Other Questions

Public Service Reform

Joe Higgins

Question:

6. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his recent discussions with the public service unions regarding a successor to the Croke Park agreement. [2908/13]

Bernard Durkan

Question:

18. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree to which he can, in the context of budgetary curtailments in the current year, rely on revised working hours as a possible alternative to salary or wage cuts in view of the fact that the public already have considerable commitments by way of financial outgoings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3057/13]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

25. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform aside from pay savings and increased working hours, the additional reforms he is seeking from discussions with union leaders on extending the Croke Park agreement. [3081/13]

Dara Calleary

Question:

30. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is setting any non-negotiable conditions in respect of talks on a successor to the Croke Park agreement. [2803/13]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

32. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way it is intended to incorporate the citizen-user of public services as a represented party in the ongoing public service pay and performance negotiations to replace the Croke Park agreement; if he foresees any role for the citizen user of public services in these negotiations in terms of the overall reforms of the public service which are planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3052/13]

Bernard Durkan

Question:

103. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he sees the substitution of longer working hours for pay cuts as being more acceptable in some sectors in the public services in the context of meeting budgetary targets set in the memorandum of understanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3296/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 18, 25, 30, 32 and 103 together.

The Government has indicated that an additional saving of €1 billion in the pay and pensions bill will be necessary in the period until the end of 2015 and €300 million of this saving will be needed this year to meet our spending targets. This is to support our determination to restore order to the public finances and meet our fiscal targets.

Deputies will be aware that the Government extended an invitation to the members of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to enter discussions with public service management on a new agenda for reductions in the cost of delivering public services and substantial longer term productivity improvements and workplace reforms. A parallel process is also under way with the associations representing the Garda and Defence Forces.

Intensive engagement, facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission, has commenced between the parties to the discussions and will continue over the coming weeks. This process will allow for the impact of any changes on individual public servants and their workplace to be explored in order that public servants have the fullest information to help them decide in any ballot.

While this is a challenging and complex process, the Government wishes to reach an agreement that allows substantial costs to be extracted and enhances public service productivity to the benefit of all those who rely on public services. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has indicated that he wants to achieve the necessary savings in a way that is broadly equitable and impacts most on those who are best able to afford it.

Any measures aimed at achieving overall savings of €1 billion will have to involve reductions in payroll costs for serving staff as well as significant productivity and workforce reform measures, in addition to those already achieved under the current Croke Park agreement. To ensure that savings can be found as early as possible in 2013 to meet expenditure commitments, management has indicated that these intensive discussions should conclude in a matter of weeks. The Minister has indicated a date of the end of February. The management negotiators will present a range of measures they believe can deliver the necessary savings.

It would not be helpful or appropriate to discuss the details of the various issues that are part of these discussions. They are subject to ongoing bilateral engagement between the parties in the correct forum and any comment at this time would not help and could impede the discussions. The Minister will brief the House in full on the outcome of any engagements. However, the Government will not offer any comment on the current negotiations until they are concluded in full.

It is worth emphasising that the current agreement remains in place while these discussions are under way and the reforms under the current framework are continuing. It is intended that any new agreement will build on the work done to date and use the same successful fast-track mechanisms to drive change and reforms forward.

On a point of order, I am surprised that six related questions have been grouped together, as they will take up the rest of this questions session, approximately 36 minutes. The rest of the session will be spent on one topic. I have tabled a number of questions that are next in the sequence. Other Deputies have also tabled questions, but none will be discussed in this session.

Let me interrupt-----

What is the procedure? Must we agree to the grouping of questions-----

-----or do we have a choice?

It has been decided. No matter how many questions are asked, no more than 18 minutes can be spent on them.

Is that for all six?

If a question is not asked, we will move on to the next one.

I will take the questions in the order in which they were tabled. Deputy McDonald is next, followed by Deputy Sean Fleming, as the other Deputies have not arrived yet.

I noticed that Deputy Higgins was not present. The Minister of State is not going to comment on what is on the table, as he believes that commentary would be unhelpful. However, the Government has already put down a couple of markers, some of which I rehearsed with the Minister of State, in terms of legislating if no agreement is forthcoming and regarding the crucial issue of graduate nurses and midwives.

From a briefing in Leinster House today, I understand that the nursing unions have made it clear that, unless this matter is resolved - by which they mean the HSE and the Government should set aside the yellow pack approach to graduate nurses and midwives - there will be a problem agreeing a new Croke Park deal. When the Minister of State gets to his feet, will he inform the House whether this is the case? Is he aware that this matter has been placed front and centre in the negotiations? What are his comments in this regard?

On a programme on the national broadcaster on Saturday, I set out clearly that it was not helpful of me or any other Minister or Minister of State to make sidebar comments in this way when the person mandated to do the job was the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin. I feel strongly about this. The Government has mandated the Minister and his Department to run the talks and to report back to it on their success or otherwise. It does not help if I or anyone else stands in the way of those talks by making public comment.

We are very much involved in these intensive talks. There is a short timeframe for them. The Minister set it at a number of weeks to the end of February. Everyone who sat down on the first day of those talks is still there today. This is a constructive engagement on the part of public service unions. The Government is ambitious for the talks. We want them to succeed. We do not want to impose a unilateral arrangement if no agreement can be found. We believe that we can find agreement in circumstances in which the same public sector unions have been central to the radical reductions in numbers and total payroll costs during the past four years. They are up to the challenge and task that lie ahead.

This is not easy. It is difficult returning for a second and a third time to a group of people who have seen their core pay reduced. However, the Government has signed up to an agreement with our international funders and with the Irish people. The Government's mandate is to have a deficit of just under 3% by 2015. One cannot do this if one excludes 36% of all public expenditure. This is the context of the discussions.

It is all well and good for the talks to be held behind closed doors, but what of the public interest? The taxpayer is paying. The Government is participating with its employer's hat on and the employees are represented by the trade unions, but no one in the talks represents the public interest and the taxpayer. For this reason, people need to be made aware.

According to the Minister of State, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, has been charged with dealing with these talks and sidebar discussions would be unhelpful. Will the Minister of State ask the Minister or the Taoiseach to tell that to the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, who made comments in the Sunday newspapers about nursing numbers, which comprise part of this issue, and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, who dealt with Croke Park II negotiations in another article? The Minister of State is not averse to commenting on these issues on occasion, although perhaps he has not done so recently. Through media statements, senior Ministers have flatly contradicted what the Minister of State referred to as the Government instruction on there being no sidebar comments.

Are there non-negotiable or red line issues? If €1 billion is not achieved in the talks, will the Government accept the deal? Is the figure of €1 billion an opening shot and will the Government settle for €450 million, €550 million or €650 million? Is the €1 billion a red line issue?

I apologise, as I did not answer this question when the Deputy asked it previously. The €1 billion is €1 billion.

That is what we are seeking to resolve. Some figures have been bandied about elsewhere, for example, €800 million, but let me be clear - the figure is €1 billion.

Everyone is represented at the talks.

The taxpayer is represented by the Government, but also by the public sector unions. Some €2.5 billion has been removed from public sector pay and pensions in circumstances of industrial peace. I am not implying that the Deputy opposite is involved, but those Deputies who suggest something other than this approach should state what their approach is. Days and weeks have been lost in other European countries that have needed to undergo such a transformation, schools and hospitals have been closed and inevitable public conflict has followed some kind of confrontation. We are trying to operate by agreement. It is to the credit of the public sector unions and the leadership they have shown that we have got this far in terms of a peaceful industrial environment.

It is a question of the future sustainability of public sector pay and pensions. Our country will not have a sustainable financial base until we reduce expenditure. If public servants and the public sector are to have a sustainable future, we must address this issue in terms of the €1 billion in savings.

I am struggling with the contradiction in the Minister of State's comments. I am sorry that, sadly, I did not hear him on the national broadcaster on Saturday.

The Deputy did not miss much.

The Minister of State is laying all of his emphasis on the new Croke Park agreement by agreement, but he is ignoring entirely the matter that I raised. The HSE and the Government acted unilaterally to deliver a pay cut to nurses and midwives. In Leinster House and elsewhere, the unions have stated that this matter is on the table in the negotiations. If it is not resolved and if the unilateral action is not rolled back, reaching any agreement will be difficult.

I do not know how involved the Minister of State is in the detail of the talks, but I imagine he would know. At least, I hope he would. Will he confirm for the House whether the Government understands the importance of this issue? People in the public sector and beyond see that unilateral action has been taken against graduate nurses and midwives. If it is against them today, who might it be against tomorrow?

It is no one's right, be it the Government or public sector unions, to lay down such preconditions in the context of discussions around a table. I am taking the Deputy's word, as I did not attend the discussion today that she mentioned. I am not sure whether it was a public or private engagement or whether just the Deputy was briefed. We will wait to see what others have to say. In the first instance, if anyone knows anything about talks with preconditions, I suspect it is Deputy McDonald's party, given the length of time it took to reach an agreement in Northern Ireland.

This is an open engagement. We are ambitious for these talks, as the country must find savings. If other parties to the talks are setting down such conditions, I have not heard of them thus far. Where other professions, for example, teaching, have seen new recruitment streams to deal with the financial crisis and to give people experience and the opportunity to work in this country, we must show such flexibility across the public service.

Run down the wages across the service.

The great prize from these talks is ultimately the creation of a sustainable public sector in the future which can fund itself as a result of the taxation we bring in.

But we cannot go near the ones at the top. Is that not correct?

The Deputy knows as well as I do-----

The Deputy knows as well as I do that the people at the top of the public sector, the crowd she would like to put against the wall, are those who have suffered the biggest cuts as a result of the decisions taken. That will continue. I am not sure whether Deputy McDonald deliberately ignored what I said earlier-----

No nurse is on €100,000.

-----or if she chose to put it to one side, but that will continue. It is a fundamental part of these talks that there will be an equality of contribution in terms of potential reductions to pay and pensions. That has been the case with this Government and it will continue in the talks and into the future.

Public Procurement Contracts Expenditure

Martin Ferris

Question:

7. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the percentage of construction related public procurement projects of €100,000 and over that were awarded to Irish companies, including those in the six counties, in 2011 and 2012 respectively. [3074/13]

Sandra McLellan

Question:

41. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown of construction related public procurement projects awarded in 2012; the value of each project, and if the project was awarded to an Irish company including the six counties. [3073/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 41 together.

The National Procurement Service, NPS, is responsible for the collection of the annual procurement statistics for all supplies, services and works contract notices that are advertised on e-tenders, which are above the EU threshold levels within any given year. It should be noted that below threshold statistics are not collected.

While the NPS collects data on services contracts above the EU threshold levels, it does not specifically collect information relating to construction service contracts as it would be difficult to differentiate construction service specific contracts from general service contracts based on the criteria used in the data collection process. Accordingly, only works contracts are available on construction-related public procurement projects. The statistics for 2012 are not available for review at this point as the NPS has only just started the process of gathering the data and it will take several months to complete.

The breakdown for the 2011 statistics for above EU threshold works contracts is set out in the following table. Each year, the NPS issues a notice to all contracting authorities that publish a notice on e-tenders, requesting them to complete an appropriate form outlining their procurement figures via an online database. It should be noted that the following figures are based on a 75% return rate from all contracting authorities which were issued this notice requesting their figures for 2011. The contracts that are quoted as being “unawarded at time of collection” relate to contracts that were advertised during 2011 but by the end of the year had not been awarded. In those instances, a maximum estimated contract value was requested from the relevant contracting authority for inclusion in the statistics.

Central Government

-

Number of Contracts

Total Value

Total

9

€138,800,000

Awarded to Irish Suppliers

2

€48,000,000

Unawarded at time of data collection

7

€90,000,000

Local and Regional Authorities/Others

-

Number of Contracts

Total Value

Total

71

€863,966,000

Awarded to Irish Suppliers

39*

€249,272,000

Unawarded at time of data collection

31

€614,398,000

Non Irish Suppliers

1**

€296,000

*One Northern Irish supplier included in this total. The value of this contract was €5,677,000.

**One contract with a value of €296,000 was awarded to a supplier listed as being from the UK.

In terms of central government, the total number of contracts was nine above the EU threshold level of more than €138 million. Two were awarded to Irish suppliers, the other seven were unawarded at the end of the data collection period. In terms of local and regional authorities, of the 71 contracts, 39 were awarded to Irish suppliers and 31 were unawarded because the contract was not placed, and only one non-Irish supplier won a contract. One of the 71 is the brief, succinct answer to the question.

Sometimes one is better off to see the replies when they are in tabular form but I got the gist of what the Minister of State had to say.

I apologise for the verbose reply.

Yes, indeed. The purpose of the question is to explore the issue. I appreciate the necessity on the one hand for the kinds of cost savings the Minister of State envisages through procurement. That is reasonable and fair. We cannot allow a situation to continue, whereby, as the Minister of State put it, people were “screwing the State”.

An additional concern was raised by Deputy Pringle in his earlier question about a situation whereby the State is contracting for services and spending substantial amounts of money, and it is in our interest that Irish firms can compete and win those tenders. With that in mind, is the Minister of State considering any modifications or innovations to how procurement processes operate that would build on the potential for Irish firms? I presume that is something that is under constant review. I am interested in hearing what specifically the Minister of State is thinking.

It is a pity that it was not possible to disaggregate or give specific data for the construction sector, not least because we know that much of the catastrophe in terms of job losses, in particular for men, was in that sector. Any monitoring or additional data that would help to give a boost on a sustainable and competitive basis to the sector would be welcome.

In a later question which I do not expect the Minister of State will reach, I asked about a social clause for public contracts - in other words, that provision would be made within the procurement process to address youth unemployment and long-term unemployment. As the Minister of State is aware, the EU procurement regime and legislation is tight and prescriptive but there is scope within it for contracts to specify terms and conditions relating to such social issues. It is time we took such steps. The Minister of State might be aware that my ministerial colleague in the North, Conor Murphy, pursued that and it proved successful.

Deputy McDonald made a number of valuable points. On the latter issue of social contracts, I can confirm to the House that I will bring proposals to Government shortly effectively to demand that a percentage of people who will work on public construction contracts will be ones who have suffered unemployment as a result of the downturn in the construction industry. We have done much work in that regard in recent months. Much of it has been helped by what has happened in other EU countries, in particular where there has been a significant increase in unemployment and states have examined how, through the expenditure of public money or through PPPs, they could ensure that social contracts are part and parcel of the system. It is not part of tendering, as such; it is more to do with the State requiring that a certain percentage of people on construction contracts would come from the live register. I can confirm to the Deputy that we are doing that and we will make an announcement on the issue in due course. It was a perceptive question on the Deputy’s part.

The biggest thing that will help us to change is data. To put it bluntly, we do not know who is buying what, and there is little accountability on spending in this country. The new e-tenders website that we have put in place gives us the technological opportunity to capture the data and discover what bodies are spending what amounts. It is important to analyse the data to ensure there is proper value.

The good news is that 95% of the value of what we spend, even if some contracts are won outside the State, remains in the country. We want to see Irish businesses not just win contracts in this country, but in other countries. I understand that across the EU the market is valued at €2.5 trillion and we want to see our companies getting a larger percentage of that. It is not just about what contracts Irish companies can win at home, but what they can win abroad.

We are actively encouraging SMEs to pitch together for business. We are improving data collection through e-tenders. By the end of the first quarter of this year we will bring a new policy on procurement to the Cabinet with the imprimatur of the new chief procurement officer. It is about getting a much more exacting standard at a technological and management level as to who is spending what to make sure that what we are spending, which is €9 billion on goods and services – approximately €4 billion on construction – is spent by and large at home.

The situation is governed by EU tendering law. Currently, there is what I might call a legal cottage industry challenging every single decision the Government takes. We must professionalise the standard of procurement and get the standard the NPS has applying across the country. Otherwise, such is the level of litigation in the area, people will be taken to court.

I agree with much of what the previous speaker said about the construction element of procurement contracts. There is a problem with the tendering process in terms of the construction sector.

All public representatives are aware that tenders of excessively low levels are being submitted to the county council, the Department of Education and Skills or to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, perhaps for a water main or the like. This is a huge problem for subcontractors. The tenders are excessively low, without any regard to quantity surveyors or what is realistically deliverable in the market. Lo and behold, half way through the contract the contractor goes belly up, leaving the local subcontractors in the lurch. Then another contract might be awarded by another local authority to the same building outfit. That local authority cannot carry out a proper background check and use the contractor's experience, be it in Limerick, Carlow or with the Department of Education and Skills, to decide that he is a cowboy, having burned subcontractors previously, and exclude him from the process.

This is happening everywhere. It happened with a school in my constituency before Christmas. It transpires that the situation is not unique to Limerick. In fact, in the case of a school in Dublin, at the same time the person was walking away from their responsibilities he got a contract to refurbish houses in a local authority in Munster. This must stop. We must give some type of comfort to subcontractors who are taking on this risk at present. I realise the Construction Contracts Bill is due to come back to the Dáil, but it does not go far enough in terms of establishing a certification process whereby if Patrick O'Donovan or Brian Hayes are subcontractors to whoever, they must be paid in full before the next contract is awarded or before the last tranche of funding is drawn down. It is a huge a problem. These are small businesses and, to borrow a phrase from the previous speaker, they are being screwed wholesale by contractors who have no regard for them, their families or their employees, who must also put bread on the table.

I thank the Deputy for his intervention. The House has been very patient about the Construction Contracts Bill and Opposition Deputies, in particular, have been very patient with me with regard to not bringing the Bill to Committee Stage. It is my intention to do so in a matter of weeks. I apologise for not being more speedy on this. However, even if that Bill had been passed by this House and the Seanad, it would not have dealt with the case to which the Deputy refers. I am aware of the school in Limerick because it was the subject of an Adjournment debate in the Seanad.

We will look at this closely. The pricing of construction contracts is very competitive at present. It is down by over a third from prices at the height of the boom. At one level, that is a great opportunity for the State. We are getting a great deal of value in our construction and a bang for our buck in our spending. However, there is a great deal of cutting back on the ground in order to win those contracts. In addition, the construction industry has changed dramatically in recent years. Much of the work is done by subcontractors and, as the Deputy said, people can be stung in that process. I hope the Bill, which will go to Committee Stage shortly, will deal with some of those issues. Certainly, I believe we have managed in the amendments to deal with the issues raised by the opposition spokespeople. Those issues were the subject of representations that many subcontractors made to the Deputies concerned.

There would be much legal doubt and uncertainty as to whether the State can be involved in effectively blacklisting groups or individuals. There would be huge difficulties constitutionally. Nevertheless, we might look at it again on Committee Stage and seek the Deputy's intervention then.

State Agencies

Seamus Kirk

Question:

8. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date on which he will publish an updated list of State agencies and organisations that will be rationalised or amalgamated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2813/13]

As the Deputy is aware, the radical streamlining of State bodies is a key deliverable of the public service reform plan published in November 2011. This streamlining included 48 rationalisation measures to be implemented by the end of 2012, as well as a further 46 critical reviews to take place by the end of June 2012. Details of the bodies involved are set out in Appendices IIa and IIb of the plan, which can be found on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s website.

With regard to the 48 agency rationalisation measures outlined in Appendix IIa of the public service reform plan, which were already decided on by the Government, significant progress has been made by the responsible parent Departments on the implementation of these measures. In just one case the Government has decided not to proceed with the measure at this time, namely, the proposal to absorb the national cancer registry into the Department of Health. All the others are proceeding or have been completed.

The Deputy is inquiring about the outcome of the 46 critical reviews which were undertaken during last year as part of the public service reform plan. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform updated his Cabinet colleagues on 31 October 2012 on the status of these 46 critical reviews of further potential agency rationalisation measures. The outcome from these reviews are listed in the table, which will be made available to Deputies along with a copy of this reply. Broadly speaking, 24 of the critical reviews, involving a total of 116 bodies, recommended proceeding with merger/rationalisation. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform requested his Cabinet colleagues to bring forward a timeline for full implementation of these by the end of 2013. Ten reviews did not recommend proceeding with the proposed actions. The Minister has asked these Departments to bring forward alternative proposals to improve shared services, operational synergies and so forth between the bodies mentioned, where appropriate. Four reviews are not fully finalised and eight reviews were deferred due to wider external factors. These reviews are predominantly in the health sector and will be considered in due course.

Ref No.

(See Appendix IIb of Public Service Reform Plan)

Lead Department

State Body

Proposal

Decision

22

Department of Health

Mental Health Commission

Absorb into Patient Safety Authority

Review Deferred

23

Department of Health

National Paediatric Hospital Development Board

Dependent on outcome of decision on hospital

Review Deferred

24

Department of Health

Health Information and Quality Authority

The Programme for Government envisages the creation of a Patient Safety Authority incorporating HIQA with a licensing role

Review Deferred

25

Department of Health

National Treatment Purchase Fund

The Programme for Government states that a new Hospital Care Purchase Agency will combine with the National Treatment Purchase Fund as part of the transition to a universal health insurance model

Review Deferred

26

Department of Health

Health Insurance Authority

Future to be considered in context of proposed move to a system of Universal Health Care

Review Deferred

27

Department of Health

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

Merge into Health and Social Care Professionals Council

Review Deferred

33

Department of Justice and Equality

Office of the Data Protection Commissioner

Amalgamate with the Office of the Ombudsman

Review Deferred

35

Department of Justice and Equality

Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests

Subsume Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests into proposed Office of the Charities Regulator

Review Deferred

Ref No.

(See Appendix IIb of Public Service Reform Plan)

Lead Department

State Body

Proposal

Decision

16

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform / Department of Finance

NDFA

Merge into OPW / National Procurement Service

The critical review has been finalised and consultations regarding how best to implement its recommendations are ongoing

20

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Development Education Advisory Committee

Role being reviewed as part of review of 2006 White Paper on ODA included in Programme for Government

Ongoing

43

Department of Social Protection

Pensions Board

Integrate functions with Financial Regulator.

Review ongoing and due to be completed shortly

44

Department of Social Protection

Pensions Ombudsman

Merge with the Financial Services Ombudsman.

Review ongoing and due to be completed shortly

Table - 46 Critical Reviews
24 Reviews Recommending Proceeding with Measure

Ref No.

(See Appendix IIb of Public Service Reform Plan)

Department

State Body

Proposal

Decision

2

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Irish Maritime Development Office

Subsume into the Marine Institute

The IMDO already, from an administrative perspective, operates under a single subhead with the Marine Institute. No further action needed.

4, 5

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Commission for Communication Regulation and Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Merge CCR and BAI

Proceeding - Merge back-office administrative functions with the BAI

6

Department of Education and Skills

Expert Group on Future Skills Needs

Absorb into Department

Proceeding

7

Department of Children and Youth Affairs

National Education and Welfare Board

Merge into Child & Family Support Agency

Proceeding

8

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation

Absorb into Department

Proceeding

9

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

National Competitiveness Council

Absorb into Department

Proceeding

10

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government

Absorb into SFI

Proceeding

11

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

Shannon Development

Review future role of Shannon Development

The Government has decided that a State owned entity comprising the Shannon Airport Authority and Shannon Development be established.

12

Department of Environment, Community & Local Government

Environmental Protection Agency / Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

Merge EPA and the RPII

Proceeding – This action may require a longer time-frame than end-2013

13

Department of Environment, Community & Local Government

Local Authorities

On going rationalisation of Local Authority structures

Proceeding - Rationalisation of Local Authorities structures was announced on 15 October 2012

15

Department of Environment, Community & Local Government

Buildings Regulations Advisory Board

Absorb into Department

Proceeding

17

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Valuation Office

Merge the Valuation Office, the Property Registration Authority and Ordnance Survey

(see 30-32 below) D/Justice and Equality is lead Department

19

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

State Laboratory

Merge Forensic Science Laboratory into State Laboratory

Proceeding – The Forensic Science Laboratory will be brought within the ambit of the State Laboratory for professional leadership purposes while remaining within the criminal justice system for operational purposes

29

Department of Justice and Equality

Reception and Integration Agency, Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner & Refugee Appeals Tribunal

Rationalise various Refugee Structures

Proceeding

30-32

Department of Justice and Equality

Property Registration Authority

Merge the Valuation Office, the Property Registration Authority and Ordnance Survey

Proceeding

34

Department of Justice and Equality

Prison Visiting Committees

Reduce or merge Visiting Committees as there is now a Prison Inspectorate

Proceeding

39

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Chester Beatty Library

Develop shared services opportunities with other cultural institutions

Proceeding

40

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Placenames Commission / An Choimisiúin Logainmneacha

Absorb function within Department

Proceeding

42

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Culture Ireland

Merge the functions of Culture Ireland into Department

Proceeding

45

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation (Cont.)

Companies Registration Office

Merge the Companies Registration Office and the Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies

These bodies already, from an administrative perspective, operate as one office under a single subhead in the Department’s Vote. No further action required

46

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies

Merge with the Companies Registration Office

See 45 above

10 Reviews not Recommending Proceeding with Measure

Ref No.

(See Appendix IIb of Public Service Reform Plan)

Lead Department

State Body

Proposal

Decision

1

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

National Milk Agency

Abolish or merge with Bord Bia

Not proceeding

3

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (B.I.M.)

Transfer functions of BIM into the Department

Not proceeding

14

Department of Environment, Community & Local Government

Local Government Audit Service

Merge into the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General

Not proceeding

18

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Disciplinary Code of Appeals Board and the Independent Mediator

Abolish/merge with new employment rights body

Not proceeding

21

Department of the Taoiseach

NESC

Abolish / disband along with the other bodies in the group (NESDO) having regard to the duplication of functions with the ESRI and the economic advisory role of the new Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Not proceeding

28

Department of Justice and Equality

Property Services Regulation Authority

Merge with the Private Residential Tenancy Board

Not proceeding

36

Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

Merge with State Laboratory

Not proceeding – The MBRS will be considered in time as part of the future configuration of the State Laboratory

37

Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport

Railway Safety Commission

Amalgamate as part of establishing a single transport safety body comprising Road Safety Authority, Railway Safety Commission, and the Maritime Safety Directorate

Not proceeding

38

Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport

Road Safety Authority

Amalgamate as part of establishing a single transport safety body comprising Road Safety Authority, Railway Safety Commission, and the Maritime Safety Directorate

Not proceeding

41

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Heritage Council

Merge the functions of the Council into Department

Not proceeding – While a merger will not proceed, a reduced, pro bono board will be put in place and statutory committees abolished

List of 8 Critical Reviews deferred due to external developments
4 Reviews ongoing or part of wider reviews

I do not blame the Minister, but I asked for an update on this issue. What the Minister said is a verbatim copy of the reply I am holding to a parliamentary question last November. I have every syllable, comma and full stop of what the Minister said in front of me.

The record of the House shows there is no update from the update I am holding, which we were given in November after the Cabinet was updated at the end of October on measures to be implemented by 2012 and a review at the end of the third quarter. There is no update from then to now; the situation is the same.

Does the Deputy have a question on any agency?

Yes. Several times before and since Christmas I have asked the Taoiseach about what progress had been made on the 47 measures that were to be implemented by 2012. Before Christmas he told me the heads of the Bill relating to the Competition Authority were to be published before Christmas. It did not happen. The legislative process for the rationalisation of the industrial relations mechanisms was to be finished in 2012, but the Taoiseach told me the other day that legislation will be published in 2013. The review of the city and county enterprise boards was to be completed by 2012. The Taoiseach said it is approved by the Government but no legislation has yet been published. Last week, I asked the Taoiseach about the merger of the Opticians Board and the Health and Social Care Professionals Council, which was to be completed by the end of 2012. He said there would be legislation in 2013. The merger of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission was to be completed by 2012, but the Taoiseach said there would be legislation in this session.

Given the briefing the Cabinet received last October, the Government has clearly fallen a mile behind in the progress that was promised. This is all on the record. The Taoiseach gave me those replies because I generally ask on the Order of Business about the progress on a particular merger. They were meant to be completed by 2012 but he is now promising legislation. I am seeking an update.

I can give the Deputy an update on any agency he wishes.

That is what I asked for.

I will give the reply to the Deputy afterwards. I presume I am entitled to do that, although that might be a presumption too far.

This came from the public service reform plan. We said we wished to proceed with the 47, but we retained one and there is a reason for that. On the remaining 46, we told the Departments to get on with the task of introducing legislation where that is required. We cannot simply say "just do it" in Soviet style. The Cabinet Ministers have entered into a policy commitment so they will do it.

With regard to the other areas in which we have sought reviews, we have accepted that rationalisation and mergers will occur in a quarter of them. We will examine further reviews but to suggest substantial progress has not been made and that agencies are not merging or being abolished is not true. In the education sector, the Further Education and Training Council, FETAC completed its amalgamation with HETAC, NQAI and IUQB to form the Quality and Qualifications Ireland. The number of VECs has been reduced from 33 to 16 and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences have been merged. The Deputy should consider the reduction in the number of town councils in the environment sector and the mergers of city and council councils. Elsewhere, the Dublin Transportation Authority and Dublin Regional Authority have been amalgamated. It is not true to present this as a lack of progress.

I refer to the reply I received from the Minister on 21 November 2012. He stated: "I am confident based on the progress to date of the 47 measures will be completed at a minimum on an administrative basis by the end of the year."

Who said that?

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I asked for an update and there has been no update. I acknowledge the work is ongoing. I thought it was nonsense when he said they would be completed by the end of the year but he put his neck out. That statement is on the Dáil record and I am just following up.

To be fair to the Minister, the fact is the rationalisation is happening and these agencies are being merged on an administrative basis. That is the policy decision of the Government. In fairness to the Minister, he requires his colleagues to get on with the task of making sure it happens. The Deputy has given me this platform today and I am sure they will be listening in.

Public Sector Staff Grades Review

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

9. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date on which his review of the grading structure of the Civil Service will be concluded; if this review includes primary school, secondary school and third level staff; if the review will include State agency salaries, local authority salaries, Health Service Executive salaries, an Garda Siochana staff; if he intends to apply the principle of equal pay for equal work to the grading structure reforms; if this review will inform current discussions with trade union representatives with regards to extending the Croke Park Agreement. [3067/13]

Under the public service reform plan, my Department is reviewing the grading structure of the Civil Service. The review will examine the number and distribution of management grades across the Civil Service, the percentage of the pay bill accounted for by such grades and, taking account of organisational needs and best practice, assess the scope to reduce the number of Civil Service management grades. Work has been commenced on the review and, in line with the reform plan, it will be completed during 2013.

Any review of grading structures and the scope of any such reviews in other sectors of the public service - health, education, local authorities and justice group - are matters for management in the parent Departments concerned.

The Government recently extended an invitation to the members of the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to enter discussions with public service management on a new agenda for reductions in the cost of the delivery of public services and substantial longer term productivity improvements and workplace reforms. A parallel process is also under way with the associations representing gardaí and members of the Defence Forces.

It would not be helpful or appropriate to go into the details of the various issues that are part of these discussions. They are subject to ongoing bilateral engagement between the parties in the correct forum, and any comment at this time would not help, and may impede, these discussions.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will brief the House in full on the outcome of any engagements. However, the Government will not be offering any comment on the current negotiations until discussions are concluded in full.

The programme for Government commitment is as follows: "We will review the grading structures of the Civil Service and the Public Service and reduce the number of management grades." That is the way to go. Earlier, we debated the issues of pay and pay equity in the system. Part and parcel of delivering that, if the Government is serious about delivery, will be revisiting the grading structures not only in the Civil Service, but also the wider public service. It is odd that the Department does not have a role in transforming grades across the public service. We have had this experience on a number of occasions in the context of State agencies, which was raised by Deputy Fleming. Very often, the Department bats us back and says it is not its issue. Why do we have the Department then? It would be more than appropriate that the Department would be front and centre in driving this reform. It makes a nonsense of having the Department in the first place.

The task of the Minister and the Department is to set the general policy in this regard across the public sector. However, specific areas such as local government, the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána have historically had different grading structures. This is a crucial issue. The Minister has put on record that the review will take place this year. Of the 30,000 people who have exited the public service over the past three and a half years, there has been a predominance of managers. We, therefore, have an opportunity to do things differently because of the exit strategy with a smaller public sector embracing shared services and carrying out functions differently. I recently did work on shared HR services and I found that up to one third of the people involved in HR service delivery in each Department were in management grades, which is absolutely crazy in a circumstance where much of HR delivery is transactional and can be done across different grades.

This is an essential part of our public sector transformation plan. We have published on our website a one-year update on each of the measures set out in the plan and I ask Members to read it because a great deal of work is going on in the context of public sector reform. We are making sure we are hitting our targets and people are being held accountable for the agenda within each sector. We will see the outcome of that by the end of this year in terms of how the grading structure will contribute to a much more efficient public sector.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.