Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman

Questions (232)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

232. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the action taken further to correspondence (details supplied) of 5 March 2019 further to his invitation to send on further information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13854/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I refer to the Deputy's Oral Parliamentary Question (No. 10) of 28 February 2019 regarding section 44(2) and section 50(3) of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017.

I committed that I would follow up on the matter with the Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman when I received the particulars of the case from the Deputy. At the time I also stated that in my engagement with the Ombudsman's Office I have found that it takes and discharges its responsibilities very seriously.

Following receipt of the particulars of the case from the Deputy, my officials contacted the Office of the Financial Services and Pension Ombudsman in relation to the policy issue raised by the case, the fact that a complaint cannot be made to the Ombudsman if it has been the subject of legal proceedings before a court or tribunal.

Having considered the issue, I am not convinced that there is any gap in the legislation which requires to be resolved. The Ombudsman offers an alternative method of resolving disputes with financial service providers to the courts. It is a matter for the complainant to decide, possibly in consultation with their legal advisors, whether to pursue the complaint through the courts or through the Ombudsman. However, it is right and proper that they cannot pursue the same complaint through both routes.

Tax Exemptions

Question No. 237 answered with Question No. 176.

Questions (233, 234, 235, 236)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

233. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the annual cost of the commuter Taxsaver scheme allowance in each of the years 2010 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [13860/19]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

234. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of workers using the Taxsaver commuter scheme; and the percentage of scheme participants as a percentage of the workforce in each of the years 1999 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [13870/19]

View answer

Pearse Doherty

Question:

235. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the average rate of subsidy in percentage and gross terms provided to users of the Taxsaver commuter scheme in each of the years 1999 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [13871/19]

View answer

Pearse Doherty

Question:

236. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the geographical breakdown of workers using the Taxsaver commuter scheme by county or closest possible unit of measurement in each of the years 1999 to 2018, inclusive, and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13872/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 to 236, inclusive, together.

Section 118(5A) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 exempts employees and directors from benefit-in-kind taxation where an expense has been incurred by an employer on the provision of a monthly or annual bus, rail or ferry travel pass for the employee or director. Section 118B provides that the exemption may also apply to bus, rail or ferry travel passes obtained under a salary sacrifice arrangement.

There is no specific notification procedure for the employers involved, nor for the directors or employees, nor for the transport providers. Accordingly, the Revenue Commissioners do not have statistics on the uptake of the scheme and therefore I cannot give the Deputy any detailed costs or breakdown of its impact.

My Department notes, in the current Tax Expenditures Report, that the cost of the scheme is €3.5m and that it is utilised by 35,000 annually, however these figures are estimated. The report is available at www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2019/Documents/Tax%20Expenditures%20Report%202018%20FINAL%2017.10.18%20(002).pdf

Question No. 237 answered with Question No. 176.

Brexit Issues

Questions (238)

Michael McGrath

Question:

238. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the definition of a natural or other disaster as outlined in section 5 of the National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill 2018; if a no-deal Brexit would constitute such a situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14087/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The House was informed at Second Stage that the intention behind Subsection 5 of Section 5 of the National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill 2018 was to allow for a reduction in the planned €500 million payment into the Fund in any of the years 2019 to 2023.

Such a reduction would be justified on the basis of a serious and unforeseen event during the year requiring substantial unanticipated expenditure. The reduction would not exceed the amount of additional expenditure actually incurred. The Bill deliberately does not describe such an event in greater detail than “a natural or other disaster”. This is because it is intended to refer to the type of events which are unpredictable and create an immediate cost.

I envision this contingency being activated if, for example, there is an exceptionally severe weather event causing enormous damage, or a major health or disease risk such as a significant outbreak of a contagious disease. This facility is not intended to substitute for prudent contingency budgeting by public authorities – it is only for events that are inherently exceptional, or exceptionally repeated in a given year. That might arise if there are repeated storms, for example. If this facility is used, any payment made will be directly from the Exchequer under the normal public financial procedures. In addition, the Minister for Finance will make a report to this House, in accordance with Section 5, subsection 7, as to the reasons for reducing the payment being made into the Fund.

Under the Bill the proposed “Rainy Day Fund” can be drawn on contingent on Government and Oireachtas approval being received for one of the criteria set out under section 9(2) of the Bill. Brexit is not in itself an exceptional contingency as it has been confirmed since 2016 and it has been at the core of policy making during that time. There are obvious external risks to the Irish economy including Brexit but these are known risks for which we are undertaking extensive preparedness planning, including for a no deal scenario. The Government has worked hard at national and European level to build support for Irish positions and the Government's budgetary policies have worked to ensure fiscal resilience and a balanced tax base. We are now in a far better position to weather the storm when a future crisis hits. Setting reserves aside now through the Rainy Day Fund will further strengthen our position.

Liquor Licence Fees

Questions (239)

Seán Fleming

Question:

239. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the estimated additional revenue that would be generated if the cost of renewal of a retailer off-licence increased from €500 to €700; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14149/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the table below includes the total number of Retailers Off Licences issued during 2018, broken down by licence type. The table also includes the total duty collected for each licence type and sets out the additional amount that would be generated if the cost (per licence) was increased from €500 to €700.

License Type

Licences Issued in 2018

Annual Licence Duty

Excise Licence Duty

Increased Annual Licence Duty

Excise Licence Duty

Increase

Beer Retailer’s Off Licence

3

€500

€1,500

€700

€2,100

Cider Retailer’s Off License

4

€500

€2,000

€700

€2,800

Producer’s Retail Off Licence

1

€500

€500

€700

€700

Spirit Retailer’s Off License

4

€500

€2,000

€700

€2,800

Wine Retailer’s Off License

1,344

€500

€672,000

€700

€940,800

Beer & Wine Retailer’s Off Licence

18

€1,000

€18,000

€1,400

€25,200

Spirit & Beer Retailer’s Off License

47

€1,000

€47,000

€1,400

€65,800

Spirit & Wine Retailer’s Off License

2

€1,000

€2,000

€1,400

€2,800

Spirit, Beer & Wine Retailer’s Off License

1,756

€1,500

€2,634,000

€2,100

€3,687,600

Grand Total

3,179

€3,379,000

€4,730,600

€1,351,600

Departmental Properties

Questions (240)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

240. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he holds the title to an abandoned piece of open ground at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if an application for a deed of waiver from Dublin City Council will be considered for the land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14153/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I wish to inform the Deputy that I do not hold the title to the referred piece of land. I am also advised that NAMA holds no interest in the identified land either.

Considering that neither myself nor a body under my aegis has any legal interest in the referred land it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

Questions (241)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

241. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the status of the operation of the key employee engagement programme; the number of SMEs that have received assistance under the programme by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14160/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

S128F of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for the Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP) which came into effect on 1 January 2018. The aim of the incentive is to support SMEs in Ireland in competing with larger enterprises to recruit and retain key employees, by way of a targeted share option programme.

Revenue advise me that details of the numbers availing of this programme and the number of share options issued will only be available once the relevant employer tax returns for 2018 have been received and processed. The first KEEP returns are not due until 31 March 2019.

Insurance Industry

Question No. 243 answered with Question No. 197.

Questions (242)

Michael McGrath

Question:

242. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the communication the Central Bank has had with homeowners who have lost cover for latent defect insurance after the failure of a company (details supplied); the alternative latent defect insurance that has been organised for each household impacted by the failure; the number of households that have had alternative cover organised; the number that have not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14237/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Central Bank has advised my Department that it was notified by the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority ("Danish FSA") on 7 March 2018 that it (Danish FSA) had ordered Alpha Insurance A/S (“Alpha”) to cease writing new business including renewal of existing contracts and business with immediate effect. The Central Bank was further notified on 9 May 2018 by the Danish FSA that the liquidators of the insurance company Alpha had filed a petition for bankruptcy.

As Alpha is a Danish-based insurance firm, it is subject to prudential supervision by the Danish FSA, and therefore the Central Bank had no role in this decision. Alpha was selling non-life insurance policies in Ireland through the broker network on a freedom of services basis and that it also operated in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.

According to the information for Irish policyholders, published on Alpha’s website https://alphagroup.dk, on 26th June 2018, the insolvency estate commenced the distribution of information notices, to all policyholders and claimants of Alpha Insurance A/S in bankruptcy in Ireland.

The information notice contains information on the termination of insurance policies, the Danish Guarantee Fund (Garantifonden for Skadesforsikringsselskaber), information regarding the reporting of claims to the insolvency estate and the procedure for reporting new claims.

The insolvency administrator (Boris Frederiksen from Kammeradvokaten/Poul Schmith,) provided figures to the Central Bank in December 2018 on the latent defect policies. At that time, the total number of policies was 1,617, of which 1,163 were with the homeowner (these policies were transferred from the developer to the homeowner following completion of the build). The remaining 454 policies were on houses that were not finished and therefore the policy had not transferred to a homeowner at the time of the liquidation i.e. the policy remained with the developer.

The claims handler (BCR Legal Group Limited; "BCR") confirmed to the Central Bank that its representative CRL wrote to the developers who had purchased these latent defects policies, on two occasions, to advise that Alpha had been placed in bankruptcy, that polices would be cancelled from 11 August 2018 and to request details of the owner of the properties insured under these policies. BCR subsequently wrote to all homeowners affected by the liquidation of Alpha, following receipt of their details from the developers, to advise that as Alpha had gone into liquidation, their latent defects policies had been terminated and that they should consider replacing this policy. BCR also provided these homeowners with an information sheet from the liquidators.

The Central Bank has advised that as the issue of alternative latent defect insurance is a commercial matter it does not have any information as to the number of policyholders that may have had alternative cover organised.

My officials will however contact the insolvency administrator’s office and the appointed claims handler BCR to see if any more specific information can be obtained and I will write to the Deputy with whatever response I receive.

Question No. 243 answered with Question No. 197.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

Questions (244)

Brendan Smith

Question:

244. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to implement pension provisions for community employment supervisors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12784/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

This issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to costs and precedent.

A detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues under consideration.

The scoping exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost to the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, in respect of funding to enable an employer pension contribution in State funded Community and Voluntary organisations. This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not for the State to provide funding for such pension scheme provision. The employees in question are, or were, employees of private companies notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, in receipt of State funding.

Garda Station Expenditure

Questions (245)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

245. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost of the provision of security and upkeep of Garda stations that are not in service; the costs accrued per station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12832/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I can confirm the totals costs incurred by the Office of Public Works (OPW) on security and maintenance on vacant former Garda Stations for the period from 1/1/2018 to 31/12/2018 was €343,956.43

These costs include any maintenance or other actions considered by OPW as being necessary to protect the structure and value of the property asset and/or for health and safety reasons. A breakdown of the costs is provided below:

Costs year ended 31/12/18

Maintenance

€148,438.65

Mechanical & Electrical

€49,340.58

Security

€146,177.20

Total

€343,956.43

Garda Stations

Questions (246)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

246. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the ownership of the former Garda station at Tubbermore Road, Dalkey, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12851/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The former Garda Station at Tubbermore Road, Dalkey, Co. Dublin is in the full ownership of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland (CPW).

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (247)

John Lahart

Question:

247. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to develop the Customs House as a tourist facility; if his attention has been drawn to the potential of the site as a tourism destination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13020/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The OPW is in the process of developing a Masterplan for the Custom House in association with Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government that is wide ranging and comprehensive and will include the following issues among others:

- Wider Role of the Custom House within Dublin City.

- The existing operational Visitor Centre will be enhanced as part of this process.

- Additional office accommodation.

- Conservation: a number of areas in the Custom House require considerable conservation work. These can best be addressed as part of an overall plan for the building.

- There is a requirement to modernise security and fire safety systems in the building.

- There are a number of modernisation projects required for the building in terms of ICT facilities, disability access and energy efficiency.

- The more efficient use of space would also facilitate a modern and an effective working environment.

EU Regulations

Questions (248)

Michael McGrath

Question:

248. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if an electronic identification framework has been put in place in order to comply with the eIDAS Regulation (EU) 910/2014; the details of the framework; when it will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13577/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The eIDAS Regulation (910/2014) on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market sets out to harmonise digital interoperability within the EU.

The electronic identification framework consists of a national access point called an eIDAS Node which allows EU and Irish citizens to use their notified eIDs to access public services.

My Department, led by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), is in the process of implementing a proof of concept to install and configure the national access point using the standard software building blocks provided by the Commission. The access point is currently being tested with other Member States and will then be integrated with national service providers. The expectation is that Ireland’s access point will be in place by the end of 2019 in order to be in compliance with the Regulation.

As the Deputy may be aware, a key aspect of the successful deployment of this initiative is each participating State having an e-ID infrastructure, hence the importance of SAFE 2 and MyGovID.

National Monuments

Questions (249, 270)

Clare Daly

Question:

249. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the ongoing closure of the Casino in Marino. [13938/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

270. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason the Casino in Marino has remained closed since June 2017; the nature of works being undertaken; and when it is likely to be reopened. [13937/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 270 together.

The Casino at Marino is a designated National Monument. It was necessary for the Office of Public Works, with the consent of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, to close the Casino to undertake emergency electrical remedial works. Additional conservation issues with the fabric of the building were subsequently identified and regrettably it has been necessary that the Casino remain closed while these essential works are carried out. While it is not possible to provide a definite reopening date as yet, OPW is working towards reopening the Casino to visitors by mid-summer this year. Updates on reopening will be available on www.casinomarino.ie and opw.ie

Civil Service Renewal Plan

Questions (250)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

250. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if each reform outlined in the Civil Service renewal plan been implemented; if not, the reforms outstanding; if all civil servants have clear job specifications, productivity objectives and regular performance reviews; if not, the groups, sectors or areas that do not have same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14181/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Civil Service Renewal Plan was launched in October 2014 which committed to a significant programme of reform across the Civil Service. The plan included 25 headline actions with each of the actions at various stages of implementation and delivery. The implementation of the Civil Service Renewal Plan has been carried out on a phased basis: the first phase of implementation focused on establishing governance structures, creating momentum and initiating a number of actions; the second phase successfully translated this progress into tangible results; the third phase focused on actions that directly impacted on staff, enhancing the capability of all civil servants and supporting the development a high performing and more accountable workforce; and the current phase is focused on continuing to consolidate, deepen and embed the actions of the Civil Service Renewal Plan across all Departments/Offices.

Significant progress has been made in delivering this ambitious programme of reform and significant achievements include:

- The establishment of the Civil Service Management Board which has collective responsibility for the delivering the actions in the Civil Service Renewal Plan.

- The development of a Common Governance Standard for the Civil Service.

- Further implementation of the Shared Services Programme; the Public Service ICT Strategy and Government Communications Programme.

- The Civil Service People Strategy was launched in October 2017, setting the strategic direction for Human Resource Management across the Civil Service while also recognising that each organisation is unique and has its own challenges.

- Open recruitment competitions have been held for a wide range of general service, professional and technical grades.

- A wide range of initiatives to improve gender balance across the Civil Service have been developed and are being implemented within Departments and Offices. These include an action plan to improve gender balance at senior levels.

- OneLearning has been established to centrally operate and maintain the new L&D model and to manage the delivery the new common suite of L&D programmes.

- Introduction of structured and transparent talent management programmes to develop future leaders.

- A more effective and simplified performance management system (PMDS) has been delivered, including training for almost 10,000 line managers to support and improve the management of performance.

- A new scheme for recognising innovation and excellence across the Civil Service was introduced in 2015 through the Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Awards. The awards celebrate the significant contributions that civil servants make to the Civil Service and recognise innovations in policy and service delivery across the Civil Service.

- An approach to professionalisation has been agreed in the areas of HR, ICT and Finance, with most progress made in the HR area.

- A new Civil Service-wide mobility scheme has been introduced for Clerical Officers and Executive Officers which will be extended to other grades up to Assistant Principal level in due course.

- A standardised project management approach has been introduced and supported with the establishment of a Project Managers’ Network and training from OneLearning.

- A new system of Organisational Capability Reviews to assess and strengthen performance and capacity across Departments is being implemented

- Guidelines and a handbook in relation to the transfer of functions has been published to assist in implementing Government Decisions to establish new Departments or restructuring of existing Departments.

- Significant progress in relation to the development of a National Data Infrastructure.

- Organisation of two Civil Service Employee Engagement Surveys to date which asks civil servants for their views on working in the Civil Service, focusing on areas such as employee engagement, well-being, coping with change and commitment to the organisation. Departments/Offices are tasked with responding to the challenging areas arising from the findings.

Three progress reports have been published on the plan to date and are available on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A final summary progress report which captures the progress made since the plan commenced will be published shortly.

In terms of performance management in the Civil Service, there are performance management systems in place for all civil servants, which encompass setting objectives and review of performance.

Civil Service Staff Data

Questions (251)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

251. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the proportion of new recruits to the Civil Service recruited from the private sector each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14182/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy will be aware, general selection competitions within the Irish Civil Service take place by way of;

- competitions confined to civil servants in individual departments (Internal promotion) or

- from competitions open to civil servants from all departments (Interdepartmental promotion) or

- from open competitions for all eligible candidates including members of the public.

Sequences for general service civil service grades are agreed under the Civil Service Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme and are as follows:

Grade

Open

Interdepartmental

Internal

Clerical Officer

100%

Nil

Nil

Executive Officer

40%

30%

30%

Higher Executive Officer

Nil

50%

50%

Administrative Officer

100%

Nil

Nil

Assistant Principal

33.3%

33.3%

33.3%

Principal Officer

66.6%

Nil

33.3%

Assistant Secretary

100%

Nil

Nil

Secretary General

100%

Nil

Nil

A range of open competitions for special posts has also been held. This includes AP and PO HR competitions, EO/HEO ICT posts sand most recently an ICT apprenticeships.

The information the Deputy is seeking is not readily available in the format requested for all grades. This is because the event/location of previous employment is not recorded as a specific field on our systems either by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) or the National Shared Service Office (NSSO).

However for a number of competitions and grades, we do record this information manually and use this as a measure of our open recruitment policies.

Therefore I can advise that

At Assistant and Deputy Secretary level since 2007 c.30% of appointments have been from the private sector.

At Administrative Officer c.32% of appointments are from the private sector for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.

At Clerical Officer grade, since 2014 approximately 6,547 people and c.90% would be outside the Civil Service.

Public Sector Staff

Questions (252)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

252. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the provision for unpaid leave for domestic reasons contained within Circular 05/2010: Force Majeure and Other Urgent Family Reasons Leave specifically allows for leave arising from domestic violence. [13071/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Circular 05/2010: Force Majeure and Other Urgent Family Reasons Leave does not make specific reference to domestic violence, however paragraph 13 states

An officer may be granted special leave without pay- …….. (b) for up to 2 months to deal with other urgent domestic affairs.

https://circulars.gov.ie/pdf/circular/finance/2010/05.pdf

The policy does not give specific examples of ‘other urgent domestic affairs’. This means the policy is inclusive of a broad range of personal reasons for requesting such leave. This is a more flexible approach than prescribing a specific list of circumstances where the leave can be taken as this could unintentionally exclude situations where the leave is appropriate.