Written Answers. - Customs Officials' Redeployment.

Desmond J. O'Malley

Question:

13 Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the re-allocation of customs officials to other duties in view of the opening up of EU borders; and the further plans, if any, he has to reform the customs service. [17882/95]

Peadar Clohessy

Question:

26 Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the re-allocation of customs officials to other duties in view of the opening up of EU borders; and the further plans, if any, he has to reform the customs service. [17883/95]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 26 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the completion of the Internal Market, in accordance with the provisions of the Single European Act, and in particular the abolition of internal frontier controls, caused considerable staffing, operational and other changes in the Customs and Excise Service.
Arising out of the completion of the Internal Market, there was a potential staff surplus of approximately 600 departmental Customs and Excise staff. In tackling the surplus situation, the Revenue Commissioners set themselves the objective of providing alternative work for the staff affected in, or close to, their existing locations so as to minimise the disruption to the staff and their families. Government decisions were made to give the Revenue Commissioners responsibility for the collection of EU trade statistics and the new VAT information exchange system and for the administration of the new motor vehicle registration tax. The Revenue Commissioners also expanded some existing functions of the Customs and Excise Service, especially the strengthening of the common external border, increased control of drugs and other illicit traffic, improved CAP control and post importation audit work. Customs and Excise officials have also provided assistance for the Collector-General's Office and Chief Inspector of Taxes Office to improve revenue collection, strengthen enforcement and combat evasion across all tax-heads.
Having regard to the above position, for a large number of people in the departmental Customs and Excise Service their work changed fundamentally following the completion of the Internal Market, and their duties are now similar to those performed in the general Civil Service.
The integration of the various grading structures in the office of the Revenue Commissioners has been the policy of the commissioners for some time now. In recent years, the majority of unions representing Revenue staff have also agreed, in principle, to discuss integration as a desirable objective. The process of translating this policy and objective into reality began some 14 months ago when the commissioners produced a draft document which they proposed as a basis for a negotiated approach to the integration of the departmental Customs and Excise and general service grades. Following extensive negotiations between the commissioners and the staff representatives concerned, a document setting out the terms of an agreement for the integration of departmental Customs and Excise and general service staff has been produced and is currently being balloted on by staff in the general service and departmental Customs and Excise areas of the office. The result of this ballot will be available early next week.
If the proposals to integrate the departmental Customs and Excise and general service grades are accepted, the staff in both these streams will benefit from better career and location opportunities in the following manner: they will have opportunities to experience a much broader range of work; they will have access to a much wider range of posts and locations within Revenue and in other Civil Service offices and Departments and, in the case of departmental Customs and Excise grades, access for the first time to the Government's decentralisation programme for both transfer and promotional purposes; they will have opportunities to have a career in parts of the country that were previously closed off.
The Revenue Commissioners have assured their staff and their representatives that, in an integrated structure, staff will not be moved from their existing locations and that there is no intention to have large scale movement of staff, within locations, from their existing jobs.
The commissioners are satisfied that if the proposals to integrate the two grading streams are accepted, it will lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness in the ongoing organisation and management of the work of the office with a positive impact on productivity. It will also enable the commissioners to adapt to ongoing changes and to meet the demands being made on the office by Government, by the European Union and by our customers.