MIONTUAIRISC NA FIANAISE
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 12 Deireadh Fómhair, 1978
Thursday, 12th October, 1978
The Committee met at 11 a.m.
ELECTION OF CHAIRMAN
1. Deputy N. Andrews.—I move that Deputy O’Toole be elected as Chairman of the Committee.
Deputy C. Murphy.—I second that motion.
Question: “That Deputy O’Toole be Chairman of the Committee”—put and agreed to.
DEPUTY O’TOOLE took the chair.
2. Chairman.—I wish to thank Deputies for honouring me again with the chairmanship of this important Committee. We worked together during the past 12 months and I appreciate the courtesy and co-operation I received from you and look forward to the same courtesy and co-operation in our endeavour to come up to date and deal with the work as efficiently as we can.
Mr. S. Mac Gearailt (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.
VOTE 12—OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Mr. D. Quigley called and examined.
3. Deputy V. Brady.—On subhead A— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—what is the reason for the unfilled vacancies?
—It is primarily because the attractions of the legal profession, particularly in the solicitors’ branch, are such that we cannot get people for the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, in which most of the vacancies occur. It has not been possible to fill them.
4. Deputy C. Murphy.—Further to that comment, I see that there were 25 people in that category on the staff of the Attorney General’s office in 1975 and in 1976 there was a reduction to 24. The number of staff in the office of the Chief State Solicitor has remained consistent at 83. What is the possibility of getting that replacement in your own office and how long has 83 been the total complement in the Chief State Solicitor’s section?
—With regard to my office, we have had that vacancy for some time. We have not got accommodation. As soon as accommodation becomes available we hope to fill the vacancy.
5. Did the accommodation situation change in the two years?
—There have been changes. At one time there were three barristers in the advisory side of the Attorney General’s Office and that number was raised to six at one time. Then the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Office was set up and that took some of the work and some of the staff—we lost three from the advisory side of the Attorney General’s Office. There is also the Parliamentary Draftsman’s side. They have one vacancy which they have not filled because of shortage of accommodation. We were promised accommodation in 1975. It was postponed until 1976 and in that year it was postponed until 1977, and then it was postponed until 1978.
It is only a hope that there will be accommodation. It would appear that the grant could have been reduced initially if not by one-seventh, at least by one-eighth. It is quite a sizeable amount.
Deputy V. Brady.—It represents 14 per cent.
—There were two competitions for the vacancies in the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and we failed to fill them.
Deputy Woods.—For how many vacancies?
—Five or six.
Deputy N. Andrews.—Why could you not fill them?
—Because of the counter attractions of the private sector for solicitors. There were no applications for some of the competitions and only totally unsuitable candidates applied for the others.
Deputy C. Murphy.—Have the Local Appointments Commission any competitions from which you could get adequate staff?
—Not at the moment.
6. Subhead F—Defence of Public Servants—there was a token estimate that year of £1,000 and no expenditure was incurred?
—There was no money paid from that subhead in 1976. In some years payments would be substantial—1977, for example.
Are members of the Garda included?
—All public servants are in this category. That does not mean they all will be defended.
When did expenditure occur under this head?
Is it rare to have expenditure here?
—It is rare, and it is impossible to estimate for it.
7. Deputy Woods.—What is the position in Great Britain?
—I am not aware.
Deputy N. Andrews.—The rare occurrence of expenditure under this heading is a reflection of the integrity and the ability of our public servants.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 13—OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
Mr. S. P. O’Leary called and examined.
8. Deputy Woods.—What is the average size of fees to individual counsel?
—It is very difficult to hit an average because of the different scales in respect of different courts.
—The range varies between £300 as a brief fee in the Special and Central Criminal Courts and 50 guineas in the Circuit Court. There would be lower fees for appearances in the District Court.
9. Deputy F. O’Brien.—Which area does this cover?
—It provides for cases in which costs are awarded against the State.
10. Chairman.—The estimate in this case would be more or less a conjecture?
—It is a total conjecture.
In other words, it is all historical precedent?
—It is totally unforeseeable.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 18—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE
Mr. S. Mac Gamhna called and examined.
11. Chairman.—You are very welcome Mr. Mac Gamhna.
—Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
12. Deputy Woods.—On subhead A.2— Consultancy Services—what would be the nature of these consultancy services?
—They would be in two fields. One would be the restructuring or reorganisation of Government Departments in the general public service reform programme. The other would be for computer operations. Where specialised expertise is not available within the Civil Service it is useful to employ consultants.
13. Would it be an increasing figure? I presume there has been a good deal of this sort of reorganisation and progress in recent years?
—It would not necessarily increase. At least the theory is that consultants always train somebody on the permanent staff or, if you like, the expertise rubs off onto the permanent people. So it would not necessarily increase. It would always be a fairly significant figure because of new techniques and expertise.
And new Departments and their operations?
14. Deputy N. Andrews.—Have you any idea how many consultants were involved altogether in the payment of these fees?
—At any one time?
How many payments were made to how many consultants?
—There might be a dozen; there might be 20. About 20 assignments I would think during the year. As regards payments, it would depend. A block fee is agreed for the job. This might be paid in instalments.
I am trying to elicit how many consultants in how many specialist fields were employed and how many fees were paid?
—I could not answer that from my existing brief. If the Committee want details I can certainly send a note giving all the details. Basically there are these two fields: the computer field and the field of reorganisation and restructuring.
I would be very interested in the number of consultants involved in the payment of fees of this kind.
Chairman.—Could you get us the information in the form of a note, Mr. Mac Gamhna, concerning the number of consultancies involved and the fees paid in each case, the type of work undertaken by them and the fees paid in each case?
15.—Deputy V. Brady.—How are the consultants engaged? Do you have a panel?
—Yes. In fact there is a booklet which the Department of the Public Service have circulated called the code to be followed in selecting consultants. Our Department ask to be consulted in relation to all these engagements because we have built up a fair amount of information and data about the various firms which exist in this country and elsewhere.
Chairman.—In other words, you do not seek tenders?
—Yes, we do. This would be the procedure. You would isolate three or four firms on the basis of the assignment to be done, as the best equipped to handle it. You would contact each of these three or four firms. They would come and do what they call a preliminary survey, for which they would not charge, outlining to you how they would propose to tackle the problem. Then they would say what fee they would require and what length of time it would take them to do it. Then a decision would be made as to what firm would be selected.
16. Deputy Woods.—You would have a recommended list in this booklet from experience?
—No. This booklet does not contain the names of firms. It lays out the procedure to be followed. We know who the firms are.
In effect it is possible for new people to be added to your list?
—Yes, and we are constantly receiving brochures and letters from newly-set-up firms indicating their field of expertise and asking to be considered whenever assignments arise.
17. Deputy F. O’Brien.—On subhead E —Institute of Public Administration— this is surely a straightforward grant?
18. Is this a constant figure? On what basis is the grant calculated?
—The Institute will send us a very comprehensive letter during the year outlining their programme for the following year and the various moneys they think are needed to carry out this programme. Our Department work in very close liaison with the Institute and we are in a position to assess the value of their programme and its relevance to the needs of the public service. We usually arrive at some compromise figure with the Institute which involves an increase over the previous year in the allocation.
19. Deputy Woods.—Would they carry out any of the consultancy work?
—Yes, indeed. They might indeed.
20. Chairman.—On subhead F—Gaeleagras na Seirbhíse Poiblí—there is a note: Is deacair na costais seo a mheas go cruinn. I understand this is concerned with courses in Irish?
21. I presume the participants are left to their own devices. There is no compulsion from their sections to attend these courses. Are you just awaiting voluntary applications in the normal way?
—Yes. There is no compulsion whatever but under existing arrangements, where Irish is taken into account in making selections for promotion, people have to show they have a certain degree of competence in Irish. One of the ways in which they can do this is by attending over a period—I forget what it is, but some months at any rate—a course in Gaeleagras and they receive a certificate from Gaeleagras that they have attended the course and made satisfactory progress. If their possession of a certificate of this kind satisfies this requirement there is an incentive to people to attend courses in Gaeleagras.
22. Deputy C. Murphy.—Is the fee reimbursed?
—Fees are payable now, I think, to Gaeleagras in respect of certain activities. I am not absolutely sure about this but fees would certainly be reimbursed so far as Irish classes are concerned. Gaeleagras, of course, carry on a great many other activities, such as pottery classes and other leisure-time activities, and these fees would not be reimbursed.
23. The note says that receipts in respect of fees, £7,556, were greater than anticipated. What was estimated?
—I am afraid I am not able to answer that question offhand.
24. Deputy F. O’Brien.—On subhead G —Civil Service Arbitration Board—industrial relations must be good.
—I am afraid it is no indicator.
25. Deputy Woods.—There was a gap in the appointment of a chairman?
—Quite so. The chairman, of course, has to be appointed by agreement with the staff interests and sometimes agreement is not immediately forthcoming.
26. On subhead H—Review Body on Remuneration in the Upper Ranges in the Public Sector—what ranges are covered?
—I may as well quote from their terms of reference:
To act as a standing body whose primary function will be to advise the Government from time to time on the general level of remuneration of
(a) civil servants and local authority officers outside the scope of conciliation and arbitration,
(b) chief executives on State-sponsored bodies.
In addition, to advise the Government specially on other specific areas which the Government may refer to it.
As you know, the Government have referred other matters to the review body, including the salaries and allowances of parliamentarians and members of the Government and the judiciary and some other categories and classes as well.
From 1 September or after 1 September?
—The reference was made some few months ago.
Basically, they deal with areas then which do not come within conciliation and arbitration?
—Exactly. Dr. Devlin happens to be the chairman and we call it the “Devlin Review Body”.
Deputy N. Andrews.—They are meeting at the moment?
Deputy C. Murphy.—They are.
27. Deputy Woods.—There are fairly substantial Appropriations in Aid. From what do they come mainly?
—Mainly from the services provided by the computer to agencies which are not provided with money from the central supplies services, such as health boards, the social insurance fund and so on.
28. Deputy C. Murphy.—In the matter of extra remuneration, I see two clerical officers received £296 and £317 for higher duties; 11 clerical officers received sums ranging from £217 to £469 for roster duties. I wonder could we have this extra remuneration broken down further. The total for extra remuneration seems high at £50,820.
Deputy V. Brady.—There are sums ranging from £297 to £1,463 to 13 messengers and a sum of £1,360 to a paperkeeper.
29. Deputy C. Murphy.—One must question this remuneration in the light of unemployment. Surely it would be better to employ some extra staff?
—The figures are large certainly. As far as my information goes, this is the normal form in which this information is given in the Appropriation Accounts but, if the Committee wish to have more detailed information, I will certainly put in a note. There will be no difficulty about that.
30. Chairman.—We have had discussions with other Accounting Officers on the same lines where substantial sums were paid in overtime. In present circumstances, where it would be feasible to create extra posts we think it would be better to do that instead of paying overtime to the extent possibly of 20, 30 or 40 per cent of basic salary?
We appreciate there are cases where that might not be possible for specific reasons. However, we would like a breakdown showing the actual amount paid to each officer.
—We can give the Committee a complete breakdown.
Deputy C. Murphy.—Then we will know the equivalent salary?
—We can give each amount separately.*
Deputy N. Andrews.—The sum of £42 a week is a lot to earn in overtime.
VOTE 19—CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION
Mr. S. Mac Gamhna further examined.
31. Chairman.—On subhead A.2—Examiners, etc.—due to a falling off in recruitment the expenditure was less than anticipated. What is the present position?
—At that time, as you may recall, there was a restriction on the creation of new posts in the Civil Service and interview board competitions fell very much as a result. On the other hand, there was a large number of candidates at the written examinations because of school leavers who found it difficult to get jobs. That caused certain extra expenses but the number of appointments was restricted. Since then, of course, the situation has radically changed. Policy is different and the numbers being recruited through the Commission this year have gone up sharply as against last year. We have had to get substantial extra staff in the Commission to cope with the increased work.
32. Deputy Woods.—To what extent are the members of a board chosen from outside the Civil Service? Does the matter of fees arise?
—In the normal composition of a Civil Service Commission interview board the chairman will almost always be an independent person and will certainly come from a sector other than that in which the particular post to be filled exists. Secondly, the Department in which the post exists will always have a representative on the board and the third member is usually a professional or specialist of the type appropriate. No fees are paid as a general rule and we can be very appreciative of the public spiritedness of busy men and women who give of their time gratis to this important work. There are some boards of long duration on which it is felt it would be unreasonable to ask a person to give up the time involved and in these cases a fee is offered.
33. Would some of these independent chairmen be from the private sector?
—Yes, they could be self-employed or come from the farming sector.
Only lunch and travelling expenses would be involved?
—Yes, travelling and subsistence expenses if they have to come a long distance.
34. Deputy C. Murphy.—Where precisely do the costs of both press and radio advertising fit in? Regularly we hear radio announcements about posts available in the public service. Is there a charge for this or is it done gratis?
—Advertising comes in under subhead D. I am not certain of the answer to the second question. My impression is that there is no charge, but I can verify that.
35. On subhead D—would you have any breakdown giving the amount paid by way of newspaper advertising during 1976?
—I have not that information in my brief but I can produce the figure for the Committee. Shall I do that?
36. Deputy C. Murphy.—I know that the Local Appointments Commission advertise for dentists for health boards and there is very little, if any, response. Very few people come forward from such categories into the public service and I understand that there is a shortage of dentists to go on to panels. With what frequency do these advertisements appear?
—The Commission are in close touch with the market, so to speak. It would depend on a number of factors, such as the number of vacancies and the view of the Commission as to whether the market was able to supply sufficient people to fill these vacancies or whether under existing conditions it would be useless to repeat advertisements which were not producing enough candidates. In the latter case the Commission would report back to the Department in question telling them that it was useless to advertise on these terms and conditions and advising them to try to get the grading revised or in some way to make the job more attractive.
Time and again we see the underutilisation of money available for salaries and we are told by the Accounting Officers that there were no takers.
37. Under the heading “Extra Remuneration”, there is a figure in respect of total overtime of £4,274. A paperkeeper received £308 and five messengers received sums varying from £210 to £585. Would these figures not make a case for the creation of an extra post as messenger?
38. Chairman.—If you deduct the sum paid to the paperkeeper you arrive at a figure of about £3,900, and this was paid to five messengers. Would it have been advisable to have appointed an extra messenger?
—The details given here are only in respect of sums paid in excess of £200. There could have been amounts spread over a number of people, and in that circumstance it is not so easy to consider the suggestion that an extra person should be taken on. What is in question is the giving of an extra hour or two by a lot of people. I can give the Committee further data on this if they require it. Nowadays we are particularly conscious of the need to justify for paying overtime rather than employing extra staff. Our Department has circularised the other Departments twice drawing attention to the importance of this and asking them what they could do to cut down on overtime. Each Department has gone into it fully. Some marginal possibilities have been discovered, but they are only marginal because when you look at individual cases you come up with the case of a messenger, for example, who is a trusted person who has to watch over security and that man’s job could not be done by somebody taken in from the street.
39. Deputy Woods.—In Vote 18 you go into great detail in this respect: there was considerable effort to show where the overtime had arisen, and the breakdown. In this Vote the total of £4,274 involved 30 people?
—I do not know how many were involved. We only cite cases where the amount paid was more than £200.
Deputy F. O’Brien.—There will always be bits and pieces of overtime coming up.
Deputy V. Brady.—The amounts are very modest.
40. Deputy Woods.—This figure of £4,274 covers a fairly large number of people, and we should like to see that indicated clearly. It would not be a difficult exercise to indicate how many people had received the aggregate figure.
—I think the members are suggesting that it might be useful if we included the total number of people involved—that we would give such a statistic as an additional piece of data.*
I am not looking for a note or anything like that, but in general accounting terms the provision of such information would prevent comment when people look at a big figure for overtime.
VOTE 20—SUPERANNUATION AND RETIRED ALLOWANCES
Mr. S. Mac Gamhna further examined.
41. Chairman.—Paragraph 21 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead B.—Payments under the Contributory Pensions Schemes for Widows and Children of Civil Servants, Members of the Judiciary and Court Officers.
Subhead C.—Ex-gratia Pensions for Widows and Children of Civil Servants, Members of the Judiciary and Court Officers.
As mentioned in previous reports, a contributory scheme was introduced in the year 1968-69 to provide pensions for widows and children of certain public servants who died on or after 23 July 1968. Ex-gratia pensions were granted to the widows and children of public servants who died or retired prior to that date. Pensions, including ex-gratia pensions, for dependants of members of the Garda Síochána and for the dependants of National Teachers, Secondary Teachers, Post Office Officials and Army Officers are paid from Votes 23, 30, 31, 44 and 46, respectively. In previous reports I drew attention to the fact that the necessary legislation to validate these awards had not been enacted. The Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1976 enables the Minister for the Public Service to validate by order the payment of these pensions to the dependants of established Civil Servants. The Civil Service Widows’ and Children’s Contributory Pension Scheme 1977 and the Civil Service Widows’ and Children’s Ex-gratia Pension Scheme 1977, which were signed by the Minister on 9 May 1977, retrospectively validate payments under the Contributory Pensions Scheme and payments under the Ex-gratia Pensions Scheme, respectively, as provided for in Section 2 of the Act of 1976. Post Office Officials are covered by these schemes. I have been informed that enabling legislation already exists for the validation of awards made to dependants of members of the Garda Síochána, National and Secondary Teachers and Army Officers and that the necessary schemes are in the course of preparation by the Departments of Justice, Education and Defence, respectively.”
Mr. Mac Gearailt.—This paragraph deals with the validation of superannuation awards made under a contributory scheme and under an ex-gratia scheme to the widows and children of deceased members of the public service. The Committee will recall that this matter was discussed here on a number of occasions, the last such occasion being May 1977. As indicated in the paragraph, awards to the dependants of civil servants have finally been validated. I understand that the schemes to validate awards to dependants of the other public servants concerned are still in course of preparation.
Chairman.—This matter of retrospective payments under different headings is in the course of being finalised.
Deputy C. Murphy.—We must keep this under review until it has been completely validated.
42. Chairman.—On Extra Remuneration exceeding £200 in this case 107 pensioners received from public funds sums ranging from £201 to £8,842 as remuneration for services rendered. The services rendered in respect of £8,842 require some explanation. It is a substantial sum. It would seem to refer to one person?
—Yes. I do not have particulars of all these cases but I certainly can put in a note. I can say in relation to the one who is getting the £8,842 that this is a former high official in the Department of Justice who has a specialised knowledge of EEC laws in a certain field. His expertise was not available anywhere else. I would suppose that the re-employment was for a strictly limited term until the particular job was finished. We can provide the Committee with fuller information about this case if they wish it and also about the others.
Because of the amount involved an explanation would be appreciated by the Committee as a note on this particular case.
—I will certainly give you a more detailed note on this particular case.*
43. Deputy Woods.—Are these all for services rendered after retirement, in other words a recall for special services?
—That is so.
It could also be taken from reading that, for services rendered during the course of a career with the public service. These are entirely recall services where people come back to give a service?
—That is so.
44. Deputy F. O’Brien.—What was the total expenditure in that area?
—I am not quite sure what the Deputy is asking. What is the total amount being paid to people on pension?
What is the total amount for extra remuneration exceeding £200?
—I do not think it is in my brief but I could give it in a note.*
Mr. S. Mac Gamhna further examined.
45. Deputy N. Andrews.—Purely for information, “Charitable Donations and Bequests”, how does this Vote arise?
—I should explain that it is largely a matter of chance what Department will figure on this list because this Vote relates to payments made during 1976 arising from the interim national pay agreement of 1976, the abolition of sex discrimination, increases in social welfare employers’ contribution and certain special pay increases. It deals with expenditure which could not have been forecast at the time of the preparation of the 1976 Estimates. In many cases it was possible to make the particular payments out of the appropriate Votes because there were savings or because a Supplementary Estimate was necessary for reasons other than pay costs. What are left really are Departments or Offices where adequate savings were not available to meet these increases and where a Supplementary Estimate was not being taken for other reasons. That throws up a sort of a random list of Votes and on this occasion Charitable Donations happened to be one of them.
46. Deputy Woods.—Another item is Posts and Telegraphs, Vote No. 44, and the figure is £2,720,000. This is rather a large sum. Why was there not a Supplementary Estimate for that? Was it that it would have run past the time at the end of the year?
—Possibly, but you must remember the Post Office employ something up to much more than half of the civil service. When there is an increase in pay the amount involved is a vast sum.
In other words it was something which would have occurred. There would not have been an opportunity to have a supplementary?
—No. Usually national pay agreements have not been negotiated at the time the Estimates are prepared or even at the time the Budget is prepared. Usually it is not possible or feasible or appropriate to provide for them in the Estimates.
I accept that they would not be there at Budget time but the House sits for the rest of the year and takes supplementaries for various Departments on a whole range of things?
—In this instance the Post Office might not have needed a supplementary.
That is exactly the point I was coming to. It is worthwhile having one on the basis of the figure of £2,720,000.
—I think it is for the better ordering of parliamentary business. If there were a special supplementary for pay in the Post Office it would be fragmenting the debate on general increases in remuneration. It is better to bring them all together and put them before the House in one Vote for remuneration. That is as I see it.
47. Chairman.—Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Mac Gamhna. Before you take your leave of us until the 1977 accounts come before us, I feel I must raise the question of the provision of secretarial service for this Committee. This is an issue which is by no means a recent development as, I am sure, you are aware. The matter was raised by my predecessor with your predecessor and it is on the record. It was also raised with the Accounting Officer for the Department of Finance and the Accounting Officer for the Oireachtas Vote. The matter was also commented on in the Committee’s last report. The Committee is disturbed at having to spend considerable time on an issue like this when it might reasonably be expected to concentrate on the onerous duty delegated to it by the Dáil, namely, the examination of public expenditure. Having made repeated requests the Committee were reasonably sanguine of a favourable response. Unfortunately our hopes did not materialise as the response to our request fell significantly short of what we would regard as a minimum staffing level.
The position now is as before. We are dependent on the part-time services of the Clerk, subject at all times to the viscissitudes of his work on Questions in the General Office. Because of the level of activity in regard to Questions—the Order Paper bears ample evidence of this—no secretarial service is available to this Committee and the outlook for the future is not optimistic. The view of the Committee is indelibly recorded in the last report. In essence, the Committee need the services of a full-time clerk at the appropriate level. This is what the Committee seek. This is what the Committee feel justified in seeking. I would ask that the matter be reviewed immediately in the hope that it will be resolved satisfactorily and that the time and effort of the Committee will not be dissipated on matters outside its terms of reference, terms of reference laid down by the Dáil.
The status of a Committee determines the status of the Committee’s secretariat. Downgrading the latter will logically mean the downgrading of the former. That is a logical conclusion. It is not my intention and, I am sure, neither is it the intention of the members of the Committee to be critical of the Accounting Officer. I merely take this opportunity to bring to your notice our feelings in the matter in the hope that matters may improve during this session.
Now, in saying all this, I am stating categorically that this is in no way a reflection on the services being given by our present Clerk. Only last night at 11 o’clock he came to me to brief me on today’s meeting. I and my colleagues on the Committee do not think this is good enough. The Clerk should certainly not be expected to be still working at 11 o’clock last night, an hour at which he should be free to be at home after a hard day’s work in the Questions Office.
We believe our request is a reasonable one. If we are to maintain the status of the Public Accounts Committee the services of a full-time secretariat are absolutely essential. I would ask you, therefore, to consider this aspect in the light of my remarks and bring the matter to the notice of those who may be able to improve the efficiency of the Committee in the onerous duty and responsibility delegated to it by the Dáil.
48. Deputy F. O’Brien.—I support our Chairman in this. I am not too long on this Committee but in my short time I have experienced difficulty in getting information because when I approach the Clerk he is invariably up to his eyes in work. If we are to serve adequately on this Committee we must have the back-up service which will enable us to do our work properly. Indeed, if we do not have that service we should really not be serving on a committee like this. The onus is too great. If we rubber stamp something and that something turns out to be wrong the Committee will inevitably look bad and it will do so because we have not got the proper support services. If we do not get these services we will be only half doing the job. The importance of the Committee was spelled out earlier. If it is that important we are surely entitled to a full-time secretariat.
49. Deputy N. Andrews.—When I was appointed to this Committee last year I was quite honoured to be given the task of monitoring public expenditure on behalf of my colleagues in the Dáil and on behalf of the general public. I was astonished when I first came along to find that matters were placed before me, matters of considerable importance, about which I knew very little and I had no way of conferring with anyone in order to get information in advance of the meeting because of the pressures on the Clerk and staff.
Now we are examining, on behalf of the Dáil and ultimately the general public, very important matters. An Accounting Officer appears here before us fully briefed by a permanent professional staff. That is as it should be. But this is the only time an Accounting Officer appears before us and if we, acting on behalf of the Dáil and the general public, do not have the requisite staff resources to fulfil the function entrusted to us then we cannot do our job properly. I strongly support the Chairman. The back-up support should be provided as a matter of urgency. It is important that statements here should be recorded for public consumption because the public should be made aware of what precisely the position is.
50. Deputy Woods.—None of us wishes to prolong this discussion but it must be said that we are all in complete agreement with the Chairman in this matter and with what has been said by Deputy O’Brien and Deputy Andrews. We are under quite substantial pressures as Deputies representing Dáil constituencies and the lack of proper back-up support here makes our job very difficult indeed. The task placed upon us would be better done had we adequate services available to us. Such services are available to other committees. Such services can make an enormous difference. It is only fair to point out that the task of some of these other committees is not really as central to the whole functioning of the public service as this particular Public Accounts Committee is.
51. Deputy C. Murphy.—I have served on previous committees examining public expenditure and time and again reference was made to the lack of sufficient back-up services for members who wish to examine in greater detail the spending of colossal amounts of money. If we are to do the job thoroughly we must have sufficient expertise available so that we can get information and advice. I hope it is the last time I will have to make a plea of this sort. I recall doing it many times. I have confidence in the Comptroller and Auditor General and the present Clerk but it is beyond any form of normal duty to ask the Clerk to undertake what would be required to give an adequate service to members of this Committee in addition to his current duties. The matter will have to be resolved and I join with the chairman and other members in asking you to use your influence. We are representing the Members of the House and the interests of the people who must provide this money.
52. Deputy V. Brady.—I fully support everything that has been said. The Clerk has been placed in a very bad position but the position of the Committee is even worse. I hope that the matter will receive urgent attention.
—I have taken careful note of what has been said and any proposals from the Oireachtas Office for more staffing will be carefully examined.
Chairman.—Thank you. I appreciate your co-operation and we hope that the matter will receive special attention as soon as possible.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 4—CENTRAL STATISTICS OFFICE
Mr. T. P. Linehan called and examined.
53. Deputy Woods.—On subhead E— Collection of Statistics—is the saving here due to the postponement of the census?
—The 1976 Vote did not include provision for the census; it affected the previous year’s Vote. The provision for miscellaneous inquiries was made in case we should have to make any special inquiry as a consequence but that did not arise.
54. Chairman.—Regarding Extra Remuneration, we have been discussing this with other Accounting Officers and we feel that in order to give a better picture of what is taking place in this area it would be more helpful if we could get the total number of people who are in receipt of overtime payments. While the note here gives information regarding the level of payments made to a certain number of people, we have not the total number of people involved. The total expenditure on overtime was in the region of £20,000 and we should like to know the number of people involved.
—Even if for some special reason a person might get an overtime payment of £5 or £10 in a whole year?
—Would it be more informative if one had some idea of the range of payments as well?
This would be an addendum to the present format.
55. Deputy Woods.—Obviously many of the people involved would receive very small amounts but the total figure looks very large. It is probably not very difficult to say how many people received overtime payments in a year and that information would allay concern. It would be seen that the average is quite small.
—Is this a general point for all Votes?
Chairman.—We have asked other Accounting Officers for this information.
—Is this for 1976 or for the future?
Deputy V. Brady.—It is for the future.
—There is also reference in the Vote to “task work” and that is in respect of the annual agricultural statistics. It was found over many years that the best way of getting the work done was to establish a rate for people to do some totting work in their own time and very many of the staff participate. That figure for task work would be spread over all staff who wanted to participate in it.
Chairman.—That is understandable, but we feel that when you are giving a global figure we should be able to assess whether there would be the possibility of one, two or three extra jobs for the money involved. Can you say that there is not any way in which this £19,000——
—I can assure you that we would be looking for those extra jobs from the Department of the Public Service if we could justify them.
The witness withdrew.
The Committee deliberated.
The Committee adjourned.