Proposed Legislation

Questions (9)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


9. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he intends to action the 2011 programme for Government commitment to legislate for a reformulated code of laws, replacing both the Ministers and Secretaries Acts and the Public Service Management Act, on the legal relationship between Ministers and their civil servants and their legal accountability for decisions and for management of Departments. [10439/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In line with the Programme for Government commitment referred in the Deputy’s question, I am committed to bringing forward the necessary legislative changes or other reforms to meet the objective of ensuring greater clarity and legal certainty regarding the legal relationship between Ministers and their civil servants and the appropriate accountabilities that apply in each case.

The Deputy may be aware of the background to this commitment.

The need to see, in appropriate circumstances, beyond the corporate ‘veil’ of ministerial responsibility that often descends on government departments when significant issues are raised regarding administrative performance was a priority highlighted by both government parties prior to the last election.

The "New Government, Better Government" policy document which I authored advocates a wide-ranging series of reforms to ministerial responsibility and in particular legislative reform to re-define the relationship between Ministers and their Departments. While this is a complex area, the fundamental objective is to enshrine three basic propositions:-

- If the Minister takes a decision personally, he or she should say so and account for it.

- If the decision is taken by the Department then the relevant, named official should say so and account for it.

- The Minister would then have to account for the degree of supervision and oversight he or she exercised over the Department

I have asked the Government Reform Unit in my Department to carry out a review of the current accountability framework for ministers and civil servants set out in the Ministers and Secretaries Acts and the Public Service Management Act, 1997.

Work is now at an advanced stage in my Department in finalising a policy paper based on the outcome of that review. The paper examines the current legislative framework underpinning civil service accountability in these statutes, as well as the current administrative and organisational accountability arrangements in place. It also explores the international practice and developments in this area. To assist with this work, a consultation process on these issues has been carried out; this initially included international academics, national experts and commentators and some senior civil servants.

I expect to bring this paper to Government shortly to seek approval for the publication of the policy paper. It is intended that the paper should act as a basis for a process of wider consultation on the proposed reforms.

I look forward to hearing the views of the Deputy and other members of this House in the course of this consultation.

Public Procurement Tenders

Questions (10)

Peadar Tóibín


10. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in view of the National Procurement Service annual survey's 2012 acknowledgement that the challenges facing micro enterprises include particular barriers to participation in the public procurement market the action he will take to reduce existing barriers and increase micro enterprise participation in the public procurement process. [10431/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In March 2012 in conjunction with Minister for Small Business John Perry and I launched a Report on Opportunities in Public Sector Procurement.  The Report, compiled by DCU, was a result of Ireland’s first national survey of public procurement practice, carried out by the National Procurement Service (NPS) of the OPW, with over 4,000 suppliers and 600 public procurers contributing to the research. Some of the key recommendations regarding micro industry are outlined below.

1. Minimise Barriers to Micro and Young Enterprises through Open Tendering

Department of Finance Circular 10/2010 recommends that all supplies and services contracts below €125,000 and all works contracts below €250,000 are to be awarded under open procedure. The National Procurement Service actively promotes the use of the open procedure at its training courses for public sector buyers. It also provides a link on eTenders showing that the open procedure should be used below the Thresholds stated.

2. Facilitate Micro-enterprise Access through Lots and Joint Bidding

The new eTenders website is designed to make it easier for public sector buyers to use lots when going to tender. It allows the buyer to specify the number of lots and then to provide detailed specifications for each lot. The new system also allows for suppliers to include a separate bid if where they win all lots available in a tender. Again the National Procurement Service actively promotes the use of Lots at its training courses for public sector buyers.

Similarly the NPS encourages SMEs and micro-enterprises to collaborate on public sector tenders by encouraging joint bidding or consortium formation.

In NPS competitions, the tender documents explicitly seek to encourage the participation of SMEs. A prime example of this is when the NPS decided to divide the office supplies contract into three individual lots for Stationery, ICT Consumables and Paper. SMEs that believed the scope of the competitions were beyond their technical or business capacity were encouraged to explore the possibilities of forming relationships with other SMEs or with larger enterprises.

Through such relationships they could participate and contribute to the successful implementation of any contracts that resulted from these competitions and therefore increase their social and economic benefits. Larger enterprises were also encouraged to consider the practical ways that SMEs could be included in their proposals to maximise the social and economic benefits of the contracts that result from these tenders.

3. Reduce Paperwork Burden

The NPS in conjunction with the Chief State Solicitor's Office have produced a set of standardised documents for use by contracting authorities when tendering. This has permitted suppliers to become more familiar with the questions to be answered and the forms to be appended to their tender thus making it easier for them to respond to tenders. The new eTenders website also allows suppliers to load their corporate documents such as Tax Clearance Certificates, Accounts etc on to the site just once where they can be used for multiple tenders. These documents are stored securely and comply with the data protection requirements.

The NPS places Prior Information Notices on the EU's official Journal, which give up to a years notice of intention to go to the market for goods or services. Similar information is also made available on the NPS web.

The National Procurement Service (NPS) is working with an established collaborative working group to identify and implement practical solutions to challenges for the SME sector in relation to public procurement.

In exceptional circumstances, and if appropriate, the NPS pilots innovative solutions that can involve research and expenditure up to EU thresholds with a view to informing future tender competitions and the development RFTs that would issue to market.

The NPS Survey for 2013 has just closed and again has had a very positive response form both Suppliers and Buyers. A report on the findings of this latest survey will issue in the second quarter.

Public Service Reform Plan Measures

Questions (11)

Catherine Murphy


11. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will specifically outline the way the interests of the citizen user of public services are included in framing the reform objectives of his Department; if he has consulted with citizen and consumer advocacy groups to ensure that his proposals are geared towards providing the best possible service from the perspective of the citizen user; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10193/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Government’s Public Service Reform Plan, published in November 2011, is based on five core commitments to change, which include "Placing customer service at the core of everything we do". To this end, the Reform Plan includes a range of actions to improve the citizen’s access to, and interaction with, Government services.

No one has a monopoly on good ideas and a broad range of voices, opinions and perspectives should be used to inform and enhance the decision-making and planning processes. In terms of public services, it makes sense that the views of service users are sought and valued, and I welcome all constructive input and feedback in this context. For this reason, I regularly meet with the relevant Oireachtas Committees to review progress on the Reform Plan and outline planned initiatives.

Engagement with the citizen and improving customer services are important and ongoing considerations for all Government Departments and Agencies. As part of this, the Customer Charter initiative involves a process whereby Departments and Agencies are required to consult with their customers, to set service standards, to measure progress against those standards and to report on that progress in their annual reports. To assist organisations in this process, my Department published revised guidelines for the Preparation of Customer Charters and Customer Action Plans last year.

Consultation on specific policy issues is undertaken by the relevant Department or Agency. For example, in the context of my own Department, members of the public were invited to submit suggestions for savings and efficiencies as part of the Comprehensive Expenditure Review in 2011. More recently, my Department has undertaken consultation processes on issues such as the regulation of lobbying, Whistleblowers legislation and proposals for changes to the Civil Service Accountability framework.

The overall reform programme also sets out to make Government more open, transparent and accountable. Significant progress is being made in this area, for example, the extension of the Ombudsman’s remit, establishing a legal framework for Oireachtas inquiries, reform and extension of Freedom of Information, regulation of lobbying and the introduction of comprehensive whistleblower protections. In the context of being open to a wide range of voices and perspectives, I would also make reference to the Convention on the Constitution, which is a forum of 100 people, including 66 randomly selected citizens.

Overall, we are making good progress on the implementation of our ambitious programme of Public Service Reform. In this context, our objective is not just a leaner and more efficient Public Service, but also a more integrated, responsive and customer-focused Public Service.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Questions (12)

Michael McGrath


12. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress he expects to be made in 2013 on the implementation of the stimulus plan announced in July 2012; the number of jobs that will be created under the plan in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10399/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

On the 17th of July 2012, the Government announced its plans for an additional 2.25 billion euro investment in public infrastructure projects in Ireland. The most important contribution capital investment can now make is in providing the capacity for the economy to grow, which will in turn create employment.

As the Deputy will recall, the stimulus package included 1.4 billion euro to fund the proposed new Public Private Partnerships (PPP) programme and the delivery of this is the initial focus for my Department. This 1.4 billion euro investment is additional to the direct investment by the exchequer in infrastructure which will be some 3.4 billion euro in 2013.

Job creation is a critical priority for Government. Investment in the projects included in the Stimulus package is expected to generate significant numbers of jobs spread out across the country. Previous analysis of each sector indicates that the investment in the PPP Pipeline may generate around 13,000 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs. It will also create much needed social and economic infrastructure and aid economic recovery. I have asked my Department to update this analysis to verify these figures and help to target our scarce resources to best effect.

I am anxious that this new Programme be rolled out as quickly as possible so that we can create the extra jobs on the ground without delay. The PPP projects are large value investments and by their nature are complex and take time to develop and deliver both for the public and the private sector. From the public sector side, my Department is working closely with the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) and Sponsoring Departments to progress projects and to accelerate delivery of the programme. On the basis of this work, NDFA expect to issues tenders for the schools bundles by end May, at the latest. The tender for the Primary Care Centres Bundle is expected to be issued in August followed by the Grangegorman tender in September. Tenders for the two new PPP roads projects are also due to issue by the summer.

The preparatory work for the projects is well underway in the various Departments and Agencies. At this early stage in the process most of the employment impact to date has been in the technical and advisory areas.

It is too early to provide exact numbers of jobs created so far, although some projects such as the new DIT Grangegorman project have already seen significant employment impact where a team of 40 architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and other specialists are already in place. Similarly in relation to the schools and primary care centres, a number of technical advisors and design teams are in place.

The NDFA have established a model to track employment creation on Schools Bundle 3 PPP project which commenced last November. To date, it shows that 321 jobs have been created by this project, 274 direct jobs and 47 indirect jobs. This model will be updated regularly and will be used to track job creation for Stimulus Package Phase 1 projects.

Further employment benefits will be evident as the projects progress through the tendering phase and construction gets underway. The indicative timetable for the projects suggest construction is expected to commence on the first roads project in Q3 2013 and on the accommodation projects by Q4 2014.

My Department together with the NDFA and the Sponsoring Authorities are also looking at how to maximise job creation as part of each tender competition that is in line with procurement regulations. With the NDFA, we are also examining ways to encourage SME participation by facilitating access to the programme and the NDFA is working with Enterprise Ireland to organise awareness raising events for SMEs.

Croke Park Agreement Issues

Questions (13)

Joe Higgins


13. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the negotiations with the public sector unions on a successor to the Croke Park Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10376/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Negotiations have taken place between public service employers and the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions regarding the Government’s stated intention to reach agreement on securing an overall saving of €1bn gross from the public service pay and pensions bill by 2015. Following intensive engagement in recent days between the parties, which was facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), the LRC has developed and recommended a set of proposals for consideration and agreement that seeks to secure the €1bn gross savings required by the Exchequer while ameliorating the impacts on public service staff particularly those on low and middle incomes to the greatest extent possible. Public servants will be able to consider the full set of proposals by the LRC which were published yesterday and the public service staff representatives who remained in negotiations have indicated that these proposals will be subject to ballot by members.

I am satisfied that, subject to its ultimate acceptance and the necessary legislation being passed by the Oireachtas, the proposals will produce the necessary savings of €1 billion over the lifetime of the Agreement.

Public Sector Staff Recruitment

Questions (14)

John Halligan


14. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of posts that have been filled in the public sector since the beginning of the moratorium on recruitment; if he will provide details by Department and the rationale for the lifting of the moratorium in these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10371/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy is aware, the Government is committed to delivering a leaner, more efficient public service; a process that continues to require tight control of public service numbers.

The moratorium on promotion and recruitment in the public service has been an important control mechanism for this purpose and has served to help reduce numbers and allow for some limited recruitment where necessary, for example in frontline service posts in the health and education sectors.

At the end of 2012, there were just over 290,000 public servants, which is a net reduction of some 30,000 since 2008. Within that, it has been necessary to allow for some limited recruitment to protect service levels, but such exemptions are only considered in exceptional cases and in pressing circumstances.

My Department is currently compiling the specific data and information requested, which will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Deputy can consult my Department’s web site, which has details on public service numbers and trends as far back as 1994.

Looking forward over the course of the next few years, the public service will be required to deliver more savings and maintain services with fewer resources and staff. Budget 2013 will deliver a further reduction in Public Service numbers to a ceiling of 287,000, and by end-2014 this must go down again to 282,500.

It is part of the day to day function of the Boards and Management of all public bodies to assess, budget and plan for current and ongoing staffing requirements within the context of reducing public service numbers. In support of this, the Strategic Workforce Planning Groups in each sector are currently ensuring that sectoral employers develop plans to deal on an ongoing basis with the operational and strategic consequences arising from the reductions in public service staffing numbers.

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Questions (15)

Mary Lou McDonald


15. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the saving to the Exchequer if all annual public sector pay, to include local authorities and State agencies, was capped at €100,000. [10428/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I refer to my replies to Questions Nos. 162, 163, 166, 167 and 171 of 8 November 2012.

The estimated full year gross saving in the Exchequer and Local Government pay bill arising from a cap of €100,000 is €290m. The estimate takes account of the reductions in pay arising from the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act, 2009, but does not take account of any offsetting reductions in taxes and levies. As the combined effect of the estimated marginal tax rate and the pension related reduction at a pay level for a public servant of €100,000 p.a. or higher is at least 62.5%, the estimated net savings would be reduced to less than €110m.

Public Procurement Regulations

Questions (16)

Michael Colreavy


16. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will confirm if National Procurement Service contracts are now mandatory for all local public sector contract procurement; and if so, the necessary minimal annual turnover of a business to qualify to tender for a contract. [10437/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In July 2012, following a government decision to make eight of the National Procurement Service (NPS) contracts mandatory, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform issued ‘Circular 06/12: Public Procurement (Framework Agreements)’. The purpose of this Circular is to inform all public bodies of the mandatory requirement to utilise central contracts, put in place by the NPS, when procuring a range of commonly acquired goods and services. Such central arrangements are targeted at securing best value for money and facilitating contracting authorities to deliver services within their budgetary constraints. The eight mandatory contracts are:

1. Stationery & Office Supplies

2. Paper

3. Janitorial Supplies

4. ICT Consumables

5. Managed Print Services (When opting for managed print service solutions it is mandatory to use this framework agreement.)

6. Advertising (Print Media)

7. Motor Vehicles (Cars and Pick-up Trucks)

- 8. Energy (Electricity and Natural Gas)

- The annual turnover required for each competition depends on the estimated value of the contract and will be different for every competition run by the NPS.

Public Sector Pensions Expenditure

Questions (17)

Micheál Martin


17. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the savings he envisages from the single public service pension scheme which came into effect on 1 January 2013; the timetable over which these will materialise; the number of employees he expects to be hired under the terms of the scheme in 2013; his views on the operation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10395/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

My Department estimates that the Single Public Service Pension Scheme will, in the long run, lead to a reduction of about one third in the cost of providing public service pensions, subject to the important caveat that long-term projections in this area are inherently subject to a high degree of uncertainty. This amounts to an eventual saving in terms of annual pension outgo of some €1.8 billion in current terms. The key features of the Single Scheme giving rise to this projected saving are career-average benefit accrual, higher pension age, and pension increases linked to consumer price inflation.

Since the Single Scheme only applies to new-entrant public servants, this foreseen long-term annual outgo saving of one third will not be fully achieved until pension payments to current pensioners and current, pre-Single Scheme, staff have ceased. On this basis, realization of the full dividend to the public finances should be approached early in the second half of this century, with meaningful annual savings emerging during the period 2040 to 2050.

At this early point in the year I am not in a position to give an estimate of the likely number of Single Scheme members who will be hired over the course of 2013. A particular uncertainty in this context is the fact that appointees to public service jobs who have worked in the public service in the 26 weeks preceding their appointment will generally not become members of the Single Scheme.

With respect to the operation of the Single Scheme, my Department is liaising closely with Government Departments and other public service employers. A key priority during the current start-up phase of the scheme is to ensure the reliable collection and remittance of member contributions. Looking further ahead I am determined to ensure that all aspects of scheme functioning, including benefit accrual recording, communication with members and periodic actuarial review are delivered in a reliable and cost-effective manner.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (18)

Denis Naughten


18. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps being taken to address flood risks within the Shannon basin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10263/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

There is on-going progress in respect of the River Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment & Management (CFRAM) Study which is the core strategy for addressing flood risk in the Shannon Basin.

That assessment is being carried out by Jacobs Engineering, consultants for the Shannon CFRAM Study. In brief the current stages of the assessment covers Data Collection & Surveying, Hydrology Analysis and Detailed Hydraulic Modelling. This stage in turn will lead to the production of a detailed suite of flood hazard maps for public consultation. Details of the Study and regular updates can be found on or

At present, detailed ground surveying of over 1,500 kilometres of watercourses in the Shannon is nearing completion. The outcome of this stage of extensive activity will provide the necessary data to allow work on the development of sophisticated hydraulic models to be advanced.

As the Deputy is aware, Jacobs Engineering was requested by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to carry out a review of the operating regulations and procedures of the control structures along the river Shannon - the River Shannon Water Level Operations Review. The purpose of the report was to identify potential improvements with respect to flood risk management that could be introduced in the short term. This review was carried out in advance of the detailed hydrological analysis and hydraulic modelling which is being addressed within the overall Shannon CFRAM Study.

Arising from consultations on the report, it was agreed, to explore the possibility of carrying out a water level monitoring exercise, involving controlled raising and lowering of weir boards at selected locations, subject to favourable hydrological conditions.

It is important to note that operational control of water flows and levels on the Shannon is a matter for both the ESB and Waterways Ireland. The OPW met with both organisations recently to review the scheduling of such an exercise having regard to existing water management protocols operated by these two bodies for the major storage areas in the Shannon system. It has been agreed that Jacobs Engineering will brief the two bodies shortly on their Operations report in order to advance the water monitoring proposal.