Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Health Services Staff Recruitment

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath.

I thank the Cathaoirleach. The Minister of State is very welcome. I rise today to ask about the recruitment of a specialist MS nurse for the mid-west region. In a report that was commissioned, it was recommended that three to four nurses were necessary for the region but at the moment we have none and one would be a bonus. When I last raised the issue, I was told, as were the people involved in the MS society, that someone would be in place in the second quarter of 2019, but as of yet there has been no advertisement for the position, and there seems to be no movement in filling the position. A recruitment ban was announced recently by the Minister, and people are very afraid that this position will not be filled. Perhaps the Minister of State will give an update on the situation. People who suffer from MS have to go to Cork and different places around the country to access the services of a specialised nurse, so if there were one in the region, it would be of great benefit to them.

I thank Senator Byrne for raising this very important issue. I welcome the opportunity to address the House on this matter on behalf of the Minister for Health, and to provide an update on progress made on the proposal to recruit a clinical nurse specialist in neurology at University Hospital Limerick, UHL. I am advised that the UL hospital group recognises the need for a clinical nurse specialist in neurology and it has been deemed a priority post for the hospital group. In that regard, I am pleased to inform the House that the UL hospital group has made the funding available for this post, and it is anticipated that the post will be filled by the third quarter of this year. The UL hospital group is engaging with the HSE recruitment service in relation to this post. I have also been informed that the recruitment campaign for the clinical nurse specialist post in neurology is progressing, and I have been advised by the UL hospital group that the advertisement for this position is pending. It is envisioned that the post will be advertised in May 2019 and filled by the third quarter of this year.

The national clinical programme for neurology has developed and published a model of care for neurology services. This model of care provides a framework for neurology services to be delivered with an integrated service approach, which is in line with international best practice. Implementation of the new model of care will see an increase in the number of consultant neurologists and nurse specialists, including clinical nurse specialists, in neurology and other healthcare professions, and this will address waiting times.

The new model of care will see an increase in the number of consultant neurologists, nurse specialists, including clinical nurse specialists in neurology and other healthcare professionals and this will address waiting times. The purpose of the clinical nurse specialist post is to improve and enhance the care of patients and their families by developing services, and to assist overall in optimising quality and continuity of care. The clinical nurse specialist is required to work as a key member of the multidisciplinary team in the hospital providing physical, psychological and emotional support to neurology patients and their families. They act as a liaison between community services, primary care teams and other agencies. The national clinical programme for neurology proposes implementation of the new model of care over a period of five years. This will significantly improve access for all neurology patients in the mid-west. The implementation of the new model of care is a work in progress. I can confirm that the University Limerick hospital group has recognised the need for this specialist nursing post and is treating the recruitment for this post as a priority.

In addition, looking to the future, the national clinical programme for neurology has developed a new model of care for neurology, the implementation of which will improve service provision incrementally over the next few years not only in the mid-west but nationally.

I welcome the fact that it is at last being advertised. Twelve months ago I was told it was going to be advertised. That is why I raised the matter again today but I am glad that it will be advertised by May. It will be disappointing for some people that it will be quarter 3 before somebody comes in but now they know that it is a priority for the university hospital and it is recognised that a nurse has to be put in place. Perhaps it is time that I started lobbying for a second one because it has taken so long to fill the post. I know it is not the Minister of State's fault but it is disappointing that it has taken so long for the recruitment process to happen.

The bottom line is that it is a priority and it will be delivered and it is being advertised in May. The UL hospital group has recognised the need for recruitment of a clinical nurse specialist in neurology and funding has been provided for the post. I am confident that the new clinical nurse specialist post will help improve and enhance the care provided to neurology patients and their families. It is a priority for me. I will give this my utmost support because I am a strong supporter of this clinical nurse specialist service. It will be developed, not just in the mid-west but it will be rolled out nationally. The post is being advertised and it will be delivered shortly.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

Will the Minister of State with responsibility for local government confirm the details that have been set out by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in consultation with the chief executives of all 41 local authorities in respect of the delivery of affordable housing? We know, and it has been a major plank of the Rebuilding Ireland policy, that the Government envisages the roll-out of a national affordable housing scheme and it is disappointing to say that, despite being three years on from that, we do not have a national affordable housing scheme in place. There are several reasons for that but they are not all the Minister of State's fault. We need to keep the focus on and deliver affordable housing for purchase and affordable homes for renting, particularly in the cities and the Dublin area. People know there are great difficulties in just renting a home at an affordable and sustainable price. There is a national problem that needs to be addressed.

It came to my attention recently that there was a draft affordable scheme of priority proposed and brought by the management in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

I understand it was rejected across the political lines, including by councillors from the Minister of State's own party and those from other parties and none, because they had what they described as major difficulties with the flexibility of the scheme. I am talking about the draft affordable scheme of priority for affordable housing. The argument, apparently, is that there is not sufficient flexibility locally in terms of the charges and other issues around all of that. I think we have a difficulty and I ask the Department to look specifically at this local authority. It is the one I know best, the one I live in and the council on which I served. This is only a very recent development and I know the Minister is aware of it. We need to look at the pitfalls and concerns expressed by elected members of this council. I understand it was unanimous across the board. They raised concerns. I do not know the legitimacy of those concerns or the detailed reasoning behind them. I understand that the director of housing on this council sent the draft report with comments back to the Minister, and that the Minister will have to come back to the council at some point.

I am mindful that in most local authorities there will only be one more council meeting before the local elections. Some councillors will not be re-elected and some will; there will be substantial changes across the 31 local authorities, no doubt. The key, substantive issue is that of affordability. What specific targets has the Government set? We have to talk about targets and keep monitoring them, otherwise we are not going to see the delivery of affordable homes to purchase and rent. Perhaps the Minister of State will enlighten me further. I ask him to relay to the Minister that we might look at Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown specifically because it is the only one I know that has been sent back to the Minister at this point. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from it and perhaps there are not but we should look at it. If everybody is rejecting a scheme of priorities and holding up an affordable scheme in a local authority, it has to be an issue of concern both to the Government and to the local authority in question.

I thank the Senator. I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. Having read through the response that is provided by the Department, I am not sure it will deal with some of the issues that Senator Boyhan has raised.

One of the Government’s key priorities is to address issues of housing affordability. To this end, a multi-stranded approach is being taken to support those low to middle-income households in achieving home ownership. In terms of affordable purchase, last year, my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, commenced the relevant provisions of Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. This provided a statutory basis for the delivery of the affordable housing purchase scheme. The Minister also made regulations last month, on foot of which local authorities are now moving ahead to develop their schemes of priority, which they will use to manage the allocation of affordable housing that becomes available in their local areas.

The €310 million serviced site fund, SSF, was announced in the last budget, with the core objective of achieving significant delivery of affordable housing. Under the serviced site fund, at least 6,200 affordable homes will be facilitated over the next three years. As part of the first tranche of this funding, in December 2018, ten projects were approved for €43 million of funding under the serviced site fund’s first call for proposals. This will result in the delivery of over 1,400 homes in urban centres with clear affordability challenges in locations across Cork and Dublin. Details of these schemes and their locations are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website and it is expected that the first tranche of affordable homes will come on-stream next year. A second call for further applications under this fund was issued last week. As a result of this, 19 local authorities which carried out economic assessments to identify affordability issues in their areas will be in a position to make applications for funding support for a further bundle of projects to deliver affordable homes to purchase or rent. Furthermore, some 2,350 affordable homes are in the process of being delivered on mainly publicly-owned lands supported through the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF. An additional 5,600 homes will benefit from a LIHAF-related cost reduction, some of which are already coming to market. Again, details of these schemes and their locations are available on the Rebuilding Ireland website.

Aside from affordable housing purchase options, the Government has also committed to supporting a new cost rental model. Under the heading of cost rental, the provider supplies accommodation and charges rents sufficient to cover the capital costs associated with delivery, with the ongoing commitments related to the management and maintenance of the development. Cost rental is a model that is delivered at scale in a number of European countries and which in the long term has been shown to help stabilise rent cost fluctuations and deliver security of tenure. To drive delivery, a number of important cost rental pilot projects are being advanced. They include the Enniskerry Road site in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and the site of the former St. Michael's estate in Inchicore, where 50 and 330 homes, respectively, are to be developed. The contract for the work on the Enniskerry Road site is expected to be awarded later in quarter two of this year.

Separately, the Department is engaging with the National Development Finance Agency, the European Investment Bank and the Land Development Agency on the issue of cost rental, with a view to examining the optimum funding and delivery options and establishing a consistent national approach to support delivery at scale in Dublin and other urban areas. The work of the Land Development Agency will also be of crucial importance in delivering more affordable and cost rental housing. The initial portfolio of sites to which the agency has access has the potential in the short to medium term to deliver 3,000 affordable homes in line with the Government's policy of achieving 30% affordable housing on State lands generally.

In parallel, the Dublin local authorities continue to progress a number of other significant housing projects on publicly owned lands, including the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens and a site on Oscar Traynor Road in Dublin city, yielding approximately 280 affordable homes. Taken together, programmes are in place under which nearly 18,000 affordable homes or homes with a LIHAF-related reduction will be delivered. In addition, it is important to note that, in terms of affordability, over 11,200 households have been supported through the Rebuilding Ireland home loan and the help-to-buy scheme, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to using a range of mechanisms and initiatives to support households in addressing the affordability challenges they face.

On the specific issue raised by the Senator in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, I do not have the full facts, but it appears remarkable, in the absence of some glaring omission, that a council would vote not to approve an affordable housing scheme in its area, particularly when Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is one of the areas facing major affordability issues. I will endeavour to get the Minister to respond directly to the Senator on the question of what will happens next.

The real concern is those two pages do not address the question of targets, the principal question I asked. I use the term "targets" because I read a circular on the RTÉ news website recently in which the Taoiseach was quoted directly as saying it was important that targets be set for the 31 local authorities. Nowhere in this response which was drawn up by a civil servant are targets mentioned. We can keep admitting that we have problems, but if we do not set targets for delivery across the 31 local authorities, how can improvements be measured?

I am reminded by my colleague, the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Senator McDowell, that 14 years ago Shanganagh Castle was sold to the local authority for the delivery of housing. The site has been sat on it ever since and nothing has been done about it. There a major affordability crisis in the area. We also have the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum where approximately 36 acres of State lands are being sat on. I have singled out two State sites, for neither of which are there major plans for the delivery of affordable housing. The clock is ticking. We have to deliver affordable houses, for both purchase and rental.

I thank the Minister of State and ask him to convey to the necessary authorities in the Customs House the need to respond to me this week with some explanation or rationale as to why Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown could not accept or agree to some compromise for an affordable housing priority draft scheme.

I do not have much of a response, other than to say I will relay the Senator's comments to the Minister. The Senator was a member of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County council until four years ago. The Shanganagh Castle site-----

Ultimately, in the delivery of local authority housing it is the local authority that is supposed to be the primary driver, though sometimes that is not the case.

The Shanganagh site may have the potential for 540 homes overall and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is required to carry out a cost-benefit analysis and financial modelling exercise under the public spending code, which sounds like the language of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The delay charter.

I accept the point about a site being owned for 14 years but I will ask the Minister, when he is dealing with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown in his response, to see where Shanganagh fits in.

I thank the Minister of State. I appreciate that.

Northern Ireland

I welcome the Minister to the House.

I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality for his attendance in the House. I ask him to provide an update on the publication of the proposed Bill to provide for enhanced co-operation with legacy inquests in Northern Ireland. The Kingsmill massacre was a heinous crime. It was an affront to humanity and an attack on all the good people who lived and worked in the small sleepy townland of Kingsmill near Whitecross in south Armagh. I remember the atrocity vividly as an eight year old boy growing up a few miles from where the carnage took place. It was described as one of the deadliest mass shootings of the Troubles in a vicious parade of tit-for-tat murders in a small geographical area where the scale of the loss of human life was unimaginable.

On 5 January 1976, on a dark, cold winter's evening, a minibus with workmen travelling home after a day's work was stopped on the side of a lonely country road by armed gunmen. The workmen were ordered out and lined up against the minibus. The one Catholic on the minibus was ordered to run away and the 11 remaining passengers were faced with summary execution and slaughtered in cold blood. There was no self defence and no chance. One man, Alan Black, survived despite having been shot 18 times and he has survived to this day, no doubt reliving the horror many times over on a daily basis. The local community was in a state of shock.

Last week in Belfast, Judge Brian Sherrard heard representations from stakeholders on the ongoing debate on whether the inquest into Kingsmill should name the two deceased suspects in the case. These were two individuals who were in receipt of on-the-run comfort letters. Judge Sherrard also made reference to the Birmingham bombings inquest, in respect of which senior IRA figures in Dublin had authorised the naming of four deceased suspects, names which the inquest subsequently published. He appealed for anyone with information on Kingsmill to release this to the families or the authorities and to give answers to some of the questions that have tormented the families for over four generations.

During the hearing, counsel for the coroner, Sean Doran QC, noted that the Dublin authorities gave assurances that a Bill allowing the coroner to travel south to question Garda officers would be progressed in September 2018 but unfortunately, there appears to be little or no advancement of this. Alan Kane QC, counsel for some of the families, made the point that families had lost hope, partly as a result of the apparent lack of appetite in Dublin to move on this, but also because of concerns that any further written questions regarding the massacre to the Dublin authorities would be a distraction from the lack of progress on the Bill.

When this was reported last week in the Belfast Newsletter, Philip Bradfield noted that the newspaper had contacted the Irish Department of Justice and Equality, which had responded that the drafting of the Bill was "at an advanced stage" and would be published very soon. Criticism was also levelled at the Northern Ireland Office for a failure to present a witness to provide evidence on the on-the-run scheme, even though contact had been made as far back as February.

This atrocity goes down as one of the darkest episodes in the Troubles across the province. Families, torn apart with grief and loss, have felt abandoned by the State on both sides of the Border. These families, as passive onlookers to other inquests and inquiries, namely, the Bloody Sunday inquiry, Ballymurphy, the Birmingham pub bombings and, as recently as yesterday, the developments in the Daniel Hegarty case, feel completely abandoned and left behind with a sense of unfairness and a feeling that there is absolutely no regard for their redress, for closure for them, for answers to their questions or an opportunity to get whatever small degree of comfort or closure they rightly deserve, 43 years later.

These people are living this horror on a daily basis. It never goes away and it never will go away. The wrongs cannot be righted nor their loved ones returned but what can be done is to hasten the progress of this Bill to assist with answers to questions, to assist with the legal process and to demonstrate to these families that there is no hierarchy of loss, pain or suffering, that there is no hierarchy of victims and that all victims' families deserve answers and closure.

What is the status of the Bill? What is the reason for the delay and when can the House expect to see the advancement of the Bill? Could the Minister give assurances to the families of the Kingsmill massacre victims that no stone will be left unturned to answer their questions and to facilitate the coroner in his attempt to fill the information gaps in the 43-year struggle fighting for answers. Furthermore, I appeal to the Kingsmill massacre inquest in Belfast to release the names of the suspects in this case.

If there is any degree of humanity or compassion in those responsible for this atrocity, they should see fit to authorise the release of the suspects' names. The release of names in the Birmingham inquest has set a precedent, not only to identify those responsible but to take the suspicion and stigma away from those in the locality mistakenly labelled as perpetrators. There is no doubt this one act was a defining moment in the history of south Armagh and it drove a wedge of mistrust between communities that would take decades to heal. This Bill will not bring back the deceased, but it will go some way to reassure the families that they are as important as others and like others, they too deserve answers.

I thank Senator Marshall for raising this important matter, which I understand refers to the criminal justice (international co-operation) Bill. I acknowledge his work on these issues. His membership of this House is important. He provides an invaluable perspective on many issues, not least those concerning the legacy of the dark days of horrific violence on our island. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to update the House on an issue he and I have discussed many times. I had the opportunity of visiting the site of the Kingsmill massacre on a country road, as Senator Marshall outlined and to reflect also on the poignant monument near Whitecross. I acknowledge the Senator's deeply personal recollection of the horrors of the atrocity at Kingsmill, and I assure him of my sincere personal commitment to ensuring the Irish Government plays its part in implementing the commitments of the Stormont House Agreement, the negotiation of which I was closely involved in, in my then role of Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I published the general scheme of the criminal justice (international co-operation) Bill in December 2017, following approval by the Government. This proposed new legislation is an important further step in the Government's ongoing commitment to implement measures to address the legacy of the Troubles on this island and to support the victims of the Troubles and their families. In addition to enhancing the co-operation provided to coroners' inquests in Northern Ireland into historical Troubles-related deaths, these proposals will further underpin the Government's commitment to full co-operation with the framework of measures set out in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. The proposed legislation will provide for a mechanism for coroners in Northern Ireland who are conducting inquests into Troubles-related deaths to hear testimony from Garda Síochána witnesses under existing Irish law. The Bill will also extend the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to allow the Garda Commissioner to enter into co-operation agreements with non-police law enforcement bodies outside the State. That will be an important element in our co-operation with the legacy institutions to be established under the Stormont House Agreement, namely, the historical investigations unit and the independent commission on information retrieval.

I must emphasise that this legislation is seeking to enhance further co-operation in addition to the considerable assistance which has already been facilitated by the Government and the Garda authorities. In respect of the ongoing inquest into the horrific Kingsmill murders, the Government, in June 2015, approved specific legal arrangements to enable the transfer of material to the Northern Ireland coroner. These specific legal measures were made in response to the absence of an existing formal, legal mechanism that would have allowed the Garda authorities to transfer relevant material outside the jurisdiction.

In accordance with those legal arrangements, the Garda authorities have provided the Northern Ireland coroner with all relevant documents in their possession and have responded to his follow-up queries.

I strongly agree with Senator Marshall when he speaks about there being no hierarchy of victims. He is right, and I agree with that fully. The Bill is now at an advanced stage of drafting. A considerable amount of legal work has been undertaken to ensure that, once enacted, this legislation will deliver on the Irish Government’s commitment to fully co-operate with legacy inquests in Northern Ireland. I expect to publish the Bill before the summer recess. On the basis of previous experience with North-South related legislation I would expect broad support from all Members of the House. I am confident that the Bill will progress swiftly through the legislative process and I will be seeking the co-operation of Senators at that point before we embark on the summer vacation.

I thank the Minister for coming into the House and for his response, which I fully accept. I understand there is movement on this issue. As I said, there is no hierarchy of victims but for any parent in Northern Ireland who buried a child or any child who buried a parent as a consequence of the Troubles, it is an unthinkable situation. No one can bring back the victims or rewind the clock but if we are serious about reconciliation and an agreed future we must get answers to questions and some degree of closure for the families, irrespective of their background or political persuasion.

Dealing with the legacy of the Troubles on this island is a difficult task. There are no easy solutions. I want to emphasise, however, that the Government is and always has been fully committed to the provisions of the Stormont House Agreement on addressing the history of the violent conflict in Northern Ireland. It is a matter of regret that the political impasse in Northern Ireland has somewhat delayed the establishment of the framework of measures as set out in the Stormont House Agreement. However, the Government remains fully committed to their implementation. We are continuing to work with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland to give effect to these measures.

I agree with what Senator Marshall said about families and the need to address these issues. At the outset of his contribution, he indicated that families were losing hope. I want to say here in the Seanad this afternoon that families should not lose hope. Families need answers. Families need our help. I am very hopeful that once the measures provided for in the Stormont House Agreement have been put in place they will provide an opportunity for the families of the many persons killed during the Troubles to access further information about those deaths where they wish to do so. The criminal justice (international co-operation) Bill will be an important element of the Irish Government's commitment to this process. I look forward to bringing this legislation into this House before the summer and continuing to work with Senator Marshall and colleagues across the aisle in the Seanad.

As there is a vote in the Dáil, I ask the Acting Leader to suspend the House until 3.15 p.m.

I so propose. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 3.09 p.m. and resumed at 3.15 p.m.

Public Procurement Regulations

The Minister of State is welcome to the House.

The Minister of State is very welcome. Four State contracts are under way in Monaghan town at present, all of which have been secured by contractors from outside the State. I understand the requirements of the State tendering process but is there a need for a review of that process to ensure absolute fairness? Local people in Monaghan naturally are asking questions about the process that resulted in this happening and whether it is truly fair and just. They are asking whether it is not strange that in awarding four State contracts, not a single contractor from Monaghan was successful. After all, they employ local people, buy their materials from local suppliers and pay rates. People need assurance that the current system of assessment is truly effective. They need to be assured that the same criteria are used fairly for all tenders. There needs to be absolute assurance that there are no loopholes, that is, that the current criteria of the tendering process do not give contractors from outside the State any unfair advantage. Are there adequate inspections during and at the end of such contracts to ensure the criteria have been adhered to by the successful contractors? People must be assured that there is a level playing pitch and that the Department is doing all it can to ensure this is the case.

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe. Public procurement is a key part of the Government's overall reform agenda. The public procurement process is governed by EU legislation and national rules and guidelines. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime that delivers best value for money. It is important to point out that this regime also works to the benefit of Irish suppliers wishing to supply goods, service or works in other EU member states. When carrying out procurement procedures, contracting authorities require suppliers to comply with a wide variety of legislation in areas that would include taxation, social policy, the environment and employment law. Compliance with the legislation covering these areas is rightly a matter for the relevant Departments or agencies or both involved in the particular procurement process.

Public procurement regulations require applicants to meet certain standards when applying for public contracts. That applies across the board.

The criteria upon which contracting authorities may exclude applicants from the award procedure of public contracts are set out in the European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations and the EU public procurement directives of 2014. Before an applicant is excluded for certain breaches, the applicant may make a case and provide supporting evidence as to why it should not be excluded. The contracting authority must consider this evidence before deciding whether to exclude or include an applicant. In addition, the qualifying tenderer must submit signed declarations stating that none of the circumstances, for example, participation in a criminal organisation, corruption, terrorist offences etc. outlined in Article 57 of the procurement directive apply. Contracting authorities may also require applicants for public contracts to declare that they have not breached their obligations in the fields of environmental, social and labour law established by European Union law, national law, and collective agreements or by the international environmental, social and labour law provisions listed in annexe X of the procurement directive. These requirements are set out in the template documents used in tendering for goods and services, which have been developed by the Office of Government Procurement in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

A comprehensive interpretation of the public procurement directives, Public Procurement Guidelines for Goods and Services, has been developed to improve consistency and promote best practice in the application of the public procurement rules. In addition to developing guidance and providing advice to contracting authorities, the Office of Government Procurement has responsibility for developing and setting out the overarching policy framework for public procurement in Ireland. In this regard, the Office of Government Procurement has developed the national public procurement policy framework which consists of five strands, including legislation, Government policy, the capital works management framework for public works, general procurement guidelines for goods and services and more detailed technical guidelines, template documentation and information notes, as issued periodically by the Office of Government Procurement. This framework enables a more consistent approach to public procurement across the public sector by setting out the procurement procedures to be followed by public bodies. The framework supports contracting authorities, including the four key sectors, namely, health, education, local government and defence, individual Departments, offices, commercial and non-commercial State bodies, and entities which are subsidised at a rate of 50% or more by a public body, when awarding contracts for works, goods and services. It enables public bodies to adopt procedures to meet their public procurement requirements and facilitates compliance with EU and national procurement rules. While the Office of Government Procurement guidelines facilitates and enables compliance with public procurement rules, it is the responsibility of each contracting authority to ensure that they adhere to these rules.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. As I am sure he can appreciate, it is very frustrating for a local contractor who does not see one, two or three but four contracts going to contractors from outside the State, bearing in mind that these jobs are not very big to start with. It is frustrating for people who are left wondering why their tender was not successful. I understand what the Minister of State has said but it is important that the rules and guidelines that are in place for the awarding of these contracts are adhered to. The Minister of State stated in conclusion that "it is the responsibility of each contracting authority to ensure that they adhere to these rules". I seek an assurance from the Minister of State that there are adequate checks and balances in place to ensure the contracting authority is doing what it is meant to be doing, which is to ensure that the people who are successful in these contracts, to whom I wish good luck, adopt the same rules and regulations as others.

I agree wholeheartedly with the Senator about requiring that every single contractor tendering for a project in Ireland, irrespective of from where the contractor emanates, is subject to the same set of terms and conditions and is required to comply with the regulatory regime underpinning the contracting process here in Ireland. The Senator referred to oversight. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform requires those charged with the delivery of public works to comply with the public spending code and the capital works management framework.

That sets out the high-level principles that apply to project governance, in particular the procedures that must be followed by bodies with delegated sanction for capital expenditure - those being the awarding bodies I mentioned earlier. All projects are required to complete the review stages set out in the code before sanction is given to go to tender. That process is undertaken between the sponsoring agency and the sanctioning authority.

This is topical and a timely intervention on the part of the Department. A review of the public spending code is under way in the Department. As elements of the review are completed the associated updated guidance will be published. Work is ongoing on updating the requirements for the various stages required in the process of selection, appraisal, approval and delivery of capital investment projects. That review of the public spending code will be completed in the first quarter of this year.

Sitting suspended at 3.25 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.