Public Sector Reform Implementation

Ceisteanna (33)

Bernard Durkan


33. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he and his Department continues to monitor performance throughout all Departments and bodies under their aegis in the context of meeting the requirements set in the agreement with the troika; if any particular issues have arisen or become evident in the course of any such review; if he remains to be satisfied that targets are being met in a fair and balanced way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29623/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Government continues to make good progress on achieving all of our deficit targets and priorities, as articulated in the Government Programme. We are bringing public expenditure back onto a sustainable path and driving forward the public service reform agenda to ensure that efficiencies and reformed work practices play a full part in contributing to the overall budgetary consolidation effort which is essential to achieving our annual deficit targets. To date, all quantitative fiscal targets set as part of the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support have been met in full.

The Expenditure Report 2013, published on 5 December 2012, includes further well-specified expenditure savings measures across every area of Government spending. While these structural economic and budgetary reforms that the Government is delivering will bring a return to prosperity and growth over the medium term, the current international economic position combined with the high levels of uncertainty across the world’s financial market will require Ireland to maintain fiscal discipline into 2014.

With regard to monitoring the performance of various Departments, it remains a matter for each Minister and their Departments to ensure that the Vote-level allocations are adhered to while at the same time ensuring that they continue to provide essential frontline services while managing increasing demands.

With this in mind, the new Medium Term Expenditure Framework aims to incentivise Departments through the implementation of a new “carryover” facility for Departments who exceed targets and successfully manage their allocations within budget in any year, so that they can use these savings in the following year. Those Departments that are proactive in driving reform, innovation and structural planning will naturally be best-placed to avail of this facility into the future. Departments who exceed their current expenditure ceiling in any given year will, as a consequence, bear an offsetting adjustment in their envelope for the following year, and they will be required to devise appropriate policy measures to live within the reduced allocation. It will be a matter for Ministers and Heads of Department/Office to devise forward-looking plans and policies and to ensure that the Ministerial Expenditure Ceilings are adhered to.

Sale of State Assets

Ceisteanna (34)

John Halligan


34. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide an update on the planned programme of State asset disposal as agreed with the troika; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29690/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The House will be aware from my announcement in February of last year of the overall shape and scale of the State asset disposal programme that is being pursued. In brief, the disposal programme that the Government has agreed consists of:

The sale of Bord Gáis Éireann’s energy business (but not including BGÉ’s gas transmission or distribution systems or the two gas interconnectors, which will remain in State ownership);

The sale of some of ESB’s non-strategic power generation capacity;

Disposal of the State’s remaining shareholding in Aer Lingus, when market conditions are favourable in circumstances that accord with Government transport policy and at an acceptable price to Government;

After further consideration, and having ruled out the sale of Coillte’s land holdings, the Government has also determined that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte forests would be proposed for sale.

I am pleased to report that significant progress has been made to-date: Bord Gáis Éireann formally launched the sale process for its energy business, Bord Gais Energy, on 3rd May. The Board of BGE, together with their advisers, are handling the disposal process, in conjunction with NewERA and the Inter-Departmental Steering Group established to oversee the process on behalf of the Government. The transaction is expected to be concluded before the end of 2013.

ESB commenced the sale of some of its non-strategic power generation assets, as announced last October, on 28th May. The sale of the two overseas assets that it announced would be sold – at Marchwood in the UK and Amorbieta in Spain – are both expected to be completed in 2013.

Work is also continuing on planning for the further components of ESB’s disposal package, as announced by the company last October. Details of these further components will be made public by ESB, subject to commercial considerations, in due course.

With regard to Aer Lingus, the European Commission’s recently completed investigation of Ryanair’s bid for the company, and the ongoing investigation by the UK’s Competition Commission, which has now issued provisional findings that Ryanair’s shareholding gives it the ability to influence the commercial policy and strategy of Aer Lingus on routes between Britain and Ireland, have been complicating factors in the disposal of the State’s stake. These matters will continue to be taken into account in the Government’s plans for how to proceed with the disposal of its stake in the company.

At the present moment, however, it is the Government’s view that optimal conditions do not exist for a sale of the Government’s remaining shareholding just now. Nevertheless, the Government remains open to considering opportunities to dispose of its shareholding and will, in the meantime, continue to manage the holding in a responsible manner in order to protect the State's interests and with the aim of maximising its value.

With regard to Coillte, a number of detailed financial, technical and other specialist reports were prepared for Coillte in late 2012 by external specialist consultancy bodies, in full consultation with the Board of Coillte and its executive management. These covered all of the issues that have been raised by various interest groups, including, amongst others, the issue of public access to the forests, replanting obligations to ensure the continued existence of our forests, harvesting policy, the supply of timber to sawmills, as well as the implications for a post-transaction Coillte.

The Inter-Departmental Steering Group established to oversee the Coillte transaction process, which consists of representatives of NewERA, my department and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, has considered these reports and appraised myself and the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine of the work completed to-date.

On foot of this analysis, I can inform the Deputy that the Government has agreed with the joint recommendation of myself and the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine that now is not the appropriate time to proceed with the sale of harvesting rights in Coillte, but instead the focus needs to be on the restructuring of Coillte as a company, to address the issues that were identified in the reviews undertaken. To that end, I wish to further inform the Deputy that:

Coillte is to undergo a fundamental restructuring, to be overseen by NewERA and the relevant stakeholder Departments, which will include operational streamlining, financial de-leveraging and a critical examination of the disposal options for its non-core activities such as telecoms and wind.

A robust analysis will also be carried out to evaluate how to give effect to a beneficial merger of Coillte with Bord na Mona to create a streamlined and refocused commercial state company operating in the bio-energy and forestry sectors, as committed to in the Programme for Government.

A priority in this regard will be the annual delivery of a material financial dividend to the State by Coillte.

And finally, we intend to fill the significant number of vacancies that will arise on the Coillte board this year by persons with relevant experience and commercial expertise to drive the restructuring process and the merger with Bord na Mona if this is approved by Government.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (35)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


35. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the engagement he has had, or overseen, with citizens on the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) 2012 legislation. [29563/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As the Deputy will be aware, the model of parliamentary inquiries adopted in the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013 fully reflects and respects the views of the electorate on the appropriate scope of Oireachtas inquiries, as evidenced by the outcome of the referendum on the powers of Oireachtas inquiries October 2011.

The Bill also takes account of the report pre-legislative scrutiny process carried out on the General Scheme of the Bill by the Oireachtas Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Committee.

Office of Public Works Properties

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 29.

Ceisteanna (36)

Michael McGrath


36. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way the Office of Public Works can improve Ireland’s heritage offering to tourists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29669/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Currently, the Heritage Services Division of the Office of Public Works - which comprises the National Monuments Service and Historic Properties Service units - is responsible for managing the Heritage Estate portfolio which falls within the OPW's remit. In total, this represents in excess of approx 800 separate properties, a significant number of which are managed by the Office and presented to the public as sites of general visitor interest, whether arising from their singular scenic, historic, archaeological architectural, geological or other qualities.

A relatively small number of heritage sites (70 no.) are presented by the OPW with full Visitor and Guide facilities. The attendance at these sites in 2012 was approx 3.8 million visitors and the visitor income derived was in excess of €7m. This is clearly a very substantial undertaking which is happening in virtually all parts of the State and, though only approx one third of these sites are open on a year round basis, it can clearly be seen that the extent to which the State's tourism offering is underpinned by these attractions is already quite significant.

Some of these attractions are among the most iconic of Ireland's historic places and are renowned both nationally and internationally as premier visitor destinations. Sites such as Dún Aonghusa on the Aran Islands, Kilkenny Castle, Kilmainham Gaol and many others attract significant numbers of visitors and are well known as premier places to visit. Two heritage sites, Newgrange and Skellig Michael, possess World Heritage Site status from UNESCO and are particularly prized by visitors. Other locations within the portfolio are however less well known and do not attract a similar volume of numbers. In many of these cases, the sites in question have many undeniably fine qualities which I feel would make them ideal candidates for development and greater exposure to an increasing number of visitors.

It is clear that Ireland's heritage plays a significant role in relation to both foreign and domestic tourism. This is spelled out most explicitly recently in the report produced by the Heritage Council last year entitled The Economic Value of Ireland's Historic Environment. The portfolio managed by the OPW clearly has a major role to play in relation to this aspect of the tourism economy and a number of proposals are under way within my Department to maximise the impact made by these properties in terms of supporting the visitor offering. These proposals include:

a targeted approach to a site publicity campaign that makes potential visitors more aware of the sites available to visitors and encourages greater footfall to these locations;

greater engagement by local organisations and groups in the running of heritage sites through the "Friends of Irish Heritage" programme, leading to better integration with local communities, a broader sense that the visitor is engaging with real Irish people and extended opening arrangements during the Winter months when the sites might otherwise be closed;

a continuing focus on excellent product standards including the quality and range of publications, Guided tours and the overall visitor experience;

greater engagement with modern media including Apps information Website and Social Media etc in order to better publicise the various sites and encourage more visits.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 29.

Office of Public Works Projects

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 21.

Ceisteanna (38)

John McGuinness


38. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he remains committed to the percentage for art scheme; the processes that are in place to ensure the greatest benefit is derived from the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29671/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has integrated the Per Cent for Art Scheme in its building projects since the late 1970s. The Government Decision of 1997 and the publication of the National Guidelines on Public Art by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in 2004 formalised a national approach to the implementation of the Scheme. This Government Decision approved the inclusion of a 1% budget for art, subject to an overall cap of EUR64,000, in all Exchequer-funded capital construction projects. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for Per Cent for Art policy and it is under this policy that OPW, and other participating Government Departments, continue to implement the Scheme.

Each Government Department manages the Scheme according to its individual role and responsibilities. As the OPW has responsibility for the management of the State Art Collection which contains over 15,000 historic and contemporary art works and decorative objects and which are on display in hundreds of State owned properties throughout Ireland, it remains committed to the use of the Per Cent for Art Scheme.

The majority of the contemporary artworks in the State Art Collection have been acquired under the Government's Per Cent for Art Scheme in recent decades. These works have been acquired from artists who are living and working in Ireland. Works have been purchased and commissioned from artists at different stages of their careers, with particular emphasis on those starting out in graduate shows and group exhibitions. OPW has also commissioned works in a wide variety of media - painting, sculpture, music and poetry through the Scheme.

Since the early 1990s, OPW has organised a touring exhibition of artworks to bring the works in the State Art Collection to audiences throughout the country. These exhibitions, which in more recent times, have been organised in partnership with the Department of Finance and Personnel of Northern Ireland as a cross-border cultural project, have travelled to a wide variety of venues including arts centres, libraries, public galleries and visitor centres. The exhibitions are accompanied by illustrated catalogues that document the work of the included artists, serving as records of the events and providing information for researchers.

The OPW has taken a strategic approach to managing the Scheme in recent years to ensure that the State Art Collection continues to enrich visitors' experiences in public buildings and to raise awareness of current contemporary art practice. Per Cent for Art funding is pooled to ensure the acquisition and commissioning of a variety of art projects to support the creativity of the current generation of artists and the infrastructure that surrounds their practice (galleries, foundries, framers, conservators, artist-led studios, etc).

The OPW Art Management Handbook sets out the procedures and policies involved in the implementation of the Per Cent for Art Scheme within OPW managed properties. The OPW website contains information in relation to the implementation of the Per Cent for Art Scheme and the management of the State Art Collection. OPW also continues to publish illustrated catalogues documenting the collection and copies of these catalogues are available from the OPW Art Management Office. The Office further encourages access to information for research purposes and works from the State Art Collection are regularly placed on loan to exhibitions organised by other cultural institutions and artists to further facilitate public engagement with the Collection.

Since its foundation in the mid 19th century, OPW has had responsibility for the presentation of State properties to millions of visitors from home and abroad. OPW continues to incorporate Irish art, craft and design into these properties to promote and encourage the creative output of artists, designers and craftspeople living and working in Ireland. The work created today, facilitated by the Government's Per Cent for Art Scheme, forms the heritage of the future.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 21.

Departmental Strategies

Ceisteanna (40)

Catherine Murphy


40. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider enhancing the resources he has allocated to his Department's e-governance function with the specific remit of developing the State's capacity to deliver a whole range of services online and at a single portal; the present budget and staff that the e-governance unit is allocated; if he will provide figures outlining the potential saving to the State of enhancing online governance capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29621/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The appointment of Government Chief Information Officer, Mr Bill McCluggage, is the first key action in enhancing the resources available to assist the successful implementation of the eGovernment Strategy. The CIO took up his appointment on 10 June and is currently assessing what is required to ensure that ICT-enabled change is delivered across the Public Service.

In consultation with the CIO Council and public bodies, my Department continues to examine the potential efficiency and effectiveness gains of eGovernment. I look forward to the Government CIO’s recommendations on specific actions to be prioritised in the context of the eGovernment Strategy. The CIO’s recommendations will take account of resource implications and the potential benefits of these activities to citizens and business.

Haddington Road Agreement Savings

Ceisteanna (41)

Pádraig MacLochlainn


41. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a full and detailed breakdown of the €300 million for 2013 saving and €1 billion euro saving by 2015 he expects to achieve through the Haddington Road agreement. [29562/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Public service trade unions are currently considering the various proposals put forward under the Haddington Road Agreement and those unions and associations that need to ballot their members are in the process of doing so ahead of the implementation date of 1 July. The composition of the savings arising can only be finalised when the results of the various ballots are known.

However, the measures set out in the Agreement will enable the Government to achieve the targeted savings of approximately €300 million in the public service pay and pensions bill in 2013, including savings on Local Government. Furthermore, it is estimated that the measures set out in the Haddington Road Agreement will reduce the public service pay and pensions bill by €1 billion by the end of the Agreement.

The Revised Estimates Volume was published on the basis of the previous Labour Relations Commission (LRC) recommendations, prior to the recent re-engagement between the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform and the Trade Unions. These recommendations were, at the time, the most appropriate means of achieving the savings required and it was important that the relevant Oireachtas Committees could begin the process of examining the Vote allocations for 2013.

While the recommendations set out in Haddington Road Agreement have changed since the previous LRC recommendations, the pay allocations for individual Votes based on the implementation of these recommendations remain largely the same.

National Lottery Licence Sale

Ceisteanna (42)

Charlie McConalogue


42. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the implications for the funding mechanism for the national children's hospital of the decision to use proceeds from the sale of the national lottery licence to fund additional Exchequer capital spending in 2013 and 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29667/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Since the outset of this process, I have made clear that part of the upfront payment to the State from the licensing arrangements for the National Lottery will be used to help fund the construction of the National Children’s Hospital. Up to 200 million euro of the proceeds from upfront payment will be made available for the building of the Hospital. The overall estimated cost of the Hospital is 650 million euro. The HSE has an indicative sum of 450 million euro in its capital programme for the Hospital project, including provision for ambulatory and urgent care.

The intention has never been to allocate the entire upfront payment from the National Lottery to the building of the Hospital. Some moneys which will accrue from the payment in respect of the National Lottery licence are being allocated to help fund Exchequer capital projects in 2013 and 2014.