Vocational Education Committees Properties

Questions (222, 224)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

222. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the new premises secured by Mayo Vocational Education Committee in Ballina, County Mayo, including the amount of rent payable; the date and term of the lease; the type of parking available to the premises; a description and the area of the premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11613/13]

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Michelle Mulherin

Question:

224. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason notice to quit was served by Mayo Vocational Education Committee in the respect of an existing premises in County Mayo and a new premises (details supplied) secured; the procedure that was pursued to ensure that the VEC was obtaining the new premises for the lowest market rent; the way the new premises was identified; the person who actually procured it on behalf of the VEC and the other premises that were inspected in the process. [11642/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 224 together.

I have requested the VEC to provide a response to the matters raised by the Deputy. My Department will forward a reply directly to the deputy on receipt of the information.

School Accommodation

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 222.

Questions (223)

Seán Kyne

Question:

223. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a 13 year old prefab, in poor condition, owned by his Department will be considered for replacement under a prefab replacement programme even though no rent is being paid on same; this prefab is situated in a school (details supplied) in County Galway which has planning permission for a permanent classroom extension. [11617/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that Department officials have been in contact with the school referred to by the Deputy. The school have indicated that they will submit a report and supporting evidence in respect of the condition of the accommodation concerned shortly. Once this information is received the matter will be considered further.

Question No. 224 answered with Question No. 222.

Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (225)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

225. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of grant applications sent to Student Universal Support Ireland in September 2012 that have been refused on the basis the course the student is attending does not meet the definition of an approved course under section 8 of the Student Support Act 2011 and regulation 4 of the Student Grant Regulations 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11648/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Officials in my Department understand from Student Universal Support Ireland that, as at the 4th March 2013, 528 applicants have been refused a grant for the 2012/13 academic year on the basis that the course they are attending is not an approved course as set out in the Student Support Act 2011 and the Student Support Regulations 2012.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (226)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

226. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason it was not possible to advise a person (details supplied) who applied to Student Universal Support Ireland on what is an approved course under section 8 of the Student Support Act 2011 and regulation 4 of the Student Grant Regulations 2012 at the time of initial application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11690/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The new student grant system as currently designed endeavours to identify those who are not eligible for a student grant at the initial stage. However, on the basis of the information on the application form a person may appear eligible, but when the documentary evidence comes in (or is not submitted, as the case may be), the person can be deemed ineligible at that point. The timely notification of early refusal decisions will remain a high priority for future improvements to the process of assessing student grants.

Student Grant Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (227)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

227. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of grant applications sent to Student Universal Support Ireland prior to September 2012 which are awaiting a decision on their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11692/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Student Universal Support Ireland has been asked to supply the information requested by the Deputy. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is received.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (228)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

228. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost per application in the administration of processing each application for grant assistance through the Student Universal Support Ireland application process; the length of time taken to arrive at each decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11694/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The information requested by the Deputy will not be available until the processing of student grant applications for the 2012/13 academic year has been fully completed by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI). SUSI has commenced a close out operation for these outstanding applications to enable it to prepare the system for the next academic year. In this regard, my officials are informed by SUSI that as at the 3rd March 2013, supporting documentation is awaited from 13, 018 students –5,808 of whom have not yet provided any documentation. SUSI is in the course of offering students that still wish to proceed with their grant applications a final opportunity to submit the documentation that SUSI has requested, before they close out these applications.

Student Grant Scheme Reform

Questions (229)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

229. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reform the student grant application process for applicants including the internal workflow management processes used when dealing with applications and students in view of the problems incurred by applicants in interacting with the process in the 2012-13 cohort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11696/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

An external review of Student Universal Support Ireland's business processes is currently underway. This will inform improvements in the system for the 2013/14 academic year. The proposed timeline for completion of the review is March 2013.

Vocational Education Committees Properties

Questions (230)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

230. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the new premises of Mayo Vocational Education Committee in Castlebar; the tenure and price paid for the premises; the provision there is for parking at the new premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11702/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that approval, in principle, was given to Mayo VEC to acquire a premises in Castlebar to cater for further education and training needs in the area. I understand that draft contracts are being prepared in relation to the proposed acquisition. However, due to the commercial sensitivities attaching to property acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy at this time.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland Accreditation

Questions (231)

John Deasy

Question:

231. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the limbo endured by aspirant providers due to the establishment of the new Quality and Qualifications Ireland; when new applications for FETAC level accreditation will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11707/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy will be aware, FETAC, HETAC and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) were formally dissolved on 6 November and their functions are now undertaken by the new amalgamated qualifications and quality assurance body, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). Significant work was undertaken by those bodies on the necessary core administrative preparations for the establishment of the new Authority, such as the establishment of a new organisational structure, change of accommodation and integration of ICT infrastructure. In addition, the establishment of QQI has also involved the amalgamation of processes, including ones that have operated differently in the different agencies due to the history and nature of the different sectors. This requires the reconfiguration of current services such as the registration process for new providers, the validation and accreditation of programmes, the monitoring and review of providers and the development, review and certification of awards. It also includes the development of formal guidelines, criteria and procedures pursuant to the new Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012.

QQI is currently developing those guidelines, criteria and procedures and it is expected that new applications will be accepted by QQI in the near future. However, it should be noted that QQI continues to provide services to more than 1,000 providers which were registered with FETAC and HETAC and continues to make awards to learners.

Tribunals of Inquiry Recommendations

Questions (232)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

232. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps that he has taken to implement the recommendations of the Moriarty tribunal since its publication almost two years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11039/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

On the Moriarty Tribunal recommendation in relation to Ethics and the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), I am undertaking a comprehensive review of how ethics legislation should be reformed to provide a single, comprehensive legislative framework grounded on a clear set of principles. In that context I am examining the appropriate approach to the implementation of relevant recommendations contained in both the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals.

Oireachtas Members' Remuneration

Questions (233, 249)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

233. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will hold a constitutional referendum to remove the pensions of former Ministers and Deputies found to have received corrupt or inappropriate payments in the Mahon report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11041/13]

View answer

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

249. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if it is possible to remove the ministerial pension entitlements of a person who has been convicted of a crime or political corruption in particular a crime associated with the person's tenure as a Minister; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11518/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 249 together.

Historically the concept of forfeiture of pension benefits has been provided for under legislation such as the Forfeiture Act 1870 and Offences Against the State Act 1939. The terms of some pension schemes also envisaged circumstances where a pension might be forfeited. However this concept of forfeiture has been the subject of significant legal developments in the past 20 years or so - e.g. provisions within pension schemes relating to forfeiture being found to be ultra vires (Lovett .v. the Minister for Education: 1996), the striking down of relevant sections of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 as unconstitutional (Cox .v. Ireland: 1992), the repeal of the Forfeiture Act 1870 (Criminal Law Act 1997), earned pension being considered as a property right within the terms of the Constitution. It must also be recognized that the executive/administrative arm of the State cannot take actions which would effectively usurp the judicial function. I do not propose to request Government to hold a referendum on any amendment to the constitution.

Drainage Schemes Status

Questions (234)

John O'Mahony

Question:

234. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when work will commence on a drainage scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11161/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The channel concerned is a scheduled channel of the Moy Arterial Drainage Scheme. It was maintained in 2004 and 2008 and is included in the maintenance programme of works for 2013. The channel is in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the correct environmental protocols must be in place before works are carried out. Maintenance of the channel is normally carried out in the winter months and, as such, will likely be carried out in the period from September to December 2013.

Public Sector Management Remuneration

Questions (235)

Billy Timmins

Question:

235. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding cuts to front-line workers' pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11467/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I refer to my reply to Questions Nos. 10756, 10760 and 10854 of 28 February 2013.

State Agencies

Questions (236)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

236. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is satisfied that adequate resources are being provided to the Ombudsman and the Standards in Public Office Commission to allow each to fully carry out their duties; if he will detail their respective budgets for 2013 and the way each compares with the past ten years; if his attention has been drawn to difficulties that may have arisen since March 2011 regarding the performance of duties in each office as a result of funding constraints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11523/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I am satisfied that adequate resources are being provided to the Office of the Ombudsman and the Standards in Public Office Commission, to fully carry out their duties. The Office of the Ombudsman and the Standards in Public Office Commission are independent bodies. I am not aware of any difficulties arising in these organisations as a result of funding constraints and the organisations have undertaken their duties fully in accordance with Government budgetary policy in regard to, for example, public service pay and numbers. Information on their performances of their respective duties is published in their respective annual reports.

The budgets for the organisations for 2013 and the respective estimates and expenditure over the previous ten years are as follows:

Appropriation Account Data

Ombudsman

€'000s

SiPO

€'000s

OIC**

€'000s

Total

€'000s

2003

2,805

756

1,502

5,063

2004

2,741

860

1,518

5,119

2005

2,983

887

1,912

5,782

2006

3,326

927

1,922

6,175

2007

3,568

1,091

1,736

6,395

2008

4,722

1,033

2,061

7,816

2009

4,726

861

1,633

7,220

2010

4,537

862

1,525

6,924

2011

4,432

861

1,500

6,793

2012

4,172

869

1,212

6,253

2013*

5,326

980

1,474

7,780

* Budget Estimate Figures - Increase is as a result of amalgamation with the Commission on Public Service Standards

** Office of the Information Commissioner/Office of the Commissioner Environmental Information

Revised Estimates Data ***

Ombudsman

€'000s

SiPO

€'000s

OIC**

€'000s

Total

€'000s

2003

2,752

784

1,402

4,938

2004

2,893

1,059

1,570

5,522

2005

3,270

1,101

1,811

6,182

2006

5,325

1,191

1,922

8,438

2007

5,348

1,311

1,971

8,630

2008

5,512

1,233

2,033

8,778

2009

5,171

1,179

1,953

8,303

2010

5,026

1,130

1,864

8,020

2011

4,769

1,044

1,659

7,472

2012

4,712

917

1,466

7,095

2013*

5,326

980

1,474

7,780

*** Taken from Revised Estimates Volume Publications

Public Sector Pensions Expenditure

Questions (237)

Jim Daly

Question:

237. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total pay and pensions cost to the State highlighting the split between pay and pensions for the years 2007 to 2012 inclusive in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11622/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

It is assumed the Deputy is seeking information about public service pension expenditure and not State pensions paid by the Department of Social Protection. In this regard, I would refer the Deputy to the Analysis of Exchequer Pay and Pensions Bill 2007 – 2012, published by the Central Pay Policy Section of the Remuneration and Industrial Relations Division of my Department. This publication presents a detailed breakdown of both gross and net pay and pension expenditure in aggregate terms, by sector and by individual Vote and is available on my Department’s website at www.per.gov.ie under the Reports tab.

National Lottery Licence Sale

Questions (238)

Finian McGrath

Question:

238. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will ring-fence the modest 6% retail agent margin relating to national lottery sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11687/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy is aware, I announced in April 2012 that there will be a competition for the next National Lottery licence. It is envisaged that the competition will take place later this year. I have advised retailer representative bodies that it is my intention to safeguard the existing rates of commission paid to retailers under the terms of the next licence. I acknowledge the concerns of retailers and the importance to them of income from National Lottery sales, particularly in the current economic climate. I am also aware of the central role which retailers have played in the great success of the National Lottery since its inception. It is envisaged that retailers will continue to be central to the operation of the National Lottery over the 20 year term of the next licence. I am confident that there will be strong growth in National Lottery sales under the next licence with an alignment of interests between the next licence holder, retailers and the State, reaping benefits for all concerned.

Public Sector Management Remuneration

Questions (239)

Finian McGrath

Question:

239. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will exclude front-line workers from all the cuts as a matter of urgency. [11009/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Discussions 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 the required overall savings from the public service pay and pensions bill by 2015. Following intensive engagement 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. These proposals represent a balanced and integrated set of proposals and I have no plans to amend the proposals made. All public servants, including front-line workers, will be able to consider the full set of proposals by the LRC which have been published and the public service staff representatives who remained in negotiations have indicated that these proposals will be subject to ballot by members.

Both the Government and I are acutely aware of the very significant contributions made to date by all public servants by way of pay reductions, imposition of the pension related deduction, non-payment of pay increases and the significant productivity arising over recent years facilitated by the Public Service Agreement. Regrettably, the scale of the fiscal crisis inherited by the current Government and the absolute requirement to address and reduce the current deficit of 8% to less than 3% in 2015, requires a further contribution of €1bn from the public service pay and pensions bill which accounts for some 35% of current expenditure. Undoubtedly the impact of the proposals made by the Labour Relations Commission will add to the financial pressures on public servants who also carry the burden of increased taxes which apply to all workers. They represent a balanced set of proposals across all public service sectors to secure the savings required by the Exchequer while ameliorating the impacts for public service staff on low and middle incomes to the greatest extent possible.