Public Sector Reform Review

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 44.

Questions (54)

Joe Higgins

Question:

54. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has estimated the deflationary impact on the economy that will result in cutting the pay and premia of public sector workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10377/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I refer to my reply to Question No. 16 of 23 January 2013.

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 44.

Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale

Questions (56)

Mick Wallace

Question:

56. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on a report commissioned by Impact, entitled Assessment of the Consequences of the Proposed Sale of Coillte’s Timber Harvesting Rights, which found no economic case for the sale of Coillte's harvesting rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10368/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Proposals for the sale of Coillte's harvesting rights under the State assets disposal programme are being considered within the context of a full and rigorous assessment of all the implications of a harvesting rights transaction for both the company and the timber processing sector in general.

My department has actively engaged with Coillte, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the NewERA unit of the NTMA over recent months to examine the financial and other implications of a harvesting rights sale. In this context, a number of detailed financial, technical and other specialist reports have also been prepared by external advisors in full consultation with the Board of Coillte and its executive management.

The authors of the IMPACT commissioned report, on the other hand, have not had the opportunity to consider the very detailed information available to the State and their analysis of the potential costs and proceeds from a harvesting rights transaction appears to be based on historical, publicly-available information as well as a number of assumptions in relation to transaction structure and sale conditions which are not necessarily in line with the proposals that the Government is currently developing.

Construction Contracts

Questions (57)

Joe McHugh

Question:

57. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his strategy for supporting construction subcontractors; the progress that has been made in this strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10232/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, my colleague Minister of State Brian Hayes is working with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator’s private member’s Construction Contracts Bill into a robust piece of legislation. The Bill has passed Second Stage in the Dáil.

The key objective of the Construction Contracts Bill is to ensure that cash flows down the supply chain on all construction contracts. This issue is addressed in the Bill by providing statutory arrangements in relation to payments under construction contracts, including providing for interim payments. The Bill also provides the means for subcontractors to enforce these rights; by suspending their labour and the provision of statutory adjudication.

I understand that Minister Hayes will shortly bring proposals to Government in advance of Committee Stage. This is an important piece of legislation aimed at creating a more level playing field between contractor and subcontractor in the construction sector. Therefore it is essential that these complex issues are properly assessed so as to avoid imposing unnecessary regulatory or cost burdens on parties in dispute, the State or others.

Departmental Staff Rehiring

Questions (58)

Joan Collins

Question:

58. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of public sector workers who have retired in the last three years within his Department or any office or body under his aegis that have been reinstated; if he will provide details on the pay rates they are receiving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10995/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Details are set out in the following table of the officials who retired from my Department in the last three years that are currently employed by the Department:

GRADE

POSITION HELD

DURATION

COST

2012 / 2013

Counsellor

To assist in preparations for and the duration of the Irish Presidency of the European Union, January-June 2013

Contract from 1 May 2012 to 30 June 2013

Approx €35,516 (for period of contract)

First Secretary

Embassy Canberra (temporarily filling vacant post)

Contract from December 2012 – March 2013

Approx €17,145 (for period of contract)

The policy of my Department regarding the re-engagement of retired officials is to do so to the minimum extent possible. However, for certain once-off or short-duration projects, it is more productive and cost-effective to re-engage retired staff who already have the relevant expertise and experience than to go through a time-consuming and relatively expensive recruitment, induction and training process. Where it occurs, retired staff are usually re-engaged on a pension abatement basis, which means in effect that they continue to receive their pensions and are paid correspondingly reduced salaries by the Department.

My Department’s Development Cooperation Division also occasionally engages a small number of retired staff for short duration specialist consultancy projects connected with the activities of Irish Aid.

There are no State agencies or bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Questions (59)

Robert Troy

Question:

59. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance the measures he is taking to ensure a clampdown on the illicit tobacco trade. [10463/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax and for tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products, that they attach a high priority to dealing with this criminal activity. Their "Strategy on Combating the Illicit Tobacco Trade (2011-2013)", which is published on the Revenue website (www.revenue.ie), includes a range of measures designed to complement each other in targeting the supply and demand sides of the market for illicit tobacco products. This multi-faceted strategy includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, ongoing review of operational policies, development of analytics and detection technologies, and optimum deployment of resources at both point of importation and within the country to intercept and seize illegal products and to prosecute those involved.

Interception of illicit tobacco products is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling, intelligence, and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages. Revenue officers also target the illicit trade at the post-importation level by carrying out intelligence-based operations and random checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises.

In carrying out this important work Revenue works in close cooperation with other relevant agencies, both nationally and internationally. There is extensive cooperation between Revenue and An Garda Síochána, and the agencies concerned in the State and in Northern Ireland work closely together, through a cross-border group on tobacco enforcement, to target the organised crime groups that are responsible for a large proportion of the illegal tobacco market. In addition, cooperation takes place with other revenue administrations and with the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, in the ongoing efforts to tackle the illicit trade at international level.

Considerable success has been achieved in combating the illegal trade, and more than 95 million illicit cigarettes were seized during 2012. Revenue is committed to ensuring that the highest possible levels of seizures of illicit product are achieved on an ongoing basis and will see to it that this work continues to have high priority.

There has been considerable success also in detecting and prosecuting those involved in the illicit trade, with 132 convictions during 2012 for the smuggling or sale of illicit products.

Revenue is conscious that those involved in the illegal trade in tobacco are constantly looking to avoid detection by seeking out new ways of smuggling the illicit product and putting it on the market, and that its own response needs to be agile and adaptive in combating this criminal activity to take account of this.

Property Taxation Exemptions

Questions (60)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

60. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Finance if a person with multiple sclerosis who had a house built to their specific needs will be exempt from paying the property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10518/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I assume the Deputy is referring to the Local Property Tax (LPT). I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to give a definitive reply based on the information provided by the Deputy. While there is no specific exemption from the LPT for a person with multiple sclerosis, the Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill 2013 contains a provision that, if enacted, may be helpful, depending on the particular circumstances involved. Section 6 of the Bill provides for a reduction in the market value of a residential property that has been adapted for occupation by a disabled person where the adaptation has been grant-aided by a local authority. The impact of specific adaptations on a property can be to decrease the value which may in turn impact on the LPT liability.

The market value reduction is limited to the lesser of the market value attributable to the adaptation work carried out on the property and the maximum grant payable under the relevant local authority scheme. The relief ends on the sale or transfer of a property that has been adapted, unless the person with the disability continues to reside in the property.

Primary Medical Certificates Applications

Questions (61)

James Bannon

Question:

61. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance if he will reconsider the application for a primary medical certificate for the purpose of section 92 of the Finance Act 1989 and the Disabled Passengers (Tax Concession) Regulations 1994, which was refused following a purported medical examination in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford when in fact they were not examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10689/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, to those who meet certain disability criteria. The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get the Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:

a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

c) be without both hands or without both arms;

d) be without one or both legs;

e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of

g) movement of the lower limbs.

If the Primary Medical Certificate is refused, the person may appeal the refusal to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. I would point out that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Questions (62)

Robert Troy

Question:

62. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he has any indicative figures of the potential loss of excise duty from the sale of tobacco illicitly. [10464/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that determining the scale of any illicit black market activity, and the loss of excise duty that it causes, is problematic, and any estimates of such loss need to be viewed with caution. In the case of cigarettes, I am advised that a survey in respect of 2011 carried out for the Revenue Commissioners and the Health Service Executive found that some 770 million illicit cigarettes were consumed in the State. This would indicate a loss of the order of €258 million in excise duty and VAT, in that year.

A similar survey was undertaken in 2012, and the results are being compiled at present.

IBRC Liquidation

Questions (63)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

63. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance following the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Act and the appointment of a special liquidator to resolve IBRC's balance sheets, the way the liquidator will deal with outstanding loans to the company; the way the liquidator will approach the outstanding issue of loans that are secured against mortgaged properties, where the property owner has arranged a debt write down with their bank following a sale; his views on whether the liquidator should allow property sales to go ahead and loans to be separated out from properties and repaid to the liquidator, or whatever asset manager is eventually appointed, on their own. [10475/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by the Special Liquidators that any properties for sale where the sales contract has not been signed will be included in the valuation process as set out in the IBRC Act. No property will be sold unless the bid is equal to in excess of the independent valuation that is to be obtained as part of that process. The contractual terms and conditions of mortgage customers will not change as a result of the appointment and all debts owing to IBRC (In Special Liquidation) remain due and enforceable. I have been advised that it is the intention of the Special Liquidators to package and sell the mortgage book as a portfolio. Borrowers, third parties and other financial institutions will be given the opportunity to bid for specific portfolios (or component parts thereof) as part of an open and transparent process. As this sales process has not yet commenced, the Special Liquidators are not in a position to comment or speculate on the impact this may or may not have on the borrowers concerned or the arrangements that may or may not be agreed with the eventual purchasers of those assets.