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 Header Item Infrastructure and Capital Investment Programme (Continued)
 Header Item e-Government and ICT
 Header Item Public Sector Staff Recruitment

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 804 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] The European Investment Bank is a strong and valuable support and partner in our PPP programme. In the past it has provided funding for a number of PPP projects, especially under the major motorway roads programme. More recently, it has supported two PPP projects, marking the reopening of the Irish PPP market following several years of international slowdown and difficulties in the market.

  In November 2012 the latest bundle of PPP schools was signed off on by all partners. Work commenced immediately on eight sites around the country, supplementing the Exchequer funded schools building programme. We will be monitoring the number of jobs created through the stimulus package on an ongoing basis. This has already started on a pilot basis with the schools bundle 3 project which has an estimated capital value of €100 million. To date, some 924 direct full-time jobs have been created on the eight sites.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

  Work has also begun on the N11-Newlands Cross PPP project which was signed off on on 30 April. This is a bundle of two projects, the first of which involves removing the bottleneck at Newlands Cross on the N7 Limerick-Cork-Waterford road in Dublin. The second will be an upgrade of the N11 between Arklow and Rathnew to a four lane dual carriageway. The National Roads Authority, the National Development Finance Agency, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the funders - the EIB and Bank of Ireland - have all made significant efforts to deliver these projects in order to underpin market confidence that the PPP market is prepared and ready for the roll-out of the new PPP pipeline.

  While the role of opening up additional funding lines for Ireland is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance and the National Treasury Management Agency, we have been working closely together in this regard. I am keen to build on the relationship we have with the EIB in order to ensure its continued support for the PPP programme. I have had several meetings with senior EIB personnel, including the president, Mr. Werner Hoyer, who has confirmed the bank's commitment to working with us to ensure we can maximise the resources available to Ireland and Irish investment. I welcome this valuable commitment and support which clearly demonstrates the confidence the EIB has in Ireland and the robustness of our projects.

  Total EIB funding for Ireland in 2012 was €600 million. This was made up by projects in several sectors, including €100 million for Exchequer schools, €200 million for Exchequer water schemes, €50 million for the schools bundle 3 project, €150 million for Bank of Ireland's SME fund and €100 million for Bord Gáis's onshore wind programme. In addition to this EIB financing, my officials are working closely with officials from the Department of Finance and the National Development Finance Agency who are seeking to attract private sector infrastructure financing. Sources of such funding include domestic banks, international banks and institutional investors. The Minister for Finance is also liaising with our partners at European level to make progress in the area of non-bank financing.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming The Minister has outlined what is being done generally through the public expenditure programme. My question, however, concerns the funding available in the private sector to complement the work ongoing through the European Investment Bank. Will the Minister tell us which banks are participating and how much each has drawn down or is capable of drawing down for onward lending to business, particularly the small and medium-sized business sector? Will he indicate the interest being charged by the EIB to these banks and what they, in turn, are charging their clients when they lend on the moneys? What is the period of the loans? People involved in the business sector are saying some of these loans are only available for a five year period, whereas the economic life of a project and the pay-back period are longer. If the Minister does not have the information to hand, he might convey it to me later. He has indicated that €850 million of the €2.25 billion investment in public infrastructural projects is coming from the sale of State assets. The difficulty in this regard is that the only revenue we can be sure of collecting this year in that process is the proceeds of the sale of the national lottery licence which, as the Minister indicated, will be received in December. I hope that funding is not being funnelled away from the national children's hospital project.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputy's questions on the European Investment Bank are more appropriate to my colleague, the Minister for Finance. However, I will answer them in so far as I can. I do not know the interest rates that apply. I have met the president of the EIB, Mr. Hoyer, on two occasions, first when he was newly appointed and the second time when he was in Ireland. The entire board of the bank met here, the first occasion on which it had met outside Luxembourg. Last year the bank allocated some €600 million to us and we are expecting an even larger allocation this year. We are also dealing with the Council of Europe Development Bank. The domestic banks involved in the programme are Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks. In regard to SMEs, the EIB has pledged €500 million to each of the two pillar banks to be lent onwards to SMEs. While this is primarily a matter for the Minister for Finance, it is important that we ensure, given that the EIB does not operate high street banks, that the money is channelled through the pillar banks to the people who need it. In regard to the €850 million allocation from the sale of State assets, we are confident that, together with the sale of the national lottery licence, we will also receive the proceeds of the sale of ESB power stations and the Bord Gáis Energy generating capacity in the last quarter of the year.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming I will direct several of the questions I asked to the Minister for Finance, as suggested, particularly in regard to the SME sector. In respect of funding for public projects, the Minister referred in a document issued by his Department last year to various education projects that were under way and several road projects. The Newlands Cross project was mentioned and there might have been one or two in his constituency. However, there was also mention of primary care centres in the health sector. What is the position in that regard and how many of these primary care centres will actually go ahead? Are they real or imaginary projects? Will the Minister indicate, in addition, whether any project in the justice area is included in the programme?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Is the Government monitoring public private partnership agreements to ensure rights and conditions for employees are maintained? I ask this question in the context of the official pickets at the Shanganagh wastewater treatment plant yesterday. According to workers, the consortium of a Spanish multinational and an Irish building firm attempted to sack a shop steward who had sought to negotiate on conditions and so on. As a result, the workers have been forced to strike. The partner in this PPP is Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Will the Minister give an undertaking that such projects do not function as an opportunity for private firms to trample on workers' rights?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Sean Fleming asked about primary care centres. I should have mentioned that bundles of such centres will be included in the allocation of funding from the European Investment Bank. It is interesting to discover that different institutions like different projects. The EIB likes road projects, for example. I have been trying to offer different options, but these types of project seem to be what it is used to funding.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Does it like forests?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Council of Europe Development Bank, on the other hand, prefers justice projects. It is funding the project at Cork Prison, for instance, and the renovation of a number of Garda stations. It is a matter of conjecture as to why these bodies have a predilection for particular types of project. As I said, we are putting together various bundles. I will send Deputy Sean Fleming a note on the status of the primary care centres.

e-Government and ICT

 7. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the role envisaged for the Public Service Chief Information Officer Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24659/13]

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin My Department established the Public Service Chief Information Officer Council in November 2011. The council is a representative forum for senior managers with responsibility for information and communications technology, ICT, and-or e-government from across the civil and public services. It provides expert input to decisions and actions to improve the impact of ICT and e-government on public service delivery. My Department, in collaboration with the council, has published e-government and cloud computing strategies to support the public service reform plan.

  The council has met on seven occasions to date. Agendas, minutes and other relevant documentation are published on its website, ciocouncil.gov.ie. The council is chaired by my Department. The Government recently appointed Mr. Bill McCluggage as Government chief information officer and he will assume the chair when he takes up his appointment in June.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming It was the appointment of Mr. Bill McCluggage that caught my eye some time ago. When one thinks about a chief information office, one might well assume it would in some way be connected with Government information services. What linkage is there between these two organisations? The Minister has talked about cloud computing, social media and so on. Surely they should all be integrated instead of having information technology communications in one corner and the old-fashioned communications methods being routed through Government information services. Is the Minister at liberty to outline the terms and conditions of Mr. McCluggage's appointment, including pay rates?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I do not have the terms and conditions of the appointment to hand, but I will have no difficulty in conveying them to the Deputy. Like most of the appointments I have made in my Department, including a new head of procurement and a new director of reform, he has been appointed on a five year contract with fixed wages. That is a good way to do it and the people I have appointed under these terms have been of extraordinary quality. Mr. McCluggage, likewise, is coming with a great pedigree, having been chief information officer in Northern Ireland before moving to the British Cabinet Office to assume the same role. I will send the Deputy a note on the structure of the council and how it operates.

Public Sector Staff Recruitment

 8. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will lift the public sector recruitment embargo which is resulting in important public facilities having to close down as vacancies from retirements remain unfilled. [24514/13]

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Government has set out an ambitious public service reform plan that aims to transform the quality and cost effectiveness of public services in Ireland. As part of that plan, we are undertaking a steady and managed reduction in public service numbers. There is, however, no wholesale embargo on recruitment. There is significant recruitment in targeted priority areas such as health and education.

The Government is, sensibly, taking a measured and prudent approach in order to mitigate the potential disadvantages of reduced staffing levels.


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