I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 162 together.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that at present 80% of vetting applications are processed by the Garda National Vetting Bureau in under five working days. This represents a dramatic improvement in turnaround times for the processing of vetting applications in recent years, falling from an average of 14 weeks in mid-2013. This improvement has come about as a result of an unprecedented investment by the Government and the Garda Authorities in providing this service, including an increase of over 80% in staffing levels and the roll out earlier this year of an e-vetting system.
In April this year I commenced the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012-2016 and in tandem with that An Garda Síochána launched the e-vetting system. E-vetting facilitates the on-line processing of applications and this has significantly streamlined the vetting process and contributed to a sustained reduction in processing times for vetting applications. I am informed that at present 85% of organisations registered for vetting are operating the e-vetting system. There is a small number of organisations, including some in the education sector, who do not yet operate the e-vetting system. The Garda Authorities are working to encourage all other organisations to do so and will assist organisations to register for e-Vetting without delay.
There were reports recently of delays with regard to vetting applications in respect of some Special Needs Assistants posts. In these cases the vetting applications were submitted in the old paper format. For vetting applications that continue to be submitted in paper format, the average turnaround time is in the order of four to five weeks from the receipt of the application by the National Vetting Bureau. This has been the average time frame for paper applications for the past couple of years and this represents a minimum time frame given the administrative input required. The Garda Authorities will work through all of the applications received as quickly as may be but this must be consistent with ensuring that the proper checks are carried out.
Processing times for some applications can be longer than others when, for example, additional enquiries may be necessary or where errors have been made in the application. It is important to note that delays can also occur in other aspects of the application process which are outside of the control of the Garda Authorities, for example, in the submission or return of applications by the registered organisations.