Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Coastal Erosion

Questions Nos. 11 and 12 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (10)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

10. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has met with Fingal County Council to address the issue of coastal erosion in Portrane, County Dublin; if funding has been provided to prevent further erosion in view of commitments to tackle the climate emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46890/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I am advised, in respect of coastal erosion at the Burrow, Portrane, County Dublin, that Fingal County Council is leading on this issue, as it is a matter for local authorities in the first instance to assess and address problems of coastal erosion in their areas.  Where necessary, local authorities may put forward proposals to relevant central Government Departments, including the OPW, for funding of appropriate measures depending on the infrastructure or assets under threat.

In 2018, in response to serious coastal erosion problems at The Burrow, Portrane, Fingal County Council implemented temporary interim emergency measures to protect properties at risk.  Funding of €456,464 was approved under the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for these works.

Since then, Consultants appointed by Fingal County Council are currently assessing options for a longer term permanent solution for the Portrane Penisula/Rogerstown Outer Estuary area. I have been informed by Fingal County Council that the assessment of options will be followed by extensive public consultation, and environmental assessment and consent processes, which are likely to take several months to conclude.  The Council has confirmed that it is probable, therefore, that the study, and the associated approved plan for the peninsula, will take at least until the middle of 2020 to complete.

My Office continues to co-operate and assist Fingal County Council and accordingly my officials met with Fingal County Council and their consultants on 5 November 2019 to receive an update on the progress of the study.

If a viable option is identified, the Council may submit a further application for funding to the OPW or other Government Departments as appropriate.

Questions Nos. 11 and 12 answered orally.

Public Spending Code

Question No. 14 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (13)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

13. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the timeline for the publication of an updated public spending code; his plans to develop a new governance and assurance process for major projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46857/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As part of the ongoing reform of Ireland’s public investment management systems, my Department has undertaken extensive work on the updating of the Public Spending Code.  The purpose of this update is to strengthen the existing guidance to better align with the realities of project delivery and with a particular focus on improved appraisal, cost estimation and management.  I anticipate that the revised central elements of the Public Spending Code relating to the appraisal and management of public capital projects will be published in the near future following consideration and approval by Government. Further technical guidance building upon these central elements will follow in 2020.

In the context of updating the Public Spending Code, my Department has given consideration to the potential benefits of more structured scrutiny of major public investment projects, focusing in particular on the robustness of planned delivery, accuracy of cost forecasts, and consideration of risk.  My Department is developing a new governance and assurance process for major projects with an estimated cost of over €100 million. This new process is being informed by international best practice and will involve consultation with all major public sector stakeholders. It is likely to involve an independent external review of major projects at key stages, drawing from international best practice approaches, and the modalities of such an approach in an Irish context are currently receiving careful attention. The detail of the process and arrangements for implementation will be scoped and developed with a target operational date of mid-2020.

Question No. 14 answered orally.

National Development Plan Funding

Questions Nos. 16 and 17 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (15)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

15. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which counties Kildare and Laois will benefit from the national development plan, particularly in view of the overspend on the national children's hospital; the timelines for these benefits to be put into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46782/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform I am responsible for setting the overall capital allocations across Departments and for monitoring monthly expenditure at Departmental level.  Responsibility for the management and delivery of individual investment projects, within the allocations agreed under the National Development Plan (NDP), rests with individual sponsoring Departments.

Under the umbrella of Project Ireland 2040, the Government has allocated capital funding for the national priorities set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF).  The three Regional Assemblies are responsible for co-ordinating, promoting and supporting the strategic planning and sustainable development of their regions, by formulating Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES).  The strategy for the Eastern and Midland Region provides the opportunity for the priorities for Kildare and Laois, such as the priorities included in the existing County Development Plans, to be integrated into a regional investment plan which will be a major driver of the implementation of the NPF.

Regional reports on both the Midlands and Mid-East have been published on the Project Ireland 2040 website.  The reports detail the specific regional projects and programmes which are being planned and delivered in the regions as part of the public investment detailed in Project Ireland 2040, the NPF and the NDP.

I might also add that my Department publishes a major capital projects tracker, which sets out details of the key projects and programmes being implemented under the NDP.  While the Tracker focuses mainly on projects with estimated costs greater than €20 million, it nevertheless provides a composite update on the progress of all the major investments that make up Project Ireland 2040.   It aids industry by communicating opportunities for investment and also provide an important communications channel for all citizens in relation to Project Ireland 2040 investments taking place throughout the country.  An updated version of the tracker will be published in the coming weeks.

A further innovation in 2019 was the development of MyProjectIreland, a new citizen-focused interactive map which allows the user to navigate public investment projects across the country and find out what is happening in their own area.  It includes information on expected completion dates and the status of projects.

Questions Nos. 16 and 17 answered orally.

Public Sector Reform Implementation

Ceisteanna (18)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

18. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the public sector reforms he plans to pursue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46858/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

While this Government has already implemented a comprehensive series of reforms in the public sector since 2011, I can assure the House that reform continues to be a key priority and we are already developing ambitious proposals for the future.

The current framework for public service reform and innovation, Our Public Service 2020 (OPS 2020), builds on earlier reforms while expanding their scope to focus on delivering better services for our customers and building innovative and responsive public sector organisations.  It contains 18 actions, built on three key pillars as follows:

Delivering for Our Public focuses on ensuring that outcomes for the public are central to service delivery. The development of digital services and eGovernment is particularly important in this regard, as well as making better use of data and sharing data more effectively between organisations.

Innovating for Our Future targets the development of innovative, robust and joined-up strategies and policies related to the delivery of public services, as well as promoting a culture of evaluation.

Developing Our People and Organisations seeks to improve human resources by focusing on sharing best practice and experience in areas such as strategic human resource management, workforce planning, employee engagement, public service culture and values, and equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Information and up-dates on the full range of OPS2020 activities can also be accessed at the website OPS2020.gov.ie.

Reform is underway in organisations right across the Civil and Public service.  My Department’s People Strategy for the Civil Service 2017-2020 sets strategic direction for Human Resource Management across the Civil Service (while recognising that each organisation is unique and has its own challenges) while the Department’s Office of the Government Chief Information Officer leads the implementation of the Public Service ICT Strategy in cooperation with departments and agencies across the Public Service.

We understand that the Civil Service of the future will necessarily be different in terms of its skills mix, use of technology and geographical footprint, and so we are now seeking to develop a longer-term vision and strategy to succeed the current Civil Service Renewal Plan, which has already allowed us to mark significant progress. 

Some of the areas that we are now pursuing for the next stage of Civil Service Renewal are:

- Building our capability in policy analysis and investing in analytic and data analytic capability for the future;

- Creating a culture of innovation across the Civil Service;  

- Reviewing the structure of the Civil Service so that we can be more agile and responsive;

- Setting out our ambition for digital transformation;

- Building our data infrastructure;  

- Building the Civil Service workforce of the future;

- Maintaining a robust Civil Service institution in Ireland in the face of the increasing threats to democracy and truth across the globe.

- Reviewing our Civil Service culture and building for the 21st century; and

- Moving to the next generation of shared services.

In today's world, we can never stand still and so the Government continues to drive and support significant reform and innovation across the Civil and Public Service.

Project Ireland 2040

Ceisteanna (19)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

19. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has considered updating the format of the capital tracker to mark projects as delayed; the date on which construction will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46826/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Investment Projects and Programmes Tracker is currently being revised and updated. The Tracker provides a composite update on the progress of all major investments that make up Project Ireland 2040. It focuses mainly on projects with estimated costs greater than €20 million. The updated version of the tracker will be published in Q4 2019.

The updated tracker will contain specific information on the current status of projects and also columns detailing expected project construction commencement and completion dates. It will contain more granular information on delivery scheduling, including milestones for key stages in the project lifecycle.

The updated version of the tracker will also include user-friendly dashboards and other information to aid interpretation of the data. As such the tracker will be a key tool in overseeing the progress of Project Ireland 2040, will aid industry by communicating opportunities for investment, and will provide an important communications channel for all citizens in relation to Project Ireland 2040 investments taking place throughout the country.

A further innovation in 2019 was the development of MyProjectIreland, a new citizen-focused  interactive map which allows the user to navigate public investment projects across the country and to find out what is happening in their local area in an accessible way. The MyProjectIreland map includes information on expected completion dates and status of projects. MyProjectIreland will also be updated in Q4 2019.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (20)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

20. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the estimated cost in one full year of providing funding for a pension scheme for community employment supervisors in line with a previous Labour Court recommendation of 2008 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46803/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

This issue relates to a claim by community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme.

The matter was the subject of extensive discussion at the Community Sector High Level Forum which was reconvened to examine certain issues pertaining to the Community Employment sector and in particular to ensure that the matter was fully examined having regard to both costs and precedent in the context of the wider Community and Voluntary sector.  

The membership of this Forum includes public service management and union representatives. It will be appreciated that the implications arising from this claim extend well beyond the CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors cadre and impact across the entire Community and Voluntary sector. It is accordingly appropriate that the wider sector implications should be fully taken into account in considering the cost implications arising from this  issue.

Taking this important consideration into account it is accordingly the position that a  detailed scoping exercise was carried out by my Department in 2017 in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues involved.

The scoping exercise clearly illustrated that this matter presents very significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost exposure for the State of between €188 million per annum and €347m depending on the size of the sector which is difficult to ascertain, were consequential demands to be made to fund employer pension contributions for all similar State funded Community and Voluntary organisations whose employees are in a similar position to the Community Employment scheme supervisors.  This excludes any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payment of pension for those imminently retiring, as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, give rise to a further Exchequer cost exposure of up to €318 million.

To fund an employer pension contribution for CE Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors alone would cost the State an estimated €6m per annum, excluding any provision for immediate ex-gratia lump sum payments, estimated at a further €19.2m before administration/implementation costs.

While CE supervisors and assistant supervisors represent only a very small part of the wider community and voluntary sector, any explicit provision of State funding for such a scheme in respect of those employees would inevitably give rise to claims for similar schemes and funding provision on the part of those  many thousands of workers in the broader sector. My Department has to have regard to the full potential Exchequer exposure associated with setting such a precedent.

It continues to be the position that state organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and accordingly it is not for the State to provide funding for occupational pension scheme provision.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

Ceisteanna (21)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

21. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if financial assistance is available for persons who have to relocate their homes due to constant flooding; if so, the level of funding provided for this scheme in 2019; the projected drawdown at year end; the level of funding to be provided in 2020; the details of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46845/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

On April 11th 2017, the Government agreed the administrative arrangements for a once-off Voluntary Homeowners Relocation Scheme for those primary residential properties that flooded between 4th December, 2015 and 13th January, 2016. This is a national scheme of humanitarian assistance, targeting aid at those worst affected properties, for which there are no alternative feasible measures.

The Scheme specifies that a homeowner had to meet a number of conditions to be eligible for assistance under the Scheme, including:

That floodwater entered and damaged the building during or as a result of flooding during relevant dates such as to render it uninhabitable.

That the property was the homeowner’s primary residence at the time of the floods.

That the affected property must have a significant probability of the recurrence of the flood depth, duration or frequency on a scale that could cause further serious and similar damage to the home.

That the property is not due to or may not benefit from a planned or possible future major, minor or individual flood defence scheme.

That the property may not be protected adequately from being flooded in the future, at an economically feasible cost, through other flood mitigation works including minor works, individual property protection or other possible measures that can be considered at this time.

That the homeowner is unable to obtain flood risk insurance.

The OPW has been working in partnership with the relevant Local Authorities to undertake comprehensive assessments of 169 properties. An important element of the administrative arrangements for this scheme is an option for remedial works where a viable engineering solution is possible or known to protect homes from future flooding.  To date, engineering solutions have been identified to protect some homes from future flooding and work is continuing to explore possible engineering solutions for a further 35 homes.

Where an engineering solution is not feasible, and informed by a site inspection and a recommendation by a Relocation Committee, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland do make financial assistance, equivalent to the cost to the relevant local authority, on a like for like basis.

It is estimated that €0.5m will be expended on the Scheme in 2019, with a further €9.5m over 2020 and 2021.

Public Procurement Regulations

Ceisteanna (22)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

22. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if green procurement will be incorporated into the public procurement code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46499/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Work to promote the incorporation of social and environmental considerations in public procurement is being progressed under the National Public Procurement Policy Framework which is the overarching policy framework for public procurement in Ireland. Under this framework, proposals to implement environmental considerations in public procurement are being developed through the Social Considerations Advisory Group which is chaired by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP).

Circular 20/2019: Promoting the use of Environmental and Social Considerations in Public Procurement was published in October. The circular, an action under the Government’s Climate Action Plan, was developed by the OGP in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE). The circular directs Government Departments and Agencies to consider including environmental criteria in their procurements, where such clearly defined, quantifiable, verifiable and measurable criteria have been developed. These criteria should, if they are relevant to that procurement, be met within a Department’s existing budget without impacting on service delivery.

An overarching objective of all public procurement is the achievement of value for money. In implementing environmental considerations in public procurement, it is crucial that an approach is adopted that will further Government policy while also ensuring a competitive market place where suppliers can compete resulting in the desired pricing outcome.  In areas where the market is not yet sufficiently competitive, a phased approach to environmental considerations in public procurement may be necessary to encourage the emergence of new suppliers with innovative solutions. Care should also be taken to ensure that the addition of environmental considerations to public contracts is done in a manner that does not mitigate against small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as they may not be in a position to bear the additional costs or administrative burden.

The public service must demonstrate its commitment to sustainable development and use its influence to persuade others of the changes required to reduce our impact on the environment. By providing leadership in terms of environmental considerations in public procurement, public bodies can underpin the credibility of national environmental policy objectives and enhance Ireland’s image as a 'green' economy.

State Assets

Ceisteanna (23)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

23. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of State assets sold since 2016; the use made of the proceeds of the sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46861/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I assume the Deputy is referring to the State Asset Disposal Programme which was initiated in order to release value from State assets that could be used, as far as possible and subject to the fiscal rules, to support the economy and job creation, while also using some of the proceeds to reduce debt.  

There have been no disposals under the programme since 2016, however, the Deputy will be aware that there were a number of high profile disposals pre-2016, such as the disposal of the National Lottery Licence and of assets related to Aer Lingus, the ESB and Ervia (Bord Gais Energy). 

When all of the remaining proceeds from the sale of Bord Gais Energy have been received, the final total from all of these State asset disposals is expected to be about €2.1 billion.

Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (24)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

24. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of exceptions granted to the general pay caps in the public service, specifically for special advisors to Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46800/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

As the Deputy will be aware Special Advisers are appointed in accordance with Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997.

My Department issued ”Instructions to Personnel Officers on Ministerial Appointments for the 32nd Dáil” in June 2016. Under these Guidelines Special Advisers to Ministers and Ministers of State who regularly attend Cabinet are to be placed on the Principal Officer (standard) Personal Pension Contribution scale.

While appointments should normally be on the first point of the scale, Secretaries General have delegated sanction to approve any increment on the Principal standard scale where they are satisfied that this is justified. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform must be notified of the rate to be paid in all cases; these rates are published on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

 Where it is proposed to appoint to a salary more than the maximum of the Principal standard scale, the Secretary General of a Department must decide to seek sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, having regard to the candidate’s existing pay and previous relevant experience to justify the pay rate sought. This will be subject to the sanction of the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform.

 Special Advisers to Ministers of State are to be placed on the Assistant Principal Officer (standard) Personal Pension Contribution scale.

 While appointments should normally be on the first point of the scale, Secretaries Generals, as with Ministerial Special Advisers, have delegated sanction to appoint to any increment on the Assistant Principal standard scale where they are satisfied that this is justified. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform must be notified of the rate to be paid in all cases

The above restrictions on salary scale do not apply to Special Advisers to the Taoiseach or Tánaiste. The individual pay rates must be advised to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and are published on its website.

 Details of the salaries sanctioned for each Minister and Minister of State can be found in the attached spreadsheet. The highlighted cells are the exceptions to the Guidelines and have been sanctioned by my Department.

Special Advisers

Public Sector Reform Implementation

Ceisteanna (25)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

25. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he expects further reform to play a meaningful role in ensuring prudent expenditure and good value for money in the course of 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46865/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The significant public service reforms that we have undertaken since 2011 continue to deliver improved services and value for money across a range of areas. 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. 

Let me assure the Deputy that the reform agenda continues to be an integral part of this Government’s economic strategy to improve outcomes for the public on a value-for-money basis and we are now developing further ambitious proposals for the reform agenda in 2020 and beyond.

The current framework for public service reform and innovation, Our Public Service 2020 (OPS 2020), builds on earlier reforms while expanding their scope to focus on delivering better services for our customers and building innovative and responsive public sector organisations that are resilient and agile.  

Our Public Service 2020 has a particular 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, a Reform Evaluation Unit has been established within my Department to focus on monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of reform as well as create greater links between expenditure and reform.

Looking beyond 2020, the Civil Service of the future will necessarily be different in terms of its skills mix, use of technology and geographical footprint, and so we are now seeking to develop a longer-term vision and strategy to succeed the current Civil Service Renewal Plan, which has already allowed us to make significant progress. 

The areas that we are pursuing for the next stage of Civil Service Renewal that will particularly support prudent expenditure and value for money in the both the Civil and Public Services include:

- Building our capability in  policy analysis and investing in analytic and data analytic capability for the future;

- Creating a culture of innovation across the Civil Service;  

- Setting out our ambition for digital transformation;

- Building our data infrastructure;  and

- Moving to the next generation of shared services.

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 and the proposals now in development for future reform will help ensure that the focus of the public service continues, both in 2020 and beyond, to be on delivery of quality public services thereby supporting and enhancing our country's overall economic performance.

Coastal Protection

Ceisteanna (26)

James Browne

Ceist:

26. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding coastal protection in County Wexford, particularly at Ballygeary and Rosslare Harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46061/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I am advised that, in relation to coastal protection/erosion generally, it is a matter in the first instance for local authorities to identify and prioritise problems along their coastlines.  Where viable solutions are available, Local Authorities may undertake works using their own resources or, if appropriate, apply for funding to the Office of Public Works or other Government Departments, having regard to the economic assets and infrastructure at risk and to be protected.

In this regard, the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme provides funding to Local Authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation or coastal protection works or studies, costing less than €0.75 million each, to address localised flooding and coastal protection problems within their administrative areas. Funding for coastal erosion risk management studies may also be applied for under this scheme. Funding of up to 90% of the cost is available for projects which meet the eligibility criteria including a requirement that the proposed measures are cost beneficial. The OPW has published guidelines for coastal erosion risk management measures and funding applications under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme, available on the OPW website.

I am advised that OPW has not received an application under this scheme for the area mentioned in the Deputy’s question, but I understand works in this area are being addressed by a project commissioned directly by Irish Rail.

I am further advised that a detailed study commissioned by Wexford County Council, which fully investigated the problem of coastal erosion and flood risk at Rosslare Strand, is nearing completion.  This study examined the full range of management options to address the issue, and a submission based on the completed study findings will be made shortly by the Council to the OPW in relation to coastal protection proposals for the Rosslare Strand area.