Sale of State Assets

Questions (160)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

160. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which the sale of State assets is proposed as a means of achieving budgetary targets in the coming year; if any such sales will have due regard for the need to preserve the integrity of the respective sectors in the national interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10718/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As I have previously informed the House, none of the potential receipts from the State assets disposal programme are to be used as a means of achieving the budgetary targets set for 2013. Instead, it has been agreed with the Troika that all of the Government’s proceeds from the programme will be available, in one shape or another, to support job creating initiatives in the economy. Half of the proceeds will be available to fund employment enhancing projects of a commercial nature. The other half, while destined eventually to pay-down debt, will, in the first instance, be constituted as a fund to underpin additional lending into Ireland, for example by the EIB, in support of further investment in job-creating initiatives.

In framing its proposals on State asset proposals, the Government has also taken great care to protect the integrity of the industrial sectors affected: In the case of the electricity and gas sectors, the integral transmissions and distribution systems are to be retained in State ownership; In the case of forestry, it has been made clear that Coillte’s land holdings will not be sold; In the case of Aer Lingus, the Government has indicated that it will not support any offer that would significantly undermine connectivity or competitiveness for Ireland.

Question No. 161 answered with Question No. 19.

Departmental Expenditure

Question No. 163 answered with Question No. 19.

Questions (162)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

162. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which insurance and procurement costs can be adjusted with a view to the maximisation of benefit and budgetary reduction for the benefit of the Exchequer over the next two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10720/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As I indicated to the Deputy in my reply to his Parliamentary Question on this subject on 10 October 2012, I agree that Departments and Offices should make every effort to contain and reduce all administrative costs including both insurance and procurement costs. This approach is in line with Government’s overall reform and efficiency agenda. In light of the need to accelerate the reform agenda, my Department published the Public Service Reform Plan in November 2011. This plan identified procurement reform as a key instrument that can assist the public service to deliver services in an efficient manner.

The reform plan includes specific measures to ensure that:

1. aggregated procurement arrangements are utilised across the public service;

2. public bodies have appropriately trained staff to implement reform and to ensure the State is getting value for money; and

3. greater emphasis will be placed on analysing what the State purchases in order to assess other savings that can be made through more efficient procurement methods.

Since its establishment in 2009, the National Procurement Service (NPS) has put in place a number of national arrangements designed to secure better value for money from leveraging the public service’s buying power in relation to a range of goods and services that are commonly purchased across the public service. These national arrangements have benefits that include: cash savings; administrative savings from reduced duplication of tendering; greater purchasing expertise; improved consistency; and enhanced service levels. In some instances the take up of the NPS arrangements has been low. In order to increase the usage of the NPS arrangements and thereby secure best value for money, the Government decided that it should be mandatory for public service bodies to use specified national procurement arrangements.

The NPS has reported procurement savings to the end of 2012 under its frameworks of €93.1m, comprising of €7.5m in 2010, €46.5m in 2011 and a further €39.1m for 2012, which include administrative savings. A breakdown of these procurement savings is not readily available by sector. The NPS has established a Working Group to develop the saving methodologies and reporting of procurement savings in the future.

Circular 06/12 implements the Government decision by making it a mandatory requirement that public service bodies avail of specified national arrangements put in place by the NPS. The list of categories subject to national procurement arrangements includes: electricity; natural gas; stationery and office supplies; paper; ICT consumables; managed print services; print media advertising; and, motor vehicles. These national arrangements will secure best value for money and facilitate contracting authorities to deliver services within their budgetary constraints.

It is estimated that €9 billion is spent by public bodies annually on the public procurement of supplies and services. This is a very significant portion of overall spending and it is essential that the Public Service is achieving maximum value for money and operational efficiency in its approach to public procurement. It is for this reason that public procurement is one of the major pillars of key strategic importance under the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan.

In order to ensure that the necessary elements are in place to implement these ambitious reforms, my Department engaged Accenture to undertake a capacity and capability review of the central procurement function to identify the actions required to realise substantial savings in public procurement in the short and medium term. Of the estimated €9 billion annual spend on public procurement of supplies and services, there is procurement addressable spend of approximately €7 billion. The review estimates that implementation of its recommendations, over a three-year period, could yield potential annual savings in the range of €249 million to €637 million, depending on the approach taken. The final report on this review is available on my Department’s website.

Following the review, proposals were recently submitted to Government. These proposals represent a new consolidated and integrated approach to public procurement that includes integrating procurement policy, strategy and operations in one office through the establishment of a National Procurement Office (under the aegis of my Department) which will be headed by a Chief Procurement Officer; strengthening spend analytics and data management; examining the specifications set out for goods and services; evaluating demand levels to assess how demand (volume) can be reduced; and strengthening vendor and category management.

These proposals have now been agreed by Government and the Chief Procurement Officer is preparing a Procurement Reform Implementation Plan, which will be submitted to Government by the end of Q1 2013.

These reforms will lead to reductions in the cost of goods and services; better procurement services at lower cost; introduction of technical standardisation; greater attention to contract management and better problem resolution; greater levels of professionalism among staff responsible for procurement; and better performance management of the central procurement function.

Question No. 163 answered with Question No. 19.

Planning Issues

Questions (164)

Tom Fleming

Question:

164. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will expedite the transaction with Kerry County Council regarding provision of a site for proposed new cemetery on the grounds of the Derrynane Abbey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10732/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The conveyancing of the property at Derrynane from the Commissioners of Public Works to Kerry County Council has been a complex legal process. The key issue is establishing title documentation. I understand that the matter has progressed significantly in conjunction with the Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO) and I am informed that draft contract documents have now been prepared by the CSSO. As soon as the Office of Public Works has received these contracts they will receive immediate attention in order to conclude matters as quickly as possible.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

Questions (165)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

165. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the funding available for homes that are flooded due to river flooding through the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10734/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works does not provide direct financial assistance to individual households affected by flooding.

Households experiencing exceptional financial distress as a result of flooding can apply for Humanitarian Aid which is administered by the Department of the Social Protection. Details on Humanitarian Aid and Urgent Needs Allowances are available on that Department’s website www.welfare.ie

The focus of the OPW's work is to manage flood risk both at the strategic level, through the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) programme, and more directly, through its flood relief capital works investment programme.

Details of the CFRAM programme can be found at www.cfram.ie.

The OPW, in partnership with local authorities, undertakes or funds both major and minor flood relief capital works throughout Ireland. Under the Government's Infrastructure and Capital Investment Medium Term Exchequer Framework 2012 - 2016, a total allocation of €225 million has been made for the flood relief capital investment programme over the 5 year period of the framework. The major flood relief schemes funded under the programme, such as in Mallow and Clonmel for example, provide protection to a large number of households and commercial properties and are designed to protect against the 1 in 100 year flood event.

In addition, under the Minor Works scheme, the OPW funds smaller scale, more localised flood relief works and measures carried out by local authorities in their administrative areas. Local authorities may apply for funding assistance, subject to meeting the criteria for the scheme and the availability of funds.

Employment Appeals Tribunal

Questions (166)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

166. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be paid moneys by their former employer following a ruling by the employment appeals tribunal in their favour; if a State redundancy payment or assistance may become available to them in the event that such moneys will not be forthcoming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10534/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

This case came before the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) by way of an appeal for implementation of a Rights Commissioner decision under the terms of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007. The EAT heard the appeal on 2 December, 2011.

The EAT being satisfied that the decision under the terms of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007, had not been carried out by the respondent, the time for bringing an appeal against the recommendation had expired and no such appeal having been brought, made an order to the like effect as the decision of the Rights Commissioner (Ref No: UD94885/10/MR refers). The EAT awarded €10,400.00 to the appellant under the terms of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 to 2007. The determination issued to all parties on 23 December, 2011.

As this company is in liquidation claims against the company including the payment of this award should be made in the first instance to the liquidator (address provided above). The liquidator may then seek to have payment of the award made from the Social Insurance Fund Fund. The Social Insurance Fund is now administered by the Department of Social Protection. The claim will be processed upon receipt from the liquidator, by that Department and if appropriate, payment will be made to the liquidator on behalf of your constituent.

If having communicated with the liquidator your constituent requires further information with regard to the payment of his award he should contact the Department of Social Protection as follows: Insolvency Payments Section, Floor 3, Department of Social Protection, Block C, The Earlsfort Centre, Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 2. Telephone: 01 6734501

Job Expansion Fund

Questions (167)

Billy Timmins

Question:

167. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding financial assistance for employers who wish to take on new employees; the assistance available to help them to take on employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10688/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

In general, the supports provided by my Department’s agencies are designed to support business development through a range of start-up and expansion programmes. In relation to the recruitment of employees, Enterprise Ireland provides grant support up to a maximum of €15,000 per job towards the recruitment of new employees under its Job Expansion Fund. This scheme applies to SMEs which have been trading for at least two years with 10 or more full time employees, in manufacturing and/or high-growth potential traded services. Companies must be looking to recruit a minimum of three new employees per application. Enterprise Ireland can also provide partial funding towards the cost of recruiting a key manager with skills that are crucial to the future growth of client companies, but this is not intended to be a general recruitment subsidy.

Financial assistance for employers who wish to take on new employees is more generally available through Revenue’s Job Assist scheme and the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection.

Under Job Assist, an employer who recruits a person who has been on the Live Register for 12 months or more is entitled to a double write-off of the person’s wages and employer’s PRSI for three years.

Under the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive scheme, employers are exempt from the payment of employer’s PRSI contribution for 18 months if they recruit a person who has been on the Live Register for six months or longer.

The take-up of these two schemes has been quite poor, in spite of increased promotion of the schemes under the Action Plan for Jobs 2012. Under the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs, therefore, the Government has announced the introduction of a new single simplified scheme to replace Job Assist and the PRSI Incentive scheme from the middle of this year.

The new JobsPlus scheme will provide a fixed grant payment to businesses for each new employee recruited from the Live Register who has been unemployed for 12 months or more. In order to target the scheme in favour of the more long term unemployed, the value of the incentive will be set at two levels: €7,500 in respect of recruits unemployed for more than 12 months but less than 24 months; and €10,000 in respect of recruits unemployed for more than 24 months.

It is proposed that the new incentive will be payable on a monthly basis, in arrears, over a two year period.

The JobsPlus scheme will be operated by the Department of Social Protection. Pending its introduction, Revenue Job Assist and the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive scheme will continue to operate.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (168)

Seán Fleming

Question:

168. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of agency and contract staff currently employed under the aegis of his Department; the mechanism in place for monitoring and managing the associated costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10985/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

There are no agency or contract staff currently employed in my Department except for the following staff appointed by me and the Ministers of State at my Department: two special advisers, one personal assistant in each Minister’s office, one personal secretary in each Minister's office and two civilian drivers for each Minister.

Staff who occupy the posts listed above are paid an annual salary which is outlined in their respective contracts and agreed with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. As this is a day to day matter for the agencies, I have asked the agencies under the aegis of my Department to respond directly to the Deputy.