Vehicle Registration Tax

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 187.

Questions (237)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

237. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance when the Revenue Commissioners will issue a required VRT document to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7404/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the application by the person in question for a Transfer of Residence exemption in respect of Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) was received on 15 January 2021. Following some further engagement by Revenue to determine the person’s entitlement, the exemption was approved and notified to the person on 6 February 2021.

Revenue has confirmed that the vehicle has since been registered in the State with no VRT charged.

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 187.

National Transport Authority

Questions (239)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

239. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost to date of the Phoenix Park Transport and Mobility Options Study; and the estimated further cost in respect of same. [6362/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The cost of the Phoenix Park Transport and Mobility Options Study was borne by the National Transport Authority.

Magdalen Laundries

Questions (240)

Charles Flanagan

Question:

240. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 245 of 20 October 2020, if guidelines as a consequence of the report by the Ombudsman on the Magdalene laundry scheme have been completed and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6371/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

My officials are working to complete the guidelines on redress referenced by the Deputy. While it had been anticipated that the guidelines would now be complete, as the Deputy will be aware there has been recently been considerable work undertaken in relation to redress, particularly in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. My officials have engaged and will continue to engage with the officials of that Department in respect of this work to ensure that the final guidelines are as comprehensive, up-to-date and relevant as possible.

Flexible Work Practices

Questions (241)

Richard Bruton

Question:

241. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the support services the public service has put in place to support remote workers and in particular access to professional support for injury, stress and so on which may arise; and if these supports are done through in-house human resources or contracted out to outside professionals. [6479/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Responsibility for providing supports to remote workers is in general a matter for the relevant employer, in the first instance. However, the Civil Service provides support to employees through the Employee Assistance Service (CSEAS) which operates under the auspices of my Department and is a free and confidential service providing support to staff and management at times of personal and/or work-related difficulties. It plays a key part in an ethos of promoting employee wellness and organisational effectiveness.

During 2020 15% of serving Civil Servants made contact with the CSEAS. In response to the challenges presented by remote working the CSEAS developed a range of online resources to support staff. These are available on their website and most have also been circulated to staff by Human Resource Divisions and local managers. Resources include Tips for Managing your Wellbeing while Remote Working and Managing Working from Home and Childcare Responsibilities.

The CSEAS has also been engaged by Civil Service Departments and Offices to provide bespoke presentations on a range of health and well-being topics. Since March 2020 these have been provided virtually reaching an estimated audience of 13,000 staff. Topics included Stress Management, Self-Care, Resilience and Mental Health and Wellbeing as well as Self-Care/Wellbeing While Working Remotely. In a number of instances, these presentations were recorded and made available to staff unable to attend the session.

The CSEAS operates a central telephone and e-mail service which is available to Civil Servants during normal office hours. Support is also available at other times by prior arrangement. Further information on the CSEAS and details of individual Employee Assistance Officers and the Departments/regions they cover is available on the CSEAS website www.cseas.per.gov.ie.

Last year, my Department published the Working from Home during COVID-19: Guidance for Civil Service Organisations. This document provided and continues to provide direction to Civil Service organisations to help them support employees during COVID-19 restrictions. A key element of the Guidance is the health and wellbeing of all employees.

In addition to centralised supports individual Departments and Offices deliver local Health and Wellbeing initiatives to employees. Indeed, my own Department is committed to a holistic approach to Health and Wellbeing and offers a range of Health and Wellbeing sessions, on a regular basis, to employees to support them in maintaining their physical and mental health - some of these programmes are delivered by external professionals.

Garda Stations

Questions (242)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

242. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount the OPW spent on refurbishment to Kells Garda station in each of the years 2018 to 2020 and to date in 2021; the nature of the refurbishment works that were carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6665/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I can confirm that the Office of Public Works has carried out refurbishment works at Kells Garda Station in each of the years 2018 to 2020 and to-date in 2021. The nature of the refurbishment works and the amount spent in each of the years is outlined in the table below.

Details include works funded by both the Office of Public Works and An Garda Síochána.

Year

Description

Amount

2018

General Maintenance and repairs including Mechanical and Electrical works.

€29,067.79

2019

General Maintenance and repairs including Mechanical and Electrical works; Ground Maintenance Japanese knotweed treatment; Asbestos Survey for cell works.

€26,276.78

2020

General Maintenance and repairs including Mechanical and Electrical works; Ground Maintenance Japanese knotweed treatment; Installation of protective perspex screens; cell upgrade works.

€183,291.20

2021

General Maintenance and repairs including Mechanical and Electrical works.

€3,161.18

Total

€241,796.95

Garda Stations

Questions (243)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

243. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of and the expected completion date for construction works at the new Bailieborough Garda station and the reopening of Bawnboy Garda station, County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6708/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Tenders have been invited for the construction of Bailieborough Garda Station and it is hoped that the procurement process will be concluded in quarter 2 this year. Construction will take about 20 months.

Tender submissions for the refurbishment of Bawnboy Garda Station are being evaluated. The works will take about 3 months after a contract is placed.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (244)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

244. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the Dodder flood alleviation scheme. [6711/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

In relation to the progress on the River Dodder Flood Alleviation Scheme (RDFAS), the following is an update on both the Dodder Phase 2 and Dodder Phase 3 Flood Relief Schemes, both of which are being progressed by Dublin City Council with funding and support being provided by the OPW.

Dodder Phase 2: Further to my response to your previous Parliamentary Question on 7th October 2020 (Question No.74), there were some delays to the scheme as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, and these delays had an impact on fisheries rehabilitation works due to the requirement to only work within the allowable fisheries’ window for instream works, which runs from 1st May to 30th September.

The current works programme for Phase 2 of the RDFAS allows for substantial completion of the flood defence works at Ballsbridge & Beech Hill Road in Q2 2021 with the exception of the previously mentioned Fisheries Rehabilitation works and instream works which will be commenced in May/June 2021.

Dodder Phase 3 (Clonskeagh to Orwell): This scheme is still in its early stages, and the consultants are currently progressing site Investigation works, environmental constraints studies and hydraulic modelling works. It is anticipated that stage one of this project (Scheme Development and Preliminary Design) will be complete in 2021, and the project will then progress into stage 2, which is the Public Consultation and Planning stage.

More information on this scheme can be found on the project website: https://www.floodinfo.ie/frs/en/dodder-phase-3/home/ where the consultant engineers publish regular scheme updates.

EU Directives

Questions (245)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

245. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of EU legislation will be debated and ratified by the Houses of the Oireachtas; if so, when same will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6824/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law (also known as "the Whistleblowing Directive") was adopted on 23 October 2019 by the European Parliament and Council and must be transposed into Irish law by 17 December 2021. The Directive provides for a range of measures to establish a common set of minimum standards for the protection of persons who report breaches of EU law across all Member States.

Ireland already has comprehensive whistleblower protection laws in place in the form of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. Transposition of the Directive will require a number of amendments to be made to the Act and these are being examined. Furthermore, a public consultation on those areas of the Directive where Ireland has discretion as regards implementation was conducted in June and July 2020. 24 submissions were received from a broad cross-section of stakeholders and have been published on the gov.ie consultation site.

Public Sector Staff

Questions (246)

Paul Murphy

Question:

246. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the groups of public sector workers to which the updated social media policy which includes the instruction not to comment on or like social media posts which would undermine the Minister, the Department, the Government or Government policy has been sent to; and the groups of public sector workers to which it applies. [7011/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, part of my responsibilities are the non pay terms and conditions of Civil Servants. There is no central social media policy for the Civil Service and individual Departments develop social media policies according to their own use of social media and their own range of accounts and channels.

However, the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour applies to all civil servants. You can access the Civil Service Code of Standards in the link below.

https://hr.per.gov.ie/policy/ethics-and-standards/codes-of-conduct/

The code sets out that Civil Servants must maintain the highest standards of impartiality.

Brexit Issues

Questions (247)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

247. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has examined the entitlement of contractors from Northern Ireland or the UK in tendering for public works given that they are not now members of the EU; his views on whether tax, employee and financial compliance requirements as required by contractors from this jurisdiction can be monitored effectively in order to ensure a level playing field for all contractors who may tender for Government or local authority contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7159/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Public Procurement is governed by EU and National rules and must comply with relevant EU, WTO and national legal requirements and obligations. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers transparency and value for money outcomes. The procurement rules have been developed in tandem with the WTO rules on procurement and are therefore flexible in a global context.

The general requirements for works and works-related contracts are set out in the Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF). The CWMF represents the tools that a public body must use to procure and manage the external resources necessary to deliver a public works project that is to be delivered under the Exchequer-funded element of the National Development Plan. This guidance incorporates key elements of EU legislation that have been transposed into Irish law and is complemented by circulars and guidance issued by this Department and the Office of Government Procurement.

Public procurement procedures require applicants to meet certain standards when applying for public contracts. The criteria upon which contracting authorities may exclude applicants from the award procedure of public contracts are set out in Regulation 57 of S.I. No. 284 of 2016 - European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations 2016 on public procurement. The 2016 Regulations contain both compulsory and voluntary grounds for the exclusion of bidders.

Pre-qualification documentation provides for criminal convictions for specified offences and non-compliance with tax and social welfare obligations. There are other, specified exclusion grounds which can be deployed at the discretion of the contracting authority. The choice will depend on the particular procurement.

Contracting authorities should ensure that those who are awarded public contracts have the financial standing and technical capacity to complete the works in a safe and timely manner. Bodies procuring public works projects must comply with the provisions of the CWMF which contains extensive guidance covering all aspects of the procurement and contract administration stages. Specific guidance and templates are also published to manage the pre-qualification stage of a procurement process. It is important, when assessing the financial standing and technical capacity of a contractor to undertake a particular project, that the contracting authority should set standards that are proportionate to the project and its associated risks.

To provide targeted assistance to contracting authorities on this important stage of the procurement process guidance note GN 2.3.1.3 - Minimum Standards for Suitability Works Contractor Criteria (Open, Restricted Procedure) have been published. This guidance note sets out standards under each of the criteria that may be used to assess a contractor’s financial standing and technical ability.

The management of the tendering process for a public contract is a matter for each contracting authority. It is the responsibility of each contracting authority to ensure that tenderers comply with all the requirements of the process.

The EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) contains provisions ensuring access to the public procurement markets of both parties. The EU and UK have agreed to zero tariffs and zero quotas on products that comply with the appropriate rules of origin, regulatory and customs cooperation mechanisms, as well as provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition, as part of a larger economic cooperation.

Title VI of the Agreement, which sets out the provisions relating to public procurement, goes beyond commitments under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), to which the UK has acceded. EU companies will be able to participate on an equal footing with UK companies in bids for procurement tenders covered by the agreement, and vice versa.

The Agreement further provides for non-discrimination of EU companies established in the UK (and vice versa) for national procurement, i.e. below the current thresholds of the GPA. The Agreement also allows the use of its bilateral dispute settlement mechanisms for disputes that might arise in regards to the procurement opportunities subject to the GPA.

The NI Protocol which forms part of the Withdrawal Agreement seeks to avoid a hard border on this island, the Common Travel Area provides additional rights to UK and Irish citizens to live and work in both jurisdictions. The combined effect of the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, the NI Protocol and the Common Travel Area means that procurement opportunities in both jurisdictions remain open to businesses on both sides of the border and the UK.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (248, 249, 250, 251, 252)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

248. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the restrictions and appropriateness of companies with unlimited status from being awarded contracts as part of the public procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7245/21]

View answer

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

249. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the restrictions and appropriateness of companies registered in jurisdictions that are listed on the EU's blacklist from being awarded contracts as part of the public procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7246/21]

View answer

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

250. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the appropriateness of companies using anonymous trustee ownership structures from being awarded contracts as part of the public procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7247/21]

View answer

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

251. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the appropriateness of companies that use a bearer share ownership structure from being awarded contracts as part of the public procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7248/21]

View answer

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

252. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the restrictions and appropriateness of companies that use transfer price transactions from being awarded contracts as part of the public procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7249/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 to 252, inclusive, together.

Public procurement in Ireland is governed by EU Procurement Directives and national legislation and guidance. Public bodies are obliged to act in accordance with these rules and accordingly must observe the general principles of EU law including non-discrimination, the free movement of goods and services, equal treatment, and proportionality and transparency in awarding public contracts. They must also ensure that procurement transactions and decisions are fair, equitable and deliver value for money.

Public procurement procedures require bidders to meet certain standards when applying for public contracts. The criteria upon which contracting authorities may exclude bidders from the award procedure of public contracts are set out in Regulation 57 of S.I. No. 284 of 2016 - European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations 2016 on public procurement. The 2016 Regulations contain both compulsory and voluntary grounds for the exclusion of bidders.

The compulsory grounds for exclusion relate to certain serious offences which are deemed to preclude award of public contracts to a bidder - at least for a period of time. The compulsory exclusion grounds must be applied at all stages of a procurement procedure. These are:

- participation in a criminal organisation

- corruption

- fraud

- terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities

- money laundering or terrorist financing

- child labour and human-trafficking related offences

- breach of tax or social security obligations.

Exclusions can only take place where the bidder or a person who is a member of its administrative, management, or supervisory body, or has powers of representation, decision, or control over it, has been convicted by a final judgment of one of the offences. When invoking the grounds for exclusion, a contracting authority must have evidence of a sufficiently robust nature to withstand any challenge to that decision. In the absence of a binding decision or final court judgment, the contracting authority may not be in a position to exclude a bidder.

Contracting authorities have discretion to disqualify bidders for competing in a public procurement competition for the following reasons:

- where the contracting authority can demonstrate violations of environmental, social and labour law obligations including rules on accessibility for disabled persons

- bankruptcy; insolvency or winding-up procedures; assets being administered by liquidator or by the Court; arrangements with creditors

- where the contracting authority can demonstrate grave professional misconduct

- where a contracting authority has sufficiently plausible indications to conclude that bidders have entered into agreements with other tenderers aimed at distorting competition

- poor past performance where the candidate has shown significant or persistent deficiencies in a prior public contract which led to termination, damages or other comparable sanctions

- where a conflict of interest cannot be remedied by any less intrusive means

- where a distortion of competition arises from direct or indirect involvement in the preparation of the procurement procedure

- the bidder has been guilty of serious misinterpretation in supplying information required for the verification of the absence of Exclusion Grounds or the fulfilment of the Selection Criteria, has withheld such information or is not able to submit supporting documents in relation to the ESPD (European Single Procurement Document)

- where the bidder has undertaken to unduly influence the decision-making process of the contracting authority or obtained confidential information which may confer upon it undue advantages in the procurement procedure or where the tenderer has negligently provided misleading information that may have a material influence on decisions concerning exclusion, selection or award

Where there is a conviction on compulsory exclusionary grounds, a bidder is excluded from competing for public contracts for a period of 5 years from the date of the relevant conviction. Exclusion on the basis of voluntary exclusion grounds is for a period 3 years from the date of the relevant event. A bidder has the opportunity to provide evidence at tender stage of “self-cleaning” measures and must not be excluded if such evidence is considered sufficient. Such evidence could include, for example, payment of compensation in respect of any damage caused, active cooperation with investigating authorities by clarifying the facts and circumstances, implementation of technical, organisational or personnel measures that are appropriate to prevent further misconduct. The self-cleansing option cannot, however, be extended in the case of exclusion from participation in procurement procedures because of a final court judgment.

Overall, when submitting a tender, bidders must consider whether any of the exclusion grounds listed in the procurement documents apply to them. Should any of the grounds apply, bidders must advise the contracting authority accordingly. The management of a tendering process for a public contract is a matter for each contracting authority. It is the responsibility of each contracting authority to assess that bidders comply with all the requirements of the process. Contracting authorities may exclude bidders at any time during the procedures in accordance with the Regulations. In applying discretionary Exclusion Grounds, contracting authorities should pay particular attention to the principle of proportionality.

Exclusion of bidders on grounds other than those set out in the regulations is open to legal challenge by the excluded bidders.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (253)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

253. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of efforts to address flooding on the River Inagh. [7282/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is responsible for the maintenance of Arterial Drainage Schemes and catchment drainage schemes designated under the Arterial Drainage Acts of 1945 and 1995. The Inagh River does not form part of an Arterial Drainage Scheme. Therefore, the OPW has no responsibilities for the maintenance of the river, nor the authority to carry out any works there.

The maintenance of all drainage schemes carried out under earlier Acts, known as Drainage Districts, is the responsibility of the relevant Local Authority.

Legislative Measures

Questions (254)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

254. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when the Arterial Drainage Act 1945 was last reviewed; the impacts the provision of the Act are having on the biodiversity of river systems; if the Act will be reformed to meet the challenges of the climate crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7336/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Arterial Drainage Acts of 1945 and 1995 are kept under review by the Office of Public Works (OPW). In this regard, the legislation has been amended on a number of occasions, most recently in 2019, for the purposes of EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment. It has also been amended and Regulations have been made under it for the purposes of the EU Directives on Public Participation, Birds and Natural Habitats and Floods. The EU Floods Directive is cyclical, requiring a review of the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment, the Flood Maps and the Flood Risk Management Plans on a six-yearly cycle and it necessitates climate change considerations to be included in the assessment and planning for flood risk management. Full details of the amendments and regulations made under the legislation are available from the Irish Statute Book entry.

The OPW has a statutory duty to maintain Arterial Drainage Schemes carried out under the Arterial Drainage Acts. These maintenance works are carried out in accordance with relevant legislation, through a range of environmental assessments, including Strategic Environmental Assessments, Appropriate Assessments and Ecological Assessments, supported by widespread stakeholder consultation. Further information on environmental activities and associated environmental assessments and studies are available on the OPW website.

To minimise potential ecological impacts, the OPW undertakes these statutory maintenance works having regard to a set of procedures called “Environmental Guidance: Drainage Maintenance and Construction”. This guidance was developed in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Inland Fisheries Ireland.