Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Questions (327)

Seán Fleming

Question:

327. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of State agencies and public bodies that have been merged or abolished in each year since 2011, under the remit of his Department; the annual savings associated with each body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21797/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

There is a substantial programme of reform underway within my Department in relation to Agencies and public bodies. The bodies under the remit of my Department that are scheduled to be merged, reformed or abolished are set out under the Government’s Agency Rationalisation Programme. These reforms include:

- Merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority into one single entity.

- Dissolve the 35 County Enterprise Boards and transfer their functions to Enterprise Ireland to be delivered by Local Authorities in Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). This will facilitate the delivery of an enhanced service and range of supports to the micro and small business sectors.

- Dissolve Forfás and provide for the transfer of the agency’s assets, liabilities and staff to my Department and other bodies, as appropriate.

- Transfer relevant enterprise functions from Shannon Development to IDA, EI and Bord Fáilte and merge Shannon Development with Shannon Airport Authority.

- Reform of the State's Workplace Relations Services to deliver a simplified two-tiered structure comprising a single body of first instance, the Workplace Relations Commission, and a single body of appeal, in effect an enhanced Labour Court.

Details of the up to date position on the above measures, and the savings associated with each, are set out in the table below.

Measure

Position to date

Associated annual savings

Merge the National Consumer Agency (NCA) and the Competition Authority into one single entity

The Competition and Consumer Protection Bill 2014 which was published on the 31st March 2014, when enacted, will give effect to the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

While there will be up front costs associated with the establishment of the new body, savings of approximately €170,000 per annum will be achieved as there will be no fees for a Board or Chairperson to be paid (or associated costs such as travel and subsistence for Board members) while some minor savings might be realised in relation to public relations and audit activities.

Dissolve the 35 County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and transfer their functions to Enterprise Ireland (EI).

The 35 City and County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) were legally dissolved on 15th April 2014 and their functions transferred to Enterprise Ireland to be delivered on their behalf by the Local Authorities.

It is anticipated that over time there will be some savings from the removal of costs associated with the individual company status of each CEB. In addition, the use of shared services and the reduced rental costs associated with the relocation of offices will result in savings. However initial direct savings will be modest.

Dissolve Forfás and provide for the transfer of the agency’s assets, liabilities and staff to my Department and other bodies, as appropriate.

Primary legislation is necessary to give effect to the decision to integrate Forfás into my Department by the transfer of the functions and staff of Forfás to my Department and a number of state agencies. The Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Bill 2013 was passed by Dáil Éireann on 9th April 2014 and has now been referred to the Seanad with an expected commencement date of 20th May. It is expected that the Bill will be enacted in June 2014. The various sections of the Bill will commence on dates to be specified by the Minister after the enactment of the Bill.

An Implementation Group, comprising senior management from my Department, Forfás, and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, is overseeing the integration project and meets on a regular basis. An Executive style Board has also been put in place in Forfás to oversee the transfer of the agency’s functions and responsibilities.

A number of decisions that did not require legislation have already been implemented including:

- the reduction of the Board of Forfás from 13 members to 6 to oversee the orderly hand-over of Forfás’ functions;

- the transfer of the facilities, property management and reception/switchboard services from Forfás to IDA Ireland in July 2013.

If Forfás had a full complement (13) of Board members as provided for under the legislation, the anticipated Board Fees in a full year would be €98,000 (approx). As a consequence of the reduction in Board numbers in 2012, the expenditure on Board fees in 2013 was €21,000, indicating a saving of €77,000 in 2013. As Forfás is likely to be dissolved mid year 2014, the Forfás Board will no longer exist and the anticipated saving in 2014 would be approximately €88,000.

Transfer relevant enterprise functions from Shannon Development to IDA, EI and Bord Fáilte and merge Shannon Development with Shannon Airport

Shannon Development’s functions and the associated staff in relation to indigenous enterprises and foreign direct investment have been transferred to Enterprise Ireland and IDA respectively. Shannon Development’s functions in relation to tourism including the Regional Tourism Offices have been transferred to Fáilte Ireland. These changes have been accompanied by the redeployment of staff to other public bodies and the implementation of a voluntary redundancy scheme. The restructuring of Shannon Development has been completed. The Government recently approved legislation "State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill 2014" to establish the Shannon Group as part of a drive to establish an International Aviation Services Centre in the mid-west with the aim of delivering new routes and new jobs for the region.

This is a restructuring and merger of Shannon Development and Shannon Airport. As Shannon Development is self-financing there will be no cost saving in 2014. There will, however, be an elimination of duplication of roles between Shannon Development, Enterprise Agencies and Fáilte Ireland in the region.

Reform of the State’s Workplace Relations Services to deliver a simplified two-tier structure comprising a single body of first instance, the Workplace Relations Commission, and a single body of appeal, in effect an enhanced Labour Court

The process of establishing a new two-tier workplace relations structure is continuing. A considerable amount of work has been completed on the preparation of the Workplace Relations Bill, which will give statutory effect to the reform proposals.

Significant progress has been achieved to date in relation to the technological, structural, administrative and staffing changes required to underpin the Workplace Relations Reform Programme. Pending the enactment of legislation, my Department has put in place a Single Contact Portal, e-complaint facility, Staffing and Structures Plan, Workplace Relations website and early resolution service, together with enhanced technologies and processes in advance of the enabling legislation.

Legislation to give effect to the Workplace Relations Bill is currently on the A list of the Government’s legislative programme. Drafting of the Bill is at an advanced stage.

I propose to publish the Bill before the end of the Spring/Summer Dáil session 2014, with a view to having the proposed new Workplace Relations structures in place during 2014.

The annual cost of the Workplace Relations Services amounted to just over €20 million in 2010. It is expected that significant savings, in terms of both reductions in staff numbers and increased efficiency and productivity, will be generated by this Reform Programme.

Annual savings of €2 million per annum will be generated. As part of the ongoing service delivery improvements within the Reform Programme the Equality Tribunal is now an intrinsic part of the Workplace Relations grouping within my Department having transferred from the Department of Justice and Equality with effect from 1st January 2013.

Discover Science and Engineering (DSE) Programme

In March 2012, responsibility for the DSE Programme transferred from Forfás to Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). The programme is now named SFI Discover

The transfer of DSE to SFI resulted from synergies between the DSE programme and SFI’s outreach programmes, and this transfer of responsibility was not by itself expected to generate cost savings. The integration of these programmes has achieved economies of scale, minimised duplication of effort, and contributed to operational efficiencies.

Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the Government

The Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser was included in the bodies due for critical review under the Public Sector Reform initiative. Following a Government decision in October 2012 to abolish the separate Office of the CSA, the Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) took responsibility for the role of Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government in addition to his existing role and co-terminous with his tenure as Director General of SFI.

There is an annual savings of €120,000 arising from this efficiency.

In addition, I would draw the Deputy’s attention to the fact that, following enactment of the Microenterprise Loan Fund Act 2012, Microfinance Ireland was established as a private limited company in August 2012, as a subsidiary of the Social Finance Foundation and has charitable status. Microfinance Ireland has been funded by the Government to provide loans to newly established and growing microenterprises across all industry sectors that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks.