ in substance. The replies would have been the same in substance anyway but might superficially appear different. One of the points I was making was that the explanation included references to the Dáil’s decision on priorities in the Order of Business before them. That is a rather delicate matter for an Accounting Officer to refer to, as you will appreciate.
63. How does the answer to a query depend on the priorities of the Dáil?
—In this case the explanation of the delay depended in part on the fact that the Dáil had not got around to dealing with the Estimates until just before the end of the financial year.
If that was the Accounting Officer’s difficulty why could he not say so? Deputy Mac Sharry’s point is that the Accounting Officer has a specific responsibility, whatever the internal arrangements within the service, to the Dáil and particularly to this Committee of the Dáil charged with these duties. He also has a responsibility to the Comptroller and Auditor General. The Committee simply cannot accept an excuse of an administrative reason like that when they have not the information before them. This is all quite impersonal. It is more a matter of procedure. The Committee feel that when there is a query from the Comptroller and Auditor General it should be answered as quickly as possible or else the reason given for the delay so that the Comptroller and Auditor General will not be in the position of having to put at the end of a paragraph in his Report: “I have not yet received his reply”. The Comptroller and Auditor General is entitled to a reply in time and this Committee are entitled to the information. This is the point we wish to make.
—Yes, I appreciate that.
64. Paragraph 24 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead I.—Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted
In December 1973, the Government approved a scheme of compensation effective from 1 October 1972 for personal injuries criminally inflicted.
The scheme is non-statutory and provides for the payment, on an ex-gratia basis, of compensation assessed by a tribunal established by the Minister for Justice. The tribunal is required to submit annually to the Minister a report on the operation of the scheme together with its accounts. While formal accounts have not been prepared, all payments relating to the scheme were charged directly to the subhead in the period under review. The expenditure comprises:—
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph is for information. While formal accounts are not prepared all expenditure is examined in the course of audit since payments are charged direct to the subhead. I understand that it is not the intention to have separate accounts nor to introduce legislation in the near future to have the scheme put on a statutory basis.
Chairman.—Are you satisfied?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—I am satisfied.
65. Deputy Griffin.—How many claims are there, as a matter of interest?
—The Committee has made its first annual report and that report shows that they had 170 completed cases and 70 cases in which interim awards were made. They paid out a total of £296,000 in that year. This is a report which is published. It has been submitted to the Dáil.
66. Deputy Tunney.—Are the medical personnel represented on the tribunal itself?
—No, it is exclusively legal.
Then we have fees for medical reports requested. Do they not request a medical report in every case?
—Not necessarily. They may already have the medical evidence available in the material submitted to them. Sometimes they may need an additional medical report.
The fee looks extraordinarily small and I wonder whether this should be described as additional medical reports. It hardly represents the totality of the medical reports received. The compensation is £134,000?
—It would be the totality of what is paid for in this way. If a person is injured he may be sent into hospital. The report of a hospital doctor would not come into this account but could be sufficient to satisfy the tribunal.
67. Deputy Griffin.—Was this report circulated?
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—My information is that it was presented to the House.
Deputy Griffin.—Was the report circulated to the members of the Public Accounts Committee?
Chairman.—No, because it is with the House. It is not a semi-State body.
68. On subhead A.—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—there is a note. That is presumably an inflationary increase?
—Yes, an across-the-board payment.
69. Deputy Crotty.—On subhead B.— Travelling and Incidental Expenses—purchase of documents and publications, what sort of documents would they be, just for information? Can we ask questions on this?
Chairman.—Yes. It is in the Book of Estimates.
Deputy Crotty.—It is a small figure, but could we have the information?
—This is the Public Records Office who may want to buy a document in an auction or something like that, a document of Irish historical importance.
Chairman.—Does it come under your Department?
70. Deputy Tunney.—Under subhead G— Compensation for Unsaleable Chemical Substances—there is 100 per cent more than granted in the Estimates.
Chairman.—What is that?
—This is sodium chlorate and ammonium nitrate.
Is that if you do not want to part with it afterwards?
—That is right, yes. At that stage we were coming up to the end of the payments and there was no way of knowing how much of the material was still uncollected. This refers to small amounts here and there. Most of it had already been collected and paid for so the estimate was little more than a guess.
71. Is there no way that chloride can be used commercially?
—No, not in this context. The problem was that most of it was exported because it could not be allowed to lie around. It had been imported and naturally the re-export involved a loss because carriage in and carriage out had to be paid, apart from anything else.
72. Deputy H. Gibbons.—How did the Department of Justice come to have it?
—Through something akin to confiscation. It was a security measure.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—It is a home-made explosive.
73. Deputy Crotty.—Surely if it is confiscated it does not have to be paid for?
—It was not confiscated in the strict sense of the word. What happened was commercial interests had very large stocks of ammonium nitrate for sale in the ordinary way for fertilisers and also substantial stocks of sodium chlorate which is used as a total weedkiller and suddenly an order was made prohibiting the sale of these materials. It had to be a quick operation, without notice, but it unavoidably meant that commercial interests were faced with the prospect of a huge loss on their hands so the Exchequer had to pay the net loss, the difference between what they had paid and what could be got on resale on the export market.
Chairman.—There are weedkiller solutions on the market with certain adjustments in them that make it very difficult to extract the CIO3.
—Yes. There is also ammonium nitrate on the market which is a different composition from that prohibited. It depends on the nitrogen content.
74. Deputy Crotty.—On subhead H—Grant to Free Legal Advice Centres—how many legal aid advice centres are there?
—There is one wholetime one in Coolock and there are six to eight part-time ones elsewhere in the Dublin area. There is also one in Cork.
It appears they are just in the large centres. Are the rural areas not considered?
—These are voluntary organisations.
75. Deputy MacSharry.—What kind of grant assistance do they get?
—In a sense this particular account for 1974 might be misleading in that it might give the impression that they had no money in the nine months. What actually happened was that the Dáil voted them £5,000 when they were about to get off the ground in the last days of March 1974, immediately before this accounting period. They had to be given the money— that was the intention of the Dáil—to enable them to get off the ground but they were not able to get things moving as quickly as they had hoped. The result was they did not need any of this further grant in the nine-month period because they had enough money from the last days of March of the preceding accounting period.
76. How is the £5,000 given out? Is it given to one group to disburse among them?
—It is a single group in Dublin and a separate one in Cork. At that time there was only the Dublin group and the money was spent primarily, if not exclusively, on the wholetime centre. They send in their accounts. Where it is a single organisation it is that organisation rather than an individual branch that gets the grant, as in Dublin.
77. For instance, if Galway or Sligo wanted a free legal aid centre how would they apply for assistance?
—This would require in the first place the establishment of an organisation in Galway or Sligo and at that point they could apply.
78. What kind of assistance do the part-time centres usually get?
—Very little for part-time. The grant is mainly expended on the provision of premises and the salary of a solicitor in the wholetime centre in Coolock.
79. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On the notes on the expenditure of various committees, how many of these committees have reported?
—The Committee on Court Practice and Procedure have made about 19 or 20 separate reports, each complete in itself. They are not interim reports in the usual sense of that term; they are on separate subjects. The committee are still in existence and will investigate any matter appropriate to them. The Law Enforcement Commission have completed their report. The Interdepartmental Committee on Mentally III and Maladjusted Persons have made two interim reports. The Committee on Civil Legal Aid and Advice are still sitting—they have not made a report. The Landlord and Tenant Commission have made periodic reports on separate aspects of rent law.
80. If I may refer back to subhead B— Travelling and Incidental Expenses—and what I have to say would apply to other Votes also, should we separate the computer rental from travelling and incidental expenses? The computer has become increasingly important in the administration of Departments.
Chairman.—In the Estimates the computer rental is of the same order as Miscellaneous— £12,000 as against £11,000.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—It is four times the amount of the previous year.
—It has already been decided to put the computer rental and other matters such as office equipment in a separate provision from next year onwards. It has already been looked after.
81. Deputy Crotty.—In Miscellaneous in the subhead B, one would expect this to be a smaller item, say 5 per cent, but in this case it is 25 per cent. The purchase of historical documents accounted for £750 but then there is a Miscellaneous item accounting for £11,000. This appears to be a very large amount.
—This also comes under what I have said. The major item in that heading is the purchase of office equipment and this will be set out separately in the new arrangements.
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—The Committee in its recent report recommended that “Miscellaneous” be broken down.
VOTE 22—GARDA SÍOCHÁNA.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
82. Chairman.—On subhead A—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—there is a note that a sum of £690,000 was received from the Vote for Remuneration. Is the explanation in this case that it was the end of the year also?
—No, that is for a general increase.
There is a difference between the Estimate and the expenditure of £975,119. However, the note states that a sum of £690,000 was received from the Vote for Remuneration and that would have gone into the sum of £21 million.
—When a general pay increase is authorised it is standard practice that the amount that would normally be payable under a particular Vote will be carried by a general Vote for Remuneration.
83. Deputy Crotty.—On the same subhead, where does the money traffic wardens collect in fines go and where does the money collected from the meters go?
—It goes to the Road Fund.
Both go to the Road Fund?
—Yes. In so far as traffic wardens appear here, it could be looked on as bookkeeping entry. The money comes from Local Government to us and we, in turn, pay it to the Corporation. This is a temporary arrangement. There is a new Act on the Statute Book now though it, or the relevant part of it, has not been brought into operation and, under that Act, when it comes into operation, local authorities will employ traffic wardens directly and the Department of Justice will fade out of the operation.
84. Deputy Tunney.—Does the saving of £975,000 manifest itself anywhere else in the accounts.
—In a sense, yes, because the Supplementary Estimate was approved by the Dáil in December on the basis that it was hoped to pay £800,000 to the Garda by way of arrears under a special arbitrator’s award under which the Gardaí were given increased weekend and night allowances. By the time the Estimate was approved by the Dáil it was not possible to get all the payments made because claims had, of course, to be checked. Only about £550,000 was paid before 31st December. That meant there was still £250,000, roughly speaking, which had to be paid subsequently so that the net effect is that the saving shown was in part a postponement of expenditure and not a permanent saving. The money was due pursuant to an arbitrator’s award and had to be paid in the following year. I am not sure if that is what you have in mind.
I notice there was a total of £500,000 less than provided paid out there. Was that subsumed into some other account?
That was a saving?
85. Deputy Crotty.—Under subhead B— Travelling and Incidental Expenses—this includes repayable advances to purchase motor cars. Could we have an explanation of those advances? What advances are made? Is interest charged? What is the position?
—Mileage allowances are paid to cover expenditure incurred by a member of the Garda Síochána on official duty. However, if his work requires him to have a car, and especially if it does not require him to do a very big mileage in the course of the year, there is the question of his ability to purchase the car. In the normal way he might have to approach a bank so it has been customary for many years in a situation like that to advance interest-free loans so that he may equip himself with a car if he is required to have a car.
86. Chairman.—This would be his own car.
There is no question of the Finance Act, 1975, applying in regard to a taxation assessment. The cars are not supplied. This is a grant by way of loan?
Is this a long-standing arrangement?
87. Deputy Crotty.—On subhead D—Clothing and Accessories—I think the disposal of uniforms and so forth was raised last year. What precautions do the authorities take to ensure they are not used, especially at this time, in a way in which they could be used—in other words to prevent people masquerading as members of the Garda Síochána?
—The uniforms that used to be sold did not include any buttons, insignia or, indeed, even pockets. They did not include any headgear. What was sold was in a form which in colour, texture and design was the same as a CIE uniform, a postman’s uniform or several others that anyone could get. The sales, therefore, were not in fact a security risk. As it happens, the costings of the operation nowadays of removing buttons, insignia and pockets are such that what could be got for the uniforms is not enough to make the operation worthwhile so the old uniforms for some time past now are being retained by the Gardaí themselves subject to their taking off the buttons, pockets and insignia. The headgear is given in.
88. Chairman.—Are you aware that quite recently Garda uniforms were for sale?
—Perhaps a year and a half ago, yes. They were not really uniforms. They were what had been uniforms denuded of all distinctive insignia and without Garda headgear.
I heard of a sale in recent months?
—Somebody who had bought them in bulk may, quite possibly, have had some in stock for some years simply because there was not a demand for them. They are not being sold by the Gardaí now, as I say, for reasons of economics.
89. Deputy Crotty.—Are the uniforms Irish manufacture? I know they were not able to get the headgear manufactured here. Has anything been done about that?
—I am afraid I do not know the up-to-date position about the headgear because it is dealt with by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. The uniforms are manufactured here.
90. Chairman.—On subhead E — Station Services—we have discussed savings and I would like to know if there is any element in these in regard to the Gardaí not being up to strength. Would that have any bearing?
—I do not think so at all. The strength was rather higher than it ever had been.
Was it up to what was estimated at the time of the Estimate?
—Yes. These savings had nothing to do with strength—the Force was up to strength.
91. Deputy Crotty.—There is a sum of £25,000 for medical expenses. What would that cover?
—There is a scheme under which a Garda can have GP services paid for by the State.
92. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead F, what is the function of the Medical Aid Society?
—It is a voluntary organisation which gives assistance in matters which are not covered by the official scheme which is a GP scheme for the Garda.
93. Deputy Crotty.—On subhead H—Equipment—what other equipment besides radio equipment is involved?
—The greatest single item involved is radio equipment. Apart from that there is a technical bureau which was being re-equipped at that time.
94. Deputy Griffin.—The sum spent was almost £18,000 less than that granted. Is this not extraordinary in the attempt to update and fully equip the Garda force? Has the Accounting Officer any control over that?
—When the Estimate is being prepared certain projects are on hands and allowed for but when it comes to getting the equipment there are often greater delays than were expected 18 months previously. It is a matter of the equipment not being available within the year. It is invariably ordered within the year and comes in during the following year.
95. Chairman.—On subhead I—Superannuation and other Non-effective Payments—was the £135,000 which was received from the Vote for Increases in Pensions because of an alteration in the scheme or because of an alteration in the rates?
—It was because of increases in the pensions.
96. Deputy Crotty.—In relation to Appropriations-in-Aid, we spoke about the first item earlier.
—It is largely accounted for by the fact that Dublin Corporation had not appointed as many traffic wardens as they were expected to do. It did not in the long run make any difference to our accounts, as there are balancing items.
97. In the Statement of Losses it says there were 109 accidents. Was that a large number for the period?
—The 109 has to be read in conjunction with the 119 in the following paragraph. It is a fact that the number in the first paragraph is out of line with the years before and also with the year after.
What do you mean by saying the 109 must be read in conjunction with the 119?
—The 109 accidents involving Garda vehicles and mentioned in the first paragraph must be added to the 119 in the next paragraph to give the total number of accidents.
The first one gives the number where the Garda were at fault and the second where they were not.
—That is right.
We would need to relate the 109 to the large number of vehicles on the road.
Deputy Griffin.—It is quite reasonable for the amount of day and night patrolling and Border duties.
Chairman.—Yes, and the nature of the driving which is sometimes involved.
98. Deputy Tunney.—In relation to Extra Remuneration, one member received £3,221, which is an extraordinary sum for any man to earn on overtime.
—It is very high but that does not mean that others did not get quite high sums. That happens to be the highest figure. It is related to the general security situation.
99. Is it regarded as value for money? Surely a man like that doing extra security work on overtime could hardly be expected to be as alert as somebody doing it in the ordinary course of his duty?
—It is a very complex question. Up to a point overtime, even though it is paid at higher rates, is more economical than employing extra men. When the security situation demands increased Garda activity it is not physically possible, apart from anything else, to recruit and train additional people immediately. The Garda strength has been increased gradually during the last few years.
100. What is the basic salary of a new Garda?
—It was something over £2,200 at that time, that is, taking a typical point on the scale.
You could have one and a half new men for the overtime paid to this man.
—There are two points here. The Deputy has picked the very highest figure. Although the average figure is high, it is not as high as that figure. In this particular nine months the average figure is something over £700. I do not think it is possible to say you can have one and a half new men just because the overtime figure is one and a half times the basic pay because basic pay does not take into account a good deal of additional expenditure—pension, allowances and so on—which represents the real cost of a Garda.
I would be exaggerating slightly in the presentation of my case and I know this refers back to 1974, but I am aware that at the moment there are many young men anxiously awaiting a call for interview. I would be hoping that we would be recruiting rather than paying what would be regarded as excessive amounts of overtime. I know we must have overtime and it is very desirable. It is probably the most economic expenditure of money at times, but we can reach a point of diminishing return where the money would be better employed in recruiting new persons.
101. Chairman.—Was the establishment full at the time?
—Yes. It is true to say that the establishment had been full, for all practical purposes, at all times over the past several years and the establishment has been gradually increased.
102. Deputy Crotty.—I feel this is an exceptional year for this type of operation and I agree with the Accounting Officer that you cannot recruit men overnight and put them doing security duty. At that time what would the basic salary have been for a Garda—is it £2,200 now?
—It is more now but the typical basic pay in 1974 was about £2,200 or £2,300.
£2,300, but to have personnel receiving overtime of that magnitude, £5,681,000, is disturbing I think, Mr. Chairman, that we should have a note of the amounts of overtime paid to the personnel. Would that be possible?
Deputy Tunney.—I want to make my point clear. I would not be critical of the overtime block figure but I would be critical of individual cases where they were getting what I would regard as amounts which would make themselves security risks from the physical point of view.
103. Deputy Crotty.—It all adds in. The overtime payments were low while they were not on any special duty, but was the overtime not shared out on—though that is not the word I want to use—Border duties? I would like a further explanation on it. We are not questioning that the payments should have been made but how they were arrived at and how some persons came to be doing overtime to this extent.
—I do not think anybody would seek to suggest that that level of overtime payment, by reference to the basic pay then obtainable, is desirable. On the other hand, I do not think it would be possible, with the utmost goodwill, to provide any useful note of the kind you are talking about for the reason that we are talking about a complex situation which obtained both in this period of nine months and subsequently as well. In fact the overtime rate in the following year was running significantly higher than in that year. We are talking about a Force of 8,000 people. Not all of them are getting overtime. The allocation of overtime today is, and in the nature of things has to be, dealt with within the Garda Síochána by different officers. It is very difficult to arrange things in such a way that the amount spent on overtime is divided even approximately equally amongst the different members of the Garda Síochána. In fact, not only is it very difficult to do what I have just said, it is extremely difficult, even within a single relatively small pool of members of the Garda Síochána operating on a particular type of duty, such as members in a pool of drivers, to arrange the overtime in such a way that it would be fairly evenly distributed. The Garda Síochána are making every possible effort to do that and they are better equipped to do it now than they were in 1974 due, in part, to the fact that we have a computer now which enables information to be extracted and given back to the Garda Síochána very quickly. Even so, it is a very complex matter and ultimately one gets back to the problem of decision by individual Garda officers. It would not really be possible at this point without spending an enormous sum of money and time to do a retrospective analysis of what happened in 1974 and even then it would be quite unreliable. We would be depending on people’s memories why such and such a person was sent to such and such a place in 1974. It is not really possible.
I accept that.
—Could I make a further comment? It is well accepted in Garda Síochána headquarters as well as in the Department of Justice that very substantial disparities in earnings between one man and another within the same grade creates serious problems. For instance, there are some members of the Garda Síochána who do not earn any overtime due to the nature of the job they are in and that creates the problem of manning these posts. These problems that flow from high overtime are well recognised but there were duties to be discharged.
104. Deputy Griffin.—Is Mr. Ward satisfied that the spending of this amount of overtime was quite justified in the circumstances investigated?
—It would possibly be more appropriate for me to say that it was spending which was unavoidable in the circumstances.
105. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Are officers paid overtime?
—Could I assume, so that there will not be any misunderstanding, that the Deputy is using the word “officer” to mean——
Inspectors and above.
—Inspectors are now paid overtime. Superintendents are paid overtime of a kind, that is they are paid additional allowances, not for the first amount of overtime they work but for an amount beyond that and subject to a total limit. They are not paid overtime in the orthodox sense. Going back a little, overtime was introduced around 1970 or 1971 and it was not at that time paid to inspectors. Later, through submission of claims through the conciliation and arbitration machinery, inspectors got overtime. Quite recently superintendents have been given extra money in the nature of overtime. It is not exactly overtime in the sense of so much per hour but it is something like that. Chief superintendents and more senior officers are not paid overtime.
106. Deputy Crotty.—One other point. I agree with Mr. Ward when he said it is often more economical to pay overtime than recruit extra personnel. We are talking in this case about 1974. At present, in 1976, have we recruited enough extra personnel to keep the overtime rate at a normal figure? In other words, have we the personnel to do the job that requires to be done?
—Overtime is still running at around £5 million per year. The £5 million we are talking about here related only to a nine-month period. It is running at the order of £5 million a year just now.
—Still, but an announcement was made fairly recently that 500 extra Gardaí were to be recruited. That was announced by the Minister for Justice.
107. Can we say that it is more economical to spend the figure of the magnitude of £5 million rather than recruit extra men? I understand there is a saving in paying overtime rather than recruiting extra men, but this was an extraordinary situation. In 1974 extra men were required, but have we dealt with the problem now or is it ongoing and have we not got down to dealing with the problem of recruiting the extra men required?
—There is a limit to the number of people you can recruit in a short time. It is not merely a case of the physical limitation of the training school. To take an extreme example, if you sought to recruit 1,500 people in 12 months you would inevitably suffer a drop in the quality of the recruits. There are, of course, as the Committee appreciate, many other aspects to this, aspects that involve a great deal more than matters of accounting. There are substantial policy issues that it would be inappropriate for me to attempt to go into or comment on. As I mentioned, an announcement was made that an extra 500 are to be recruited.
Chairman.—In other words, the establishment is fully maintained?
—Yes. The establishment has been fully maintained for several years now.
108. Deputy Griffin.—In the Notes there is reference to the Garda Band. How are the expenses and items such as replacement of instruments funded?
—They are paid for officially, from the Garda Síochána Vote.
Are these expenses itemised?
—Yes, under subhead H. I can give the figure of the expenditure: £9,253 for the equipment.
109. Deputy Crotty.—In the Notes there is a heading: Garda Síochána Reward Fund. What are the rewards paid for?
—Nowadays they are paid only to members who earn revenue rewards, which means illicit distillation, to Inspectors of Weights and Measures, to members who are awarded the Scott Medal and for fishery detection. It is limited to that.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
110. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead G— Welfare Services—is the Accounting Officer satisfied that they are in keeping with the extra numbers and the difficulties in prisons?
—As the Deputy knows, the Welfare Service, as we now have it, is of comparatively recent origin. It has a history of five or six years. The service has been expanding quite substantially but we hope to get more at a later stage. To explain, may I digress for a moment to another Vote? The Welfare Services also includes probation work linked with the Courts and on the probation side the entire country is not yet covered but the service is being expanded gradually.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
111. Deputy Crotty.—Under subhead A— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—there is an item for £60,000 for additional assistance. What is that for? Everything seems to be detailed except that one item.
—I must admit I am not quite certain. I think it represents staff we hoped to recruit during the year. Perhaps it would be better if I sent a note because I am not sure of the answer.*
VOTE 25—LAND REGISTRY AND REGISTRY OF DEEDS.
Mr. A. Ward further examined.
112. Deputy Griffin.—On subhead A— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—no doubt we all receive complaints from time to time from our constituents about delay in expediting matters in the Land Registry and I see here that a sum of £13,000 was not expended. Was the reason for that the fact that the Land Registry had not a full complement of employees? Would you agree that if more were employed that would help to speed up Land Registry deeds?
—Again, the answer is a complex one. The intake of work has been increasing at what one may describe as a spectacular rate. There have been major re-organisations in the Land Registry over the past three or four years and this has meant the Office has been able not only to offset the huge increase in work coming in but actually to reduce the arrears, not as quickly as one would wish but, nevertheless, what has been done has been very effective. Re-organisation is not a single operation—some aspects of the Land Registry work have been re-organised already and in those areas of work things are now working very efficiently. As it happens, a further re-organisation, covering another aspect of the work, has been the subject of a report within the last couple of weeks and this will, we hope, be put into operation in a matter of weeks or months—something like that—as soon as we get clearance. The main problem is the enormous increase in intake. It is not simply a matter of increasing the staff although, if we had more staff, something more could be done. But methods and so on have had to be changed.
Deputy Crotty.—I would like to compliment the people in the Land Registry for the improvement in the service over the last couple of years. I have noticed a great improvement certainly and so have others. I think the Land Registry are often blamed for the omissions of other people. I have found that to be the case on numerous occasions. I would like to put that on the record.
Chairman.—Would the accounting officer like to add anything about any particular difficulties or say if there is any way we could help?
—No. The only matter of concern was that raised at the very beginning.
Yes, but you appreciate the spirit in which that was raised.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned.