On behalf of the Chairman of the committee, Deputy Keating, I move:
That Dáil Éireann takes note of the Report of the Committee on Public Expenditure: Proposal to establish a centralised State agency for persons registering for employment or training.
This is the second report of the Committee on Public Expenditure since we first met in September 1983. Our first report last February on recruitment by the Civil Service Commission and the Local Appointments Commission highlighted an unacceptable situation whereby costly Civil Service competitions were being held, in some cases with thousands of applicants, following which the actual number of vacancies filled was in single figures. The committee are glad to note that the Minister for the Public Service, who welcomed the committee's report, has since taken action on the report's recommendations and the saving involved will, I understand, be considerable. I mention this by way of illustrating that the Committee on Public Expenditure are dealing with issues of immediate concern to the public and on which there is a virtual guarantee that appropriate corrective action will be taken where it is found necessary. It is our intention that there will also be immediate follow-through on all further reports. The committee now have a well-established system for monitoring recommendations in all cases.
The committee's second report, which is the subject of today's debate, is entitled "Proposal to establish a centralised State agency for persons registering for employment or training". Before I summarise the main points in the report, I would remind the House of the committee's terms of reference: To review the justification for ineffectiveness of ongoing expenditure in Government Departments and offices and of non-commercial State bodies in such areas as it may select and to report thereon to the House recommending cost-effective alternatives and the elimination of obsolete programmes where desirable.
The committee's programme for reviewing Departments and State bodies falling within our terms of reference is now well under way and we expect to produce a formal report in our detailed examination of the Department of the Public Service in the near future. We have retained the services of a consultant to assist in this very important work and we feel that this review will provide a bench mark for all the reviews which will follow. Apart from the ongoing review of the Department and agencies, the committee decided at the outset that specific areas of public expenditure which warranted urgent attention because of the actual or potential waste of taxpayer's money should be dealt with as a matter of priority. It became clear to us that one such area that required immediate rationalisation was that of the multitude of Government Departments and agencies involved in recruitment, training and employment. The committee felt that there was clearly a need to find out exactly, first, what services were being provided by the various institutions at present; secondly, what liaison or co-operation, if any, existed between them and, thirdly, to identify avoidable duplication of those services with a view to eliminating such waste as a matter of urgency.
In undertaking that review the committee were, of course, mindful of the fact that any streamlining of the State services for employment and training should not be just an academic exercise but should be an improvement and of benefit to the users at a time when people must be provided with skills necessary to compete on the job market today.
The committee studied much background material on the subject and took evidence over four separate meetings from the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Education, the Department of Labour, the Department of Social Welfare, AnCO, the Youth Employment Agency and the Irish Vocational Association. We would like to put on record our appreciation of the courteous and co-operative manner in which many officials involved readily provided information on which we based our report.
The main conclusions of the committee are set out at paragraph 8 on page 26 of the report. It must be said that we confirmed our original fear that there was widespread fragmentation, duplication and lack of co-ordination of services that had led to a waste of public expenditure at a time when there was unprecedented demand on the Exchequer resources. From the unions' point of view it was quite obvious that the very existence of so many agencies presented a bewildering array of offices, forms and so on, which is an example of the type of bureaucracy that we are determined to change in the interests of greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency. The committee's recommendations are set out in detail on pages 28 to 31 of the report. In summary, they imply some fairly radical changes and improvements that must be made to ensure that the most up-to-date services are made available for people who may be seeking training and employment. While there is some emphasis in the report on school leavers and those under 25 years of age, who experience particular problems, the committee recognise that those in older age groups must also be catered for by the National Manpower Service, AnCO and other agencies.
I would like to read into the record of the House the recommendations, but I understand that we are short of time and other Members wish to contribute. I must emphasise that all the committee's recommendations are, of course, without prejudice to the possibility of the setting up of an umbrella organisation referred to in paragraph 9 (14) of the report which will ultimately provide the best solution to the overlap and duplication revealed in the committee's investigations.
If that is proved to be the correct course of action, then we would, of course, endorse the early introduction of such an institution. We have recommended that the agencies involved at the moment should hold urgent discussions under the direction of the Minister for the Public Service, to arrive at a more streamlined cost-effective service for users. The outcome of those discussions will be awaited with interest by the committee and I am sure will lead to the type of service that the public deserve and to which they are entitled as a basic right. The more cohesive structures which should emerge will, in the committee's view, set a headline for other State services and will, no doubt, trigger off similar evaluation and assessment, either internally or externally, which would lead to better value for money all around.
The committee, as will be seen from the report, are determined to ensure that the level of duplication of services for employment and training is eliminated. We are confident that the agencies involved will welcome such a development and will co-operate in ensuring that the committee's recommendations are acted on with all possible speed. I therefore recommend the report to the House.
Finally I should like on behalf of the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the committee, to thank Deputy O'Kennedy, my fellow colleagues on the committee from all sides of the House for their active participation in what is recognised as the valuable work of the committee. Their participation has enabled us to achieve the objectives which were set when we were appointed by this House in June of last year. We now look forward to the challenge of the goals we have set ourselves in the year ahead.