Written Answers Nos. 131-148
Dáil Éireann Debate
Written Answers Nos. 131-148
Public Procurement Contracts
131. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of Fairtrade public procurement by the Government in the most recent available year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10505/14]
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Under EU rules on public procurement public works, supplies and service contracts above certain thresholds must be advertised on the Official Journal of the EU and awarded on the basis of objective and non-restrictive criteria. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. It would be a breach of these rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular suppliers on the basis of grounds that could be considered discriminatory and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules.
The consideration of clauses that allow for the inclusion of social and environmental clauses in public contracts is something that I have been examining. Social clauses can be used in public procurement in cases where they are targeted at factoring into the procurement process consideration of social issues such as employment opportunities, equal opportunities and social inclusion. In order to be compatible with EU law, they must be made known to all interested parties and must not restrict participation by contractors from other Member States. The EU procurement rules allow social considerations to be included as a contract performance conditions, provided they are not discriminatory and are included in the contract notice or in the contract documents and relate to the performance of the contract.
In terms of the scope for including such clauses, challenges arise from the need to ensure that: value for money is not adversely affected; additional costs are not placed on domestic suppliers relative to other potential suppliers; and the targeted benefit is capable of being measured and monitored during execution of the contract.
Contracting authorities are best placed to gauge whether the use of such clauses is appropriate to a particular procurement process. As these clauses are included in the contract performance element of the contract, data on the many individual elements agreed at contracting authority level is not collected centrally. However, I am informed by the Office of Government Procurement that they have such contract clauses in their centralised contracts for clothing such as uniforms.
The Deputy may be aware that a revised set of EU Directives governing public procurement have recently been agreed. The revised directives, when implemented, should provide greater scope and legal clarity in relation to the use of social criteria in the context of an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money.
Public Procurement Contracts
132. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if banking and legal advice services worth an estimated €103 million from 2011-2013 are subject to tender and financial review. [10565/14]
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): I should point out that contracts for banking and legal advice services are not subject to the full scope of EU Public Procurement Directives. Therefore contracting authorities have some flexibility in conducting the appropriate competitive tendering process. For example, they are not tied to the prescribed tendering procedures or timeframes for submission of tenders or expressions of interest and there is scope for dialogue and negotiation conducted in an open and fair objective manner.
However, it is a basic principle of national public procurement policy that a competitive process should always be used unless there are justifiably exceptional circumstances. Whilst it is recognised that many public authorities already tender for their legal services. My Department has issued guidelines last year to re-iterate that in procuring these advisory services, public tendering should be the norm. The Circular also sets out for the first time a helpful guide for public bodies on some straightforward measures they should take, (including under Rules of Court), to better manage and control their legal costs.
In addition, my Department, through the Office of Government Procurement, has a particular responsibility to assist public bodies that procure legal services with the objective of leveraging resources in order to achieve best value for money. In that regard the Office of Government Procurement will examine the spend on legal services across the public service and carry out a review of the markets for the various commonly used services involved to determine the appropriate commercial strategies for how such services are procured.
Value for Money Reviews
133. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a value for money review is conducted on the cost of banking and legal advice services to ensure that public funds are spent on what is actually needed for the best price. [10566/14]
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Value for Money Reviews are key analytical tool to be utilised within each Department for the purpose of assessing programme expenditure. Responsibility for identifying specific topics to be subject to these reviews is a matter for individual Departments. In particular, Departments are required to take into account the extent to which there is a prima facie case for selecting different areas of programme expenditure for analysis. Similarly, Departments are responsible for carrying out the reviews, publishing them and submitting them to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The role of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to Value for Money Reviews is to provide overall guidance, technical assistance and quality assurance to Departments. In addition, the Department has a role in periodically co-ordinating the development of a Government wide programme of reviews.
Questions regarding the specific topics of banking and legal advice services should be directed to the relevant Departments and Offices which have direct responsibility for these areas of expenditure.
134. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 81 of 6 February 2014, if all Departments are complying with his requirements to publish purchase orders over €20,000 on their websites; if he will provide a Department breakdown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10650/14]
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): I can confirm that all Departments are complying with the requirement to publish details of purchase orders over €20,000. The following table sets out where this information can be found on each Department's website:
Flood Relief Schemes Applications
135. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reasons that the Office of Public Works has not taken immediate action to alleviate regular flooding at a location (details supplied) in County Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that his Department has full knowledge of this situation for the last decade; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that up to six families cannot access their homes by road and that farmers and animals are also affected; the action he proposes to take; when will works commence; the amount of money being allocated for this project; if he will allocate the necessary funds to Galway County Council for these urgent and critical works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10806/14]
Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): The townlands of Ballyboy, Caherduff and Ardrahan are situated on the Cregaclare to Monksfield River which flows on to Aggard Stream and outfalls into the Dunkellin River upstream of Rahasane Turlough.
Departmental Staff Data
136. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of staff seconded to his Department each year between 2011 and 2013 from external companies; the company from which each person was seconded; and the role of each person in his Department. [10821/14]
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Although staff are seconded from time to time from other Government Departments and the wider Public Service, there have not been any staff seconded to my Department from external companies between 2011 and 2013.
Departmental Agencies Staff Remuneration
137. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the implications for agencies funded by his Department that fail to comply with consolidated public sector pay scales by continuing to make top-up payments to staff; when he expects this issue to be definitively resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10920/14]
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Institute of Public Administration (IPA), which are the bodies directly under the auspices of my Department have confirmed to the Department that they are in compliance with public service pay policy and that no top-up payments are made outside the pay scales in use.
The ESRI salary scales are not sanctioned by me as Minister but must be approved by the Council of the Institute. I am advised that administration staff salaries in the Institute are linked to the Civil Service and HSE salary scales. Research Staff salaries are linked to UCD pay scales, adjusted to reflect different terms and conditions compared to the Universities.
For completeness, my Department sought similar confirmation from the Special EU Programmes Body and the bodies incorporated by Votes 14, 16, 17 and 19 i.e. the State Lab, Valuation Office, Public Appointments Service and Office of the Ombudsman. All the bodies concerned have also provided assurances that they are in compliance with public service pay policy.
Public Sector Staff Recruitment
138. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will set out the history of the moratorium on public sector recruitment, particularly pertaining to local authorities, including details of the circumstances where the moratorium has been lifted. [10943/14]
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): The current moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service was introduced in 2009, as part of the response to the fiscal and economic crisis. Since then, and in tandem with annual headcount targets set for each area of the public service under the Employment Control Framework, the Moratorium has been applied across the entire public service. Together, these two policy tools have played an important part in helping to bring the cost base of the public service into line with what the State can afford. They have also served to drive unprecedented reform across the public service in terms of how services are delivered. Nonetheless while overall serving public service numbers have reduced by ten percent since 2009, under the Moratorium the Government has also allowed critical posts to be filled, where they have arisen, in order to protect front-line and priority services. It is also worth noting that within the overall Employment Control Framework, each Government Department retains flexibility and discretion on exactly how staff resources are allocated in line with priorities.
Regarding local government, the day-to-day management of the Moratorium in respect of local authorities is a matter, in the first instance, for the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. The latest figures show that local authorities numbers have reduced by just under 7,500 over the last five years, but along with this there has been recruitment into key posts and service areas. There has also been signficant reform and organisational restructuring, with more on the horizon, which is delivering a leaner, more efficient local government sector. The plans for further reform in the local government sector are outlined in the Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016. Details about exceptions to the Moratorium are being compiled and I will have these forwarded to the Deputy directly.
Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure
139. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works keeps figures on the impact of flooding on homes and businesses; if this is the case he will provide the actual figures or, where not yet compiled, the estimates for the number of individual homes and business premises directly affected by flooding in the years 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014, both nationally and by local authority area in tabular form, where possible the number of these homes that are privately owned and those which are rented from a local housing authority; the total cost to the Exchequer in 2012 and 2013 of repairing and cleaning up damage caused to these homes and properties by the floods in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10977/14]
Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): The Office of Public Works does not compile or hold specific figures on the impact of flooding on individual homes and businesses, either nationally or locally. The figures the Deputy has requested may be available from the local authorities or from Insurance Ireland. The latter body maintains data on the total number and cost of claims by households and businesses for flood damage.
The OPW does not provide financial assistance to homeowners or other property owners in respect of flood damage to their properties. Since 2009, the Department of Social Protection operates a Humanitarian Assistance Scheme which is available to assist people whose homes have been damaged by flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and, in some instances, structural repairs. The scheme does not cover business or commercial losses. Information on the amount of expenditure under the scheme to date would be available from the Department of Social Protection.
Flood Prevention Measures
140. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works has had any discussions with the Department of Finance on making the purchase and installation of domestic flood defences allowable for any form of tax relief or refund; and his views that the granting of such reliefs would be beneficial for proven and reliable domestic flood defences in areas susceptible to flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10978/14]
141. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if and when the Office of Public Works. as part of its remit to deal with flood risk management, plans to incentivise the installation of appropriate and reliable domestic flood defence systems and products in private and local authority housing; the discussions he has had on this topic with other Government Departments, local authorities, agencies or commercial providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10979/14]
The Office of Public Works does not provide or operate a scheme of financial assistance for the purchase and installation of individual property protection against flooding. Discussions on such arrangements have not taken place with the Department of Finance in regard to tax reliefs or with other Departments. The provision of tax relief for homeowners for the purchase and installation of flood barriers and other protection devices is a matter for the Minister for Finance in the first instance.
A central focus of the Government's strategy to address flood risk is the implementation of a significant capital investment programme to build major flood relief schemes in the main areas at risk of flooding. A total of €225m has been allocated to the OPW over the period 2012 – 2016 and significant schemes are underway and at planning/design stage which will protect and benefit a substantial number of properties. OPW's capital allocation of €45m per annum is fully committed to expenditure on the delivery of these major flood relief schemes as well as to expenditure on the operation of its Minor Works Scheme which provides funding to local authorities to allow them undertake smaller scale works to deal with localised flooding problems. A significant part of the annual budget is allocated also to the implementation of the national Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme.
In assessing flood risk at any particular location, the installation of individual property protection may have a role to play in certain instances and this would be factored into the consideration of options to address flood risk at that particular location.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Good progress continues to be made on the reform priorities to strengthen public governance included in the Programme for Government for which my Department is responsible. The current position regarding to the main elements of this reform programme is summarised below.
The General Scheme of the Regulation of Lobbying Bill was submitted for pre-legislative scrutiny to the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and the committee's report has been received by my Department. Drafting of the Bill by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is continuing and it is anticipated that Bill will be published in Q2 2014, and it is planned to present the Bill to the Oireachtas before the summer recess. The Protected Disclosures Bill, 2013, establishing a detailed and comprehensive legislative framework protecting whistleblowers in all sectors of the economy, was passed by the Seanad late last year, has passed Second Stage in the Dáil recently, and is expected to be enacted by late April/early May. The Freedom of Information Bill 2013, published in July 2013, restores Ireland's FOI legislation and extends FOI to all public bodies. It completed Committee Stage in the Dáil last November and is expected to be enacted before the Summer. In tandem with work on the new FOI Bill, a revised draft Code of Practice for FOI for Public Bodies is in the process of being finalised drawing on the report and recommendations of FOI users, advocates and expert academic researchers in FOI nationally and internationally, as well as FOI experts in public bodies. Following Government approval it is intended to publish the draft Code for public consultation with a view to having it completed on or before enactment of the new FOI legislation.
Drafting of the General Scheme of a Bill by my Department to overhaul the current ethics framework is at an advanced stage. The draft Heads of a Bill based on a review of the current statutory framework for ethics, the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal and international best practice are intended to consolidate, simplify and modernise the current legal framework. A joint process is underway involving officials and representatives of civil society interests aimed at developing Ireland's first Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan. The finalisation of this plan following its approval by Government will enable Ireland's full membership of the OGP reaffirming Ireland's commitment to open, transparent and accountable public governance. A project has commenced to facilitate the implementation of the commitments encompassed by the Open Data Initiative I announced at the OGP Summit in London in autumn 2013. A comprehensive programme of Statute Law Revision has been approved by Government. It is anticipated that the first Bill developed under this new programme will be published later this year. A consultation paper Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance has been published and a public consultation process is currently under way. The aim of this process is to reform and reconfigure the relationship between Ministers and their Departments and civil servants to ensure that there is greater clarity about who is responsible to whom for what. An Independent Panel has been established to manage and oversee this consultation process, review submissions received and to submit recommendations for my consideration by May 2014.
The Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012 is now in force having significantly extended the Ombudsman's remit and strengthened the Ombudsman's powers. The Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 was commenced last September.
Tribunals of Inquiry Recommendations
143. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he has taken to implement the recommendations of the Moriarty tribunal since its publication nearly three years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10355/14]
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Moriarty Tribunal made two recommendations for changes to company law, as follows:
European Court of Human Rights Judgments
144. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the current position in Irish law regarding the implications of the conclusion of the Sorensen and Rasmussen versus Denmark case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10423/14]
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): In a ruling delivered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 11 January 2006 in the case of Sørensen and Rasmussen v Denmark, the Court ruled that it is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for a person to be compelled to be a member of a specific trade union in order to be employed in a Danish enterprise. The question at issue was whether it is a violation of Article 11 of the ECHR to prevent people from obtaining employment if they refuse to be a member of a trade union that has concluded a closed-shop agreement with the enterprise in question.
Danish law specifically excluded employees from protection from dismissal on grounds of not being a member of an association or of a specified association in cases where the employee knew prior to employment that said membership was a condition of employment. The issue of the closed shop is not provided for specifically in Irish law.
Closed shops can be divided into two categories: pre-entry and post-entry. A pre-entry closed shop is a situation whereby persons are required to be members of a specific union before they can obtain certain jobs. A post-entry closed shop is a situation whereby existing employees are required to join a specific trade union after they have engaged in employment.
The Irish Courts have considered closed shop arrangements in a number of legal cases. The judgements suggest that employees have a right to disassociate where a closed shop arrangement is introduced and enforced against a worker already in employment (i.e. post-entry closed shop).
However, the Irish Courts have not ruled definitively on the constitutionality of either the pre-entry closed shop or the post-entry closed shop as it is applied to newly-recruited employees. In such an event, it is likely that any judgment would be informed by the Sorenson/Rasmussen case.
145. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received their due wages and holiday pay; the mechanisms available to them; if they are entitled to redundancy payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10526/14]
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Generally, where an employment has ended and an employee is owed wages, an employee may take a case to the Rights Commissioners Service under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 in order to claim outstanding payments such as arrears of wages and payments in lieu of untaken annual leave or any public holiday benefit outstanding. Under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts, an employee who has a minimum of 13 weeks’ service with an employer is entitled to notice of termination of employment. The length of notice to which an employee is entitled is dependant on the length of service of the employee and can range between one week’s notice for an individual with less than 2 years’ service up to eight weeks’ notice for an individual with more than fifteen years’ service. Where an employer is unable to provide or does not provide the appropriate notice, then the employer may make a payment in lieu of the notice. An employee who does not receive the minimum notice entitlements may take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
146. Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans for a free trade agreement between the EU and Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10594/14]
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): The EU and Australia formally conduct their trade and economic relations under the EU-Australia Partnership Framework of October 2008. This aims, among other trade related matters, to facilitate trade in industrial and agriculture related products between the EU and Australia by reducing technical barriers, including assessment procedures. This partnership covers dialogue about technical barriers to trade and encouraging mutual recognition of conformity assessment procedures, with the objective of reducing the costs of testing and certification of products exported to and imported from Australia.
The Framework Agreement also enables both parties to exchange information on their respective trade policies, the Free Trade Agreements they are negotiating and to build on their shared interests in mutual co-operation to strengthen and broaden the multilateral trading system through the World Trade Organisation. The Framework Agreement provides for regular dialogue on issues of mutual interest or concern that may be considered within a multilateral framework.
Since early 2012, Australia and the EU have been negotiating a formal Framework Agreement that contains a number of economic and trade cooperation provisions. I would welcome a trade agreement that provides for an expansion of trade opportunities for exporters while providing an overall stimulus to economic recovery.
However, at this time, there are no plans for negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Australia. The matter is not on the immediate work programme for the EU Commission, which is responsible for negotiating these agreements.
147. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will identify and list what he expects to be the top ten growing export markets for Ireland in the medium term; the language needs of Irish businesses in respect of each of these export markets; and the actions being taken to meet the language needs of Irish businesses in this regard. [10678/14]
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Government’s Review of the Trade, Tourism and Investment Strategy was launched on 24 February. This review identifies the 27 priority markets that will be the continuing and additional focus of efforts to drive export and investment opportunities. The range of target markets identified will ensure that the necessary resources and policies are devoted to both already well established export markets and to those in Asia, South America and Africa, where growth rates are likely to continue at high levels.
County and City Enterprise Boards
148. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the current waiting lists in county enterprise boards for initial meetings for persons wishing to start their own business and for start your own business courses run by the enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10804/14]
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): The information requested by the Deputy regarding waiting lists relates to operational matters within the County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) in which I have no function. However, if the Deputy has any concerns about delays being experienced by clients of any particular CEB, I would be happy to bring it to the attention of the Board in question.
The Deputy may be aware that as part of the Government Decision to reform the structure of State support for that sector the CEBs are soon to be dissolved and their existing functions will transfer to Enterprise Ireland (EI) and will be delivered, on behalf of EI, by the Local Authorities through a network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs).
The legislation to effect the reform is at an advanced stage and I anticipate that it will have successfully passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas by early March with a view to commencing the new LEO structure in early to mid-April.
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