Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality

Estimates for Public Services 2014
Vote 20 - Garda Síochána (Supplementary)
Vote 21 - Prisons (Supplementary)
Vote 22 - Courts Service (Supplementary)

3:00 pm

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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All mobile telephones should be switched off as they cause interference with the recording system, even in silent mode. This meeting has been convened to consider the Supplementary Estimates for Vote 20 - Garda Síochána, Vote 21 - Prisons and Vote 22 - Courts Service. I propose that the committee considers the Supplementary Estimates together.

I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald and her officials for attending this meeting. I also thank them for the briefing material circulated in advance to members of the committee.

I propose that the following arrangements apply to the debate. The Minister will address the committee and after that each of the Opposition spokespersons will have the opportunity to respond.

I propose that the Minister address the committee, after which each Opposition spokesperson will have an opportunity to respond. We will take each subhead in succession, as we did on the last occasion. That worked extremely well and nothing fell through the cracks, as it were. In accordance with Standing Orders, the discussion should be confined to the items constituting the Supplementary Estimates. If we are discussing a subhead, members should confine themselves to it. As we will go through each subhead, we will not omit anything. I invite the Minister to make her opening statement.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the committee for making time available today to consider my request for Supplementary Estimates for An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the Courts Service.

A number of factors give rise to the Supplementary Estimates which can be broadly summarised as follows: additional requirements relating to Garda and prisons payroll costs; implementation of a capital investment announcement on budget day relating to Garda transport and information and communications technology, ICT; technical adjustments to utilise savings in certain areas, including surplus receipts, to offset additional expenditure requirements, thus making maximum benefit of the resources available to the justice Vote group. While there are substantial additional requirements in respect of the Votes for An Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service of €75.24 million and €9.25 million, respectively, they are being offset in part by savings elsewhere within the justice Vote of approximately €24.7 million. Thus, in real terms, the external funding requirement is under €60 million.

The Vote for the Department of Justice and Equality is contributing at least €22.3 million to offset the cost of the Supplementary Estimates and there are savings of approximately €1 million in the Vote for the Property Registration Authority. The Supplementary Estimate in respect of the Vote for the Courts Service is self-funding in that savings, including surplus receipts income, are being utilised to offset expenditure requirements in other areas of the Vote. After allowing for the various adjustments, it is expected that the Vote for the Courts Service will have a surrender balance of approximately €1.4 million.

It is not uncommon, given the fact that the justice sector Vote is made up of five Votes, that there is a need to adjust budgets across the group as part of the Supplementary Estimates process. This is particularly the case prior to year end to ensure maximum value is derived from any funding which becomes available. The largest individual element of the Supplementary Estimate for the Vote for An Garda Síochána relates to the payroll subhead where there is an additional requirement of €65 million.

It was brought to my attention shortly after I was appointed Minister for Justice and Equality that there would likely be a substantial shortfall in the Garda pay subhead in 2014. I made this one of the priority issues to be addressed in the recent Estimates and I am pleased that €40 million in additional funding is being provided in the Garda pay subhead in 2015. This addresses the shortfall in the subhead and also allows for the recommencement of Garda recruitment, with an initial 100 recruits having started their training in Templemore in September. I am pleased to confirm that another group of 100 recruits will commence training in early December and be joined by a further 100 recruits early in the new year. These are the first Garda recruits to enter the college since 2009 and these new gardaí are needed to contribute to the revitalisation of An Garda Síochána.

The Supplementary Estimates process is also the mechanism we use to deal with the capital investment announced on budget day. In total, €10 million is being provided and this funding is reflected in the ICT and transport subheads. An additional €7 million is being assigned to the capital element of the transport subhead as part of this Supplementary Estimate and a further €3 million will be available for the subhead in 2015. This will result in the procurement and fit-out of over 400 new vehicles for the Garda fleet. Deputies will be aware of vehicles coming on stream from previous funding and more will come on stream in early 2015.

The ICT investment of €3 million in 2014 will allow for a much needed information systems upgrade which will provide an essential platform for further systems development. Obviously, I will not go into detail in that regard, but clearly it is a major issue for An Garda Síochána to have the appropriate technology; therefore, we must invest to bring the technology up to date.

There are various other overspends and underspends across the Garda Vote which are being streamlined through the Supplementary Estimates process before the end of the financial year. There are surplus appropriations-in-aid receipts of almost €22.7 million, a proportion of which relate to various pension deductions which are directly related to payroll expenditure. Similar to recent years, certain receipts of almost €17 million from fixed charge notices are being used as part of a technical accounting exercise to offset the cost of road traffic measures, mainly relating to the cost of the Go Safe road safety contract.

It is clear from the Supplementary Estimate and the recently published Estimates for 2015 that the Government will continue to provide the necessary financial resources for An Garda Síochána. It is also clear, as we have discussed a great deal at this committee and in the Dáil, that there is a need for ongoing reform, to which I reiterate my commitment. We have seen this in the recent Garda Inspectorate's report; we will also receive the Haddington agreement report early in the new year. Obviously, the policing authority will be part and parcel of the new reforms.

I take the opportunity to wish Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan all the very best in her appointment as Garda Commissioner. She has a tough task ahead of her and a clear blueprint from the Garda Inspectorate to do her work.

A Supplementary Estimate of €9.25 million is required for the Irish Prison Service in 2014. The major components are: an additional payroll requirement of €7 million; an additional requirement of €3.220 million in the buildings subhead; an overrun of €1 million in the compensation subhead. There are offsetting savings of over €1 million in the administrative non-pay subheads, including €900,000 in ICT capital, €400,000 in the prisoner services subhead and appropriations-in-aid of €400,000. The net outcome is an additional requirement of €9.250 million in 2014 which has resulted from a number of budgetary pressures, including the full year cost of prison administration and support officers, PASOs, a number of recruit prison officers progressing to the prison officer pay scale in 2014 and the appointment of work training officers. There were additional recruits in the course of the year that have led to these extra costs. There were reductions made also in terms of the employment control framework, on which I can go into detail during the course of the discussion on the Vote for the Irish Prison Service.

There is an increased capital allocation of €900,000 in the prison building subhead in 2014. This is offset by corresponding capital savings relating to ICT of €900,000. Work is progressing well on Cork Prison and expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2015. The modernisation project in Mountjoy Prison is also on schedule, with an expected completion date for the works on D-wing which includes in-cell sanitation expected to be completed by mid-2015. The committee supported this project previously. It is extremely important that we modernise prison buildings and there is further work to be done, but the progress has been extremely good in Mountjoy Prison and Cork Prison. There is also some development work ongoing at Wheatfield.

The main reason for the Supplementary Estimate requirement in respect of non-payroll expenditure relates to an additional requirement of €2.3 million for current expenditure in the buildings subhead and is accounted for by essential works on heating and boiler systems across a number of prisons and the increasing cost of utility charges. They were very old systems on which work had to be done.

The Supplementary Estimate for the Courts Service of €1,000 is of a technical nature in order to meet additional costs in some subheads by savings in other areas, including surplus appropriations-in-aid. The increased cost of the annual repayment relating to the Criminal Courts of Justice complex, due to indexation, is €700,000. Deputies will be familiar with the new building. There are additional ICT capital expenditure costs of €400,000 following offset by savings in other capital subheads. While there are some overspends and underspends in the administrative subheads which are offsetting each other through the Supplementary Estimates process, the main source of funding to meet the additional requirement is surplus receipts in appropriations-in-aid. This surplus has arisen, in the main part, from a greater than expected intake of court fees, primarily relating to the Circuit Court and the High Court, both of which have benefited from the introduction of new fee orders in January 2014. They have been used to offset costs within the Vote for the Courts Service, but it is also expected that the Courts Service will have a surrender balance of approximately €1.4 million which will offset the additional costs in the Votes for the Garda and the Irish Prison Service.

I am pleased that the Court of Appeal sat for the first time earlier this month following its establishment. It is probably the most radical reform in the history of the Courts Service. I thank everybody involved in ensuring it was established in such a timely way after the referendum was passed.

There are many factors and issues that impact on the justice group of Votes and it is essential to have flexibility approaching year-end to offset additional costs in one area against savings in another. Even allowing for the offset of additional costs against savings, it is necessary in the current year to provide additional funding for the Votes for An Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service. I recommend the Supplementary Estimates for the Votes for An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the Courts Service to the committee. I will be happy to hear comments and take questions.

3:10 pm

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister. We have agreed to take each subhead individually. We will go through them as efficiently as we can. If members want to sum up, having heard everything, that might be an efficient way of conducting our business. Is that agreed? Agreed.

We will start with Vote 20 - An Garda Síochána. We note that the original Estimate at the start of the year was €1.2 billion and that the Revised Estimate is €1.3 billion. There is an additional requirement of €75.24 million. We will start with subhead A1.1 - salaries, wages and allowances, in respect of which there is an additional requirement of €65 million in 2014. Do members have questions?

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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I have a question on subhead A5.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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We will come to that subhead.

Photo of Seán KennySeán Kenny (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I note that most of the additional resources are required to meet the cost of wages and salaries. Are Garda resources used in dealing with protests about the installation of water meters. Is this reflected in the additional payments?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Will I take questions one by one?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Yes, one at a time.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The reality is that if gardaí are called to perform duties, the cost is carried in their standard pay which is covered by this subhead. I recently answered a question on the amount of Garda time and the precise cost connected with the water meter protests. While I was informed by An Garda Síochána that it was difficult to break down the precise costs involved, as one can imagine, gardaí were diverted from other duties to allow people to go about their normal work when trying to install water meters. The use of Garda time, effort and resources to deal with that issue has been a feature of the past year and will be reflected in standard pay costs.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister referred to additional gardaí. Will she comment further on that issue?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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There are 100 new Garda recruits who started in September. As Deputies know, it is the first recruitment since 2009. We will have another 100 recruits starting on 8 December.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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This subhead covers both groups.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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A total of 100 new recruits will start in December. Will a further 100 come on stream after Christmas?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes, 100 recruits started in September; 100 will start in December and a further 100 will start in January, giving a total of 300.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Is the cost of 400 new vehicles included in this subhead?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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That figure is covered in a separate subhead. We are discussing salaries, wages and allowances.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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On the threshold of 13,000, what is the latest report on Garda numbers? What are the numbers likely to be in 2015?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The number stands at 12,850. We will have another 100 recruits in December, bringing the total to 12,950.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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We are still below the 13,000 threshold.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes, by 50, but there is always some movement as gardaí retire and new recruits come in. In the course of next year I will monitor the position. It is very hard to predict the precise numbers who will retire at any one point.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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What are the indications for next year in terms of retirements? If 100 recruits will join the force in January, that will take the figure to 13,050. If one deducts the number who will retire next year, where will that leave us?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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We are dealing with the Supplementary Estimates for 2014 and that question will probably be dealt with in January.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Predicting final Garda payroll costs in a given year is not precise. There are a number of variables which impact on Garda payroll costs, including the number of retirements in a particular year. The reality is that the vast bulk of Garda retirements are voluntary when members reach 50 years of age and have 30 years service and are in a position to retire on a full pension. It is difficult to predict with complete accuracy the number of retirements in a particular year and the consequent impact, but it is something we will monitor. I want to keep the number at 13,000.

We also have to consider the impact on the college in Templemore of bringing in recruits. In the past a very large number of recruits were brought in without adequate planning in terms of training and supervision and arranging the placements needed. We have to be careful to ensure the college in Templemore can respond. That is why I have said I will keep an open mind on the matter. The number could be between 100 and 200.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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The newly appointed Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan, is on record as saying she will be very worried if the numbers fall below 13,000. Her predecessor said the same. The Garda Inspectorate's report referred to resource issues. It will be of profound concern to the committee if the numbers appointed do not ensure the force remains above the figure of 13,000.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The good news is that because of the improvement in the economic climate we are in a position to recruit for the first time since 2009. I agree with what the inspectorate stated and the view of the committee that the 13,000 figure should be adhered to. That has formed the basis of my discussions with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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Will the Minister consider giving the new independent policing board control over the budget, as is the position in the case of other policing boards?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The Garda Commissioner has authority. She is the Accounting Officer.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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That was not the question I asked. I asked whether the Minister would consider giving the new independent policing authority control over the budget for these matters, including staff and so, as is the position in the case of other policing authorities.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Is the Deputy suggesting the budget for An Garda Síochána should be under the control of the policing authority? If that is the question, the situation would remain the same. The Commissioner would be the Accounting Officer.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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That is a policy issue.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I have received an answer. That is fair enough.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Has there been any scientific analysis of the optimum number of gardaí? When we were in Scotland, we were asked from where the numbers came. How many gardaí do we really need? Who knows - we may need fewer or more.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I heard a figure of 17,000, but I do not know whether that is correct.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Does the Minister wish to respond?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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This is an issue that has come up in a number of places. The inspectorate made recommendations on the need for a more detailed analysis to match numbers of gardaí with areas of particular need.

We made some recommendations in terms of having a more detailed analysis of matching numbers of gardaí with areas of particular need. Better matching is required. We have also asked the Garda Inspectorate to examine the issue. The report which is due in January will deal with terms and conditions and examine that area also. There has been much talk about adherence to a particular number. Currently, the strength of the force is 13,000. However, one cannot discuss it without also talking about reform and civilianisation. There are a number of recommendations in the Garda Inspectorate's report about civilianisation in various aspects of the work which would free gardaí currently engaged in administrative duties. That is part and parcel of the discussion about numbers.

3:20 pm

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I remind members that we must confine the debate to the Supplementary Estimates.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I am pleased that the Minister referred to the arbitrary number of 13,000 gardaí. I am not aware of any study, independent or otherwise, of the optimal number. To put it bluntly, the figure of 13,000 is probably more political than for any other reason. When it is available, I would very much welcome an opportunity to debate the Garda Inspectorate's report to which the Minister referred. She hit the nail of the head in terms of civilianisation of the force in the administration work done. Members of An Garda Síochána are strapped to desks much of the time, which is not necessarily the optimal in terms of their ability to carry out policing duties. I recently looked at the county police service in Massachusetts and found it interesting that the vast majority of administrative work in the police force was carried out by non-policing personnel.

My question on the Supplementary Estimate, under subhead A1, relates to the payroll function of An Garda Síochána. A number of figures were identified as a supplementary or extraordinary budget, if one wants to call it that, for ICT services.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry, but we are dealing with subhead A1 - salaries, wages and allowances.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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That is correct. I am addressing that subhead. The ICT side includes HR and payroll functions. I accept that the sum of approximately €40 million will form a separate budget next year. Have additional moneys been allocated as part of the subhead within Vote 20 to begin the process and does it include payroll costs?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I wish to make a number of points in response to what members have said. In response to Deputy Alan Farrell, under this subhead, we need more sophisticated technology to track the HR side of An Garda Síochána. This need has clearly been identified. An Garda Síochána does not have the necessary systems in place. There has been no investment to speak of in the HR side of ICT for An Garda Síochána and it is urgently needed. Under another subhead, a total of €3 million has been allocated initially. We need a detailed analysis which I hope to receive very quickly of ICT needs in terms of computer-aided dispatch, HR and an overall ICT system. I do not wish to invest money that is not part of an overall approach to meeting the ICT needs of An Garda Síochána. Work remains to be done in that regard.

The review of the Haddington Road agreement is being carried out. It is also being carried out by the Garda Inspectorate. I have been told by the chief inspector, Mr. Bob Olson, that it will be available in January.

In response to the question about Garda numbers, that is one of the key issues in the Haddington Road agreement review. The review is focusing on operations and administration. There is a review of the deployment of members. In response to Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn’s point about numbers, discussion of the review by the committee would be a key input, which I would welcome. In the review a very rigorous look is being taken at deployment, numbers, civilian staff and appropriate roles. It will be a good piece of work that will help us to focus on precisely the questions members have raised, not in a political way but one which assesses what the needs are, where we need gardaí and how we match appropriate numbers with areas of need in terms of crime prevention and security.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister. We should focus in the subhead on the €65 million and the purpose for which it has been allocated, rather than getting into a discussion on policy and other issues, which is a debate for another forum. I am told that we are supposed to focus on figures, outturns and inputs, rather than getting into broader debates.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister and her team. I will focus on the complement of the Garda Reserve. How many members of the Garda Reserve do we have? What is the average number of hours a member of the Garda Reserve works per month?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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That matter relates to subhead A2. We can discuss the issue raised by the Deputy when we reach it.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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I wish to ask about costings in the relevant subhead. The Minister will deal with the Garda Reserve later. Why was the original Estimate out by €65 million?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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It might be useful to receive a more detailed breakdown of the allocation of €65 million.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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A number of factors are at issue. To put matters in perspective, Garda pay and superannuation costs make up 90% of current expenditure on the Garda Vote. In 2014 the total combined provision for pay and pensions is €1.173 billion. The current expenditure and non-pay allocation by comparison is €146 million. We are really talking about pay and pensions primarily. People forget that they account for 62% of the entire justice Vote group. The justice sector has had to sustain year-on-year budgetary reductions, almost since 2009 until the recent 2015 Estimates. There are a number of variable factors which impact on Garda payroll costs, including the number of retirements in a particular year. I have already made a point about that issue. As it is hard to predict the precise numbers, it has impacted on the amounts involved. Clearly, there was an under-estimate last year. That is the reality.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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May we have a breakdown of the figure of €65 million? How much of it relates to new gardaí, for instance, and to retirements?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I cannot provide a separate breakdown of the figure for Garda recruits, but it would not amount to much in the context of the overall payroll budget. The additional allocation of €40 million provided in the budget represents a 5% increase, compared with the corresponding figure in the 2014 Estimates. It is effectively to cover payroll costs and allowances.

To return to the point about recruits, the salary differential between new recruits when they are attested and members at retirement stage is significant. It will lead to some savings in the payroll bill next year. That is why what we have sought for next year is lower than the amount in the Supplementary Estimate for this year.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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We will move on to the next subhead which relates to administration - non-pay. An extra total of approximately €3 million is involved. It relates to the national digital radio system and other communications systems.

The next subhead is A2.5 which relates to office equipment and external IT services and involves a total of €6 million, of which €3 million relates to additional capital funding and also the budget for ICT projects, including a necessary information systems upgrade, an essential platform for further system developments.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome this investment. In order to deal with computer crime, the force requires an upgrade of equipment.

I refer, for example, to equipment for the units that deal with white collar crime and obviously the Garda Inspectorate focused on the need to upgrade the IT systems and to consider new approaches in this regard. In fairness to the Minister, she has acknowledged this and consequently, this is a welcome investment. Can the Minister provide members with a breakdown in this regard? For example, in respect of the computer crime unit, the Minister is aware of the concerns that arose regarding those who had viewed images of child abuse over the Internet. There was an assertion that investigations were being delayed because the technology was not up to the requisite standard. Is this the type of issue in which it is proposed to invest?

3:30 pm

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy will recall that at the time he raised this concern, I received a report from the Commissioner on that issue and how it was being handled by An Garda Síochána and, in fact, she was prioritising that area at the time. I certainly can get an update for the Deputy. As for the €3 million in question, I believe it is for separate, more basic ICT, as opposed to being specifically for that area. However, this area has been prioritised and, for example, a former member of An Garda Síochána who is working with Interpol is one of the world's experts with regard to child sexual abuse online. There is much work being done between police forces and An Garda Síochána has been involved in a number of highly significant investigations in the past year. I am confident it is working effectively in this area. However, from all the information I have, I note one cannot be complacent because criminal networks increasingly are using highly sophisticated computer technology, including highly sophisticated encryption, which poses a real challenge to police forces in Ireland, the United States and elsewhere. I am informed that a system is in the process of being procured by an Garda Síochána in respect of that specific area. However, I will get an update on that subject and will forward it to the Deputy.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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That is very welcome and in fairness to the Minister, she gave me that commitment at the time. The Minister need not give me a substantive response to these issues, which I simply am flagging today but I refer to white collar crime, the computer crime unit's ability to deal with these sophisticated threats and the issue of upgrading technology within the Garda Inspectorate. I ask the Minister simply to note them as I do not require a response.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Members must stick with the €6 million that actually is being discussed.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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It is hard not to comment.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I know, but this is where members get lost. This relates to further system development and a necessary information systems upgrade and I understand these are external information technology services, not internal services.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I take it these are services that are being bought in from the outside.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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That is correct. This is about trying to identify the most appropriate technology given the range of needs and systems. The bottom line is they are in need of updating. The computer-aided dispatch, CAD, system is only in place in five areas.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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One issue that came to the joint committee's attention recently is that it does not appear to be possible to e-mail one's local Garda station.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The entire question of access using modern technology is a key issue within An Garda Síochána. For example, the rosters and duty hours that gardaí do clearly should be on a human resources system, which would reduce the amount of time spent on administrative duties. This is a major priority on which I will have further discussions with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, because there are serious ICT issues. While one can e-mail Garda stations, there are a lot of security protocols and this issue must be examined. I refer, for example, to the issue we discussed previously of a "track my crime" system and it is clear that if one seeks to have greater contact with one's public, one must be able to do it through these means and I believe the Garda is very conscious of that.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
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I apologise to the Chairman but I must leave the meeting to chair the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions. I will submit written questions and I thank the Minister.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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The next subhead A2.6 concerns the maintenance of Garda premises and €1.7 million is being sought in this regard, mainly to do with safety services and equipment, fire safety services and equipment, as well as plumbing and electrical matters. As there are no questions on that, we will move on to the next subhead, which pertains to station services. There has been an overrun in this regard of €1.175 million due to the cost of utility heating, electrical costs and other station services. Are initiatives under way within An Garda Síochána to bring in other technologies to reduce that bill?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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To which bill does the Chairman refer?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I refer to subhead A2.8 on heating and electrical and to heating in particular.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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There is an environmental strategy, which is being carried out in association with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, in a bid to have best practice in that area and to reduce bills.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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And to reduce emissions.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I have a question on foot of what the Minister has just said. If one uses the Green Schools initiative as a comparison and with which the Minister will be familiar from her constituency, I presume she is referring to something along those lines, whereby the SEAI direction and assistance is being provided to work toward savings in respect of insulation and so on, that is, the small things-----

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is important.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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-----that home owners would know all about.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Obviously, addressing the energy rating of the various Garda stations would be part of that and it is included. I am sure this can be developed further.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I noticed that Cork University Hospital had a green flag the other day, which I believe was for waste or something. The competition to see which is the best Garda station in the country to save energy year on year might be something worthwhile.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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As opposed to crime figures or as well as crime figures?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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As well as crime figures I believe. If there are no further questions on that subhead, the next one is A2.9 for the Garda Reserve, on which Deputy Niall Collins has some questions. I note an additional €205,000 is being sought in this regard.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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What is the current available complement of members of the Garda Reserve at present? If the Minister has the statistic to hand, what is the average number of hours per month or by week that a member of the Garda Reserve contributes to An Garda Síochána? Is recruitment to the Garda Reserve open-ended? In other words, is it open at any time for an individual to apply to become a member of the Garda Reserve? I presume that process is an internal process managed from headquarters in the Phoenix Park, rather than being outsourced to any independent agency. Finally, on the stipend or honorarium paid to members of the Garda Reserve, I believe they are somewhat undervalued. Has the Minister given consideration to revising upwards the annual figure they are paid?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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In 2014, the current number is 1,091. I can tell the Deputy that a further 62 Garda Reserve trainees will graduate this Friday, which will bring the number to 1,153, which is almost back to 2013 levels. The new Garda Commissioner has expressed her interest in and commitment to the development of the Garda Reserve and is on record as saying this. Recruitment is ongoing and actually is an independent process as the Public Appointments Service interviews on a rolling basis at a range of locations around the country. It is interesting that, to date, 40 members of the Garda Reserve have joined as full-time members of An Garda Síochána and that 23 members of the Garda Reserve commenced their training as full-time gardaí in the Garda College last September. It is clear that many people who have an interest in a career in An Garda Síochána join the Garda Reserve, build up their experience and knowledge of the force there and then go on. It also is worth noting that the Garda Reserve has been highly successful in attracting non-Irish nationals to its ranks, as 67 members of the Garda Reserve are non-Irish nationals from various countries.

The Deputy also asked me about the allowances. The annual allowance payable to Garda Reserve members as a contribution towards their expenses is set at €1,000 per annum. Interestingly, the Finance (No. 2) Act 2013 provided that the allowance paid to members of the Garda Reserve was exempt from taxation. They also are reimbursed for expenses incurred while attending court in respect of their service as a member of the Garda Reserve. From my own observation, I note there is quite mixed use of the Garda Reserve in different Garda stations, as I am sure the Deputy has noticed. There is scope to examine the role and to ascertain how best use can be got from it.

3:40 pm

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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What is the average number of hours?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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They have to do 200 hours to get the allowance.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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Per annum?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes. I have found that some do many more than that out of interest while some just do the minimum. Some join and keep their name on the books, and perhaps their enthusiasm wanes a little, while others are extremely interested and would like to do even more. Therefore, there is significant variation. There may be room to do a little more to get the very best from the Garda Reserve.

The Commissioner has carried out an internal review of the Garda Reserve. She has decided to extend its powers to include additional training in areas such as domestic violence, child protection and first aid. The members will also be issued with TETRA radios, and their road traffic powers will be extended. Training has commenced and when it is completed, the Garda Reserve’s powers will be formally extended. That is an interesting development in this area.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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Could the Minister give me a note on what the Garda Reserve’s extended powers will be?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Could the Minister pass on any such information through the clerk?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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Could the Minister consider further the payment to Garda Reserve members, particularly those who put in many hours? I know the Minister cannot answer this today but she should consider it.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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We will examine that. I will send a note to the committee on the Garda Reserve.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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For what specifically is the €205,000? It is over and above what was estimated at the start of the year. Obviously, something has come up. It is for the extra personnel?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The extra Garda Reserve personnel.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Extra Garda Reserve members are costing €205,000. There are not 205 extra Garda Reserve members, however.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Generally speaking, it pertains to the running costs associated with members of the Garda Reserve.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Costs associated with them.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Each gets €1,000 per annum. It would be interesting to get a detailed breakdown as to where the money is going. Some of these Estimates are very general and there is no breakdown at all.

The next subhead concerns clothing and accessories, in respect of which there is a figure of €736,000. I refer to the national rolling out of the online uniform ordering system and extra uniforms required for the new Garda recruits commencing training. That is what that is all about. Are there any questions on that?

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Given that we were aware of this at this time last year when preparing the Estimates for 2014, did we not put the figure in the budget for this year? Were we aware of this? That is a question in itself

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I believe it is the same explanation as to why the Estimate is higher. It was just a question of more limited resources last year and the need to make up for it this year.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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There is a need to make up for it at the end of the year.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Interesting.

The next subhead concerns transport. There is approximately €5.5 million extra being sought in this regard. There was an initial capital allocation of €7 million, announced on budget day, for the purchase of 400 Garda cars. There are savings of approximately €1.5 million within the subhead in respect of maintenance or running expenses of the Garda fleet. The savings are interesting. Are there any questions on that?

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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The additional vehicles have to be welcomed. I am aware from the Minister’s responses to parliamentary questions and statements in the Dáil that continuous funding for additional vehicles to cater for the demand is absolutely necessary and welcome.

The 400 vehicles mentioned in the explanatory note under A.5, pertaining to transport, are for 2015. Is the supplementary budget to supply vehicles in addition to those? Could the Minister provide us with a little more information on how An Garda Síochána managed to save €1.5 million in maintenance costs? That is a very significant figure.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The budget allocation for the purchase and fitting out of new vehicles in 2014 was €4 million. In October 2014, a further €7 million was made available for the purchase and fitting out of vehicles. I have mentioned the number of vehicles that will be purchased on foot of this investment before the end of the year. They will be delivered by the end of this year and assigned to various Garda divisions.

I asked questions earlier in the year about the maintenance of Garda vehicles. As the Deputies would expect, An Garda Síochána tenders and reviews costs all the time. I can only assume this is how the savings were made. There are just greater efficiencies. Vehicles must be replaced at 300,000 km. With the replacement of cars with new ones coming on stream, there are certain efficiencies.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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On transport, €5 million extra is being requested for 2014. I take it this is for the period to the end of December 2014.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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What are we getting for that? Are we talking about extra cars, motorbikes, bicycles or vans?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is 400.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Are they all cars?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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There is a mixture. That is really an operational issue.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Extra vehicles?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is a mix of vehicles. The precise mix the Garda feels it requires at any time is an operational decision.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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How many extra vehicles will the €5.5 million purchase? It will not result in 400 as the figure is for 2015 also. Is that not the case?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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What is the €5.5 million for?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Seven million euro in capital minus the savings in the area of maintenance gives €5.5 million. That is for 400 cars.

The fitting out will take place early in the new year, and there is a budgetary allocation for that.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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The fitting out is also quite expensive.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is €3 million in relation to that ratio.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Subhead A.6 concerns communications and other equipment, and an extra €15 million is listed in this regard. The additional requirement for this subhead relates for the most part to the cost of the GoSafe road safety contract and to the offsetting of certain receipts for fixed charges.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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My question relates to the income generated from GoSafe. I wish to know the total cost and the additional expenditure. If these figures were available, they would be helpful.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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The outsourcing of the operation of safety cameras commenced in November 2010 and they reached full operational capacity in March 2011. The contract is for five years, from November 2010, with an option to extend for one further year. Provision had not been made for the gross cost of the contract in the Estimates due to the budgetary constraints operating in recent years. That is part of the explanation.

What had happened was that an arrangement was arrived at in the Estimate for the Vote in that a nominal amount is initially allocated as appropriations-in-aid. That is actually moving on a little also. It is important to note that receipts generated from the GoSafe system are only part of the fixed-charge notice receipts in the Garda Vote. The intake from this source in 2012 and 2013 amounted to €4.6 million and €4.4 million, respectively.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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I presume the Minister will not tell us the value of the GoSafe contract due to commercial sensitivities. What was the gross receipt to the State from the issuing of fixed charges? The Minister has answered this in part in reply to Deputy Farrell.

3:50 pm

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Overall, from the finance in this area, it is €14.8 million. The actual receipts generated directly from the GoSafe system are €4.4 million. That is the total.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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So An Garda Síochána basically issues €10 million in fixed charges through the traffic corps?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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That is correct.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Initially, we put in an estimate of €13.9 million that I take it was for GoSafe for the most part. There is another €15 million. It is more than double. That is a big change from the estimate at the start of the year to now. Why has it has virtually doubled? That is a big jump.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Effectively, the provision was not made. It was a complete underestimate.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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It is costing possibly the bones of €29 million and is only bringing in €4 million. Am I reading this correctly?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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No, apparently there are many other payments made from that subhead as well in respect of communications equipment.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Do we know what they are? Could we get a breakdown?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I can give the Chairman a breakdown of them. The other areas that are covered under this area are communications and other equipment, capital communications and some other costs relating to communications as well. Other operational equipment is used. There are CCTV systems in urban areas and road traffic equipment so quite a few other costs are covered under that as well.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Under road traffic.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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CCTV is a particularly interesting one. How much is going towards that?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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A total of €1.3 million is going towards that.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Do we know where they are being used?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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They are in particular urban areas. I am sure I can get the details for the Chairman if he wants them.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I would be interested to know what towns or cities are getting that kind of support.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Garda town centre CCTV schemes are planned and implemented on the basis of the Garda Commissioner’s identified operational needs and priority. There are 27 Garda CCTV systems with a total of 524 cameras. I have a long list of areas if the Chairman wants me to call them out?

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Sure.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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They are Dublin North Central, Dublin South Central, Temple Bar, Tralee, Cork city, Bray, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, Limerick, Clondalkin, Ballyfermot, Tullamore, Drogheda, Tallaght, Mullingar, Waterford, Portlaoise, Kilkenny, Ennis, Castlebar, Sligo, Kinsale, Dungarvan, Clonmel, Carlow, Athlone and Finglas. While An Garda Síochána has no current plans to install further Garda CCTV systems, the situation is being kept under ongoing review. That is a fairly active ongoing review. It is an issue that is being constantly monitored as to whether more areas should come under CCTV depending on crime figures and information the gardaí have.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I understand they are a major deterrent.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes, I think so.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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We will move on to aircraft, A7. Again, an extra €200,000 has been provided there. Are there any comments or questions on that? No. We will move to travel and subsistence. Again, €500,000 is being asked for there. Are there any questions on this? No. Off-set savings are next. These are savings coming up. There is a total of €500,000 in savings in travel and subsistence. Are there any comments or questions on that? We will move on to training and development and incidental expenses. The figure here is €206,000. In respect of consultancy services and value for money and policy reviews, the figure is €111,000. In respect of compensation savings, there was an estimate of €16 million and the revised figure is €15 million so there is a saving of €1.1 million. Are there any questions or comments on that? No. In respect of appropriations-in-aid, there is a surplus coming in at €22 million, which is very substantial. Could the Minister give us a breakdown as to where that is coming from or what is happening there?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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This is the €17 million going back to the fixed charges.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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We will move on to the next item, which is Vote 21, prisons. The figure being sought here is €9.25 million. The first one is salaries and wages and allowances. There is an additional requirement of €7 million. There was a shortfall at the start of the year. A number of prison officers progressed into the prisoner officer pay grade without a corresponding number of requirements. Have we more prison officers as a result of this?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Are there any comments or questions on that? In respect of post and telecommunications services, there is an additional requirement of €200,000. Are there any comments or questions on that? In respect of buildings and equipment, an extra €3 million is required. Would the Minister like to comment on that? It relates to the prison building programme. Is everyone happy with that? In respect of operational services, an extra €240,000 is required. In respect of compensation, an extra €1 million is required. The next item is the number of significant awards and related payments arising during the year. Are there any questions or comments about that? In the area of incidental expenses, the figure is €960,000. In respect of administration, office equipment and external IT services, a total of €200,000 has been saved there. In respect of consultancy services and value for money and policy reviews, the figure is €100,000. We will move on to savings for services to prisoners including food and medical expenses. The reduction in prisoner numbers and various efficiency measures have contributed to savings in respect of this subhead of €400,000. There are fewer prisoners in the prison service year on year.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Yes, that is correct.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Could the Minister give us the numbers?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Let me check if I have those numbers. I have commented on that on a number of occasions, most recently when I launched the new penal policy reform report, which is a very impressive piece of work about the future. At the end of October 2014, 3,775 prisoners were in custody. It is an occupancy level of 92% of the Irish Prison Service capacity of 4,126.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Do we know what that reduction is year on year? How much is it down from last year?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is a decrease of 7.7%. It is a decrease of 1,037, which is 7.7%.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Excellent. The next subhead is education. Again, there are savings there of €100,000. Are there any comments on that? No. In respect of social disadvantage measures - dormant accounts funding, there are savings of €250,000. In respect of appropriations-in-aid, there are savings of €400,000. Are there any comments or questions?

We will move on to Vote 22, the Courts Service. Approval is sought for a technical supplementary estimate of €1,000 on the Vote of the Courts Service. Am I correct?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is a technical adjustment.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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We will move on to managing the Courts Service and the Judiciary. In respect of travel and subsistence, an additional €82,000 is necessary. The figure has gone from €2.6 million to up to approximately €2.7 million. Are there any comments or questions on that? In respect of postage and communications services, there is an extra requirement of €24,000. In respect of office equipment and external IT services, the figure is €1.8 million. That is for the implementation of the Fines Act.

What is the status of it? Has it been fully implemented?

4:00 pm

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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It is a very significant piece of legislation. I have had some discussions with the Courts Service about it and, like the committee and the Courts Service, I am very keen that it be fully enacted. The Courts Service accounting systems and criminal case tracking system are developing the IT system to facilitate its early implementation. A substantial piece of work is involved in ensuring their systems can cope with the legislative provisions we have and the Courts Service is working on it.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Good. Is there a timescale?

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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No, but it is regarded as an urgent issue. I have been told that a considerable amount of work is involved.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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We agree with the Minister that it is an essential piece of work that needs to be done. Under subhead A2.6, office premises expenses, an extra €1 million is involved for maintenance work on various court houses. Are there any questions or comments? No. Under PPP costs, current, there is an extra €680,000 annual repayment which has increased due to indexation rules under terms of the contract. There was concern about the closures and proposed closures of court houses and we will probably return to it next year. On savings in this area, savings on incidental expenses are €899,000 due to a new contract and savings in stenography. Next, there was a saving of €34,000 on consultancy services and value for money in policy reviews. There was a saving of €1.3 million under court house capital works as the result of non-completion of minor capital works. There was a surplus of €2.1 million on appropriations in aid. Are there any questions? No. Are there any final comments?

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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On behalf of my party, I congratulate Nóirín O’Sullivan on her appointment as Garda Commissioner. We support her appointment and she is quite a good choice. We are happy and we wish her well.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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This morning, the committee decided to write and congratulate her.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Excellent.