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 Header Item Written Answers
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-16
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts Social Clauses
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Funding
 Header Item Public Sector Pensions
 Header Item Banking Inquiry
 Header Item National Lottery Licence Sale
 Header Item Departmental Legal Costs

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 804 No. 3

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Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

Written Answers Nos. 1-16

  Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Public Procurement Contracts Social Clauses

 11. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the consideration he has given to the inclusion of a social clause in capital public procurement projects to the value of €1 million euro or more. [24631/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The matter of social clauses in public contracts is something that I have been examining closely recently.

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 European Commission issued guidance in 2010 that identified a range of social considerations that could be relevant for procurement including promoting employment opportunities for young unemployed or long-term unemployed and promoting compliance with core labour standards. This guidance stressed that when incorporating social considerations into the procurement process one of the key challenges is ensuring compliance with the EU Treaty Principles and the Procurement Directives. The EU procurement directive primarily envisages that social considerations may be included as 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. For example, the EU Directive states that contract performance conditions may be intended to favour on-site vocational training, the employment of people experiencing particular difficulty in achieving integration, the fight against unemployment or the protection of the environment.

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.

The Deputy may be aware that proposals for a revised set of EU Directives governing public procurement are being considered at present. The inclusion of social considerations in public procurement procedures, specifically at the contract award stage, is an issue that is being addressed in the reform of the procurement directives. In this regard, the revised directive, when implemented, should provide greater scope and legal clarity in relation to the use of social criteria at contract award stage. Reaching agreement on the public procurement dossiers is a key priority for the Irish Presidency of the European Union.

The Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC) has recently approved a pilot initiative to be included in a series of 3 bundles under the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) Devolved Schools Build Programme Design and Build Framework, which will require the Contractor to provide for the employment of some members of the workforce employed under a public works contract to be recruited from the ranks of the long-term unemployed, in addition there is a requirement to provide opportunities for apprentices.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

 12. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the number of flood alleviation projects that will be carried out by the Office of Public Works in 2013; the funding to be allocated to these projects; the way this compares to previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24666/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes The Office of Public Works addresses flood risk under the following main programmes:

1.Major Capital Works Programme

2.Minor Works and Coastal Protection Scheme

3.National Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme

4.Drainage Maintenance Programme

5.Hydrometric and Hydrological Programme

  The total allocation included in the OPW's Vote in 2013 for these programmes is €61m, of which €45m is allocated for flood alleviation works projects, including the National Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Programme.

  Some projects under the Major Capital Works Programme are delivered directly through the OPW's own resources while others are delivered by local authorities with funding and technical input from the OPW.

  There are 9 projects at construction stage under this Programme at present. It is expected that another five schemes will commence construction before the end of 2013, subject to completion of procurement and other preparatory formalities and continued availability of funding. There are currently 26 other schemes at various stages of design and planning. The comparable position as regards Major Capital Works projects in the years 2010-2012 was as follows:

MAJOR WORKS SCHEMES

- 2010 2011 2012 2013*
At Construction 14 12 13 9
Pre-construction 21 22 20 26
* Figures shown for 2013 represent the position at end-April while figures for other years show year-end position. Five schemes currently at Pre-construction stage are expected to progress to At Construction stage before end-2013.

  Under the Minor Works and Coastal Protection Scheme, the OPW provides funding to local authorities for smaller scale, more localised flood mitigation measures they wish to undertake in their areas. It is open to any local authority to submit an application to the OPW for funding under the scheme. Each application will be assessed in accordance with the criteria now in place and having regard to the overall availability of financial resources for such works in 2013. The relevant local authority is responsible for the procurement, planning, detailed financial management and day-to-day implementation of all aspects of the projects approved under the Scheme. A summary of projects approved for funding by the OPW under this scheme each year since 2010 is as follows:

MINOR WORKS & COASTAL PROTECTION SCHEME

- 2010 2011 2012 2013 to date
No. of projects 193 75 78 10
Funding allocated €16.6m €4.6m €4.4m €0.5m


   In addition to capital flood relief works, the OPW will continue in 2013 with a programme of Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management studies which will produce an integrated Flood Risk Management Plan setting out a prioritised set of measures to address flood problems in areas where there is significant risk in each major catchment in the country.

  Under the ongoing arterial drainage maintenance programme, the OPW will also continue in 2013 to undertake maintenance of completed arterial drainage and flood relief schemes, which also contributes to reducing flood risk. The OPW will also continue to gather hydrometric data used to design flood defences. A total of €16m has been provided for these programmes in the OPW Vote in 2013.

Public Sector Pensions

 13. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin his plans to consolidate the 156 defined benefit schemes listed for public sector employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24661/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I understand that the Deputy is referring to the public service pension schemes listed in the Occupational Pension Schemes (Funding Standard) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 which were signed by the Minister for Social Protection on 18 April 2013. These schemes are exempt from the funding standard provisions of Part IV of the Pensions Act 1990.

Consolidation of particular public service pension schemes has taken place from time to time in the past, and individual instances of such consolidation may occur in the future. The consolidation of particular schemes could arise, for example, on foot of the merger or other re-organisation of State Bodies. It is also a fact that many public service schemes adhere to the standard rules set out in the 'Model' superannuation scheme for non-commercial state bodies.

Notwithstanding consolidation events which may arise in this way, and subject to the very important exception case of the Single Public Service Pension Scheme, I have no plans for widespread consolidation of existing public service pension schemes. For the most part the schemes concerned are localised to particular sectors of the public service, such as the civil service and local government, or to individual bodies, agencies and institutions. These schemes often originate from legislation specific to the area or body concerned, such as when the foundation Act of a State body makes specific provision for the establishment of a pension scheme for the workforce of that body. This legislative background, along with differences in rules between schemes, would mean that any attempt at wholesale consolidation would be a difficult, complex and potentially expensive undertaking.

An effective consolidation of public service pension schemes will in any event be achieved over time by way of the Single Public Service Pension Scheme, which I launched on 1 January 2013. The Single Scheme applies to all areas of public service employment, and is now the default pension scheme for first-time new-joiner public servants. In general the only new-joiner public service personnel who can be enrolled in pre-Single Scheme public service schemes are those with a recent work history elsewhere in the public service. In this sense the multitude of public service schemes to which the Deputy refers can mostly be regarded as semi-closed to new entrants, and will be fully displaced over time by the Single Scheme.

Banking Inquiry

 14. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will outline the aim of the proposed bill to allow for a banking enquiry; the resources that will be made available to the committee selected to carry out the proceedings; the timeframe that has been given for the completion of the enquiry; the projected cost of this enquiry to the Exchequer; the way the Oireachtas will be protected from making adverse findings against individuals; if the enquiry will affect in any way, judicial proceedings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24517/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin As the Deputy will be aware, the Government, at its meeting on 14th May 2013, approved the publication of the text of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013. The aim of this Bill is to establish a comprehensive statutory framework for the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries within the current constitutional framework.

The Bill envisages a central role for the Oireachtas in both initiating and conducting a parliamentary inquiry. Under the Bill, responsibility is assigned exclusively to the Houses of the Oireachtas to determine the requirement for a formal inquiry, the terms of reference of that inquiry, the appropriate committee to conduct an inquiry and the procedural and organisational aspects of the inquiry.

It is a matter for the Oireachtas to determine the resources that will be made available to any committee conducting an inquiry. The Bill obliges a committee, prior to conducting an inquiry, to prepare a report containing an estimate of the costs and expenses to be incurred in conducting an inquiry to be placed before the House.

In advance of a decision by the Oireachtas to conduct a banking inquiry and agreement on the type of inquiry and its terms of reference, it is not possible to make any assessment on the cost or duration of a banking inquiry.

It was firmly established in the Supreme Court judgment in the Abbeylara case that Oireachtas Inquiries do not, in general, have the power to make findings of fact adverse to the good name of any person who is not either a Member of the Houses or directly accountable to the Houses by virtue of the terms of their contract or statutory appointment. Only in such limited cases (or cases of impeachment of officeholders) may the reputations of individuals be put in issue.

The operation of an inquiry will not impede any judicial proceedings. Section 12(2) of the Bill provides that, if rules and standing orders so provide, a factor that may be considered by the Houses prior to determining the terms of reference resolution is the likelihood of the inquiry prejudicing any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress in the State. Section 26 makes clear that evidence given or sent to a committee for the purposes of an inquiry is not admissible as evidence in any proceedings, including disciplinary proceedings. Additionally, Section 30 of the Bill permits a committee conducting an inquiry to omit from the final report information that could lead to the identification of a person if, in the committee’s opinion, disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to prejudice any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress in the State or any criminal investigation that is currently being conducted in the State or, inter alia, it would not be in the interests of justice to disclose the information. Section 68 makes clear that a committee may not direct a person to give evidence or a document to it if it could reasonably be expected to prejudice any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress in the State or any criminal investigation that is currently being conducted in the State.

National Lottery Licence Sale

 15. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin if he will include in the tender documents for the National Lottery licence a clause that requires the successful bidder to abide by a social responsibility charter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24650/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin As the Deputy is aware, I announced in April 2012 that there will be a competition for the next National Lottery licence. A document inviting Expressions of Interest from parties interested in participating in the competition was published by my Department on 8th May 2013. It is envisaged that the competition will commence shortly.

The robust regulation of the National Lottery during the period of the next licence has been a priority for my Department since the outset of this process. The National Lottery Act 2013, which was recently enacted, provides for the establishment of a new independent Regulator for the National Lottery. Under the Act, the Regulator will be responsible for ensuring that the National Lottery is run with all due propriety, that the interests of participants in the National Lottery are protected, and that the long term sustainability of the National Lottery is safeguarded.

The protection of players of the National Lottery will be central to the arrangements for the next licence. Under the terms of the licence, the licence holder will be required to prepare, for the approval of the Regulator, codes of practice which will deal with issues such as relations with participants, advertising and promotions, and sales of tickets.

Departmental Legal Costs

 16. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin his views on whether sufficient progress is being made in reducing the State’s legal bill across his Department and State agencies under his aegis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24669/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin In the normal course, my Department uses the services of the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor in dealing with its own legal business.

In addition, my Department, in line with its general statutory responsibilities, has been engaged with the State’s law offices, who are critically involved in the engagement of legal services, with a view to pursuing reductions in overall costs. Reductions in legal costs are being achieved over the last few years through a number of different measures:

- The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Act 2009 imposed reductions on levels of professional fees, including legal fees.

- The State Claims Agency has reduced fees paid to barristers by 25% and has established a legal costs unit to handle third party costs associated with the Mahon and Moriarty Tribunals.

- A range of Departments and Offices have achieved reductions in legal fees and enhanced mechanisms for rigorous examination of claims have been introduced in both the Chief State Solicitor’s and the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Offices.

In relation to the procurement of legal services generally by the State, the position is that such services are not exempt from public procurement rules and many authorities tender for their legal services. To raise awareness in this regard, my Department, following consultations with the Attorney General’s Office, will very shortly issue a circular underlining the importance of competitive tendering for such services to all public bodies.

In addition, the National Procurement Service (NPS) has set up a working group on legal services to examine ways to assist public bodies that procure legal services and to determine how resources can be leveraged to achieve best value for money. The Working Group consists of representatives from the NPS, my Department, the Department of Justice & Equality, the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General. The work of this group will now be absorbed into the operations of the newly-formed Office of Government Procurement.


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