I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before it again in my capacity as Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote. I look forward to discussing any aspect of the Vote with members.
I will describe the resources available to me in policing this country. The strength of An Garda Síochána as of 30 April 2013 was 13,330 sworn members, inclusive of all ranks. In total, since 31 December 2009, 1,218 gardaí of all ranks have retired or left the organisation. On 30 April 2013, there were 2,052 full-time equivalent civilian staff employed in An Garda Síochána, with a ratio of civilian to sworn members of 1: 6.5. While An Garda Síochána remains committed to attaining a lower ratio, this is influenced by the current public sector recruitment moratorium.
It must also be borne in mind that An Garda Síochána performs security, intelligence and immigration functions that are not performed by many of our comparator police organisations. These additional mandates have an impact on the garda-to-civilian ratio.
Following implementation of a district and station rationalisation programme in 2012 and 2013, the structure of An Garda Síochána will comprise a central headquarters, national support units and geographical operational units organised in six regions, 29 divisions, 105 districts and 566 sub-districts.
An Garda Síochána had much success operationally and organisationally throughout 2012, with decreases in many categories of crime, including reductions, once again, in the numbers of road fatalities and public order incidents. While 2012 was a challenging year in terms of property crime, we saw a downward trend in the later half of the year, which has continued to date in 2013.
The 2013 budget for the Garda Vote amounts to €1.272 billion, which is a reduction of 4.5% when compared to the final outturn for 2012 of €1.333 billion. The rapid decline in the public finances in recent years requires us all to do more with less and An Garda Síochána is not immune from the effects of the downturn in the public finances and we continue to play our part in the nation’s economic recovery.
A new strategy statement for the three year period 2013 to 2015 has been published which builds on the achievements of the previous three year strategy statement and takes cognisance of the financial realities ahead, while delivering the necessary financial savings and efficiencies so as to enhance the policing service we provide for members of the public. The efficient use of resources in the delivery of a professional policing service has been highlighted in the annual Garda policing plan for 2013. An Garda Síochána has achieved significant efficiencies in recent times and is undergoing significant organisational development with a number of major change initiatives under way, including a new roster system, the first in almost 40 years in An Garda Síochána, and the new performance and accountability system, PALF.
In conjunction with these achievements, An Garda Síochána also has a significant organisational development and change programme in operation encompassing my commitments towards the Croke Park agreement, the integrated reform delivery plan, IRDP, and the GRACE programme. This programme has 39 projects either completed or in progress in areas such as a new service delivery model, district and station rationalisation, workforce realignment and an examination of specialisation in the organisation, among others.
Turning to chapter 26 in the 2011 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the collection of motor taxation, the role of An Garda Síochána in the administration of motor taxation is to enforce the legal requirement for a vehicle in use to be taxed and display a valid motor tax disc. An Garda Síochána issues and processes the fixed charge notices in cases of failure to display a current motor tax disc and instigates prosecutions where fixed charges are unpaid. Motor tax disc display checks are carried out by members of An Garda Síochána during routine operational activities and checkpoints. A total of 58,075 fixed charge notices relating to tax and registration offences were issued in 2012. This compared to a figure of 65,863 in 2011, a reduction of 7,788, or 12%. In addition, An Garda Síochána can detain vehicles under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, as amended by section 19 of the Road Traffic Act 2006, where, inter alia, there is no road tax in force for a period of two months or greater. Regarding a declaration of non-use, the role of members of An Garda Síochána is to witness the signed declaration of non-use by the vehicle owner. I fully support the measures included in the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill 2013 whereby off-road declarations will be required to be made prospectively.
I thank the Chairman for giving me the opportunity to address the committee. I will answer whatever questions the Chairman and members may have.