My Department has been working closely with the NTA about strengthening its staffing position so that it is robust and sustainable. It is essential that the NTA is adequately resourced to successfully deliver its pipeline of key strategic infrastructure projects. These are large in scale and ambition, for example, BusConnects, MetroLink and the DART expansion.
The NTA is resourced by a mix of permanent staff and outsourced placements. At present, there are 148 outsourced placements in the NTA. Each of these people is an employee of one of the service providers that the NTA has engaged through public procurement procedures. As employees of a service provider, the salary, pension and any other payments to these personnel are matters for the relevant service providers and not the NTA.
The Deputy may recall that the NTA was established in 2009, during a period of great economic difficulty for the State. In this context, significant constraints were placed on the agency with regard to resourcing. Yet, while these constraints remained in place until 2018, the NTA’s remit expanded significantly in the intervening period. For example, it assumed statutory responsibility for integrated ticketing including the Leap card scheme, regulation of vehicle clamping and local and rural transport, all of which put further pressure on the NTA with regard to staffing levels. As a result, the NTA came increasingly to use outsourced placements to assist it in fulfilling its remit, particularly in the planning and implementation of major strategic programmes.
In 2017, my Department sought, and later received, sanction for increased staffing for posts that the NTA itself had identified as being a priority. My Department also encouraged the NTA to make a broader analysis of its overall staff resourcing position. This was so that the NTA would: critically assess its staffing position taking account of its existing and legacy position; identify its business needs into the future, especially having regard to the expanded investment programme it would be managing over the coming years; and develop a staffing plan that could successfully addresses these matters.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
This resulted in the NTA producing its strategic financial plan, which included a strategic staffing section outlining the NTA's requirements in terms of filling key posts to implement major transport programmes. The NTA set its plan over the period 2018 to 2023, and structured it over three consecutive phases. Overall, this plan involves a process of internalising a number of outsourced positions and ensuring that the NTA is adequately resourced to deliver on the key capital investment projects that it will be managing over the coming years, such as MetroLink and DART expansion.
Phase 1 of the plan for 2018-2019 has been sanctioned and is being implemented. Constructive engagement is ongoing with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and with the NTA about sanction for Phases 2 and 3. Phase 2 envisages 22 new positions and, in addition, internalising 42 currently outsourced roles. If approved, it is expected that these internalisations will result in a significant cost saving of €1.5 million in 2020 and €3 million in a full year.
Certain programmes will always require a number of skilled outsourced placements to supplement teams with specific skills, but the NTA's aim, strongly supported by Department, is to transition to a more permanent staffing model to deliver long-term stability. The aim is for the NTA to have sustainable staffing arrangements which leave it appropriately resourced to effectively and efficiently carry out its functions both now and into the future, and which are consistent with public service pay and numbers policy.