Questions Nos. 1 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Equality Proofing of Budgets

Questions Nos. 15 and 16 answered with Question No. 10.

Questions (14)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

14. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the work of the equality budgeting expert advisory group; the progress under the nine equality budgeting themes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25631/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

To further guide the roll-out of equality budgeting, an Equality Budgeting Expert Advisory Group was established, holding its first meeting in September 2018. The group has to date met on five occasions. In line with the Transparency Code it is expected that the minutes of those meetings will be available on the gov.ie website shortly. This group is comprised of a broad range of relevant stakeholders and policy experts to provide advice on the most effective way to advance equality budgeting policy and progress the initiative. The more specific role and objectives of the Group are:

- to provide constructive, critical feedback on the Equality Budgeting initiative to date;

- to provide expert guidance and informed insights on the future direction and areas of focus for Equality Budgeting, including in light of international experience, lessons from other policy areas and from academia;

- to promote a coherent, cross-government approach to Equality Budgeting, to maximise equality impacts and avoid duplication of effort across various policy areas; and

- to identify existing strengths of the Irish policy-making system which can be leveraged in support of Equality Budgeting, along with potential shortcomings that need to be addressed in this regard.

To allow for a focused assessment of each area, an Equality Budgeting framework was developed in the context of the 2020 Estimates process. Nine themes were identified, informed by various Government strategies currently guiding policy development across many different equality dimensions, including strategies for women and girls and for people with disabilities. The themes identified allow for sectorial examination and highlight areas where it is recognised that special policy action is required.

An Equality Budgeting update was included in the recently published Public Service Performance Report 2018, which makes use of the nine equality budgeting themes. While gender equality was the primary area for attention in the early stages of Equality Budgeting, work has been ongoing to broaden the scope of the initiative to include other dimensions of equality. Nine Government departments are now actively engaged with Equality Budgeting. Work is ongoing to expand Equality Budgeting across all Government departments and address further dimensions of equality. Indeed, the Department of Justice and Equality, in close collaboration with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, has recently invited experts from the OECD to conduct an "Equality Policy Scan" which will provide insights into how equality budgeting and equality policy mainstreaming can be further developed, including in light of best international practices.

Questions Nos. 15 and 16 answered with Question No. 10.

Public Spending Code

Questions (17)

Joan Burton

Question:

17. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to ensure robust and credible cost-benefit analysis reports by third parties are provided when assessing costs of projects and other costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25685/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Spending Code is the set of rules and procedures that are in place to support public bodies in achieving value for money as they implement all projects, including major projects, through the course of the project’s lifecycle. Each project works through a lifecycle from project identification, appraisal/business case, planning & design, procurement, implementation, to review. 

The project is assessed by the Sponsoring Agency, i.e. the body delivering the project, throughout to ensure it represents value for money. At key designated stages in the lifecycle, the body funding the project, i.e. the Sanctioning Authority, is responsible for approving whether or not the project can move to the next stage.

For projects estimated to cost over €20 million, the Public Spending Code requires that the Sponsoring Agencies prepare an economic appraisal such as a cost benefit analysis or cost effectiveness analysis to inform their own consideration and the consideration of the project by the Sanctioning Authorities. The Public Spending Code also requires that the economic appraisals for such projects are submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure &Reform for technical review.

The Investment Projects & Programmes Office (IPPO) was set up in my Department to support the implementation of Project Ireland 2040. The IPPO conducts technical reviews as a further input for the Sanctioning Authorities. The review is policy neutral and its purpose is to support consistency in the application of the Public Spending Code.

As part of the ongoing reform of Ireland’s capital management systems, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is reviewing the Public Spending Code.  The purpose of this review is to strengthen the existing guidance to better align with the realities of project delivery and with a particular focus on improved appraisal, cost estimation and management.  The Office of Government Procurement is conducting a review of construction procurement which will align with the updated Public Spending Code.

The following reforms will be considered and implemented as part of the review:

- Strengthen and harmonise capital appraisal guidance;

- Greater clarity on governance  and roles and responsibilities, particular in terms of who is the Sanctioning Authority and who is the Sponsoring Agency for major projects;

- Introduce new mechanisms to improve the accuracy of cost estimates;

- Improve project life cycle to better reflect the realities of project delivery; and

- Complement the Project Ireland 2040 Capital Tracker in monitoring projects and costs. 

The revised central elements of the Public Spending Code relating to the appraisal and management of public capital projects will be published this summer.  Further technical guidance building upon these central elements will follow in the second half of 2019 and in 2020.  

Public Service Pay Commission Reports

Questions (18, 25, 36)

Martin Heydon

Question:

18. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress on the Public Service Pay Commission as it relates to Defence Forces pay and allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25819/19]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

25. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the report of the Public Service Pay Commission will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24588/19]

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Clare Daly

Question:

36. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the Public Service Pay Commission report on recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces will be published in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25619/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 25 and 36 together.

The Public Service Pay Commission was established to advise Government on public service remuneration policy. In the current phase, the second phase of the Commission's work, it was tasked by its Terms of Reference to undertake an examination of whether, and to what extent, there are difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff in key areas of the public service identified in its first report. The Public Service Pay Commission has adopted a modular approach to its work programme for its present exercise.

As the Deputy will be aware, the first module was published by the Commission in August 2018 and deals with issues relating to Nursing and Midwifery, Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors and Hospital Consultants.

The Commission engaged on work in relation to the Defence Forces in accordance with its terms of reference.  I understand that written submissions have been received from both the Employer and relevant staff associations and more recently, in March, oral presentations were also made to the Commission by both parties. 

The Commission has now completed its examination of recruitment and retention matters in the Defence Forces and has submitted its Report to me for consideration.

This Report will be submitted to Government and published in due course and will then fall to be considered by the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement, 2018 - 2020 (as per section 3 of that Agreement).

Flood Relief Schemes

Questions (19, 37)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

19. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will meet with a group (details supplied) and public representatives to address ongoing flood defence concerns and the lack of information regarding the timeline for the building of flood defences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25647/19]

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Thomas Pringle

Question:

37. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the OPW will announce the next list of capital works flood schemes under the ten year programme of investment; if Buncrana, County Donegal will be part of the list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25646/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 37 together.

I am happy to say that the Office of Public Works and Donegal County Council have been working constructively to address flooding issues across Donegal and I am very satisfied with the progress that has been made on the implementation of new flood relief schemes in the County since I announced, in May 2018, 29 Flood Risk Management Plans for all the main river basins. A total of 118 flood relief projects were identified in these Plans to protect the main flood risk areas throughout the country. 15 of these projects are in County Donegal, including a proposed project to address flooding in Buncrana..

These Plans and projects are a key part of the overall flood risk management strategy set out in the National Development Plan 2017 - 2028 involving total investment of almost €1 billion over the ten year time frame of that Plan. As I have mentioned in replies to previous questions on this matter, there is a significant resource commitment involved in the delivery of such an ambitious programme of investment nationally and it is not possible to implement all of the 118 projects at the one time. Therefore it has been necessary to prioritise a total of 57 projects across different Counties for the initial tranche of investment based on the level of risk and number of properties to be protected.

Following consultation and discussions between the OPW and Donegal County Council, six of the 15 Donegal projects have been identified to be progressed in the first phase of implementation. Steering Groups for the projects have been established and much work is being done to make preparations for the appointment of consultants over the coming months for these projects.

The proposed project for Buncrana is not in the initial tranche of projects to be advanced but I can assure the Deputy that the OPW and Donegal County Council will work closely to ensure that the project will be progressed as early as possible in the coming years and within the 10 year timeframe for the national programme of investment.

I am always happy to meet with residents and community groups in relation to flooding issues and I am sure that suitable arrangements can be made in that regard for Buncrana.