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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed)

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Snippet Contents:

Can the Minister imagine the hardship these people are going through while the banks refuse to deal with them or understand their difficulty and plight? It will take a strong intervention from the Government to make those banks come to heel. They are not assisting those families in question and have no respect for them or the Government. As soon as the bottom-lines of those banks become better off they will ignore the Government and the citizen and get back on to the same game they were on before. Where then will stand the Government's 2011 democratic revolution where the people were front and centre to everything?
Another issue this budget never touched was the health service. I asked the Taoiseach a question about hospital waiting lists but the Ceann Comhairle suggested I put down a parliamentary question on it. I will ask it now. I have the case of a person on a waiting list for a procedure at Waterford Regional Hospital who was then sent to Cappagh hospital. That hospital could not deal with the procedure, so the patient was then to be sent to Altnagelvin Area Hospital. To this day, it is hard to find out the patient’s position on this waiting list. That is unforgivable of any government. These people are waiting in pain to get their procedures or operations carried out.
The Government has allocated €13.5 billion to the health services. I suggested to the HSE chief executive officer, Mr. Tony O'Brien, that he was not up to the job and maybe the Minister should get somebody else. He accused me of making a political statement. It was not. It was an honest-to-God statement regarding the fear and frustration I have for the management of the health services which I believe is out of control. Middle to senior management in the health services has no real direction. The system is held together by the nurses and doctors, the Band-Aid of the system, who work tirelessly day and night to keep it together. They will not see much from this budget but the senior management and upwards will.
Recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General had to tell the health services that they owed small businesses €9 million in compensation because they did not pay them in time. The health services tried to wriggle their way out of that. In 2013, 2014 and again this year, the Comptroller and Auditor General has had to draw attention to the fact that the procurement rules are, by and large, ignored by the HSE and that there are issues for it to address. There was a further issue with the settlement of tax, which involves some €4 million. Compliance performance with procurement rules is in significant difficulty. Hospital managers have failed to get consultants to sign off on operations, so they can claim for them from private health insurance. Those outstanding claims come to €290 million.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the Garda Síochána noted its failure to comply with computer procurement rules. The report highlighted taxpayers’ money was not applied to the projects for which it was intended, some €691,000, in Vote 25, community and local government. The postal code system was originally meant to cost €18 million but will now cost €38 million. The Revenue Commissioners have said they will not use it.
The Committee of Public Accounts and the Comptroller and Auditor General do not audit the significant moneys that go to the local government system. Will the Government bring forward the necessary appropriate reforms to allow the Comptroller and Auditor General to carry out his duties to audit local government? Will the Government give him the powers, and indeed the funding, to ensure that forensic examinations can be undertaken of the expenditure of this Government or any government? This is not a political point but about the administration of the State, which is failing this Government and the taxpayers, who contribute €50 billion a year in taxes. We are not getting value for money. It is simple. Will the Government amalgamate the local government audit system and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, give them all the appropriate powers they need to conduct their inquiries across Government agencies and Departments, fund them properly and ensure they follow the taxpayers’ money to the point at which it is spent? That is all I am asking for. It is not for me. It is for the Government and for the proper management of the State to ensure we can get some closure on the inefficiencies and failures of the State. If those failures were corrected, it would force the Government to collect more taxes than what it might need.
What is wrong with that? The former Minister, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, suggested many of these actions when he was a member of the Committee of Public Accounts. The first action I took when I entered the House was to introduce a Bill that might enable that to happen. The Government, however, refused to support it. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, is a former Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. When he was Chairman, every week he would lead the committee to the audio-visual room to give a press conference on the extreme waste and inefficiencies in the system. These are, however, still going on. I am a taxpayer and used to be a small business person. They look aghast at the fact that we do not address these issues. It might make the Government’s budget figures a lot easier but that does not happen. Will the Government consider bringing forward legislative proposals to ensure these changes take place?
There are many examples and these are but a few. It is simple to capture them in an independent way. The Minister should look into the marine section in his Department at leases which were never signed, moneys never collected and the way people were treated. It tells its own story.