Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Department of Social Welfare Staff Shortage.

3.

asked the Minister for the Public Service if, in view of the serious problems within the Department of Social Welfare which are attributed to shortage of staff, he would exempt that Department from the embargo on recruitment.

The embargo no longer applies to any Government Department or office. As envisaged in the White Paper, it has been replaced in the Civil Service with a system of staffing targets which take account of the different needs and resources of Departments. In fact, the new system enabled the staffing of the Department of Social Welfare to be increased by almost 200 posts in 1986.

Future needs will be dealt with in the context of the end-1987 staffing targets for the Civil Service as a whole. These are being considered in the context of the overall budgetary position.

Will future needs include the recruitment of a number of accountants?

Yes. When I settled the 1986 staffing target levels, the cuts amounted to about 536 posts and there were 236 additional posts. There was a special reserve for specialist areas, including accountants, because I accept that the need for accountancy skills in the Civil Service has not been met.

How many accountants will be recruited for the Department of Social Welfare?

The total reserve was 50 posts which were to be divided between a number of areas including accountants, welfare service officers and technological workers. The number appointed will depend on the availability of expertise required by the Civil Service. I cannot say how many will be appointed but the policy is to gradually increase the number of accountants to an acceptable level. I note the point made by the Deputy in relation to the needs of the Department of Social Welfare.

I heard that two accountants were to be appointed but that is hardly sufficient as six to ten accountants would be needed in such a Department.

I do not know where the Deputy got that figure. Perhaps a competition was arranged for accountants in a specific area. However, I am anxious to appoint more than two accountants.

I wish to remind Deputies that I must take Defence questions at 3 o'clock.