Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, answered orally.

Nursing Staff Remuneration

Questions Nos. 5 and 6 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (4)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

4. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the consideration that has been given to the requests by nurses for restoration of pay in view of the fact that this was introduced as a temporary measure (details supplied). [6164/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I would first like to assure the Deputy that all nurses and midwives are benefitting from the dismantling of the temporary Financial Emergency legislation under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement. This Agreement is delivering pay benefits of 2-2.5% per annum and will result in the restoration of salary rates up to €50,000 for all public servants (including nurses) by end 2019, while salary rates up to €70,000 (90% of public service) will be restored by end 2020. As a result all staff nurses will be fully restored by the end of this year.

The Rainy Day Fund is designed to increase the State's resilience to external shocks such as Brexit in order to act as a counter-cyclical buffer in the event of a particularly severe economic downturn.

To spend this on current expenditure would have the following effects:

Firstly we would have permanently increased expenditure and reduced our safety buffers at a time when our economy and our tax base is at risk from external shocks such as Brexit;

Secondly, with a balanced Budget and in the absence of new revenue raising measures, we would be reducing the amount of money available to recruit new staff;

Finally we would be potentially fuelling a wage inflation spiral, where increases in wages for one group results in higher demands from other groups both in the public service and the private sector.

Questions Nos. 5 and 6 answered orally.

Departmental Properties

Questions Nos. 8 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (7)

John Curran

Ceist:

7. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the lands and properties owned by his Department deemed suitable and made available for social and affordable housing in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5758/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Commissioners of Public Works, on behalf of the State, manage a large and diverse property portfolio, which ranges from office accommodation to heritage properties, visitor centres, Garda stations, among others. As is typical of such large portfolios, there will always be a number of properties, at any given time, that are vacant.

The majority of the properties currently vacant are those Garda stations closed under the 2012/2013 policing plans of An Garda Síochána. The remainder consists of properties such as customs posts, former coastguard stations and sundry other properties located throughout the country.

The provision of social/affordable housing is a function of the Local Authorities and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

However, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has actively engaged with that Department in providing information on any non-operational, vacant properties we own. That Department then assesses those properties in terms of what might be suitable for residential use.

The Land Development Agency (LDA) have been given access to information on all properties held by the CPW. Given the LDA's remit to increase the supply of housing, including the re-purposing of State land for housing where appropriate, it is expected that the LDA will express interest in some lands held by the CPW. The OPW will engage constructively with any requests from the LDA.

As a matter of course, the OPW provides information on its non-operational properties to the relevant authorities/housing agencies, for assessment.

In the past two years, this process has identified a number of properties as being feasible for adaption for residential use. These include:

Property

Transferred To

Use

8 residential units in Dublin City Centre

Dublin City Council

Peter McVerry Trust

Property at Clonard Road, Crumlin, Dublin

Dublin City Council (under Licence)

Family Hub

A further 15 properties are being considered by various local authorities in terms of their potential for investment and adaptation for social housing. These include:

Property

Under Consideration By

Use

7 properties and 1 site, Crosshaven, Cork

Cork County Council

Social Housing

5 properties, Templemore, Tipperary

Tipperary County Council

Social Housing

3 properties, Limerick City

Limerick City & County Council

Social Housing

Questions Nos. 8 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Public Spending Code

Ceisteanna (13)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

13. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to enhance the oversight of major construction contracts in order to prevent costs escalating and to safeguard taxpayer funds in view of cost overruns to date in respect of major public construction contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5802/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform requires those charged with the delivery of public works projects to comply with the Public Spending Code and the Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF).

The Public Spending Code sets out the high level principles which apply in relation to project governance and, in particular, the procedures that must be followed by bodies with delegated sanction for capital expenditure. All projects are required to complete the review stages set out in the Code before sanction is given to go to tender. This process is undertaken between the sponsoring agency and the sanctioning authority.

A review of the Public Spending Code is currently underway in my Department. As elements of the review are completed, the associated updated guidance will be published. Work is ongoing on updating the requirements in relation to the different stages involved in the process of selection, appraisal, approval, and delivery of capital investment projects. This will be completed in Q1 2019.

The Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF) represents the tools that a public body must use to procure and manage the external resources necessary to deliver a public works project that is to be delivered under the Exchequer-funded element of the National Development Plan. The CWMF is maintained by the Office of Government Procurement in consultation with the Government Contracts Committee for Construction.

The performance of a key component of the CWMF; the public works contract, was reviewed in 2014 and a series of recommendations that apply to the conditions of contract have been implemented since 2016. The OGP is shortly to commence on a more comprehensive review of the manner in which public works projects are procured in order to develop the next generation of the CWMF.

The review will incorporate consultation with industry and the public bodies charged with the delivery of public works projects on a broad range of issues such as risk management, information quality standards, managing price inflation and the adoption of digital technologies in project delivery.

Protected Disclosures

Questions Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (14)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

14. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the nature of the discussions that took place between his Department and the Department of Justice and Equality that led to the establishment of a panel of barristers to assess the protected disclosures of current and former members of An Garda Síochána. [5769/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Last year, the Department of Justice and Equality sought sanction from my Department for payment of a proposed fee structure to legal Counsel as part of a new independent panel for reviewing allegations of Garda misconduct. The correspondence from that Department noted that the Minister for Justice and Equality had decided to set up this panel to consider allegations made to the Minister for Justice and Equality under the provisions of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.

The stated rationale for the new panel was to provide independent advice to the Department of Justice and Equality regarding how each case should be treated and to make recommendations about possible options based on the documentation provided. According to the request for sanction, the Minister for Justice and Equality was of the view that the panel would help foster confidence in An Garda Síochána that allegations would be treated in a proper and unbiased manner because of its independent nature. The correspondence also referred to the additional benefit of the practical legal expertise of the panel members which not be available in the Department of Justice and Equality.

Overall, I gather that the motivation of the Minister for Justice and Equality was to ensure that disclosures can be dealt with in a proper, fair, professional and independent manner.

There were no other discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality on the policy matter of setting up the panel, especially given that the Minister for Justice and Equality had already consulted with the Attorney General's Office regarding the setting up of this panel structure. Rather, my Department considered the merits of the fee structure for the panel and engaged with the Department of Justice and Equality on this issue. Ultimately, my Department provided sanction for the proposed fee structure on condition that this would represent value for money.

Questions Nos. 15 to 18, inclusive, answered orally.

National Children's Hospital Expenditure

Ceisteanna (19, 20)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

19. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that officials in his Department voiced concerns regarding the National Children’s Hospital in 2017 on cost and governance; if these concerns were relayed to him at the time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5946/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

20. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has discussed offsetting the growing costs of the National Children’s Hospital by using funding for other health development projects with the Minister for Health as suggested by his officials in November 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5947/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 20 together.

In April 2017 the Department of Health submitted a Memorandum to Government which included a section on the proposed new governance arrangements for the NCH project. This proposal included the establishment of the Children’s Hospital Project and Programme Board, to be chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Health, and with responsibility for monitoring the progress of the Children’s Hospital Project and Programme against the agreed parameters for the programme in relation to timeline, scope and funding.

As the Deputy is aware in advance of any Memorandum being taken to Government there is engagement between Departments relating to the Memorandum.

The Government took a decision to proceed with the new Children’s Hospital project on the basis of this Memorandum.

The role of my Department is in respect of the monitoring of overall expenditure by Departments, and not the oversight of individual projects. The management and delivery of individual projects within allocation is primarily the responsibility of the relevant sponsoring Department and Minister.

My Department is engaging with the Department of Health and other Departments on how the increased costs of the project will be managed within the overall agreed NDP capital allocations. When that engagement is complete, I expect to revert to Government with further proposals in relation to how the increased costs of the project will be managed within the existing agreed annual NDP ceilings.