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Wednesday, 4 Jul 2012

Priority Questions

Public Sector Pay

Questions (1)

Sean Fleming

Question:

1Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the approximate number of public sector workers across all Departments and State agencies that are due to receive pay increments in 2012; the cost involved; if he is committed to their payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32625/12]

View answer

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Minister for Public)

My Department has access to detailed data on increments only in the Civil Service sector, for which I have direct responsibility. On increments generally, based on the information submitted to my Department on the total cost of increments in a full year in the various sectors, the full year cost of increments, excluding the local authority sector, is now estimated at no more than €180 million per annum and less than half that sum this year. Significantly reduced recruitment, the ongoing substantial fall in numbers of public servants and higher numbers reaching the maxima of salary scales has, obviously, reduced the cost of increments. This cost will continue to fall in coming years.

The Government has reaffirmed its key commitments under the public service agreement in regard to pay and job security for serving public servants. These commitments are contingent on delivery of the necessary flexibilities and reforms to public service delivery that are required under that agreement. The budget process has outlined the Exchequer expenditure programme for 2012 and the necessary allocations have been made to Departments. Any further budgetary measures, should they arise, are a matter for consideration by Government. The vast majority of persons who are on incremental salary scales are the lower paid and people who have been recruited to the public service most recently. I reiterate my view that there are fairer ways to control the cost of public pay, given that only a proportion of public servants, in particular lower paid and front-line staff, would be affected by the suspension of increments.

I understand from the Minister's reply that we are having a general discussion on the issue. His response is a little light on specifics. He referred to a figure of €180 million, which excluded local authorities, so, obviously, we are talking about somewhere in the region of €200 million.

Half of that this year.

That is close to the figure Deputy Howlin's ministerial colleague, Deputy Varadkar, mentioned recently.

As Fianna Fáil spokesperson in this area, I accept increments are part of the pay scale. It might not be popular to say that in many sectors but, when a person joins any element of the public service, there is a clear salary scale and the person knows he or she is due a salary increase in, say, three or four years time. We are in the Croke Park deal and increments are part of that. While I know some Members on both sides of the House will fundamentally disagree, it is where we are at. Some might feel it politically popular to suit their political party's supporters and to knock that concept but I suspect the Minister, Deputy Howlin, is in the category that would want to defend that concept, at least until that concept is changed through future negotiation. As matters stand, it is part of it.

A question, please.

Will the Minister consider whether it is possible in the interests of low paid workers, who are the majority of workers on increment scales, to obtain information on the increments paid to staff who are currently on salaries of over €70,000? While I am not suggesting he can touch these at present, it is an issue that needs to be looked at. I put it to the Minister that while the majority of staff on the increment scale are low paid workers, the public think they are getting vast increments. The approach being taken by the Minister, which he might reconsider, is to use those low paid workers as a shield so the issue in regard to high paid workers on increments is not examined. Will the Minister seek to extract that information in order that we can have a considered debate on the issue? I did not say I am for or against increments but we need the facts.

I appreciate what I believe is the Deputy's considered view. As I said, I will discuss anything to do with the area under my purview. Everything should be on the agenda for discussion at least.

The Deputy is right on a number of points. Let me be clear. Various Labour Court determinations have stated that increments are part of basic pay - that is a fact. The Labour Court has determined this and it would be very difficult to unwind it. Increments have been part of the basic pay structure of public servants since the foundation of the State. It is a system we inherited that when people join, they know the pay range they will have. To interrupt that at a given point is a very dramatic change because people who are already maxed out, as it were, would not be touched, only those at the start of the scale. Do we suggest we will restore it in due course, so we build up a liability, or do we change the pay scales altogether? It is a very complex area.

The Deputy asked for a specific figure for those on annual salaries of more than €70,000 who are still on increments. While I cannot give the overall figure, I can give the figure for the Civil Service because I asked for it. We must remember there is an incremental scale, even at high rates, such as for principal officers and so on, because that is the way the structure has always been. There are 2,665 civil servants, or 14% of the total, who are eligible for increments above that pay grade.

As a final point, it would be extremely difficult to pick out any cohort of people and say we are going to alter fundamentally the basics of their pay. All of this is something I am open to considering, but I will not dislodge the fundamental architecture of Croke Park because it is delivering. As long as it continues to deliver, this Government will protect it.

I am pleased the Minister has now put on record the figure of 2,665 civil servants out of approximately 13,000, which is some 14%. It is interesting the Minister says they are eligible for increments this year. In other words, they are in a category where increments can be earned. This means 86% of public servants on increments are below that salary.

Civil servants.

It is important that this be said in the House. I want people to know the facts, including Ministers who attack the concept of increments and who are perhaps happy to attack 86% of public servants because they feel they are playing to their own political support base by doing that. However, I do not believe it is fair to pick on 86% of public sector workers in that situation.

I have asked the Minister, Deputy Howlin, to try to refine that figure further. Out of the 2,665 who are on a scale and eligible for increments, the Minister might drill into that figure to see how many of those will actually be entitled to an increment this year or next year. They might be on a scale but not due the increment this year, and we might find it is just 1,000 staff or perhaps 5% of public servants over that pay figure who will actually get an increment this year. I would not support an attack on low paid public servants. It might be helpful to those low paid workers if that figure was drilled into.

I will try to determine that figure and I will also look beyond the Civil Service to get the data, which are lodged in other Departments. I will ask for them.

Public Sector Pay

Questions (2, 3)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

2Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will review senior management pay across the civil and public sector under the provision contained within Section 1.6 of the Croke Park Agreement in advance of the Implementation Body’s Third Review of the Agreement. [32716/12]

View answer

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

5Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he intends to revise pay caps implemented and overseen by his Department. [32717/12]

View answer

Oral answers (32 contributions) (Question to Minister for Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 5 together.

I assume the Deputy is referring to section 1.16 of the Croke Park agreement in Question No. 2 which relates to the statutory requirement under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts of 2009 to review the operation, effectiveness and impact of the Acts on an annual basis before 30 June. The review also takes account of the sustainable savings generated in the implementation of the Croke Park agreement.

The statutory reviews have been completed and the reports on the reviews undertaken this year were recently laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the days leading up to 30 June in accordance with the statutory obligation. In the review of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 which imposed the pay reduction on public servants with effect from 1 January 2010 I concluded there was a need to continue to apply the reductions in remuneration of public servants, as well as other measures controlling the cost of the public service pay and pensions bill provided for under the Act. Any amendment of pay rates for existing public servants would have to be the subject of separate legislation. I have no plans to review the annual pay caps of €200,000 and €250,000 for the public service and commercial State sector, respectively, which were introduced by the Government in June 2011. Public service pay will, like all other public expenditure matters, be considered in the context of the 2012 budget and the absolute necessity to reduce the fiscal deficit.

The Government has reaffirmed the key commitments in the public service agreement 2010 to 2014 on pay rates and job security for serving public servants. These commitments are contingent on delivery of the necessary flexibility and reforms to public service delivery required under the agreement. The implementation body for the Croke Park agreement is representative of both public service management and staff representatives. Following the recent publication by the implementation body of its second progress report, I will be meeting the body shortly to review the report and emphasising the need for management, staff and their representatives to press ahead with even greater urgency with the delivery of further change under the framework of the agreement.

As two of my questions are being taken together, I hope the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will allow me some latitude in my exchanges with the Minister.

I will allow for that.

I am sorry the Minister did not deal with the questions separately. To deal with Question No. 2 first, I asked the Minister if he would review senior management pay across the Civil Service and the public service. His response was that doing so would require new legislation. Is he prepared to introduce that legislation?

The Deputy has to be clear about what she means. If she is talking about setting new pay scales into the future, it will obviously require legislation. However, it would be a different matter to interfere with existing pay rates because not only would it upset the Croke Park agreement, but it would also involve significant industrial relations issues. If the Deputy is talking about putting a new ceiling on public sector pay, we have introduced a ceiling and substantially reduced pay at the top rate. Two years ago Secretaries General, grade 1, would have been earning €285,000. Their pay is now capped at €200,000, a substantial reduction. No Secretary General is in receipt of a salary above €200,000, even those legally entitled to it. At my request, they subjected themselves to a waiver of the amount in excess of that sum. This should be acknowledged as an important gesture of solidarity by those who were earning a substantial amount in excess of that threshold.

As a socialist or a social democrat, the Deputy would support the notion of a progressive tax regime. The way to deal with high earnings in a progressive way is to have a progressive tax system. Between the universal social charge and levies introduced in recent times, the marginal rate for deductions for anyone in the public service earning over €100,000 is 62.5% which by any international comparator is a significant reduction.

To be clear, I am not referring to new or future entrants. I want the Minister to deal with the issue in the here and now. He has stated doing so would require new legislation. I understand why public servants, particularly low and middle income earners, cling to the Croke Park agreement simply because they believe that in its absence there would be a free-for-fall on their earnings. However, it is not defensible for the Croke Park agreement to be used to shield those earning excessive salaries.

What is an excessive salary?

We have said time out of number that as the State is insolvent, there will have to be emergency measures and that people need to shoulder the burden. The Minister has asked what is an excessive salary. A sum of €200,000 - the salary cap - is an excessive salary. I have repeatedly told the Minister that, in these times of financial emergency, pay should be capped at the level of €100,000 across the Civil Service and the public sector. I have said this time out of number, but it seems the Minister is not prepared to hear it. Is he prepared to legislate for this and, for once and for all, deal with the issue?

My second question was related to salary caps. The Minister set a number of caps but then went off and broke them. Let me instance the specific case of special advisers.

There is a specific question on this matter.

The salary of the special adviser to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, is above the cap at €127,000.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I am going to deal with these matters specifically and would like time to deal with each of the questions Deputies submitted.

The special adviser to the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, earns €127,796. There are five special advisers to the Taoiseach whose chief of staff earns €168,000.

Does the Deputy have any question, a Leas-Chathaoirligh?

I have said this before in the Dáil and I am saying it again.

Does the Deputy have a question?

The chief adviser to the Tánaiste earns €168,000, while his economic adviser earns €155,000. All of these salaries breach the cap the Minister designed and enunciated. He has to forgive me if my faith in his ability to enforce a cap has been weakened.

A Leas-Chathaoirligh, it is not normal to pre-empt other Members' questions, especially when time is limited. However, I will respond to several of the questions raised by the Deputy. She is of the view that there should be a general salary cap of €100,000 across the public service. That would mean no doctor, researcher, academic or senior administrator would earn over €100,000. The problem is we would not get people of quality into the public sector as the marketplace would pay more than this. On that basis, we would only have a private health system for those who could afford access to it because we would not have people working in the public health service at that pay rate, by and large. That is a simple fact.

The normal way in a progressive society to deal with these matters is not to look at net pay. Most progressive parties do not distinguish between public sector and private sector workers in these matters. A progressive taxation system deals with income, whether one is in the private or the public sector.

The Minister should try it himself sometime.

What the Deputy is doing in her constant attacks on the public sector is ensuring there is a thriving private sector; she wants to destroy the basis of public sector provision of key services. I am not going to go down that road. We have a highly progressive taxation system. The marginal rate of taxation, including levies, for those earning over €100,000 is 62.5%. If we need to go higher, we should look at the matter. I do not believe someone in the public sector earning €100,000 should be treated differently from someone in the private sector earning the same amount. I do not believe a doctor providing health care should be supported in a different way in the private sector or encouraged to enter it in the way the Deputy is suggesting.

The Deputy referred to special advisers to Ministers. I do not want to spend too much time on this issue as there are specific questions on it. I set the pay norms for advisers at principal officer, PO, level.

Then the Minister went and broke them.

I made it clear that exceptions could be made in cases where the people recruited specifically could show me that their income in the place from which they had left to join the public service on a temporary contract was greater. The people to whom the Deputy referred have, by and large, taken substantial pay cuts in order to move into the public service. I instanced my own adviser in this regard. I asked the latter to leave a full-time pensionable job and come to work for me for less money, no bonus and no job security. In addition, he lost his pension entitlements.

There is a populism relating to this matter, and we can play along with this. However, the end product will be that serious damage will be done in the context of our ability to encourage people of calibre to move into the public sphere and work in the recovery programme for our country. We must ensure that we have available people of the highest calibre to steer the ship of state at a time when it is in peril. I fully accept that there must be absolute solidarity in respect of these matters. That is why the Government has taken the unique step of introducing pay ceilings and a progressive taxation system. We will continue to refine both of these.

I asked two questions.

I accept that but we have already spent 12 minutes on these questions. We must have shorter supplementary questions and answers if we are to deal with all the matters Members wish to raise.

The Minister referred to consultant doctors and stated that they would flee the system. He should look to the NHS in Britain in order to learn a few lessons in this regard. Consultants in that jurisdiction do not have the luxury of private practice in order to supplement their public incomes.

This business of saying that if we do not pay the big bucks we will not get the right talent is absolute waffle of the highest order.

A question, please, Deputy.

I will provide the Minister with an instance in which he broke his own pay cap.

These are not questions. The Deputy is making a speech.

Will Deputy McDonald please ask a question?

Okay. Why was the pay cap breached to secure the services of a special adviser for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, particularly in view of the fact that this individual - whose expertise was apparently required - has since vacated the post? We were informed at the time that the big bucks were paid because of the commitment and skill of this individual and in view of the pain and suffering he would be obliged to endure in order to take up the post, but - hey presto - he has since departed.

This goes well beyond the scope of the original question. However, I know the Deputy likes to be current and is always keen to follow up on whatever stories are being focused on in the media.

I have been raising this matter with the Minister for over a year.

The adviser to whom Deputy McDonald refers was previously in receipt of an income which was a multiple of what I authorised when he came to work for us. Perhaps that man's departure had something to do with the constant focus on his salary and conditions and the fact that, in the private sphere, he could earn multiples of what we were paying him without having his conditions of employment, his family and everything else focused upon by individuals such as the Deputy opposite.

Public Sector Staff

Questions (4)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

3Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of the over 9,000 persons from the public service who have retired over the past six months with high tax-free lump sum payments in many cases and substantial pensions that have been re-hired on contract; if these persons are now being paid on the double by the State, that is, their pension and the salary they are receiving under the new contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32813/12]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Minister for Public)

As stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 273 of 19 June last, the general policy with regard to the re-engagement of retired public servants is that staff should not be retained beyond retirement age and that any re-engagement should be kept as limited as possible and should be for a restricted period. Returns from across the public service indicate that approximately 7,900 public servants retired during the first three months of this year. The bulk of these retirements occurred prior to the end of the grace period on 29 February.

In any large organisation situations can arise in which short-term specialist input is required in order to complete a particular task. In many instances the most appropriate and cost-effective way of solving a short-term problem is to bring in someone who has worked in the area, who understands the background and who can do the work immediately.

Returns received by my Department indicate that since the beginning of the year - this is the important point - of the 8,000 who departed the public service, some 474 have been rehired. A total of 319 of these were teachers who were brought back to complete their work with students in examination classes and who are now no longer engaged. This means that just 155 public servants of the 8,000 who retired were re-engaged across all sectors. I understand that more detailed information will be supplied by individual Ministers in respect of their areas of remit.

The Deputy will also be aware that in accordance with the Pensions (Abatement) Act 1965, when an officer who goes on pension is retained in the Civil Service or re-employed within the service in a non-established capacity, his or her pension is, where necessary, abated - that is, reduced. Such pensioners may never earn more than they would have received if they had continued working. Where a person is re-engaged on a fee-paying basis, the abatement is applied to the fee itself. While this Act does not apply to the wider public service, it has been the norm that similar conditions apply there. Furthermore, I understand that retired civil and public servants are normally only re-engaged by their former, or other, Departments for very short periods, in the main, and for specific functions in respect of which their particular expertise is required. No civil servant who has retired from my Department during the past six months has been taken back onto the payroll.

I do not want to bestow any negative publicity on public servants, regardless of what they earn. However, this is an important and pertinent question. It was tabled by my colleague, Deputy Tom Fleming, who, due to a family bereavement, cannot be present. The Minister indicated that 319 of the public servants who were rehired are teachers. I accept there was a need to rehire these individuals this year but for far too long retired teachers have been brought back to work. This is happening everywhere and young people who have just qualified as teachers cannot obtain employment. This has been the case for far too long. The schools have it down to a fine art and a system has been worked out whereby those who return to work - both teachers and principals - only work a certain number of hours. That is just not good enough.

The Minister stated that the 319 teachers to whom he referred are no longer engaged, and that this means only 155 public servants have been re-engaged across all sectors. I am not questioning his ability - I have great time for the Minister - but I do not know whether the information with which he has been provided is accurate. Is 155 the actual figure? It is easy for staff to return to Departments in which they previously worked. I acknowledge that none have returned to the Minister's Department. Perhaps that is because he is the individual responsible for the pruning.

What did the Minister mean when, in reference to the Pensions (Abatement) Act 1965, he stated that someone who goes on pension and is then retained in or re-employed by the Civil Service cannot be paid any more than the amount of which they were in receipt when they left the service in the first instance? I thank the Minister for his reply but I am of the view that further teasing out is required.

The Deputy is making two different points. I strongly agree with him in respect of one of these. The general principle of rehiring those who have retired on pensions should not be - and is not - supported. Exceptional cases will arise, however. Deputy Mattie McGrath will recall the great concerns that arose in the House prior to the end of the grace period and the fact that Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, was obliged to reassure people that the studies of those in examination classes would not be disrupted as a result of teachers availing of the early retirement scheme. An allowance was made in this regard and this explains why the services of the 319 teachers to whom I refer were retained. I do not believe anyone would object to what was done in this instance.

I have asked other Ministers to engage in a vigorous examination with regard to the rehiring of staff. The Minister for Education and Skills and I agree strongly in respect of the Deputy's other point. We may be obliged to take legislative action in respect of people who retire on full pensions and who are then asked to return in order to provide cover when someone goes on maternity leave or whatever. In my judgment, this practice is not acceptable. The Minister for Education and Skills will take steps to deal with this matter. I assure the Deputy that the figures provided are those which are available to me.

What is the position with regard to the pay of those who are on pensions and who are rehired?

If a person retires on a pension - normally this amounts to half-pay - and if he or she is rehired to perform a particular function, his or her pay in respect of that function plus his or her pension cannot exceed the level of his or her pre-retirement pay. People's pensions are reduced in order to ensure that pre-retirement pay levels are not breached.

Is that the case even in respect of those on contract?

As far as I am aware, it applies in all circumstances. Where a person is contracted on a fee-paying basis, it is the fee rather than the pension that is reduced.

Public Sector Reform

Questions (5)

Sean Fleming

Question:

4Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the actions he will take arising from the issues raised across the public service in the recently published report of the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32626/12]

View answer

Oral answers (9 contributions) (Question to Minister for Public)

As stated by the Ombudsman in her annual report, the ongoing consequences of the economic and financial crisis are reflected in the record number of people who have sought the assistance of her office. The Ombudsman also indicated in her annual report that in the immediate aftermath of the economic downturn, which commenced in 2008, many people were forced to seek State benefits and services for the first time. In that regard, I strongly support the crucial role the Ombudsman plays in ensuring that such changes as the Government decides must be made to the availability of certain services and benefits, in order to restore the long-term stability of our public finances, are implemented in a fair and equitable manner and that any anomalies are highlighted.

The Ombudsman's report stresses the need for public bodies always to explain and clarify the basis for entitlement to particular benefits and services and the functioning of internal complaint mechanisms in public bodies.

While responsibility for these issues in any set of circumstances resides with the individual public body concerned, in terms of my objectives for public service reform, one of the key themes of the public service reform plan published in November 2011 focuses on the needs of the citizen and has the objective of placing the customer or citizen at the core of everything we do.

The measures being undertaken under the reform plan include introducing initiatives to improve the citizen's access to, and interaction with, Government services and promoting better communications with citizens, which should help to ensure the basis or qualification for any entitlement is explained by the relevant public bodies to individual claimants in a straightforward and open manner. I took a petition last week from the National Adult Literacy Association on its campaign for plain English, a point we should take up with regard to forms and imparting information.

In addition, my Department has produced guidelines for customer charters which involve public service organisations consulting customers, setting service standards and measuring and reporting publicly on their performance to ensure the public service provides the best service possible with the resources available.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The Deputy may wish to note that I am finalising proposals for the reform of the Ombudsman Act and the extension of the remit of the Ombudsman to all public bodies in line with the commitment in the programme for Government. In this context, I intend to consult the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions in terms of any legislative change consistent with the broad thrust of the Ombudsman's existing statutory roles and responsibilities which will help to strengthen the relationship of the Ombudsman with the Oireachtas in ensuring effective oversight of the provision of public services.

I compliment the Ombudsman, Ms Emily O'Reilly, on another fine annual report. I will give the Minister the opportunity to comment on the lessons to be learned from the report which is perfect. We support everything in it. Some 3,600 cases were dealt with last year, one third of which originated in the Department of Social Protection, one third in local authorities and one quarter in the HSE. We all agree on the need for the Ombudsman's office. Many of us have helped constituents to make complaints to the Ombudsman and much to our distress we can get satisfaction from a public body if we write a letter to her on behalf of constituents having failed to receive a response as public representatives.

Will the Deputy, please, frame a question?

Perhaps this question might be more appropriate for the Secretary General or an official in the Department. Perhaps the Secretary General of the Department might bring together the other Secretaries General and the key players identified in the report to deal with the issues highlighted every year. As the chief managers of the public service, they could consider putting a system in place to address these points in order that they will not continue to recur. There is no point in having a list of 20 cases every year and specifically highlighting when the Ombudsman helps people.

Will the Minister consider talking to the Department of Health? A section of the report, on page 15, deals with non-compliance with a recommendation of the Ombudsman. The Department of Health accepted the recommendation that the mobility allowance scheme was not in accordance with the Equal Status Act. The Ombudsman gives details of how it discriminates on the basis of age. The Department stated it would deal with the matter within six months, but it has still not dealt with it. The Ombudsman must include the matter again in the annual report. I ask the Minister to tell public servants who have had findings made against them to either accept the findings made or explain why they do not accept them.

I have no doubt the Deputy will raise this point directly with the Minister for Health who is the proper channel. I agree with much of what the Deputy said. We examined this issue in advance of the drafting of the programme for Government in which we stated it was our intention to establish a new committee - the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions - to operate as a formal channel for consultation and collaboration between the Oireachtas and the Ombudsman. It has since been established. I discussed the point with the Ombudsman who is enthusiastic about it. The committee can receive the report and cause the relevant departmental officials to be answerable and invite the Ombudsman to provide for that interaction. This should be done, but it is a matter for the committee which I know is seeking additional powers to send for people and papers. I do not want to trespass on the powers of the Oireachtas, but that matter is before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The committee has an important role to play which is yet to be fully developed.

Because it has not been set up.

It has been set up. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald's colleague, Deputy Peadar Tóibín, is its Chairman.

Perhaps the Minister might provide whatever assistance he can. On page 16 of the Ombudsman's report she talks about the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008. She says her office is working closely with the Department to progress this important initiative. In the recent annual report, however, there is no mention of the Oireachtas committee. It looks as if it has not yet come across the Ombudsman's radar. If there had been soundings between the committee and the Ombudsman, she would have referred to them. Perhaps the Minister might expedite the process.

It is my intention to introduce legislation to amend the Ombudsman Act. The Deputy is familiar with the Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 which passed Second Stage in the Seanad. I intend to revise it to include the recommendations made by the Ombudsman. I will refer it to the Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions in order that it can examine it. If the committee needs further powers, I am open to considering the matter. I will communicate with the Chairman of the committee to see how the matter can be advanced.

Question No. 5 answered with Question No. 2.

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