Ceisteanna – Questions. - Departmental Expenditure.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

15 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the projects he announced or promised between 1 January 2002 and 17 May 2002; the cost in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16552/03]

In my role as Head of Government and in accordance with normal practice, I have announced major projects which have been approved by the Government on the initiative of Ministers. In relation to my own Department, the eCabinet project was announced in February 2002. The eCabinet project will deploy information society technologies in support of the Cabinet process to facilitate greater efficiencies in the operation of Cabinet.

A feasibility study conducted by consultants PWC, published in February 2002, recommended proceeding with the project. The study gave an indicative estimate of cost of the order of €3.4 million, exclusive of VAT, for the central Cabinet secretariat element of the project, with additional costs liable to be incurred, for example in developing an appropriate security architecture and in implementation of the project in individual Departments.

The study drew attention to the fact that features of the system can be used to support a range of other Government initiatives. The project is at an advanced stage and present indications are that it may be delivered significantly below those projected costs.

The Government held a meeting at Farmleigh House some time ago to deal with the issue of competitiveness. Does the Taoiseach, as Head of Government, not feel that because of the country's lack of a competitive edge, he and his Department should show real leadership by putting the governance of the country on a world-class footing in terms of the use and purchase of technology so that there is equality of access to high speed broadband and Internet technologies throughout the State to make us competitive? Will he show leadership by having Government involve itself as the main player so that every facility and unit can avail of the principal access because Ireland is slipping seriously in the ratings?

I dealt with the competitiveness issue earlier. However, there are issues relating to conditions, salaries, costs and so on. The House is dealing with the issue on an all-party basis, which is equally important because the Government has spent a great deal of time on the competitiveness issue.

Information society policy comes under my Department's remit and it is the special responsibility of the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Hanafin. The broadband and eGovernment projects are also driven by my Department. They are linked to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, where the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, is responsible for the roll-out of broadband in the 19 locations and early planning in 123 other locations. That work is ongoing and, while I will not go into the broadband issue, a number of initiatives, plans and programmes have been spelt out in the eGovernment project and the recent report.

Is the Taoiseach satisfied with the division of responsibility in regard to the information society whereby one Ministry is responsible for the roll-out the hardware and his Ministry is responsible for promotion of use? Is this division, which he has created, not a source of incoherence?

My Department co-ordinates all aspects to the best of its ability and the teams which make up the Information Society Commission examine future plans, policies and roles. Their work not only relates to broadband, which is the responsibility of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, but it also feeds into education and other areas. It is important that the central plan should be driven by my Department. Deputy Bruton will be aware that is where the people who volunteer their time to formulate policy want it to be driven, but a number of Departments are involved. The Department of Finance is involved through the public services. It is not the case that only one Department is involved but my Department plays a co-ordinating role.

Does the Taoiseach agree with the old adage that everybody's business is nobody's business?

Broadband technology is a significant part of the programme but it must be based in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources because its agencies, infrastructure and contacts with telecommunications companies are needed. I do not have the resources or numbers to drive that. The same applies in the Department of Education and Science, which has developed a programme to bring technology further into the education system and that is being driven by the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, but it is co-ordinated by my Department. At least five Ministers are directly involved in technology development.

That is what the Taoiseach might on another occasion have described as waffle.