Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Department's Efficiency.

24.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether he is satisfied that his Department is operating at 100 per cent efficiency; and, if not, whether he has any plans to introduce procedures to improve the situation.

I am satisfied that my Department provide an efficient service to social welfare claimants and beneficiaries generally.

I am having systems and procedures reviewed on a continuing basis with a view to changing such procedures or introducing new procedures where considered necessary, in order to improve efficiency.

As the Deputy will know I have already made some alterations to procedures which have resulted in improvements in the delivery of the services.

The Minister had better find a shelf for all those letters.

Is the Minister aware that in all cases people are complaining that the least time it takes to get a reply after sending in a certificate is six weeks and that nine to 12 weeks is normal? Surely the Minister came across this when he was a Deputy.

Yes, I did. When I was appointed Minister of State the Minister asked me to look into this problem of the undue delay in the payment of benefits. As the new Minister of State I went in to the Department to where the post comes in as I wanted first hand knowledge of what happened from when the post came in until the cheque was sent out. Approximately five per cent of the certificates sent in contained a wrong address, an insurance number or income tax number which was the wrong number. These have to be referred back to the people who sent them in and sometimes they cannot be referred back because the certificate does not contain the address of the person who sent it in. The Minister was very concerned about this. I am satisfied there has been an improvement in the issuing of payments and benefits to people. There will always be some delays not necessarily the fault of the Department.

The Minister said 5 per cent are incorrect and I accept that. However 95 per cent of them are correct and the normal time to get a reply is nine weeks. It is never less than six weeks in my area.

I have checked on the Deputy's statement and it is incorrect. I assure the Deputy that 95 per cent of correct certificates submitted to the Department will be paid within three or four days. Another point is that sometimes we receive a certificate dated perhaps two weeks later. Whether it was delayed in the post or whether the person put the certificate in his pocket and forgot about it I do not know, but we have checked the date on the envelope with the date on the certificate. If a certificate is posted into my Department properly completed with the name and address and the proper insurance number, in three days the cheque will go out to that person. If the Deputy has an individual case where in his opinion the fault was in my Department, I would be very pleased if he would bring it to my notice.

A final supplementary from Deputy Bermingham.

Is the Minister aware that all the people in his and my area are waiting at least six weeks after sending in a certificate properly numbered and dated? I am amazed at the reply of the Minister.

That is the situation.

I am not so aware.

Will the Minister write a letter to himself and see how long it will take him to get an answer?

I promise Deputy Bermingham that if he will give me a case——

(Interruptions.)

A Cheann Comhairle——

No, Deputy, I am sorry. Ceist a 25.

The free electricity allowance scheme was designed as a measure——

I am entitled to ask a supplementary on this. It is a fact that one cannot get into contact with the Minister's Department by phone if a problem does arise. I am waiting for an answer.

I am sorry, I have called the next question.

I am entitled to ask a supplementary question.

On a point of order, it was impossible to hear the reply to Question No. 25.

I will ask the Minister to repeat it if he does not mind.

I have a supplementary question.

I cannot allow another supplementary.

This is a very important question.

Deputy Crotty very rarely puts down a question in the House. May I ask the Chair——

No, I am sorry.

He is entitled to ask it.

This is the most important question that could be asked here and I am not allowed to ask it.

I have asked to have Question No. 25 repeated. Will the Minister please repeat it?

I am entitled on behalf of thousands of people to get a reply on this question. It is important.

There is the question of whether the Minister wishes to repeat the answer. Deputy Boland asked to have the answer to Question No. 25 repeated.

Why is my supplementary one ruled out of order?

I called the next question.

I am entitled to get an answer. I do not wish to disturb the House too much but I resent this type of treatment. You, Sir, are new to the job and maybe you did not know that I do not want to disturb the House, but this is too important and I am not going to be put down on it. I am entitled to represent thousands of people who are concerned about this question. I want an answer from the Minister now why one cannot contact his Department by telephone when one has a problem. When he answers me on that I will sit down.

If the Deputy wishes to discuss this matter with me afterwards, I will discuss it with him.

I give notice now that I want to raise the content of this question on the adjournment.

I will communicate with the Deputy.

Could we have Question No. 25 answered?

This is going too far.

The Minister will appreciate——

We must continue with Questions.