Committee Reports::Report - Appropriation Accounts 1976::26 October, 1978::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Déardaoin, 26 Deireadh Fómhair, 1978

Thursday, 26th October, 1978

The Committee met at 11 a.m.

Members Present:


N. Andrews,





V. Brady,


DEPUTY O’TOOLE in the chair.

Mr. S. Mac Gearailt (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.


Miss A. Tormey called and examined.

113. Chairman.—As you are the only lady Accounting Officer, on behalf of the Committee, I wish to extend a special welcome to you, Miss Tormey.

—Thank you very much.

114. Paragraph 22 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:

“As indicated in paragraph one I have not received the Appropriation Account for this Vote at the date of my report, 1 July 1977. In the course of audit it was observed that a cash balance of £397 remaining on hands after the end of the bank strike in September 1976 had not been re-lodged by 30 June 1977 and I have sought the observations of the Accounting Officer. An examination of the vouchers relating to cash payments made during the strike revealed certain errors which appeared to indicate that a sum of £66 was unaccounted for and I have asked that this matter be investigated.”

We have discussed this in private with the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee now feel the matter has been disposed of satisfactorily, so I suggest that we leave things as they are concerning that particular item.

115. Deputy Kenneally.—On Extra Remuneration, the information given relates only to sums in excess of £200?

116. Chairman.—Perhaps the Accounting Officer would clarify that? You will appreciate the normal format we find in accounts here is that anything in excess of £200 is shown. Do I take it from the explanatory note here that there is a total of only seven officers who received overtime in your office?

—That is correct. A total of seven officers were paid between them £755.

We have been impressing on your colleagues the need to give us the total number of people in receipt of overtime regardless of whether or not it is under a certain sum. So, you have actually preempted any request in this regard.

117. Deputy Woods.—The only other point is the range, in other words the amounts range up to one officer receiving £250 or something like that. There are small sums here but in some other cases there would be very large sums, so if you have the total number and the total amount you can see the average very easily. You also have the range. The small end of it may only be a couple of pounds or something like that; they range up to £250 or £300 for one particular officer.

—In our case that is very unlikely to apply because it is generally clerical staff typing letters who are all doing overtime at the same time. They would more or less be getting the same.

The range would indicate that then?

—Yes. It would.

Chairman.—I wish to thank Miss Tormey and look forward to seeing her again. Thank you very much Miss Tormey.

—Thank you very much.

The witness withdrew.


Mr. A. Ward called and examined.

118. Chairman.—Mr. Ward, I wish to welcome you as Accounting Officer for the Department of Justice. You are responsible for five Votes. In the absence of any paragraph from the Comptroller and Auditor General I propose that we go on to the Vote itself and deal with it under its subheads.

119. Deputy N. Andrews.—May I ask on subhead A. 2—Consultancy Services—how many consultants were involved?

—One firm.

How long were they involved?

—They were management consultants for the Garda Síochána. They were appointed about 1975. They finalised their reports very recently. What we are talking about here are payments on account.

120. Chairman.—Do I take it they were paid nothing in 1975 and that the 1976 account would seem to include payment for work done in 1975 also?

—The 1976 account included payment for work done in 1975 but they were probably paid some money in 1975 also.

121. Deputy N. Andrews.—On subhead F —Legal Aid—the expenditure is considerably less than granted in this particular case. Is there any particular reason for that?

—Yes, the withdrawal of barristers from the scheme for the most of 1976.

That clarifies that.

122. Chairman.—In the case of subhead H—Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted—to whom and in what circumstances are payments made?

—Primarily anybody who is injured or killed as a result of a criminal action—if the person is killed, it would be a matter for the dependants. I suppose the group who attracted most public attention were the people who were killed and injured in the various bomb outrages some years ago. If somebody is seriously injured in a criminal assault he can apply to this tribunal for compensation. It covers personal injury as distinct from injury to property which comes under the malicious injuries code.

123. Deputy N. Andrews.—What was the total amount of money paid to people injured in the bomb outrages and to their dependants?

—I am afraid I do not know. It was paid over a period of some years.

You have not got the whole amount, or is the whole issue finalised yet?

—I am not sure if the whole issue is finalised by now.

Is there any way we can find out?

—Yes, I can send a note showing the total that was paid over the period.

It would be important to know the total amount paid?

—I just see from the 1976 Report that in respect of the 1973 bombings the sums were not completed because the medical treatment in one case was not yet completed, but if the Committee would like to have a note of what is paid to date that can certainly be done.*

Chairman.—Thank you very much, Mr. Ward.

124. In relation to Extra Remuneration, we have been asking other Accounting Officers to further clarify the position with regard to overtime. We have asked them to give us in future the total number of people in receipt of overtime. The format up to now has been to give us the number of people in receipt of overtime if the amount was in excess of £200. In this case it appears that 30 people were in receipt of that amount but, obviously, more people were in receipt of overtime. In future we would like the Accounting Officers to give us the total number of personnel in receipt of overtime, regardless of the figure. We also want the range of these payments.

—I will do that.


Mr. A. Ward further examined.

125. Deputy Morley.—On subhead A— Salaries, Wages and Allowances—the explanatory note is not very clear. It states that the expenditure on Garda overtime was approximately equal to the amount provided for it in subhead A of the Vote and accordingly the additional sum included in the subhead to offset increased overtime rates, arising from general pay increases, was almost entirely unspent. It is not clear.

—I would have to agree that it is not very clear. In the Estimates, it is customary to set aside a particular sum for overtime. It is also customary to arrange that if there are pay increases across the board during the year—for instance, national pay agreements—those pay increases will be borne on a general remuneration Vote and not under the Vote most directly concerned. The same applies to increases in overtime that arise from general pay increases. When an increase is clearly foreseeable, however, as in this case, a certain amount for it may be set aside in the particular Vote. It was not set aside under the heading of overtime but under the general heading of salaries and wages. The amount in question, in fact, was £450,000 in this particular year. The point of the note is that £5 million was mentioned in the Estimate and roughly £5 million was spent, but, as money was tight in 1976, that is all that was spent. The £450,000 was set aside to offset expected increases in overtime arising from general pay increases because, as pay increases, overtime rates increase correspondingly. The £450,000 was not touched. At least it was not touched to any extent.

That clarifies the situation for me.

126. Deputy N. Andrews.—Subhead H— Equipment—there is an extraordinary discrepancy in the amount expended here compared with the amount granted, £403,000. It seems to me to warrant some kind of explanation as to why so much was granted and so little was spent on such an important item as equipment?

—A major item under the heading of equipment is radio. In future years, radio may be shown separately but it is not shown separately here or in previous years. As I say, it is a major item. Radio for the Garda Síochána has to be ordered very well in advance and the precise time at which it is delivered is a matter outside the control of the Garda Síochána. When preparing the Estimate one can only make a good guess. In this case, radio equipment to the value of over £400,000 was delivered in 1975 which was earlier than was expected and, because it was delivered earlier, it had to be paid for then in 1975, and there was an excess on the corresponding provision in the 1975 accounts.

127. I know it is a delicate issue. Radio does not appear to be the only item here. Obviously if £400,000 was spent on radio, it is not the only item. There is other equipment and there seems to be a need for better and more sophisticated equipment for the Gardaí. Yet we have this under expenditure of £403,000?

—The provision for the other equipment was, I think, slightly over-spent rather than under-spent.

128. What you are saying is that the under-expenditure resulted from the early delivery of the radios?

—The under-expenditure is fully accounted for by the earlier delivery of radio equipment. In fact, it is slightly more than fully accounted for.

129. Slightly more. Can the Accoutning Officer explain that?

—It is something of the order of £450,000 and the figure there is £403,000.

It is £450,000 now.

Chairman.—Is the discrepancy £400,000?

Deputy N. Andrews.—It was £400,000 earlier. Now it is £450,000?

—I think there is a misunderstanding. I do not know if I spoke clearly enough to be heard. The shortfall here is £403,000. That is the figure which appears in the account under the heading “Less than Granted”. What I am saying is, that that figure is more than fully accounted for by the fact that the estimate of £1,075,000 included provision for radio equipment some of which was delivered and paid for late in the previous year. The amount in question there, for that radio equipment, was of the order of £450,000. If that had fallen to be paid for in 1976, as was expected at the time the estimate was made, then there would not have been an under-spending. There probably would have been an overspending on that subhead.

130. The only equipment involved then is radio. Is that correct?

—No, but radio accounts for the saving.

There is other equipment? We are dealing with the Garda Síochána now?


What other equipment is involved?

—The biggest single item of equipment provided for in subhead H apart from radio, would be equipment for the technical bureau which would be of the order of £100,000— something more in fact. Then there is office equipment and so on.

131. What is the expenditure on office equipment? We are up to £400,000 on technical bureau equipment, £450,000 on radio. What is the rest of the expenditure? What other kinds of equipment? We are dealing with a lot of money?

—I think there is some misunderstanding. If I understand you correctly you have added the technical bureau equipment for 1976 and radio equipment that was …

What I am trying to get is a breakdown of the expenditure on equipment and what kind of equipment.

Chairman.—A breakdown of the £671,372.

Deputy N. Andrews.—That is right. We have a grant of £1 million in 1975 and we have an expenditure of £671,000. It appears to me that £100,000 worth of equipment was bought. I want to know what kind of equipment it was?

—The equipment paid for in 1976 included over £300,000 worth of radio equipment. It included over £100,000 in technical bureau equipment and over £62,000 in office equipment. It included various other items adding up to about £200,000. In case there is any misunderstanding about what I said earlier, the £450,000 mentioned then in relation to radio concerns radio equipment paid in 1975. Additional radio equipment was both delivered and paid for in 1976 and is a big part of the expenditure shown in this Account.

I appreciate that.

132. Deputy Belton.—On subhead J— Witnesses’ Expenses—there seems to be a lot less expenditure on that, £45,000 less than granted. The note says it is difficult to estimate accurately. That would not be estimating very accurately. Only £54,000 was expended, £45,000 less than granted. I would not think that was very accurate. I appreciate that it is difficult to estimate accurately, but would it not be possible to be a bit more accurate than that?

—The subhead covers expenses arising from payment of witnesses in criminal cases. Witnesses include what in court terms are called lay witnesses and professional witnesses. They include payments for reports from professional people. There is no way in which anybody can know beforehand what the volume of criminal cases will be and what the level of witnesses’ expenses will be. It can be more of a guess than an estimate, especially bearing in mind that during 1976 there was a substantial withdrawal of barristers from the criminal legal aid scheme so a number of cases were adjourned.

133. That would have a bearing on it in that year. You would be more accurate for other years if there had not been this withdrawal?

—We would be more accurate, but we would nevertheless have to say that it is not possible to be completely accurate. One is in the area of guesswork when one is providing for something that depends on how many crimes would be committed and how many cases would come up.

134. Deputy N. Andrews.—I hesitate to interrupt again, but I wonder if this Committee—myself anyway—could have a breakdown of the expenditure on equipment in the Department of Justice. Is that possible?

—I have a rough breakdown here in a note.

Could I have it in writing?

—Yes, certainly.

Chairman.—A note on the breakdown of the expenditure of £671,372.*

135. At the bottom of page 51 there is a heading, “Statement of Losses (Stores, etc.)”. The second paragraph reads: “In two hundred and thirty-nine accidents involving Garda Síochána vehicles damage amounting to £29,079 was not attributable to Garda personnel. In the case of eleven of these accidents sums totalling £1,030 were received in settlement.” Out of a total loss of £29,079 you received £1,030. What is the position with regard to losses for which Garda personnel are not responsible?

—There are knock-for-knock agreements or halving agreements just as is the case where two commercial insurance companies are involved. The State operates on the same basis and therefore will not claim in a number of cases.

136. What amount was refunded to you in respect of damages? How much of the £29,079 would you have recovered?

—Any figure would be very speculative because it raises such questions as whether in individual cases the people would be marks for damages. Above all, it raises the problem of the cost of litigation. As you know, the grounds on which knock-for-knock agreements are made is that both sides save money by having them. If one were talking about what may be lost through sacrificing the right to claim, one would have to take into account the cost of litigation which is high even if it could not be determined. The point of having knock-for-knock agreements is that, because of saving on the cost of litigation, both sides gain, or at least lose less than they otherwise would have lost.

137. There is a statement here to the effect that the losses mentioned are not attributable to Garda negligence. In that case, what you are implying is that this money ought to be recoverable in the sense that your personnel were not responsible or liable for damage caused?

—Yes but, as you know, a knock-for-knock agreement is on the basis that negligence is totally excluded. Each side pays its own loss. There is a variation, a slightly different thing, called a halving agreement where each side pays half the loss of the other side. The essence of the agreement is that, even in a case where you believe you are totally free from blame you pay anyway.

138. At the top of page 52 there is the heading, “Extra Remuneration (Exceeding £200)”. The note reads: “Seven thousand one hundred and sixteen members of the Garda Síochána and twenty-eight civilian employees received amounts varying from £201 to £3,931 for overtime. Total amount paid in respect of overtime was £5,045,712.” That total figure is not the actual number of gardaí who were in receipt of overtime?

—Probably not but it is very close to it. The actual figure might be slightly above that. The amounts involved would be less than £200, as you will see.

139. I appreciate that. In future, you will bear in mind our request in that regard. Somebody has been in receipt of the sum of £3,931 for overtime. It is a fairly substantial sum. Under what circumstances would that kind of overtime payment come about?

—It could safely be assumed that any sum of that kind, or anything near it, would be for a member who is doing specialised work in which he could not be replaced, for instance, a member of the Detective Branch. In this particular case it was a driver. Drivers are members of the Detective Branch.

140. There is a heading, “Garda Síochána Reward Fund, 1976” and a heading “Receipts from disciplinary measures”. Obviously this is a very sensitive area. Do I take it this is in the form of a surcharge or fine in respect of disciplinary measures taken by the authorities?



Mr. A. Ward further examined.

141. Chairman.—In the absence of any paragraph from the Comptroller and Auditor General I propose to move on to the subheads.

142. Deputy Belton.—On subhead D— Buildings and Equipment—the note says the saving was due to the fact that certain works for which provision was made were not undertaken within the year. What type of works were not undertaken?

—The list is made up of a very big number of items. They include extensions or other works in situations where it was hoped to get sites and where legal difficulties or delays arose about the title to the site. These things taken together add up to a substantial cost and again we come back to the point, that money was tight in 1976.

143. Is it customary to make provision for building on sites when you have not got the sites or got clearance on the sites?

—Here, we are talking about rather small areas where there was substantial agreement about terms and last minute difficulties arose about titles. At the time when estimates are being made out towards the end of a year for the following year, one has to act on the assumption that payments will fall due. In some cases, the project fell through.

There must be quite a number of them if they are all small items?

—I should have said that these are relative terms I am using. I mean small sites but the money would not be small in domestic terms. The list of projects is made up of a very large number of individual items and substantial items within that number are of the kind stated where there were delays or postponements.

144. Chairman.—I presume you are talking in many cases about the involvement of the Office of Public Works in carrying out works. Are you?

—Yes, but that might imply that I was suggesting that the Board of Works were slow in doing something and that is not what is involved here.

145. Deputy Belton.—When the sites were not cleared, they could not go in on them.

—Of course, as you know, they are involved in acquisition of the sites also, but it is a fact that legal difficulties arose in a number of cases.

146. Chairman.—Despite the tightness of the money situation, you underspent to the tune of between 30 and 40 per cent of that particular heading. While I appreciate that there may have been difficulties in finalising title and that kind of thing, it is a fairly substantial overestimation of your requirements for that particular year. Was this a particularly difficult year in respect of clearance of titles or getting the work in motion?

—There is a great deal of work being done at present by way of expansion of the number of institutions and improvements within existing institutions, and the spread of work is very wide. Primarily, there is a combination of two things. Certain substantial items provided for could not go ahead because of title difficulties or something of that kind. In a few other instances, substantial items were postponed, because of the cost involved, until a later date.

147. Deputy N. Andrews.—How many institutions are involved altogether in the present service approximately?

—Around ten.

148. Chairman.—On subhead E—Prison Services—what specifically is covered in this?

—I have a list here. One is described as victualling, which of course is food. Other items are clothing, bedding and furniture, fuel, light and cleaning, laundry services, medical supplies, educational requirements, payment for maintenance of prisoners in district mental hospitals and a miscellaneous item which amounts to £43,000, which is small in relation to the total. The biggest item is food, then fuel, light and cleaning next, clothing, bedding and furniture, and in 1976 that came to around £170,000.

149. Deputy N. Andrews.—On subhead F —Manufacturing Department and Farm— on the next page we have receipts from Manufacturing Department and Farm, including produce used in prisons, estimated at £71,000. Is that written off under subhead F? How do the two relate?

—There is a balancing item under Appropriations in Aid.

You have a grant and expenditure and then you have receipts?

—If you look at H, and then deduct.

150. I see, thank you. On subhead G— Welfare Services—I note you were about 25 per cent underspent. This was in part accounted for by hostels which did not come into operation within the year as had been expected. Have they since come into operation?

—No. One is in Waterford and the other is in Galway. Waterford is very close to coming into operation and Galway is not yet. Difficulties arose about getting premises.

151. Chairman.—On Extra Remuneration, we expect the same criterion to apply here in future, as already requested.

152. Deputy Belton.—There is quite an amount of overtime. What type of people would be getting this overtime?

—Primarily prison officers.

153. Has there been a shortage of prison officers?

—Yes, but that has to be set in the context of the quite rapid expansion in the prison service and the greater demand within the prisons. It is very difficult to keep the numbers up. There have been vacancies and they could not be filled all at one time because, for one thing we would not be getting the quality needed.

154. There has been an improvement in this. There has been quite an increase in the number of warders in Mountjoy?

—Yes, there has been an increase in the number, but the number needed is still above what we have.

155. There would not be as big a difference now in the number needed and the number you have as there was heretofore?

—That is right.

156. Deputy Morley.—Is there a special difficulty in recruiting prison officers?

—In the situation in which we find ourselves, yes, bearing in mind the numbers we have needed. Again, there is a limit beyond which it is probably undesirable to go in adding very young or inexperienced prison officers. If thrown too suddenly into the prison service they would form too high a proportion of the total. We would not, as a matter of choice, have overtime at that level nor would the prison officers themselves want to have overtime at that level— they in fact have time and again said that as far as they are concerned the money does not pay them and they are doing it from a sense of duty. Nevertheless there are various limiting factors. Everybody, including the Civil Service Commission at the present time, is doing the best possible to recruit suitable people.

157. Deputy Belton.—But there has been a lot of unrest or unease among the prison officers for some time. I think that has abated a bit now?


158. Deputy N. Andrews.—What is the salary scale of a prison officer?

—The current figure is £62.26-£86.08 for a prison officer.

159. So that would give £3,000 to £4,000, approximately, a year and yet somebody in your Department has earned £4,560—is that correct—in overtime?

—Yes. The same thing has happened——

160. So he is working 16 hours a day or more judging by that figure? Or does he get paid time-and-a-half or will he be working 12 hours a day for seven days of the week or five days of the week?

—Could I say, to put this in perspective, that the same thing has happened in the Garda Síochána, that a person may be earning more in overtime than in his basic pay. Certainly, to answer the immediate point, yes, he is quite likely to be earning time-and-a-half and in fact he may be earning more than time-and-a-half, depending on the circumstances.

161. So, every day of the year approximately, some officer worked 12 hours a day for five days or six days a week?

—Yes, that can happen.

Obviously this concerns what has been said about the need for increased recruitment into the prison service.

—Yes, but part of the problem is to find the people.

Yes. I realise that, I was referring to the remarks made earlier.

162. Deputy Belton.—In addition to this salary for prison officers they get uniform. Do they get food while they are there?


163. Some of them live in prison houses?

—Yes, but I would have to check the terms on which they do so, I am afraid.

Quite a number of them are up in Mountjoy in the houses there. I think it is a condition there that they have to leave once they retire as warders. The houses are kept exclusively——

—Yes. I would need to check the precise terms of that.

164. Deputy Morley.—I was wondering if it is found that suitable people do not offer themselves for employment or is it that, having offered themselves and being offered this employment having being found suitable, they decline to take it up?

—No. There is not that much of a turnover of people taking up the job and then leaving it. It is simply that, of the people offering and found suitable, the numbers have not been high enough and there is a limit beyond which it is not right to go for the reason I mentioned, namely, that one could find too high a proportion of inexperienced officers put into the prison service suddenly. Even at the expense of overtime, it has to be gradual.

165. It would appear the slow recruitment of officers is determined by what is desirable in the present set-up rather than the lack of candidates for the job?

—No, I am sorry, what I mean is that even if it were possible for other reasons to take on suddenly another 200, it would be necessary to be very careful about taking them on or certainly it would have been very necessary to have been careful about taking them on a year-and-a-half or two years ago because there had been a big intake already because of the extension of prison services. There can at times be a separate problem that not enough would be coming forward of people who are regarded as suitable. Then again there is the inevitable difficulty that the Civil Service Commission have a lot to do at the moment and I suppose things take a bit longer than they might otherwise do. They have to be careful to try to find people who are suitable for this unusual type of work.

166. Chairman.—While the Committee appreciate both the difficulty and the care with which you must recruit personnel for this particular kind of work, I think it would be remiss of me if I did not point out to you the Committee’s views on expenditure on overtime, especially in the case of expenditure in excess of basic salary on overtime. It would seem that this is a blatant case where an extra job could be created in the service. Having said that, again we reiterate the difficulty which you have outlined in this particular area of activity. But we would like to impress on you that, where you feel it feasible and possible, you would see to it that the extra personnel would be recruited especially in the case of substantial payments in overtime amounting to something in excess of basic salary as is the case in this particular instance. This completes Vote No. 24.


Mr. A. Ward called.

No question.


Mr. A. Ward further examined.

167. Deputy Belton.—Is there a great shortage of staff in the Land Registry?

—Not now. The staff has been substantially expanded. There has been a series of re-organisations and the Land Registry is working very well and smoothly now.

168. I have complaints, from time to time, about long delays in the Land Registry. What is the present position?

—There have been very long delays in the past in relation to some types of work. These delays have been gradually getting shorter. There are still problems about maps which have deteriorated very seriously and which have to be reconstructed, but the biggest single item of work in the Land Registry is what they call dealings, that is, transactions in relation to a property which has already been registered and is being made the subject of a further transaction. The average delay in that at the moment is something between three and four months. First registrations have a longer delay, something of the order of ten months. The intake of work into the Land Registry has been going up sharply for many years past. Even this year, we are something of the order of 17 per cent up on last year which itself was up as compared with the previous year. Despite this, the new organisational structure in the Land Registry is able to do better than hold its own, taking it across the board. There is a new system now, whereby a group of about 50 mappers have been recruited to engage in the reconstruction of the maps. A large problem in the delays was the difficulty of producing copies from maps which were themselves scarcely legible. That work will take a number of years, but the Land Registry are certainly well on the way to becoming an efficient organisation by commercial standards. They will be able to provide a good and effective service to the public because of the new organisation.

169. I had a query recently about a case that was going on since 1971-72. My clients were not clear whether it was due to the solicitor or the Land Registry. They said the solicitor was constantly advancing the excuse that the matter was being held up in the Land Registry. It was actually the sale of bogland to Bord na Móna that was involved and it has not been finalised. Would the Accounting Officer like to comment on this?

—Even if it is a new case, the typical delay at the moment is nine months. There are arrears at the moment that include over 3,000 cases which the Land Registry classify as non-active because they are awaiting replies to queries and there is nothing they can do about them. If anybody feels a case has been held up since 1971, or even since 1976, and if that person writes direct to the Registrar of Titles, he will find the Land Registry are not responsible for that order of a delay.

It could be the solicitor himself.

—It could be, but of course there could also be genuine problems of title which would not be anybody’s fault. However, there is no reason why a person cannot, if he wishes to do so, write to the Registrar of Titles if he thinks there is some hold-up.

170. Chairman.—On Subhead C—Post Office Services—there seems to be a consistent trend through most of the Votes concerning the whole estimation of the Post Office expenditure which, in most cases, is less than anticipated. As far as I know, there was no reduction in Post Office charges. It is a fairly consistent trend through most Votes. I wonder why there is this over-estimation. Is there any directive to cut down on the use of telephones?


We are talking about a saving of 25 per cent on this Vote. Looking back on other Votes, there is a fairly consistent trend. I am not suggesting you overspend, or that you have to spend what is allocated, but there seems to be an over-estimation all along of the amount required.

—To put it negatively, there certainly was no direction to cut down on the use of telephones. Clearly it was not good estimating. Having said that, I would also say in many respects, we are as far as buildings are concerned, a very scattered Department. In relation, say, to the Garda Síochána, one is talking about Garda stations all over the country. In relation to the courts one is talking of District Courts and Circuit Courts all over the country. In effect, all one can do is base an estimate on what happened the previous year. I do not think I can give any better explanation than that.

171. Deputy N. Andrews.—On the other hand, in Vote 22 you spent £21,000 on management consultants’ fees. Surely this should have brought about a better accounting procedure, better estimates and better management, scattered and all as your Department might be. I accept it is scattered and I accept the difficulties you might have. Why spend £21,000 on management consultants if they have not come up with the answers to your problems?

—On that last point, the management consultants would not have anything to do with that area. The project the management consultants were engaged on had to do with organisation in the Garda Síochána. A variety of things go to make up these problems, one of them being pressure of work on staff as to how much time is put in by a person into making up what is a comparatively small subhead in a Vote. The items that really count, naturally, are the bigger ones. Much more time has to be devoted to making them as accurate as possible. There is room—and realistically there is no point in evading this—for better estimating under a small subhead like that, but there is the problem of the cost of doing it. Bearing in mind that no money is being lost, and that one is talking here about a few thousand pounds in the context of the much bigger sums, if we were to approach it on a cost-benefit basis we could quite possibly need to employ a few more head of staff on that. I am not saying estimates should not be as well done as they could, but on small items I think it is realistic and desirable to accept that small estimates on subheads may be out and that it is uneconomic to apply too rigid a test to them. That is a matter of personal opinion, and, of course, it is a matter on which other people can differ.

There are some big items in it too.

172. Chairman.—Do not think for a moment that you are the only Accounting Officer in this position. I mention it because it is a fairly consistent trend in other Departments and other Votes that there is over-estimation in respect of Post Office services. While I take your point that on, what you call, small items the cost-benefit analysis might not justify the time expended and the deployment of staff to achieve dead-on accuracy of estimation, in the light of this trend towards over-estimation in this subhead, you might see to it that at least a 25 per cent over-estimation would be avoided if possible?

—Could I just say, in acknowledging the point you have made, which is very generous, to the effect that it is not only our Votes you are referring to, that in fact, in Vote 22 we under-estimated and in the Prisons Vote we were practically exact.

I see that.

—However, the figure for the Land Registry is very much out as a proportion of the amount and we will see what we can do to avoid that again.

173. On Extra Remuneration, again I would ask the Accounting Officer to bear in mind our request for additional information under this heading. I should like to thank the Accounting Officer for his co-operation.

—Thank you very much.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned.

*See Appendix 9.

*See Appendix 9.