Civil Service Management

Questions (20)

Alan Kelly

Question:

20. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to ensure appropriate reasonable accommodations are made for visually impaired members of the Civil Service carrying out their day-to-day work; his plans to review information technology systems in order to assist visually impaired civil servants in the performance of their duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25688/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Civil Service employers must and do consider their obligations under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015 to provide reasonable accommodation.  Reasonable accommodation is about meeting the needs of people with disabilities, including visual impairment, so that they can have access to and can participate and advance in employment. The intention of the provisions dealing with reasonable accommodation is to create a level playing field between individuals with and without a disability.

Employers across the civil service provide reasonable accommodations to staff who have a disability so they can participate and advance in their employment.

There are a range of supports available to staff and employers that can help with reasonable accommodation.

- Disability Liaison Officers (DLOs) are appointed across government departments. A key part of the DLO role is to support staff with disabilities. The DLO can work in conjunction with other sections, e.g. Human Resources (HR), and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Division to assist staff with disabilities.

- The Civil Service Employee Assistance Service provides a wide range of free and confidential supports to all staff and management of the Irish Civil Service.

- My own Department has increased training and support aimed at ensuring civil service employers are aware of their duty of care as an employer. For example, DPER has provided:

- Training on Reasonable Accommodation for over 150 people who work with staff with disabilities.

- Guidelines on the provision of reasonable accommodation.

In relation to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) has developed a range of applications that are used across Civil Service departments and offices for handling routine functions. These include systems for managing parliamentary questions, processing internal submissions, electronic records management, and so on.  These applications are built to be accessible for visually impaired users from the ground up.  The applications undergo accessibility testing, including the use of screen readers, the primary tool used by visually impaired users to interface with their PC. This testing, is carried out during both the development and maintenance of the applications and involves working groups with visually impaired members.  This allows the OGCIO to gather direct experience and feedback from visually impaired staff in order to continuously improve the user experience of the applications.

While provision of reasonable accommodation for any individual staff member is a matter for each Department my own Department provides devices and office productivity software with industry leading screen reading software that provides text-to-speech outputs for visually impaired and blind staff.

Flood Risk Management

Questions (21)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

21. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the provision in 2019 for flood prevention and coastal protection works to be funded by the OPW; the amount spent to date in 2019 on such work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25626/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The capital allocation for Flood Risk Management in the 2019 Vote of the Office of Public Works (OPW) was originally €76.127 million, but was subsequently reduced to €73.127 million in a reallocation in relation to the National Children’s Hospital. Expenditure on this particular subhead is currently running at just over €11million. This figure does not take into account expenditure incurred by local authorities on flood relief projects where they are the lead implementation and contracting authority but where the OPW is funding the project and where funding drawdown requests in respect of this expenditure has not been submitted by the local authorities.   Capital expenditure on flood relief projects at construction stage would normally increase over the Summer months.

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

Questions (22)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

22. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the details of the agreement reached in September 2018 on the equalisation of public pay for post-2011 entrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25832/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy is aware, under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 (PSSA), it was agreed by all parties that there would be an examination of remaining salary scale issues in respect of post January 2011 recruits at entry grades.

The discussions were informed by a Report, of March 2018 to the Houses of the Oireachtas  in accordance with Section 11 of the Public  Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. A copy of the report and relevant data can be accessed at the library of the Oireachtas.

The Report shows that there was strong recruitment since 2011 to the estimated 237 recruitment grades across the public service, with over 60,500 new entrants hired. This includes over 16,000 teachers, nearly 5,000 Special Needs Assistants and almost 10,000 nurses.

The report also quantified the cost of a two point adjustment as approximately €200m and the potential benefit to the individual as €3,301 on average.

Since the publication of the Report, my Department, in support of the discussions between the parties,  engaged in further work to assess and model the potential budgetary implications and impacts through phasing of the overall quantum.

Discussions on the issue with public service trade unions and representative associations, commenced in October 2017 and agreement was reached, in September 2018, between the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement on a measure which provides a credible pathway to addressing the concerns of those recruited to our public service since 2011 in a balanced and sustainable way. It provides a fair and affordable path to managing the cost associated with the issue.

The cost of this measure as agreed during the remaining term of the PSSA is approximately €75m (€27m in 2019 and €48m in 2020). The full cost of the measure based on the end 2017 data in the report is approx. €190m out to 2025. It is estimated some 58% (35,750) of ‘new entrants’ will benefit from this measure in year 1 rising to 78% (47,750) by year 2. Provision for the additional cost will be provided for in the upcoming budget 2019 and subsequent years.

In general, the agreement provides for two separate interventions which will take place at point 4 and point 8 of pay scales. The practical effect of this is that for ‘new entrants’ the relevant points on the scale will be bypassed thereby reducing the time spent (by bypassing two increment points) on the scale for progression to the maximum point.

This was brought to the Unions and Associations and their members to consider the measure in accordance with the procedures and processes provided for within those bodies and subsequently agreed upon.

The benefits under the measure became effective from 1 March 2019, and will be applied to each eligible new entrant as they reach the relevant scale points on their current increment date, and will be restricted to Parties adhering to the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020.

Performance Management Systems

Questions (23)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

23. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the Public Service Performance Report 2018; his further views on criticism by the Parliamentary Budget Office that the report is an activity report rather than an actual performance report consistent with performance budgeting concepts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25627/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In recent years, significant reforms have been implemented to Ireland’s budgetary framework to embed sound expenditure management practice that maintains a focus on the results being achieved across the public service and the extent to which public spending is delivering on key policy objectives. Performance budgeting is a key element of this suite of expenditure reform measures.  

A key aim of the performance budgeting initiative is to maximise the reporting of relevant quantitative metrics capable of being used to assess trends over time in order to underpin the scrutiny and appraisal of expenditure programmes. The performance budgeting initiative also supports another important aim: transparency and accountability to the Houses of the Oireachtas and to facilitate budget oversight by the Oireachtas.

The Performance Report provides timely information on what was delivered with public funds in the previous year. Performance targets are published in the Revised Estimates Volume (REV) each December. However, the timing of the publication of the REV means that outturn information for the current year is not yet available and only performance targets can be published.

The Performance Report is intended to supply that performance data, aiming to enhance the focus on performance and delivery by presenting relevant performance indicators in a dedicated and focused document.

The 2018 Public Service Performance Report, published in May 2019, was the third of its kind. In addition to the Performance metrics for each Vote group, the Performance Report also includes a chapter updating on the work regarding Equality Budgeting.

As this is the third edition of the Report, I have decided that this is an opportune point at which to take stock of how the Performance Budgeting initiative is developing and how it might be refined and improved. This process of internal review and reflection is currently underway and will inform how information is presented in next year's report. As part of this exercise, the recommendations of the Parliamentary Budget Office will be taken into consideration and my Department will further engage with stakeholders to identify other areas for development.

Public Sector Staff Training

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 18.

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 8.

Questions (24)

Willie Penrose

Question:

24. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to ensure new recruits in the public service are equipped to work in an increasingly automated work environment; his plans to ensure older workers receive help to adapt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25687/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Our Public Service 2020 which I launched in December 2017 establishes the overall strategy for development and innovation in the Public Service to 2020 and beyond. This framework for driving development and innovation will build a stronger public service to deliver better quality services for everyone over the period from 2018 to 2020 and beyond.

As set out in that strategy in order to build agile and resilient public service organisations, public servants need opportunities for career development including increasing expertise and skills in areas such as leadership and management, HRM, ICT, finance, languages, evaluation, data analysis and data management. The Strategic Human Resources Management Leadership Group, supported by the Public Service Reform Programme Management Office (PMO) in my Department and the Public Appointment Service, with input from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on skills needs, lead on this action.

One of the 3 main pillars of the People Strategy for the Civil Service 2017-2020, which I launched in October 2017, is to ‘build the workforce of the future’.  As recognised in that strategy, strategic HR requires a highly co-ordinated and integrated view of the entire workforce over a 5 to 10 year period.  The workforce composition, timing of resourcing and learning and development supports will be aligned with the strategic priorities of all Civil Service Bodies.   In the main this will be achieved via the development of an aggregated Civil Service Workforce Plan (informed by workforce plans of the individual Civil Service Bodies).

A key enabler of the on-going management of the performance of current and future Civil Service reform is the PMDS system.  PMDS is designed to be a meaningful and useful support to all Staff and Managers in the management and improvement of individual performance. PMDS allows us to strategically align performance management and learning & development to facilitate the matching of skills, expertise and experience to roles.

As a result of Action 9 of the Civil Service Renewal Plan 2014, to establish a new shared model for delivering learning and development in the Civil Service, OneLearning the Civil Service Learning and Development Centre was established in September 2017. OneLearning, which is based in my Department, will enable Civil Servants regardless of their organisation or location access to training and development opportunities and are responsible for all training that is common across the Civil Service.  To date there have been over 20,000 attendances at a OneLearning course session from 44 Civil Service Bodies across 25 counties. A new Learning Management System, will be rolled out across the Civil Service in 2019.

OneLearning will continue to work with Civil Service Bodies to identify current and future learning and development requirements and develop appropriate learning solutions to equip civil servants at all levels with the knowledge and skills required to discharge their roles.

In addition, Civil Service Bodies continue to meet the unique learning and development requirements within their own organisations in relation to individual process obligations and challenges.

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 18.
Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 8.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (27)

Joan Burton

Question:

27. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the estimated cost of preparing for Brexit, in particular for a hard Brexit, in 2018 and to date in 2019; if he anticipates additional resources to be required should a hard Brexit materialise in October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25683/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Government’s Contingency Action Plan, published at the end of last year and updated at the end of January, sets out the comprehensive, cross-Government preparations for Brexit.  All Departments have sector-specific plans in place identifying key challenges associated with Brexit and associated mitigation approaches.  We have also taken important steps to prepare our economy, including the Action Plan for Jobs 2018, our Trade and Investment Strategy and Project Ireland 2040, while dedicated measures to prepare for Brexit were announced in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Budget 2019 was prepared based on the “central scenario” that the UK will make an orderly exit from the EU. In aggregate, a gross voted allocation of €66.6bn is provided across all Government Departments. This includes additional expenditure of approximately €115m specifically related to Brexit and follows the dedicated measures to prepare for Brexit announced in Budgets 2017 and 2018. This funding will enable the implementation of necessary measures including in the areas of customs and food safety controls.

Furthermore, a €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme is targeted at providing a longer-term facility to support strategic capital investment by business at competitive rates in a post-Brexit environment. With a further view to the impact Brexit will have on the business sector, supports were also provided to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to expand its Departmental and regulatory agency capacity.

Additional funding was also provided to the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine and its agencies to further strengthen the agriculture sector’s ability to become more resilient in addressing the challenges of Brexit.  Also, the OPW has spent in the region of €15.6 million to date on acquiring and developing physical infrastructure for use at Dublin Port, Rosslare Europort and Dublin Airport as a consequence of Brexit.

The impact of Brexit upon the economy and the public finances continues to remain uncertain given that the timing and nature of the UK’s exit remains unclear. Indeed, given this uncertainty, it became necessary to take action to prepare for a potential no-deal exit at end March. This included, the recruitment of additional staff by the Revenue Commissioners, with over 400 staff appointed over the period September 2018 to 12 April 2019.

With uncertainty remaining the Government must continue to plan for the contingency of a disorderly exit. In this context spending plans will be kept under review to identify the potential resources required to deal with the impact of such a scenario this year. This uncertainty will also have implications for Budget 2020. While the SPU maintained an orderly Brexit as the central scenario, a greater likelihood is now being assigned to a no-deal or disorderly Brexit outcome. In this event, it is imperative that the automatic stabilisers are allowed to operate freely. This would include potentially higher social welfare spend as a result of increased unemployment or reduced tax revenue as a result of weaker employment. Further to this, the Government will also provide targeted, temporary, and effective support to the hardest hit sectors of the economy.

National Broadband Plan Expenditure

Questions (28)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

28. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the assessment of his Department of the national broadband plan, the credibility of its cost-benefit analysis and its value for money to the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25834/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I value the independent and strong advice of the officials in both of my Departments. It is for this reason that the advice provided by officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the National Broadband Plan was made public on 8 May 2019.

However, on this occasion, I formed a different view to that of my Department. As I have previously stated, this is for two main reasons. Firstly, there are an array of benefits not captured in the Cost Benefit Analysis, with immense value for citizens and the economy in the future. Secondly, having looked at the other options provided, none would deliver against the objective of achieving 100% coverage while guaranteeing lower cost.

Rolling out a form of technology like this across the country is an inherently complex activity and therefore one which must involve risk. While I accept that there is complexity and risk involved in the decision taken by Government, I believe that on balance, the National Broadband Plan will provide value for money.

Regarding the question of the Cost Benefit Analysis, the Public Spending Code requires that Sponsoring Agencies prepare an economic appraisal such as a cost benefit analysis or a cost effectiveness analysis for projects with an estimated cost in excess of €20 million before the relevant Sanctioning Authority makes a decision on whether to approve the project. The Public Spending Code further requires that this project appraisal is continually updated as the procurement process evolves and as actual tender costs (as opposed to cost estimates) become available. Responsibility for complying with all of the requirements of the Public Spending Code is a matter for each Sponsoring Agency and Sanctioning Authority.

In the case of the National Broadband Plan, the Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment has conducted a cost benefit analysis and updated it on a number of occasions.  Taking account of that analysis and the cascade of further future benefits that I believe will flow from the project, I am convinced that the project is justified.

Heritage Sites

Questions (29)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

29. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to promote heritage sites under the auspices of the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25825/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is highly conscious that the iconic heritage sites in State care play a significant role in attracting tourists to Ireland and accordingly the Office already has a strong focus on a multifaceted approach to the promotion of these sites in partnership with other stakeholders including the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, Fáilte Ireland and Local Authorities.  

The OPW uses a number of methods currently to provide information to intending visitors and increase awareness of the estate both among tourists and citizens:

- The sites are generally marketed by the OPW under the Heritage Ireland brand with a website of the same name providing all information relating to the properties.   This site is being renewed with a new design and layout before the end of 2019;

- Maps, publications and flyers on visitor sites are widely available to intending visitors through a national distribution contract covering hotels, train and bus stations, tourist offices etc

- A range of complementary initiatives such as Free Wednesday and U-12’s Go Free and Free Disabled Entry also help raise the profile of the heritage estate in State care and prove popular with visitors.

- In recent years the OPW has negotiated agreements with partner organisations abroad such as English Heritage and Manx Heritage to grant their members free access to the sites here to encourage more visitors from the UK area;

- In addition to some limited traditional advertising in magazines etc, the OPW also makes extensive use of digital technologies with over 50 Facebook pages and Instagram accounts which see very good engagement with users on an ongoing basis.

- The OPW also produces an electronic magazine Heritage Ireland which is widely distributed online and showcases the sites in greater detail.

- Online booking is used as a promotional tool and an active programme is underway to extend its availability: it was first introduced at Kilmainham Gaol in 2016 and is now in place at a further six sites with up to 3 more locations targeted for 2019.

- OPW sells visitor heritage cards at all sites, facilitating tourists who wish to visit multiple properties during their stay.   These are available at all locations in Adult, Family Senior and Child categories and will shortly be available to purchase online.

- OPW participates at tourism industry events such as Meitheal where we interact with industry partners and tour operators and also attends at other promotional events such as Holiday Fair, Active Retirement, Over 55s etc.

- OPW participates with stands at gardening and agricultural shows such as Bloom, the Tullamore Show, the Ploughing Championships etc;

- Allowing the use of sites for filming can have promotional benefits both as film locations and also for tourism magazine programmes.   Sites have therefore been used as locations for productions including Star Wars, Penny Dreadful and Ripper Street and access granted for programmes such as Nationwide, Tracks & Trails and It’s a Park’s Life

In broad terms, OPW is quite conscious of the role Culture and Heritage plays in tourism marketing terms and engages in continued co-operation with Fáilte Ireland in promoting the sites within its brand architecture of Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Dublin: Surprising by nature and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.   OPW will therefore remain open to future possibilities in marketing the heritage estate, particularly where these synchronise with the core conservation mission.   Thus, for example, OPW will be conscious of the need to develop second and third tier locations as alternative visitor possibilities as a way to lessen visitor pressure at the more crowded sites, understanding that this will also assist Fáilte Ireland in its objective of spreading visitor activity more broadly throughout the country.

Health Services Expenditure

Questions (30)

Joan Burton

Question:

30. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has instituted new or amended structures in the monitoring of health services expenditure in order to ensure that budgets have a reasonable chance of meeting their targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25682/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As you are aware managing expenditure within the overall fiscal parameters has been a key factor in ensuring that our fiscal targets have been achieved. A key responsibility of each Minister and Department is delivering public services efficiently and effectively within their budgetary allocations. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is in regular contact with all other Departments and Offices including the Department of Health to ensure that expenditure is being managed in line with not only Departmental allocations but also within the overall fiscal parameters.

In addition to the normal monitoring structures, I have put in place a Health Budget Oversight Group which includes senior officials from the Department of Health, the HSE and my Department. This meets on a monthly basis and provides me with the up-to-date expenditure position.

At end-May, the Gross current expenditure of €6.9 billion by Health is €559 million or 8.9% higher than the same period in 2018.  This is compared to the overall increase of 5.8% budgeted for the full year and illustrates the challenge and the need for staffing and savings measures to be proactively managed by the Department of Health if the requirement for a Supplementary Estimate in the sector is to be avoided this year.

Heritage Promotion

Questions (31)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

31. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to promote the Office of Public Works heritage card scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25826/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Currently, the OPW sells Heritage Cards through a number of channels, the primary ones being by telephone from its Visitor Services administration centre and at its Guided visitor sites around the country.   Cards are valid for 1 year from the date of first use and are offered in a number of categories:

- Adult  (€40)

- Senior  (€30)

- Child (12 - 18)  (€10)

- Family.   (€90)

The Heritage Card is very popular, regarded as good value for money by visitors and has sold in the region of approx. 14,500 units annually over the past few years.  

The OPW considers that there is a continuing place for the Annual Heritage Card, particularly among the domestic visitor group and has no plans at this stage to discontinue offering it.   However, understanding that some visitors regard the Annual Card as excessive for their needs, OPW is currently developing a product more suited to the short stay visitors coming from abroad in particular.   This version, entitled the Holiday Heritage Card, will be valid for 4 weeks only and will be sold at a lower price point than the annual card.   OPW expects that this will be of more interest to those visitors who are in the country for a limited duration and who will perhaps feel that they are not getting the maximum value out of the current 52 week offering.  

It is intended that the Holiday Heritage Card will continue to be offered through the usual channels alongside the annual version.  It will also be marketed and retailed online on the OPW's newly relaunched heritageireland.ie website when that is complete later in the year.   Additionally, it will be marketed through the print advertising channels and social media sites employed by the OPW to raise awareness of Heritage sites in its care and to promote them as visitor destinations.

Freedom of Information Data

Questions (32)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

32. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of freedom of information requests made to his Department and bodies under his aegis that were granted, part-granted and refused in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25831/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The information which has been requested by the Deputy in respect of my Department and the bodies under its aegis is set out below:

Organisation

Number of FOI Requests Granted in 2018 

Number of FOI Requests Part Granted in 2018 

Number of FOI Requests Refused in 2018

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

60

68

67

Office of Public Works

29

36

39

Office of the Ombudsman

3

2

13

Public Appointments Service

59

23

13

National Shared Services Office

21

0

4

Office of the National Lottery Regulator

0

4

4

More generally, the Deputy may wish to note that the Annual Report of the Office of the Information Commissioner includes Freedom of Information statistics for all public bodies.  I understand that the Office of the Information Commissioner’s report for 2018 will be available in the coming weeks and will be found at the following link:  https://www.oic.ie/publications/annual-reports/

Departmental Budgets

Questions (33)

Barry Cowen

Question:

33. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the potential overspend at the Department of Health; his further views on whether there will be a supplementary estimate for the Department in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25801/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Managing expenditure within the overall fiscal parameters has been a key factor in ensuring that our fiscal targets have been achieved. A key responsibility of each Minister and Department is delivering public services efficiently and effectively within their budgetary allocations. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is in regular contact with all other Departments and Offices including the Department of Health to ensure that expenditure is being managed in line with not only Departmental allocations but also within the overall fiscal parameters. Each month, the drawdown of funds from the Exchequer is reported on against published expenditure profiles in the Fiscal Monitor, published by the Department of Finance.

As set out in the most recent Fiscal Monitor, published by the Department of Finance, total gross voted expenditure at end-May 2019 was just over €26 billion. This is €145 million, or 0.6% below profile. Gross voted current expenditure of €24.2 billion, is €65 million, or 0.3% below profile. Of the 17 Ministerial Vote groups, 12 are below profile on current expenditure for end-May. Gross voted capital expenditure of €1.8 billion, is €98 million, or 4.1% below profile. 

In year-on-year terms total gross expenditure is 8.2% or nearly €2 billion higher than the same period in 2018. Of this increase, gross current expenditure is up just over €1.5 billion. A key driver of this year-on-year increase in current expenditure is day to day Health spending. Gross current expenditure of €6.9 billion by Health is €559 million or 8.9% higher than the same period in 2018.  This is compared to the overall increase of 5.8% budgeted for the full year and illustrates the challenge and the need for staffing and savings measures to be proactively managed by the Department of Health if the requirement for a Supplementary Estimate in the sector is to be avoided this year.

National Development Plan

Questions (34)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

34. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which County Donegal will benefit from the National Development Plan 2018-2027; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25829/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform I am responsible for setting the overall capital allocations across Departments and for monitoring monthly expenditure at Departmental level.  The responsibility for the management and delivery of the individual investment projects, within the allocations agreed under the NDP, rests with the individual sponsoring Department in each case. 

Under the umbrella of Project Ireland 2040, the Government has allocated capital funding for the national priorities set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF).  The three Regional Assemblies are responsible for co-ordinating, promoting and supporting the strategic planning and sustainable development of their regions, by formulating Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES).  The strategy for the Northern and Western Region provides the opportunity for the priorities for Donegal, for example the priorities included in the existing County Development Plan, to be integrated into a regional investment plan which is expected to be a major driver of the implementation of the NPF.

A regional report on the North West has been published on the Project Ireland 2040 website.  The report  details the specific regional projects and programmes which are being planned and delivered in the North-West as part of the public investment detailed in Project Ireland 2040- the Government’s National Planning Framework and National Development Plan. 

I might also add that my Department publishes a major capital projects tracker, which sets out details of the key projects and programmes being implemented under the NDP, including the location of the projects where possible.  The Tracker includes a number of major projects directly related to Donegal.  The tracker currently focuses on projects and programmes with costs greater than €20 million.  While it does not provide an exhaustive list of all capital expenditure, the list of projects serves to highlight the diverse range of infrastructural demands competing for the resources of the State.

Public Spending Code

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 18.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 19.

Questions (35)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

35. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps he has taken to improve oversight and control of expenditure on major national capital infrastructure including the national children’s hospital and the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25630/19]

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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 in the lifecycle.

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 also 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.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 18.
Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 19.

Disability Act Employment Targets

Questions (38)

Joan Burton

Question:

38. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his Department co-ordinates overall responsibility for ensuring 6% of the Civil Service are persons with disabilities; the number of persons with disabilities that have been employed by the Civil Service in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; his plans to conduct research and produce a report on career progression of persons with a disability in the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25684/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities (CES) proposes to increase the existing disability employment target of 3% to 6% incrementally by 2024.

 I understand from my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality that the legislation increasing the employment target from  3% to 6% in the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill has not been enacted yet. 

Compliance with Section 47 of the Disability Act 2005 requires that, unless there is a good reason for not doing so, more than 3% of staff employed in public bodies, for which the relevant Minister is responsible, are people with a disability. 

As the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I am required to report on the numbers of civil servants with a disability working in Government Departments and Offices staffed. This report is made on an annual basis to the National Disability Authority, who in turn make a report to the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Copies of these reports can be located on the National Disability Authority  website:

http://nda.ie/Publications/Employment/Employment-of-people-with-disabilities-in-the-public-service/Reports-on-compliance-with-public-sector-jobs-target/ 

The latest published report is for 2017. The overall Civil Service figure at end 2017 is 4.5% - the same as the end 2016 figure. The figure was 4.2% in 2015. It is important to note that these figures are based on self-declaration.

My Department is currently finalising the report for 2018 for submission to the National Disability Authority.

Information is not available of the number of people with disabilities employed in the Civil Service in the years from 2015 to 2019 apart from the overall figures above although I understand that the Public Appointment Service will voluntarily collect information on a number of areas including disability to better understand the numbers applying and their success rates through competitions.

Employers across the Civil Service will continue to provide reasonable accommodations to staff who have a disability so they can participate and advance in their employment.

Budget Targets

Questions (39)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

39. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he remains satisfied that expenditure and budgetary targets remain achievable, notwithstanding concerns raised by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council; if the economy has grown sufficiently to withstand potential threats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25817/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As set out in the recent Stability Programme Update (SPU), the Irish economy is in an unusual position at the moment, with a slowdown in key export markets on the one hand and possible domestic overheating and capacity constraints on the other. In addition, Brexit is of course a significant risk and source of major uncertainty. While this is challenging, it is important to note that we are in a strong position from which to meet that challenge. Provisional figures indicate that Ireland’s GDP grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018. This is a healthy pace of growth, which is being reflected in our labour market. Indeed, according to latest CSO figures, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May 2019 was 4.4%, down from 5.9% compared to same point in 2018. However, given the risks I have noted, now is the time for sustainable expenditure policy that is affordable now and into the future.

A key challenge is to ensure that Departments manage expenditure each year within the allocations voted by Dáil Éireann. In this regard, measures are in place to ensure that our expenditure and budgetary targets are being achieved on an ongoing basis. Managing the delivery of public services within budgetary allocations is a key responsibility of each Government Minister and Department. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is in regular contact with all other Departments and Offices to ensure that expenditure is being managed within the overall fiscal parameters. There is regular reporting to Government on expenditure levels and expenditure profiles are published for each month. The drawdown of funds from the Exchequer is monitored throughout the year and reported on against profile on a monthly basis in the Exchequer Statement.

As set out in the most recent Fiscal Monitor, published by the Department of Finance, total gross voted expenditure at end-May 2019 was €26,066 million. This is €145 million, or 0.6% below profile. Gross voted current expenditure of €24,184 million, is €65 million, or 0.3% below profile. Of the 17 Ministerial Vote groups, 12 are on or below profile on current expenditure for end-May. Gross voted capital expenditure of €1,833 million, is €81 million, or 4.1% below profile and up €454 million, or 31.8% on the same period last year. While this is encouraging, there is a particular challenge in the Health sector, where the year-on-year increase to the end of May illustrates the challenge and the need for staffing and savings measures to be proactively managed by the Department of Health.

Work is underway on the Summer Economic Statement (SES) 2019. In setting out the Government’s overall fiscal strategy in the SES, I will take into account recent developments, in particular in the external environment, and will consider the points raised by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council in its recent fiscal assessment report.