Public Sector Pay

Questions (168)

Joe Carey

Question:

168. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will respond to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2189/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The process of unwinding the Financial Emergency (FEMPI) legislation commenced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement 2016 – 2018 and was largely completed under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020 (PSSA).

To date, salary rates up to €70,000, which accounts for over 90% of the public service, have been fully restored.

While the Agreement expired at the end of 2020, certain measures needed to complete the unwinding of FEMPI will continue over the period 2021-2023 as provided for in the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. These can be found at Section 19 and Section 20 of the Act at the following link:

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2017/act/34/enacted/en/html

Under the terms of the FEMPI Act 2013, I am obliged to carry out an annual review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the FEMPI Acts, having regard to the overall economic conditions in the State and national competitiveness. In this annual review, I am also to consider whether or not any of the provision of the relevant Acts continue to be necessary having regard to the purposes of those Acts, the revenues of the State and State commitments in respect of public service pay and pensions.

The 2020 annual review, a written report of which was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 23 June 2020, recommended the continuation of the unwinding of the FEMPI measures in line with the provisions enacted in the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. This report can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/68e504-annual-reviews-of-the-fempi-act-2013/

Public Sector Pay

Questions (169)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

169. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost of the new public service stability agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2285/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

"Building Momentum: A New Public Service Agreement, 2021 - 2022", is a 2 year agreement and will cost an estimated €906m spread over three calendar years - 2021, 2022, and 2023. This is the equivalent of under 4% of the estimated 2021 public service pay bill, in respect of 367,300 public service staff.

The text of the Agreement can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/e9d23-building-momentum-a-new-public-service-agreement-2021-2022/

The principal features of the agreement include:

- A general round increase in annualised basic salary for all public servants of 1% or €500, whichever is greater, on 1 October 2021.

- The equivalent of a 1% increase in annualised basic salaries on 1 February 2022 to be used as a Sectoral Bargaining Fund.

- A general round increase in annualised basic salary for all public servants of 1% or €500, whichever is greater, on 1 October 2022.

The agreement is heavily weighted towards those on lower incomes with headline increases of approx. 5% for the lowest paid public servants, who will also benefit from other measures in the Agreement including the overtime rates and premia payments adjustments.

The Agreement builds on the momentum of reform and change exemplified by the public service during this public health emergency and allows for on-going co-operation with change and productivity improvements and industrial peace until 2022.

We have committed to making progress on the issue of Haddington road hours through the work of an independent body and €150m of the total has been allocated in 2022 to deliver on any recommendations. We are addressing the remaining salary scale issues for teachers who started over the last decade. We have also strengthened the provisions that underpin industrial peace – an essential ingredient in the recovery of our economy post Covid.

It is my clear view that at the end of this agreement period we will have a stronger, more responsive public sector delivering vital services for the entire country.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (170)

Holly Cairns

Question:

170. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if employees of his Department have received Covid-19 vaccines due to their role in the Department; if so, the rationale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2406/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I wish to advise the Deputy that no members of staff from my Department (including the Office of Government Procurement) have received a Covid-19 vaccine due to their role in the Department.

Departmental Circulars

Questions (171)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

171. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the details of the process by which circulars introduced by his Department since 2011 without statutory instruments and without having being laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas have legal validity in view of the provisions of section 4 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 2011, which requires for the governance of the Civil Service to operate by way of ministerial statutory regulation. [2422/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Section 17 of the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956, in conjunction with s.9 of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 2011, empowers the Minister for PER to regulate the terms and conditions of civil servants by way of administrative acts such as circulars. Section 17 of the 1956 Act has not been repealed, and the power given to the Minister under that section remains in effect.

Section 4(1) of the 2011 Act provides that the Minister “may by regulations provide for any matter referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed.” It is not a power to make regulations in respect of any matter referred to in the Act, but only in respect of those matters that are referred to in the Act as “prescribed or to be prescribed.” The regulation of civil servants’ terms and conditions is not such a matter. Accordingly, s. 4 of the 2011 Act does not affect the power of the Minister to regulate terms and conditions by way of circular under the 1956 Act.

Standards in Public Office Commission

Questions (172)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

172. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of vacancies on the board of the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO; the length of time of each vacancy; the number of investigations being undertaken by SIPO currently; the length of the longest investigation in operation; the average length of an investigation by SIPO; the number of staff in SIPO in each of the past five years; and the funding for SIPO in each of the past five years. [2713/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

There are currently no vacancies on the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Commission is responsible for the oversight of five separate acts: the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 (together known as the Ethics Acts), the Electoral Act 1997, the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014, and the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. The Commission has varying powers of inquiry and investigation under each of these acts.

I am informed by the Commission that the time it takes to close a case depends on a number of factors: whether a complaint is valid and within remit, the complexity of the matter under examination, the volume and availability of documents and the number of witnesses involved. A case may be completed in as little as one week from the time of launch, or it may take longer, depending on these factors. Due to the significant differences in its powers under the various acts within its remit, the Commission does not track the average time to complete an investigation.

Under all relevant legislation within the Commission's remit, I have been informed that there are currently 28 active cases. This number includes investigations under ethics, lobbying, electoral, preliminary inquiries under the Ethics Acts and pending prosecutions under the Regulation of Lobbying Act. Three further ethics inquiries are currently on hold pending external considerations. There are a further 17 complaints on hand, which have not yet progressed to inquiry or investigation.

Staff Numbers in SIPO:

- 2016 - 14

- 2017 - 16

- 2018 - 19

- 2019 - 20

- 2020 – 20

The SIPO budget is met from the Office of the Ombudsman Vote (Vote 19). This Vote funds the Office of the Ombudsman, Office of the Information Commissioner, Office of the Commission for Environmental Information, Commission for Public Service Appointments and the Standard in Public Office Commission. It also funds the Shared Service of Finance, HR, ICT and Accommodation for across all of these organisations. The funding for this Vote in recent years is set out below.

YEAR

BUDGET ESTIMATE €000 (Gross)

2016

€10,140

2017

€10,860

2018

€11,597

2019

€12,174

2020

€12,321

Public Sector Pensions

Questions (173)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

173. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a person who has surpassed 40 years' service in the HSE and has contributed to a public service pension during that time is required to continue making pension contributions from his or her salary; if these pensions contributions will be taken into account for the purposes of calculating his or her pension amount; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2755/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to comment on the specific details of the HSE pension scheme, which comes under the responsibility of the Minister for Health. However, I can advise that it is a condition of the majority of public service occupational pension schemes, including the HSE scheme, that the member make a pension contribution towards the cost of retirement benefits for the full period of his or her scheme membership. That continues to be the case even if the member serves in excess of 40 years, which in the standard pre-existing pension schemes (i.e. all the standard schemes excluding the Single Public Service Pension Scheme), is the maximum period of pensionable service that is allowed in the calculation of pension benefits.

I should point out that the public service pre-existing pension schemes are defined benefit schemes, which means that benefits are based on a defined calculation formula (e.g. 1/80th and 3/80ths of final pensionable remuneration for retirement pension and lump sum, respectively, for public servants in modified PRSI class) rather than on the contributions made by or on behalf of the individual.

I would also note that the value of superannuation benefits for the individual continues to increase beyond the 40 year threshold as increments, promotion or pay increases (occurring after 40 years’ service) are reflected in the pension and superannuation lump sum ultimately payable on retirement.

In respect of public service spouses’ and children’s contributory pension schemes, which provide dependants’ benefits in case of the death of the member either during service or following retirement, there is provision for a refund of member contributions where reckonable service is given in excess of 40 years – such refunds relate to contributions made in the earlier part of one’s career.

Public Services Provision

Questions (174, 178, 184)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

174. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the role he sees for reform throughout the public service as a means of improving cost effectiveness and efficiency in the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2859/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

178. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which public expenditure policy and reform has directly benefited the taxpayer over the past five years; the expected impact in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2863/21]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

184. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he continues to remain in contact with each Department to ensure supervision in respect of public expenditure and reform with a view to ensuring the best outcome for the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2870/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174, 178 and 184 together.

Over the last number of years, a range of reforms has been implemented in order to enhance Ireland’s budgetary framework and ensure that expenditure is managed in an efficient and effective way. The intention of these reforms is to increase transparency around the budgetary process and to facilitate meaningful dialogue around key elements of the Budget and on what is being achieved with public funds.

Central to these reforms is the ‘whole-of-year’ budgetary framework. This refers to an ongoing consideration of budgetary priorities throughout the year, rather than focusing budget discussions only around Budget Day. An important element of this is the publication of a range of documents at key points in the year to enhance engagement on relevant budgetary issues.

Improving and supporting the evaluation capacity within Government Departments has also formed an important part of the reform programme. Supported by the establishment of the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, this has led to the development of a number of additional processes and reports to support the budgetary framework. This includes:

Performance Budgeting - A key objective of the Performance Budgeting Initiative is to shift the focus away from the quantum of spend and towards outputs and impacts. The Public Service Performance Report presents performance information in an accessible manner and aims to facilitate discussion around what is being delivered with public funds and how this impacts the citizen.

Equality Budgeting – Equality budgeting involves providing greater information on the likely impacts of proposed and/or ongoing budgetary measures, which, in turn, enhances the potential to better facilitate the integration of equality concerns into the budgetary process. An OECD "Policy Scan" Report on Equality Budgeting was completed and published in 2019, setting out a number of ambitious objectives to progress this aspect of the budgetary reform agenda, with work being progressed in implementing the recommendations set out in the Report.

Spending Review - This process aims to place evidence at the heart of policy making, by systematically examining existing spending programmes with a view to assessing their efficiency and effectiveness, as well as overall quality in programme design and delivery. This approach can support the targeting and considered allocation of funding in line with policy priorities.

A key objective of these reforms is to support sustainable growth in public expenditure while delivering improvements in public services. Pre-Covid, the average annual growth rate in spending on day-to-day services over the five year period 2015 to 2020 was projected at 4%, with the emphasis over this period being on catch-up growth in capital spending and sustainable growth in current spending targeted at key frontline services. This approach delivered a positive fiscal position as we entered the crisis caused by the pandemic, with a General Government surplus of 0.5% of GDP being recorded in 2019.

Looking forward, the overall Budgetary Strategy for 2021 focuses on prioritising crisis management measures to address the challenges posed by Covid-19 and Brexit while continuing to provide for sustainable increases in day-to-day spending on core expenditure programmes and increased levels of capital investment. My Department will continue to engage with other Departments over the course of the year in respect of the management of expenditure within the agreed expenditure allocations set out in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2021 published in December last year.

The Programme for Government commits to continuing reform and improvement of the budgetary process, including an enhanced focus across Government on issues of performance and contributing to national well-being. In implementing further reforms, my Department will look to build on the budgetary reforms already in place and the significant work on public service reform already completed. Adopting this approach will support stronger dialogue on key elements of budgetary policy and will help to facilitate the continued development of budgetary decisions, consistent with the maintenance of stable public finances.

Public Services Provision

Questions (175)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

175. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree to which he expects reform to play a part in the delivery of public services in County Kildare throughout the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2860/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has instituted a number of ambitious Public Service Reform programmes since 2011. These reform programmes have served to make the work of the public service more transparent, decision-making more accountable and service delivery more effective and efficient.

The most recent reform plan- Our Public Service 2020 (launched in December 2017)- is designed to support the development of Public Service Organisations (PSOs) that are resilient and agile while also delivering better outcomes for the public. A Public Service Leadership Board comprising Secretary General and CEO level participants from across the civil and public service has been established to drive the reform agenda and lead on its implementation.

Service delivery has been a central focus on the OPS2020. Recent OPS2020 developments that will support enhanced service delivery include development of a procurement framework for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to enable all public service bodies to draw down RPA services from an agreed supplier, saving significant time and money; establishment of a Public Service Innovation Fund to encourage innovation in public bodies and promote collaboration as well as new and better approaches to service delivery; publication of Making Innovation Real, the Public Service Innovation Strategy ; and publication of OPS2020 Excellence in Customer Service Case Studies , 25 case studies on customer service best practice - see ops2020.gov.ie

My Department is currently preparing the next Public Service Reform and Innovation Programme - Our Public Service 2030 (OPS2030)- and will be consulting with PSOs, Government stakeholders and citizens on the draft proposal in the coming months. The vision and strategy underpinning OPS2030 will focus on large-scale ambitious transformation to support the delivery of better public services - embedding the key gains that have already been made in digitalisation, citizen engagement, programme management, and a growing culture of innovation. OPS2030 will incorporate key Programme for Government commitments, including the remote working commitment and relevant national policy strategies, such as the forthcoming Public Service Digital Strategy.

My Department is committed to exploring the possibility of including service provision and assisted digital functionality for the public in regional hubs, through the Public Service Innovation Strategy. This will require stakeholder engagement with officials from appropriate Departments and PSOs and will need to align with the ambitions articulated in the Making Remote Work strategy, recently published by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment.

An important focus on OPS2030 will continue to be on enhanced service delivery and better outcomes for our public. The Deputy should note that the Programme Management and Innovation office of the Local Government Management Agency supports the delivery of innovation and continuous improvement across the local government sector.

Let me assure the Deputy that it is the Government’s intention that citizens in Kildare, along with those throughout Ireland, will continue to see significant benefits in the delivery of public services from the next stage of its public service reform programme.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Question No. 178 answered with Question No. 174.

Questions (176, 177, 182)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

176. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he expects to be in a position to approve infrastructural projects throughout the country over the next four years with particular reference to those areas deemed to be deficient in infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2861/21]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

177. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he expects to be in a position to approve infrastructural projects throughout County Kildare over the next four years with particular reference to those areas deemed to be deficient in infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2862/21]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

182. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he expects to be in a position to approve infrastructural expenditure proposals and a capital programme for various projects submitted by Kildare County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2867/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176, 177 and 182 together.

I should first explain that as Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform I am responsible for setting the overall capital allocations across Departments and for monitoring monthly expenditure at a Departmental level. 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 behind 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 key role in leading development at county level rests with the relevant local authority in the first instance.

A series of regional reports have been published on the Project Ireland 2040 website, outlining the country-wide reach and impact of the public infrastructural investments under the National Development Plan and the National Planning Framework. The report on the Mid-East region, which will be of particular interest to the Deputy, details the specific regional projects and programmes now being planned and delivered in that area.

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 Kildare. 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.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department is currently carrying out a review of the NDP. The review being conducted will not be considering the merit of individual projects or sectoral policy strategies as this is a matter for individual Departments and Agencies. As part of the NDP review process, my Department is also running a stakeholder engagement process and would invite stakeholders such as County Councils to submit their views on what infrastructure projects should be prioritised in the coming 10 years. Details of the consultation process are set out on the website www.gov.ie/2040.

Question No. 178 answered with Question No. 174.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (179)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

179. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he expects reform in respect of procurement to take place in the next four years with consequent positive benefit for the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2864/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Procurement Reform Programme has had considerable success to date. Governance arrangements have been established to foster collaboration and cooperation across the OGP and the main sectors of Health, Local Government, Education and Defence. Through the development of a suite of centralised arrangements, the Government’s purchasing power has been leveraged by speaking to the market with ‘one voice’. Procurement Reform has delivered a programme of policy supports for SMEs, and has built an awareness in industry regarding the opportunities arising from public procurement.

The OGP has been developing proposals on the refinement of the procurement reform programme following consultation with our colleagues across Government and industry. These will enhance public procurement, building on the progress to date, with a more strategic focus and increase emphasis on sustainability, social responsibility, SME access, innovation, digitalisation and professionalisation.

The Government has set out a number of commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to public procurement including evaluating and managing the environmental, economic and social impacts of procurement strategies within the state, developing and implementing a sustainable procurement policy and tasking the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) to update all procurement frameworks in line with green procurement practice.

These commitments enhance work already underway by the OGP to promote wider policy considerations including environmental and social in public procurement. Strategic spending can play a key role in responding to societal, environmental and economic challenges. The range of policies is broad and includes SME access, green public procurement and environmental sustainability, disability access, training for young or disadvantaged people.

Implementation of these policies will ensure strong value-for-money for the taxpayer, minimise the environmental impact and optimise the community benefit of products and services procured, support innovation in supply markets to increase the availability and effectiveness of sustainable solutions and encourage suppliers to adopt practices that minimise their environmental impact and deliver community benefit.

Public Sector Pay

Questions (180)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

180. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the ongoing progress in respect of FEMPI restoration; when the process is likely to be completed in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2865/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The process of unwinding the Financial Emergency (FEMPI) legislation commenced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement 2016 – 2018 and was largely completed under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020 (PSSA).

To date, salary rates up to €70,000, which accounts for over 90% of the public service, have been fully restored.

While the Agreement expired at the end of 2020, certain measures needed to complete the unwinding of FEMPI will continue over the period 2021-2023 as provided for in the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. These can be found at Section 19 and Section 20 of the Act at the following link:

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2017/act/34/enacted/en/html

Under the terms of the FEMPI Act 2013, I am obliged to carry out an annual review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the FEMPI Acts, having regard to the overall economic conditions in the State and national competitiveness. In this annual review, I am also to consider whether or not any of the provision of the relevant Acts continue to be necessary having regard to the purposes of those Acts, the revenues of the State and State commitments in respect of public service pay and pensions.

The 2020 annual review, a written report of which was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on the 23rd June 2020, recommended the continuation of the unwinding of the FEMPI measures in line with the provisions enacted in the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. This report can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/68e504-annual-reviews-of-the-fempi-act-2013/

Public Services Provision

Questions (181)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

181. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if, in the context of the emergency response to Covid-19, he is in a position to invoke reforms or provisions of a temporary nature to facilitate the delivery of services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2866/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

COVID-19 has been an unprecedented public health emergency with implications across the economy and society. For that reason, there has been a whole-of-government response led by the Department of the Taoiseach and involving all Departments and public bodies, including my own Department.

Government Departments and Offices have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated public health requirements by introducing new measures of flexibility in terms of working arrangements for Civil and Public Servants and the provision of services.

My Department has developed Guidance and FAQs on working arrangements and temporary assignments during COVID-19 for civil and public service employers. This Guidance and FAQs document has been continually updated to reflect public health and Government policy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

For full details please see the link to the Guidance:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/0cfe6-update-24th-august-2020-to-guidance-on-working-arrangements-during-covid-19-for-the-civil-and-public-service/