Flood Relief Schemes Status

Ceisteanna (168)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

168. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of flood relief schemes to be introduced at various locations in south County Galway; the timelines for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39512/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is undertaking a number of flood relief schemes in County Galway which are at various stages of design or construction. The projects set out below pertain to the south of the County.

Gort Lowlands Flood Relief Scheme

Galway County Council is leading on the development and implementation of the Gort Lowlands Flood Relief Scheme with the Council acting as the Contracting Authority for the project and funding provided by the OPW.

The combinations of river water, groundwater, swallow holes and turloughs in the karst Gort Lowlands catchment makes this area unique on an international level from an ecology perspective. Due to the intricate nature of the Gort Lowlands area, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Geological Surveys Ireland (GSI) have been contributing to the development of the Scheme.

All hydrological modelling is due to be completed before the end of 2019 with feasibility and route selection assessment expected to be completed by early 2020. The Public Exhibition of the proposal will follow before being submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for formal Confirmation under the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Acts. If the developed scheme is acceptable from an environmental and cost benefit perspective, it is possible that construction will commence in 2021 with an estimated construction period of eighteen months.

Portumna Flood Relief Scheme

Flood relief measures have been identified for Portumna in the Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Plan which was published in May 2018.

The Portumna Flood Relief Scheme is not being progressed in the first phase of investment under the Government's €1 billion flood risk capital programme but  will be progressed in the coming years and within the 10 year timeframe for the programme of investment.

The OPW is assisting Galway County Council with resources to enable the Council to progress Galway County flood relief projects.

Garda Station Refurbishment

Ceisteanna (169)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

169. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason for the delay in commencing works on Bailieborough Garda station, County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39521/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

There have been no delays in progressing this project.  Following site acquisition, the required Part 9 Planning application was lodged, with Planning Permission being granted in December 2018.  A full Design Team was appointed thereafter and this team is developing the full suite of Tender documentation required for the project.  It is envisaged that the procurement process for the works will commence later in 2019 with contracts being signed and work commencing on site in 2020. Supplementary Information

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (170)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

170. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a permanent independent Defence Forces pay body will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38512/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Public Service Pay Commission was tasked under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 to conduct a comprehensive examination of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention of staff in the public service, including the Defence Forces.

The Report by the Pay Commission on Recruitment and Retention in the Defence Forces has been published and is available on the Public Service Pay Commission's website here: https://paycommission.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/Dept-of-Defence-PSPC-report-2019-WEB.pdf 

This report represents a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the Permanent Defence Forces encompassing commissioned and enlisted personnel. 

The Report’s main conclusions are that the Defence Forces face challenges in meeting full strength and retaining certain skilled and experienced staff. The implementation of the Report’s recommendations, is provided for under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020.  

The main findings of the Report, which have been accepted by Government, include:

- An increase of 10% in the Military Service Allowance which is a unique payment to the Defence Forces and paid to the majority of ranks. The overall annual estimated cost of this measure is €4.8m p.a. 

- Restoration of a 10% reduction in respect of duty allowances such as Security Duty Allowance and Patrol Duty Allowance that were introduced under the Haddington Road Agreement.  The 10% cuts to overseas allowances will also be restored.  The overall estimated cost of the restoration of these measures is €3.3m p.a.

- Restoration of premium weekend payment rates which were approximately halved under the Haddington Road Agreement. The annual estimated cost of this measure is €1.4m p.a.

- Restoration of the Pilots Service Commitment Scheme for Flying Officers which is aimed at attracting pilots to continue in service on being able to stand down from the Air Corps. This Scheme was withdrawn in 2010.  The cost of this measurE is estimated at €600k pa depending on take up.

A high level plan for the implementation of all of the recommendations in the Report has been approved and work will commence on the actions in the plan immediately.  The above measures are in addition to the current Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) which is currently delivering pay benefits of between 7.4% and 6.2% (or up to 10% for new entrants hired after 2012) for our public servants, including Defence Force personnel at a cost of over €1.1bn, out to 2021.  The Pay Commission’s recommendations on the Defence Forces taken together with the pay measures provided for under the PSSA, represent a tangible package of pay improvements at this time for the members of our Defence Forces.

Public pay has been, and continues to be, determined in a public service wide context in Ireland and in a collective bargaining context under the framework of successive public service agreements.  This is appropriate given the size of the Irish public service and in the interests of maintaining control of the public finances.   There are no plans to change these arrangements.

Decentralisation Programme

Ceisteanna (171)

James Browne

Ceist:

171. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding decentralisation within the Civil Service; his plans to extend this policy to the southeastern region and County Wexford; if he will consider the region’s co-working hubs as possible alternatives to lengthy commutes for Civil Service employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39790/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As the Deputy will be aware, there was a Decentralisation Programme announced in December 2003 which set out a goal of relocating over 10,000 civil and public service jobs to 53 locations in 25 counties.

The Government decided in 2011 that the Decentralisation Programme be cancelled in light of the budgetary and staffing outlook at that time. Up to that date, about a third of the target numbers, over 3,400 posts were decentralised.

The proportion of civil servants working outside Dublin is now in the region of just over 50%. 

Initial costings of the Decentralisation Programme estimated a gross cost of approximately €900m in respect of procuring sites and office accommodation for the Programme. 

There are currently no further plans at the present time to introduce a further programme of decentralisation.

The Deputy will also be aware that a new Civil Service Mobility scheme has recently been developed. The scheme offers an opportunity for staff members to apply for mobility through an open and transparent system.

The scheme, which is being implemented on a phased basis, went live for Mobility moves in September 2018 for the general Civil Service grades of Clerical Officer (CO) and Executive Officer (EO) to move between and within 46 location zones outside Dublin

Figures at the end of July this year show that 13% of Dublin based Civil Servants have applications for Mobility to organisations located outside of Dublin.

 Further information on the Mobility scheme is available to view at http://hr.per.gov.ie/civil-service-mobility/

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (172)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

172. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the final agreed tender price, the date of the tender for the contract and the final overall amount actually paid and the date of the final payment in respect of each capital expenditure project completed since 1 January 2014 by his Department or an agency under the remit of his Department and which ended up costing €10 million or more in tabular form; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; the details available in respect of projects in which construction is not complete to date or in which the final settlement account has not been agreed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39929/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

My Department has not incurred any capital expenditure on projects in excess of €10 million since 1 January 2014. 

In respect of the relevant bodies under the aegis of the Department, the National Shared Services Office will respond to the Deputy directly.  The position regarding the Office of Public Works (OPW) is set out in the following tables:

OPW Vote Capital Projects

Project Name

Final Agreed Tender Price

Tender Contract Date

Final Overall Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason final amount paid   exceeded the final tender price

Details available in respect of projects in which construction is not complete to date or in which the final settlement account has not been agreed to date

Historic Leinster House

€12.82m including VAT

13/11/17

 

 

 

Project is due for completion Q4 2019

Miesian Plaza

Carried out by Landlord under lease contract arrangements

€23.5m including VAT

 

 

 

 

At Final Account Negotiations

Client Funded Capital Projects

Project Name

Final Agreed Tender Price

Tender Contract Date

Final Overall Amount Paid

Date of Final Payment

Reason final amount paid   exceeded the final tender price

Details available in respect   of projects in which construction is not complete to date or in which the   final settlement account has not been agreed to date

National Children’s Detention Centre

€49.3m including VAT

16/8/13

€52.8m

November 2018

Cost of additional Works over and above those     specified in Tender Docs   

 

Historic Wings, National Gallery

€29.291m including VAT

17/1/14

 

 

 

Conciliation process

Kevin Street Garda Divisional HQ

€31.020m including VAT

30/1/15

 

 

 

Conciliation process

Wexford Garda Divisional HQ

€25.295m including VAT

3/7/15

 

 

The release of the final payment to the contractor is expected to   issue shortly.

 

Galway Garda Divisional HQ

€28.324m including VAT

2/10/15

 

 

 

Conciliation process

Flood Unit

Flood   Relief Scheme

Final   Agreed Tender Price

(excl. VAT)

Tender   Contract Date

Final   Overall Amount Paid

(excl. VAT)

Date of Final Payment

Reason final amount paid exceeded the final tender   price

Details available in respect of projects in   which construction is not complete to date or in which the final settlement account has not been agreed to date

Bandon Flood   Relief Scheme

€10,988,500

10/6/2016

Project not   complete

N/A

Not applicable   as contract not completed yet.

Until   contract is complete it will not be possible to provide a final figure.

Skibbereen Flood Relief Scheme

€15,856,942

20/5/2016

Project not   complete

N/A

Not applicable as contract not completed yet

Until   contract is complete it will not be possible to provide a final figure.

Fermoy South   Flood Relief Scheme

€14,536,130

9/2/2012

€19,171,520*

5/06/2016

Claims for   additional works and change orders arose on the project, some of which resulted in Conciliator’s recommendations

N/A

Mallow South   Flood Relief Scheme

€5,379,834

7/7/2010

€10,250,000**

14/6/2016

Claims for   additional works and change orders arose on the project, some of which resulted in Conciliator’s recommendations

N/A

Ennis Lower   Flood Relief Scheme

€7,106,971

16/01/2013

€11,278,839

14/12/2016

Claims for   additional works and change orders arose on the project, some of which resulted in Conciliator’s recommendations

N/A

*This is the agreed Final account. Retention of €47,928.80 remains to be paid.

**This is the agreed Final account. Retention sum of €20,000 remains to be paid.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (173)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

173. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he remains assured of the ability of the economy to withstand the shock of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39959/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Government has always been clear that Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will have a negative economic impact on Ireland.  Since the referendum result, therefore, Brexit has been a central to the Government’s decision-making and in the management of our economic and fiscal policy. The Government has been taking steps to boost the resilience of the economy by balancing our books, reducing our debt burden, implementing an ambitious programme of capital investment, and establishing the Rainy Day Fund. 

As a result, Ireland is facing the challenge of Brexit from a position of economic strength.  The Irish economy continues to grow at a robust pace and we are close to full employment.

The Government will continue to work to strengthen the resilience of the economy, to maximise opportunities and to prepare for the challenges of Brexit, including through the Future Jobs Ireland Strategy, the Ireland Connected Trade and Investment Strategy and the 10-year National Development Plan.

Government Expenditure

Ceisteanna (174, 175, 176, 177, 179, 181)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

174. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he continues to liaise with all Departments with a view to preventing potential expenditure overruns or making adequate provisions in the event of unforeseen circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39960/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

175. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he has identified potential cost overruns and or underestimates throughout various Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

176. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has identified particularity sensitive areas which may require additional resources throughout the coming year with a view to alleviate their difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39962/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

177. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he anticipates further reforms as a means of good management of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39963/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

179. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree to which he remains satisfied that public expenditure remains in line with best practice throughout the European Union and the Eurozone in particular; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39966/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

181. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he expects the restoration of the economy be completed through the various means of restoration arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39968/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 to 177, inclusive, 179 and 181 together.

Managing expenditure within allocations is a key responsibility of every Department and Minister. A number of measures are in place to ensure that our expenditure and budgetary targets are being achieved on an ongoing basis. There is regular reporting to Government on expenditure levels and expenditure profiles are published for each month. The drawdown of funds from the Exchequer is monitored throughout the year and reported on against profile on a monthly basis in the Fiscal Monitor.

As set out in the most recent Fiscal Monitor, total gross voted expenditure at end-August 2019 was €42,015 million. This is €262 million, or 0.6% below profile. Gross voted current expenditure of €38,653 million, is €132 million, or 0.3% below profile. Of the 17 Ministerial Vote groups, 14 are on or below profile on current expenditure for end-August. Gross voted capital expenditure of €3,362 million, is €130 million, or 3.7% below profile and up €683 million, or 25.5% on the same period last year. The end-September Fiscal monitor will be published later this week.

Due to the scale of Government expenditure, over €66 billion in aggregate for 2019, and the cash basis of Government accounting, the need for Supplementary Estimates can arise for a number of reasons. This includes in-year policy decisions, timing issues, overspends in particular areas and the need to respond to emerging events where Departments do not have scope to deliver offsetting savings.

Looking at policy decisions that would require a Supplementary Estimate, this would include the decision in relation to this year’s Social Welfare Christmas Bonus. Turning to areas where there are potential pressures that would give rise to overspends, as outlined in the Mid-Year Expenditure Report, there are particular challenges in the area of Health taking into account the year-on-year increase and the expenditure profile for the last quarter of the year, and also in Justice arising from pressures in relation to Asylum Seekers Accommodation.

In addition, the continued uncertainty in relation to the timing of the UK’s exit from the European Union has required that the impacted Departments and Offices incur expenditure to ensure that we are in a position to respond to the emerging position. To the extent that offsetting underspends are not available this would necessitate certain Supplementary Estimates.

At this stage in the year, it is too early to definitively state what the requirement for Supplementary Estimates will be at year-end. The White Paper to be published this Friday will set out the aggregate forecast expenditure outturn for the year taking into account an assessment of potential Supplementary Estimate requirements. Expenditure Report 2020, which will be published on Budget Day, will set out an initial assessment on a Vote Group basis of any necessary additional expenditure for 2019.

Turning to the question of particularly sensitive areas that may require additional resources in the coming year, in light of the current position in relation to the UK's exit from the EU, Budget 2020 will be based on the assumption of a no-deal Brexit. Underlying this decision is the need to ensure the Government has the necessary resources at its disposal to meet the impact of the Brexit challenge, whilst preserving the longer-term sustainability of the public finances. This strategy involves a ‘twin-track’ approach of providing funding for key public services and also supporting the sectors and regions most exposed to Brexit related disruption.

Maintaining sustainable expenditure policy is an important element of meeting our EU obligations in relation to the Stability and Growth Pact and fiscal policy more generally. This includes ensuring that we are achieving the greatest possible impact with public expenditure and delivering high quality public services in an efficient and effective manner. A range of reforms have been put in place over the last number of years with the aim of focusing attention on achieving value for money. For example, the Performance Budgeting initiative seeks to shift focus away from simply looking at the quantum of spend towards examining what is being delivered through public expenditure.

My Department has also just come to the end of year three of this phase of the Spending Review process. The Spending Review aims to place evidence at the centre of policy development, through the examination of existing policies and programmes to assess their efficiency and effectiveness. This systematic examination of existing expenditure can support the re-allocation of funding to meet expenditure priorities. A number of papers resulting from the review process were published over the summer, with the remainder due to be published alongside the Expenditure Report on Budget Day.

Over the last number of years, maintaining sustainable expenditure policy has also been crucial in restoring our economy following the economic crisis. Following a period of consolidation, the last number of years have seen moderate, sustainable expenditure growth on an annual basis. The Government has prioritised spending that mitigates risk, enhances the resilience of the economy and raises our growth capacity whilst making incremental and sustainable improvements in public services. The steady growth in expenditure in recent years reflects the significant effort made by this Government to moderate the level of expenditure increases and to secure a sustainable long-term path to growth.

Government Expenditure

Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 174.

Ceisteanna (178)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

178. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which progress continues to be made towards restoration of various cutbacks experienced during the economic crash; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39965/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Following a period of consolidation after the economic crisis, over the last number of years there has been modest growth in expenditure. Compared to the end 2014 outturn, gross voted expenditure in 2019 is profiled to be 25% higher as set out in section 2.2 of the Budget 2019 Expenditure Report. Indeed, in 2019, €66.6 billion has been allocated to gross voted expenditure. In absolute terms this is higher than the outturn of just over €63 billion in 2009. Recent increases in voted expenditure have been significantly more modest than what was seen in the pre-consolidation period, with gross voted expenditure growing by nearly 55% between 2004 and 2009, while ensuring that the standards of Ireland's public services continue to improve.

This Government has delivered budgetary strategies based on steady increases in public expenditure underpinned by stable and predictable tax revenue. The Government has prioritised spending that mitigates risk, enhances the resilience of the economy and raises our growth capacity whilst making incremental and sustainable improvements in public services. The steady growth in expenditure in recent years reflects the significant effort made by this Government to moderate the level of expenditure increases and to secure a sustainable long-term path to growth. 

In light of the current position in relation to the UK's exit from the EU, Budget 2020 will be based on the assumption of a no-deal Brexit. Underlying this decision is the need to ensure the Government has the necessary resources at its disposal to meet the impact of the Brexit challenge, whilst preserving the longer-term sustainability of the public finances. This strategy involves a ‘twin-track’ approach of providing funding for key public services and also supporting the sectors and regions most exposed to Brexit related disruption.

Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 174.

Legislative Measures

Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 174.

Ceisteanna (180)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

180. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which FEMPI restoration provisions continue to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39967/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 286 of 23 July 2019. 

PQ Ref: 32195/19:

The process of unwinding the Financial Emergency (FEMPI) legislation commenced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement 2016 – 2018 and will be completed under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020 (PSSA).

The PSSA, which was negotiated in 2017, and the provisions of which were statutorily provided for under the terms of the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017, allows for a continued, controlled unwinding of the FEMPI legislation. The unwinding process is progressively weighted towards those at the lower levels of pay (who will see their salaries increase relative to 2008), and is implemented on a phased basis.

By end 2019, salary rates up to €50,000 will be fully restored. By end 2020, salary rates up to €70,000 (over 90% of the public service) will be fully restored.

For public servants who have not achieved full restoration of the FEMPI reductions by October 2020 (i.e the date of the last PSSA increase), restoration of the amount must be completed by way of Ministerial order. This order must be made on the following dates:

For those with a post - PSSA salary of under €150,000:

- Covered public servants: a date after 1 October 2020 but before 1 July 2021. 

For those with a post - PSSA salary in excess of €150,000:

- Covered public servants: a date after 1 October 2020 but before 1 July 2022.  

Under the terms of the FEMPI Act 2013, I am obliged to carry out an annual review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of the FEMPI Acts, having regard to the overall economic conditions in the State and national competitiveness. In this annual review, I am also to consider whether or not any of the provision of the relevant Acts continue to be necessary having regard to the purposes of those Acts, the revenues of the State and State commitments in respect of public service pay and pensions.

In my 2019 annual review, a written report of which was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on the 26th June, I recommended the continuation of the unwinding of the FEMPI measures in line with the terms agreed under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020 and provisions enacted in the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017.

Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 174.

Public Procurement Contracts

Ceisteanna (182)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

182. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the specific issues to which his attention has been drawn which indicate a lack of compliance with the criteria set down by his Department in terms of procurement and reform which may negatively or otherwise impact on the economic future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39969/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Public Procurement 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 which delivers best value for money.

The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) has responsibility for developing and setting out the overarching policy framework for public procurement in Ireland.  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 OGP supports compliance by providing procurement solutions, advice, guidance and systems for public bodies, promoting good practice and proactive engagement with our sourcing partners in the Health, Education, Defence and Local Government Sectors through the Procurement Executive.  Furthermore, the OGP's Key Account Managers are in regular contact with Procurement Officers in Government departments and public bodies to assist, support and remind them of their obligations in relation to public procurement.

However, it is should be noted that while the policy framework and associated guidelines facilitate compliance with public procurement rules, it is the responsibility of each contracting authority to ensure they adhere to these rules. 

Public procurement practices are also subject to audit and scrutiny under the Comptroller and Auditor General and Local Government Reform Acts.

Public Service Reform Plan Measures

Ceisteanna (183)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

183. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree to which reforms throughout the public sector remain in place to ensure accountability, collective responsibility and good value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39970/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I am happy to inform the Deputy that the significant public service reforms that this Government has undertaken in recent years continue to deliver improved services and value for money across a range of specific areas such as governance, accountability, procurement, shared services, organisational reform and property management. Two notable examples are the establishment of a centralised Office of Government Procurement with responsibility (together with the key sectors of Health, Defence, Education and Local Government) for sourcing goods and services on behalf of the Public Service, and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, established to lead the implementation of the Public Service ICT Strategy in cooperation with departments and agencies across the Public Service. The Deputy can be assured that public service reform remains an integral part of the Government’s economic strategy to enable us to continue to improve outcomes for the public.

Our Public Service 2020 – the current phase of public service reform, which became operational during 2018 – represents a whole-of-public-service initiative designed to build on previous reforms, while expanding the scope of reform to focus on collaboration, innovation and evaluation. Our Public Service 2020 seeks better outcomes for the public, to support innovation and collaboration and to build public service organisations that are resilient and agile.

A Public Service Leadership Board (PSLB) has been established to lead the delivery of Our Public Service 2020. For the first time, both civil and public service leaders and managers will work jointly to drive the reform programme. This will ensure there is shared ownership for the actions on reform right across the public service.

Our Public Service 2020 also contains an added focus on evaluation and on the importance of building a reform evaluation culture and in developing indicators to support an outcomes focus. With this goal in mind, within my Department we have established a Reform Evaluation Unit to focus on monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of reform as well as creating greater links between expenditure and reform.

Further details on the progress that we have already made will be available in the first progress report on Our Public Service 2020, which I will publish very shortly in conjunction with my colleague Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, and information and up-dates on the full range of OPS2020 activities can also be accessed at the website OPS2020.gov.ie from mid-October.

As Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, I must ensure that our fiscal and public expenditure policy is sustainable and that Public Sector policy continues to facilitate good economic performance in the future. There are a number of budgetary reforms introduced in recent years to guide my decisions on overall fiscal policy in this regard, including fiscal rules, expenditure ceilings and spending reviews. The actions in Our Public Service 2020 will also ensure that the focus of the public service is very much on delivery of quality public services over the coming years, without impacting negatively on economic performance.

School Services Staff

Ceisteanna (184)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

184. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which he and his Department plan to address the imbalance of salaries, annual leave and pension rights for school secretaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39268/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I recognise the very important work done by these staff, and the other support staff in the running of our schools.  I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.

Earlier this year I relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ additional school secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.

Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of clerical officers and caretakers in schools.  The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008.  These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes.  The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991. 

The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes.  It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools.  Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.

On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period.  This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019. 

The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a secretary or caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay. 

Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.

In May this year officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim. 

This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice. 

FÓRSA's claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of the survey analysis. 

Officials from my Department met with FÓRSA representatives last week. Management Bodies representing the employers of schools impacted by the action were also in attendance at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to further explore the details of the pay claim as presented by FÓRSA and the nature of the industrial action.   

In these circumstances the industrial action by FÓRSA members is considered premature, not least because the period of the current arbitration agreement has not expired.  My officials are fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA once the survey work has been undertaken.