Croke Park Agreement Issues

Ceisteanna (30)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

30. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has had discussions with representatives of retired public sector workers concerning the impact on them of the Croke Park II agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17868/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I have not had discussions with representatives of retired public service workers in relation to this matter.

As the Deputy will be aware, the talks leading up to the recent Labour Relations Commission proposals for a Public Service Agreement 2013 – 2016 took place between Government officials representing the State as employer, and staff representatives, principally the Public Services Committee of the ICTU, representing public servants. The talks and draft Agreement did not encompass public service pensioners and their pension entitlements.

As referred to in the Labour Relations Commission proposals document, separately to the planned pay and productivity measures for existing public servants, the Government has decided to legislate for certain changes in respect of public service pensions. These changes are not part of the draft Public Service Agreement, and were not proposed by the Labour Relations Commission.

While I acknowledge the contribution made by public service pensioners to the fiscal consolidation process, to date, the changes now proposed are an important burden sharing element in the Government's progress towards a restoration of the country's economic sustainability, to that end my officials intend to meet with the Alliance of Retired Public Servants in the coming weeks.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (31, 34, 36, 37)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

31. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is examining payments of pensions in excess of €100,000 to former public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17869/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

34. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will introduce legislation that will tackle the pensions being paid to former politicians, bankers from bailed out institutions and senior civil servants; his views on whether the continued payment of these pensions, at the current rates, is socially acceptable in the context of the national economic recovery process; if he is prepared to examine constitutional amendments to tackle this injustice in the event of being unable to frame workable legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17744/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

36. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider applying a special levy or charge to reduce the pensions of former Taoisigh, Ministers and other Oireachtas officeholders. [14065/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

37. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on whether pensions paid to former Taoisigh, Ministers and office holders cannot be significantly reduced on the basis that these payments are legally interpreted as property rights. [17837/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 34, 36 and 37 together.

As I have set out, on a number of occasions before, the position in relation to the pensions of senior public service retirees is kept under review by my Department. Over the course of recent years, several Government measures have been taken which serve to substantially reduce pension awards and pensions in payment to former senior public servants, Taoisigh, Government Ministers and other office holders.

A key measure in this context has been the Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR), which applies to all public servants who retired on pensions of over €12,000 up to the end of February 2012. This progressively structured measure was introduced on 1 January 2011, based on a set of income bands and percentage reductions bearing most heavily on higher-pensioned retirees. Acting on foot of my concern in relation to high public service pensions, I subsequently acted to make the PSPR even more progressive in application, by legislating for an increase in the rate on pension amounts in excess of €100,000, from 12% to 20%, effective from 1 January 2012.

In the case of former public servants who retire or have retired from March 2012 onward, pensions have also been subject to a significant effective reduction, insofar as they have been impacted by the pay reductions applied under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) legislation. These reductions have again been progressively structured, so that higher paid public servants and public service retirees, including the groups referred to by the Deputies, have proportionately been harder hit. In this context some of the most significant pay cuts have been imposed on ministerial pay, and these cuts will be fully reflected in the pension awards to current and future Ministers.

Future pension awards will also be moderated by the general pay ceiling of €200,000 for appointments to higher posts across the public service which I introduced in 2011. Revised salary rates in line with that ceiling are now in place for future Secretaries General in the civil service, who, in addition, can no longer get notional added years or immediate pensions before preserved pension age. These retrenchments in respect of salary and exit terms will ultimately reduce Exchequer pension costs in respect of senior civil servants.

Looking further ahead, the recently commenced Single Public Service Pension Scheme which applies to all new-joiner public servants, including civil servants, office holders and Ministers, will in time deliver significant savings to the public purse through reduced public service pensions. These long-term savings will derive from key features of the Single Scheme, principally an increase in pension age, inflation linkage of benefits and career-average accrual.

The various FEMPI and other measures which I have outlined indicate the significant action already taken in terms of reducing the pensions payable currently or in the future to former senior public servants, Taoisigh, Ministers and other office holders. In this general context it is important to point out that legal advice from the Attorney General states that it is possible to apply proportionate reductions to existing pensions, as has been done to date in the FEMPI legislation. However, due account must be taken of the fact that pension benefits are generally regarded as vested property rights, which must be considered in the public interest when taking action.

Finally, as Deputies will be aware, some of the institutions referred to in Deputy Griffin's question are the responsibility of my colleague Mr Michael Noonan, TD, Minister for Finance.

Departmental Debt Collection

Ceisteanna (32)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

32. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to establish a centralised agency for the collection of all moneys outstanding to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17862/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Currently the Government has no plans to establish a centralised agency for the collection of all monies outstanding to the State.

In line with our commitments in the Programme for Government and the Public Service Reform Plan, my Department is considering a range of alternative service delivery models, such as centralised services, shared services and external service delivery, to improve service delivery in a number of areas.

Debt management has been identified by my Department as one such function that should be assessed to establish if it could be delivered more effectively using other options. No decision has been made to change how debt management is carried out – my Department is considering all options, including improving existing debt management processes in their current organisations; centralising all or part of the workload into a single body; creating a dedicated shared service (such as the new PeoplePoint HR Shared Service for the Civil Service); and the external service delivery of all or part of the workload.

A Project Board has been established made up of Assistant Secretaries or equivalents from the five organisations (the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Environment, Community and Local Government; and Social Protection; the HSE; and the Courts Service) in scope for this project. A Senior Responsible Officer from the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and a Project Manager from the Revenue Commissioners have been appointed. A request for tender seeking consultants to assist with this evaluation closed on 28 March. Work on the evaluation is expected to commence in the summer.

The ultimate outcome of this process will be a decision for Government, cognisant of whatever findings and recommendations emerge from this evaluation.

Proposed Legislation

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (33)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

33. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he will introduce the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2012 in the Dáil. [17840/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As the Deputy is aware, the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013 aims to establish a comprehensive statutory framework for the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries within the current constitutional framework. I wish to advise the Deputy that the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013 is currently at an advanced stage in the drafting process and I expect to present the Bill to Government for publication in the coming weeks.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 31.

Pension Provisions

Questions Nos. 36 and 37 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (35)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

35. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the basis on which cuts to public sector pensions starting at €32,500 in Croke Park II, could be imposed on people who retired under defined terms in Croke Park 1 and signed a contract based on those terms. [17742/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As the Deputy will be aware the LRC noted the Government’s intention to require public service pensioners to make a further contribution to the consolidation measures in conjunction with the contribution being sought from serving staff, thereby ensuring an element of burden sharing from higher paid public service pensioners. These matters now fall to be considered further in the light of the ICTU decision on the LRC proposals.

Questions Nos. 36 and 37 answered with Question No. 31.

Departmental Contracts

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 7.

Ceisteanna (38)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

38. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the percentage of supplies and services public contracts that have been awarded to micro-enterprises which have collaborated on public sector tender through a joint bidding or consortium formation year on year over the past three years. [17835/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

While the National Procurement Service (NPS) actively encourages the participation of SMEs in the tendering process, it does not have the information requested. The exact nature/make up of a company is not one of the pieces of information sought by the NPS when tendering.

The NPS uses its Standard Suite of documents, designed in conjunction with the Chief State Solicitors Office and the Attorney Generals Office, for every competition it goes out to tender for. The following paragraph is contained in each NPS Request For Tender explicitly encouraging SMEs to tender in their own right or for those who feel that the scale of the competition may be beyond their own capacity to form potential consortia:

“NPS policy seeks to encourage participation by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in this Competition. SMEs that believe the scope of this Competition is beyond their technical or business capacity are encouraged to explore the possibilities of forming relationships with other SMEs or with larger enterprises. Through such relationships they can participate and contribute to the successful implementation of any contracts, agreements or arrangements that result from this Competition and therefore increase their social and economic benefits.

Larger enterprises are also encouraged to consider the practical ways that SMEs can be included in their proposals to maximise the social and economic benefits of the contracts that result from this tendering exercise. A main focus of this Competition is a reduction in transaction costs for both Clients and suppliers.”

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 7.