Written Answers. - Defence Forces Equipment.

Bernard Allen

Question:

245 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the way in which £6 million has been spent to date on computerisation in the Naval Service. [1237/99]

Bernard Allen

Question:

246 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the fishery information service and the situation whereby a limited requirement has incurred major expenditure; the improvements made as a result of the system; the payments made to consultants who have been contracted on this issue; and the name of the consultants in this regard. [1238/99]

Bernard Allen

Question:

247 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the computerisation of the technical stores in the Navy in view of the fact that, following computerisation, the staff has doubled in spite of major reductions in stocks, the coding system that cannot function when ships are at sea or away from base and where software developed for the Army is considered unsuitable for the Navy has changed nine times. [1239/99]

Bernard Allen

Question:

248 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence the reason the project in relation to the maintenance management unit in the Naval Service which commenced three and a half years ago has been abandoned in spite of the fact that £350,000 was paid for software which is now considered unsuitable. [1240/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 245 to 248, inclusive, together.

Since 1988 when computerisation effectively began in the Naval Service, about £3.2 million has been paid to contractors in relation to the development of the computerised fishery protection information system, its related systems, and the future enhancement of those systems to meet new EU reporting requirements. The main contractors in chronological order were:– Hewlett-Packard Ireland Ltd., Benchmark Ltd., Dell Computer Corporation, Digital Equipment Irl. Ltd., Unisoft Systemas Informaticos, Peregrine Systems Ltd. and Ernst & Young.

The systems support the deployment of patrol vessels towards the areas of greatest fishing activity and support the intelligence-based boarding and checking of fishing vessels. A comparison of the figures for the detection of infringements before and after computerisation, shows that there has been a four-fold increase since computerisation.

There is a legal requirement on Ireland to have these systems and their role in fishery protection is essential. In recognition of this, the EU has allowed Ireland about 50 per cent recoupment of the money spent to date. Very substantial assistance will be provided in relation to the enhancement of these systems to meet new EU requirements.

As regards the technical stores, I am advised that the current Inventory Management System went live in 1993. Since then, the coding system was changed once and there has been no increase in the staff establishment. I am advised that the system has been adequate but that there are technical difficulties preventing ships being able to fully update the system while at sea. These difficulties will be addressed as soon as possible, but Year 2000 compliance work must take precedence.

The Naval Service has been involved in a pilot project to evaluate the suitability of new maintenance management software for the Defence Forces as a whole. Software costs total about £260,000. No final decision has been made in relation to that software but other options are also being considered. In this connection, a contract, at a cost of about STG£38,000 has been placed for the supply of a standard merchant marine maintenance management system for the new patrol vessel which is now being built. One option could be to replicate that system on all ships.