Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Questions (356)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

356. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason for the delay in the payment of social welfare payments and pensions on 1 and 2 May 2014; if her Department had been made aware of the issues surrounding the single euro payments area and advised to make payments for the previous working day to ensure clients were not inconvenienced; the reason they do not follow this course of action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21023/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Irish Payment Services Organisation (IPSO) advised that Thursday 1 May 2014 was a bank holiday in most euro area/EU countries and, as a result, the Euro payments clearing and settlement system would be closed. This meant that all Euro electronic payments due to be processed on Thursday 1 May would not be credited to accounts until Friday 2 May. IPSO encouraged business and consumers to make payments one day earlier on Wednesday 30 April.

Accordingly, the Department of Social Protection brought all social welfare payments due to be paid via electronic funds transfers to its customers which were due on Thursday 1 May forward to Wednesday 30 April. All customers due an EFT payment to an account in financial institution on Thursday 1 May received payment on Wednesday 30 of April.

I want to emphasise that IPSO did not advise my department to bring forward payments due on Friday 2 May to Wednesday 30 April. IPSO did advise my department that there would be a "slight delay" to payments on Friday 2 May as a result of the closure of the settlement system a day earlier. IPSO also advised my department that payments would begin arriving in accounts from early morning. This department placed notices for customers and staff to this effect on its website.

It is very disappointing that despite advices from IPSO that there would be a "slight delay" with EFT payments on Friday 2 May, many of my department's customers and staff experienced substantial delays in receiving their social welfare payments and salary payments on Friday 2 May.

I want to emphasise that my department transferred the necessary payment files to its banking provider well in advance of the required timeline to ensure prompt payments to its customers and staff on that date.

As part of putting in place measures to ensure my department’s customers and staff will not experience any other delays in our payments around future bank holidays my department require an understanding as to what exactly happened in the inter-bank payment system on Friday 2 May which gave rise to the significant payment delays that occurred on that day. The department has written to the Chief Executive Officer of IPSO seeking a clear outline of the reasons for the delays across the payment services of financial institutions on 2 May last.