Revenue Commissioners

Questions (147, 148, 149)

John Brassil

Question:

147. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Revenue Commissioners do not accept electronic transfers (details supplied) as a more direct and easily accessible payment method; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51878/19]

View answer

John Brassil

Question:

148. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Finance if issues (details supplied) for the repayment of nursing home loans will be addressed and simplified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51880/19]

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John Brassil

Question:

149. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Finance if issues will be addressed regarding the payment of the nursing home loan through the Revenue Commissioners online service for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51887/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 to 149, inclusive, together.

Revenue acts as the collection agent for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in respect of outstanding liabilities arising from the Ancillary State Support Scheme. This role is provided for by Section 26(2)(b) of the Nursing Home Support Scheme Act 2009.

Revenue has confirmed that it provides electronic options for all tax payments and repayments, including in respect of Nursing Home Scheme loan repayments, through the ‘Revenue Online Service’ (ROS) and the ‘myAccount service’. These channels provide a very efficient 24/7 service that is fully secure and more cost effective than conventional manual payment options. These electronic options also provide taxpayers with full access to their historic payment and filing records.

Revenue is conscious that not all taxpayers have access to its electronic services, for example where there is poor broadband capacity, and in such circumstances will accept manual (cheque) payments. Where a person opts to repay Nursing Home Scheme loans by cheque, it is very important that the relevant details of the ‘Care Recipient’ and the ‘Accountable Person’ are provided with the payment. Where these details are not supplied, it is likely that there will be delays in processing the payment.

Revenue has confirmed that if the person in question is experiencing any difficulties accessing its electronic payment options to repay a Nursing Home Scheme loan or wishes to discuss other (payment) options, s/he should contact the relevant payments team at telephone number 068-56941. Revenue has assured me that every assistance possible will be provided to the person in order to resolve the issue.

Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Staff

Questions (150)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

150. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the progress made in resolving a pay claim submitted by a group (details supplied) requesting that salaries and scales be rectified to reflect the nature of their roles. [51629/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

My officials have been involved in discussions with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in relation to complex proposals for revised pay terms for staff serving in the grade of Secretarial Assistant. The discussions are based on a claim from SIPTU which represents staff working under the Scheme for Secretarial Assistance.

My officials will continue to engage with the Commission on these issues.

Flood Relief Schemes Status

Questions (151)

Dara Calleary

Question:

151. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the Crossmolina flood relief scheme as of 1 December 2019; if the proposed timeline is on schedule; if the scheme will be submitted for assessment before 31 December 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51146/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Work is nearing completion by the scheme consultants on the detailed design work required to finalise the documents for submission to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for formal Confirmation or approval of the Scheme under the Arterial Drainage Act 1945.

Some delay has been experienced in relation to further necessary site investigative works which required specific favourable weather conditions which had to be waited for.

It is now envisaged that the proposed scheme will be submitted for Confirmation in early 2020. Subject to this confirmation process and procurement of a contractor, it is hoped that construction will still commence in the second half of 2020.

Garda Station Closures

Questions (152)

Pat Breen

Question:

152. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 295 of 20 October 2015, the engagements that have taken place and progress made with the landlord of the property. [51186/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland held a leasehold interest in Lissycasey Former Garda Station, Lissycasey, County Clare. The Lease term was 99 years, from 31 December, 1914 to 30 December 2013. The Commissioners of Public Works are now in the process of regularising our legal position in relation to this property and in that regard, the matter is being dealt with by the Chief State Solicitors Office.

Army Barracks

Questions (153)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

153. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to utilise a facility maintained by the OPW (details supplied); the Departments and or State agencies that have expressed interest in occupying the building or part of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51195/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that Donegal County Council own and maintain the former Lifford Army Barracks complex in Lifford. The Commissioners of Public Works have agreed terms with the Council to lease one of the buildings on the complex and a draft lease is being progressed. On completion of the lease, the Commissioners propose to fit-out the building as a new public office for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Public Sector Pensions Legislation

Questions (154)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

154. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the date the spouses and children's pension scheme was opened to female employees in the Civil Service; if allowances will be made for those that do not have sufficient contributions before they retire but were excluded from joining the scheme before 1 June 1981; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51260/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

S.I. No. 56/1981 amended the existing Civil Service Widows' and Children's Contributory Pension Scheme and provided for the admission of established female civil servants to the scheme on terms equivalent to those applicable to male civil servants from 1 June 1981. In effect, that scheme then became the Spouses' and Children's Pension Scheme.

Membership of this scheme then applied to female officers in either of the following two categories:

(a) Those who were serving, or commenced to serve, in an established capacity at any time between 1 March 1980 and 31 May 1981, who did not opt out of the scheme and whose benefits take the form of a pension, lump sum and death gratuity rather than pension only.

(b) Those appointed to established posts on or after 1 June 1981.

If an individual who has been married during their scheme membership has not made periodic contributions from salary in respect of all pensionable service, non-periodic contributions are payable at retirement in respect of the outstanding ‘relevant service’, up to a maximum of 40 years. This relevant service can include pre-scheme service, depending on the periodic contributions which have been paid at the time of retirement. These non-periodic contributions will prevent a shortfall of scheme contributions and are usually deducted from the retirement lump sum at a rate of 1% of retiring salary for each year of relevant service.

However, I would note that once an individual becomes a member of the scheme, their spouse and children would be covered by the scheme in the unfortunate event of the member’s death, regardless of when the member joined the scheme or if they have pre-scheme service. The scheme rules state that if a member dies in service, the spouse’s and children’s pensions will be paid based on the pension that the scheme member would have received had they served until the retiring age. In this event, non-periodic contributions are also deducted from the death gratuity in respect of service for which periodic contributions have not been paid.

Public Sector Pensions

Questions (155)

John McGuinness

Question:

155. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 163 of 5 November 2019, if the treatment of service in the Defence Forces regarding pension entitlement when combined with other public sector service has been resolved; if a resolution to the pension entitlements of a person (details supplied) will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51317/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As noted in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 163 of 5 November 2019, the individual in this case is subject to application of Section 52 subsections (6) and (7) of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012, which imposes a limit on the total amount of pensionable service which can be taken into account when calculating a public servant’s pension entitlements where an individual has been a member of more than one public service pension scheme.

As a result of a number of issues that have arisen in relation to the Section 52 benefit cap, my Department has carried out a review into the operation of the provision. As part of the review, further legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General has been sought. Once that advice has been received, new/revised guidance will be developed and issued as appropriate. At that stage, the administrators of the final pension scheme in this case will be in a position to consider the implications of the guidance for the pension entitlements of the individual concerned, and to communicate with the individual accordingly.

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Questions (156)

Niall Collins

Question:

156. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the advertising campaigns, promotional events and launches planned by his Department for the first six months of 2020; the budgeted costs of these campaigns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51415/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table below.

The Deputy should note that my Department’s communications planning for 2020 is ongoing and as such detailed cost estimates are not currently available. As is normal practice, other launches and events will take place as the need arises. It is likely this will include planned public information milestones, including the launch of the second Annual Report for Project Ireland 2040.

Title of Event

Date

Cost

Launch of the NUIG Evaluation of the Senior Public Service and Principal Officer Executive Leadership Programmes.

January 2020

€800.00 (estimated)

Launch of Medium Term Strategy for the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service

February 2020

€1,500.00

Launch of the Civil Service Employee Assistance Service Activity Report

May 2020

€400.00 (estimated)

Office of Government Procurement

Promotional presence at SEAI Public Sector Energy Conference

February 2020

€3,000.00 (estimated)

Promotional Procurex information event

March 2020

€5,000.00 (estimated)

Data Sharing Arrangements

Questions (157)

Jack Chambers

Question:

157. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the data sharing agreements his Department has in place with organisations that are not other Departments or State agencies; the purpose of these data sharing agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51432/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Further to the clarification provided by the Deputy in respect of this Parliamentary Question, I am advised that there are no Data Sharing Agreements in place between my Department and commercial entities or other private sector bodies whereby personal data is shared with them for their use.

Freedom of Information Data

Questions (158)

Jack Chambers

Question:

158. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of freedom of information requests in which his Department made a decision to deny; and the number in which the Information Commissioner overturned the decision of his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [51466/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The following table sets out the number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests received by my Department from 2016 to date, the number of requests that were refused, the number of requests that were partially granted and the number of requests in which a decision of the Department has been overturned by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) to date.

With regard to the reasons for the refusal of FOI requests, the processing of all FOI requests in the Department is done in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2014. That Act makes provision for access, to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy, to records in the possession of public bodies such as my Department. As the Deputy will be aware, specific exemptions are set out in the legislation and these are applied by the Department where appropriate.

Year

FOI Requests Received

Refused

Partially Granted

Decisions overturned by the OIC

2016

203

48

69

1

2017

249

48

95

0

2018

208

66

68

3

2019 (to date)

298

85

103

1

Departmental Agencies Data

Questions (159)

James Browne

Question:

159. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the agencies or organisations under the remit of his Department; the number that have boards; the number of positions on each board; the number of vacant positions; and the agencies or organisations that have boards whose members have an obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas. [51500/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The bodies under the aegis of my Department and the requested information regarding Board membership for each is set out in the following table.

Organisation

Number of Board Members

Number of vacant positions

Obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas

National Shared Services Office

9

0

In their capacity as Board Members, no obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Public Appointments Service

9

0

In their capacity as Board Members, no obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Office of Public Works

3

0

In their capacity as Board Members, no obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

State Laboratory

-

-

-

Office of the Ombudsman

-

-

-

National Lottery Regulator

-

-

-

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) are not State bodies, although they receive a grant from my Department.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (160)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

160. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the budget and number of staff working in his Department in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51571/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. This includes the budget allocation in the Revised Estimates for each of the years in question and the number of staff employed in those years.

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Vote 11 Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

€35.898m

€40.61m

€43.748m

€53.105m

€56.23m

€58.993m

Number of Staff

314

331

371

412

447

450

Vote 18 National Shared Services Office*

€30.581m

€39.033m

€37.91m

€45.173m

-

-

Number of Staff

442

543

632

748

-

-

Vote 39

Office of Government Procurement**

€12.431m

€18.974m

€19.982m

€19.960m

€20.470m

€18.031m

Number of Staff

140

188

195

194

226

227

* The National Shared Services Office was a Division of the Department with a separate Vote, prior to its establishment as a Scheduled Office under the aegis of the Department on 1st January 2018

** The Office of Government Procurement is a Division of the Department with a separate Vote

Election Expenditure

Questions (161)

Niall Collins

Question:

161. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the remuneration returning officers received for carrying out their duties in respect of the 2019 local and European elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51714/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The final remuneration that Returning Officers receive for carrying out their duties in respect of the 2019 local and European elections are not available as final accounts from Returning Officers are not due until six months after the election at which point they are then subject to review.

The remuneration paid to Returning Officers’ for the 2014 European & Local Elections was €12.4m (this figure includes the Dublin West and Longford West Meath Bye Elections).

Garda Stations

Questions (162)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

162. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for a building (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51805/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the former Garda station property at Barrack Street, Castleisland, Co. Kerry is no longer in the ownership of the Commissioners. The property was sold earlier this year and is now privately owned.

Apprenticeship Data

Questions (163)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

163. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of new apprenticeships registrations and number of new apprenticeship programmes which have resulted out of the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeships in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51375/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

To date 29 new apprentices programmes have been developed in sectors of the economy such as auctioneering, ICT, hospitality, logistics and biopharma. As of 31 October there has been a cumulative total of 19,485 new registrations on apprenticeship programmes since the commencement of the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeships in Ireland (2016 – 2020).

This has seen the number of apprentices registered on apprenticeship programmes rise from 8,317 at end 2015 to 17,467 as at the end of October 2019.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (164)

James Browne

Question:

164. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application by a school (details supplied) to replace prefab classrooms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51084/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of an application, for additional school accommodation, from the school authority in question. The application is currently being assessed and the school will be informed of the decision shortly.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (165)

James Browne

Question:

165. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a second ASD unit urgently required by a school (details supplied) will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51090/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

Since 2011 investment in Special Education supports has increased by 50%, which is significantly above the 7% increase in total student numbers over the same period.

As a result the numbers of special education teachers, special needs assistants and special class and school places are at unprecedented levels.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

The NCSE has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children nationwide and has well established structures in place for engaging with schools and parents. Accordingly, my Department is not involved in the placement of individual children in school.

The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011.

Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Provision in our 124 special schools has also increased from 6,848 placements in 2011 to 7,872 this year.

In Wexford alone, there are 60 special classes and 2 Special Schools providing specialist support to children with more complex special educational needs.

The NCSE is planning a further expansion of special class and school places in Wexford to meet identified need for next year. This process is ongoing.

When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.

A major building project for the school in question, which includes provision for 2 special classes,

Is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. My Department will be in contact with the school regarding the further progression of this project.

In the interim, subject to availability of accommodation, it is open to the school to establish a special classes within its existing accommodation.

School Accommodation

Questions (166)

Imelda Munster

Question:

166. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to extend a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51127/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has no record of receiving an application, for capital funding, under the Additional School Accommodation Scheme (ASA).

It is open to the school to apply under this scheme where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed. The application form for this scheme is available on my Department's website www.education.ie

I also wish to advise the Deputy that a new 600 LTPE Post-Primary School opened in September 2019 to cater for the Drogheda/ Laytown area.