Dáil debates

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Report of Comptroller and Auditor General: Motion (Resumed).

 

The following motion was moved by Deputy Burton on Tuesday, 4 October 2005:

That Dáil Éireann,

—notes with serious concern the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General for 2004 which provided yet further evidence of wasteful overspending on a range of public projects as well as the ongoing recurrence of serious tax evasion;

—deplores the incompetence, mismanagement and failure to ensure that taxpayers get value for money, highlighted in the report, that has become the hallmark of this Government; and

—calls on the Government to bring forward proposals to improve the system of public expenditure decision making, to get better value for taxpayers' money and to tackle the ongoing waste of public money.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

"To delete all words after "Dail Éireann" and substitute the following:

—notes the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the 2004 Appropriation Accounts in the context of a gross expenditure by central Government of more than €41 billion in 2004 and that in line with normal procedure it will now be passed for scrutiny to the Committee of Public Accounts;

—acknowledges the need to pursue best practice in the management of public expenditure to ensure value for money for the taxpayer and in this regard:

—commends the initiatives taken by Government in recent years to promote more efficient and effective management of expenditure including:

—the introduction in 2004 of rolling multi-annual capital envelopes for better management and control of public capital programmes and projects;

—the publication this year of new guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure proposals in the public sector; and

—the Minister for Finance's plans to introduce targeted reforms to the procurement of public construction contracts and reform and modernisation of the system for employing construction related consultants;

—notes the measures taken to improve tax compliance; and

—acknowledges the major improvements in public services since 1997 arising from the very significant level of resources allocated by Government over that period."

—(Minister for Finance).

7:00 pm

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)
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I wish to share time with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, and Deputy Curran.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin (Kerry South, Labour)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)
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It is fair to say that financial expenditure and value for money issues have dogged the health system for many years. I wish to discuss another issue which is not directly relevant to the motion but which is topical and deals with value for money issues, namely, the PPARS system. This is the latest saga in respect of value for money in the health services.

This summer, I became aware there were growing concerns in respect of the PPARS system. I discussed the matter with the Secretary General of my Department who shared my concerns and I asked him to investigate the issue. He convened a meeting between himself and the acting director for ICT and human resources of the Health Service Executive on 16 July. At that time, it was apparent that costs were escalating and that staffing and consultancy accounted for the bulk of the costs incurred. The Secretary General asked the Health Service Executive to review the project and to report back after the summer. He made it clear that no extra staff should be assigned to the project in the meantime. At that meeting, it was agreed the Health Service Executive would examine ways of minimising immediately the consultancy-related costs. A small management group was appointed to consider the issues and the outcome of its deliberations will be considered by the full board of the Health Service Executive tomorrow.

I welcome the fact the Health Service Executive will address this issue. It is entirely proper that it should decide what is appropriate for a single organisation. No large modern organisation employing 140,000 people can operate without a sophisticated information, pay and personnel system. However, for many years, the biggest problem in the health service was the continuation of the old health boards. Effectively with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, there were 11 different organisations with incoherent policy, inconsistent services, overspending, hidden spending and unsanctioned spending. The Brennan report, published in 2003, stated:

the Commission found problems in the existing systems, including the absence of any organisational responsibility for managing the health service as a unified national system. Systems are not designed to develop cost consciousness among those who make decisions to commit resources and provide no incentives to manage costs effectively. Insufficient evaluation and analysis of existing programmes and related expenditure [is widespread].

The commission went on to state that no single institution or person was responsible for the day to day management of the service as an integrated national entity and that management and control was far too fragmented.

The Government took that analysis on board and shortly afterwards it decided to abolish the health boards and establish a single entity to manage and control the health services for 4.1 million people. That was the correct decision and is the only decision that can lead to appropriate control in health spending. Eighteen months later, I steered comprehensive legislation through the Oireachtas in the most fundamental overhaul of the health system in a generation. Notwithstanding that we were creating a single entity, Opposition Deputies opposed our abolition of 53 agencies and 11 boards with 253 members. That jumble of waste and incoherence caused many of the problems. The Brennan commission also noted there was inadequate investment in information and management systems in the health system and that they required significant development.

Everyone was aware that investment was needed. The problem was, when five chief executive officers of health boards and one hospital decided to introduce new technology to replace their outdated systems in the late 1990s, it was very difficult to anticipate what was appropriate to a fragmented health system with incredible variations, work practices, terms and conditions. In conjunction with the Department, they made an honest attempt to do so. However, it became clear that because of the complexities on the ground, the system they had initially envisaged would not meet the requirements of the technology being devised. Thereafter, a decision was made to move to the PPARS system, which was not what was originally anticipated in the late 1990s. Subsequently, Hay Consultants were appointed and it identified the technology that was necessary because of the complexity of the system requirements. At the time, Hay Consultants estimated the cost to be €100 million.

I want to give Members an idea of what the system was trying to deal with. Currently, only 40,000 staff are on the system. It has been discovered that there are 29,972 work schedules and rosters, 1,163 local variances from core Health Service Executive practices and 979 different wage types including rules and conditions. In some places, a holy day of obligation is regarded as a bank holiday and staff are remunerated appropriately. No computer system could possibly deal with the complexities and irrationality of what was happening on the ground. Had we maintained the 11 health boards, we would never be able to bring financial coherence to the day to day spending pertaining to health.

However, the real difficulty remains as to whether we should have attempted a significant rationalisation in advance of attempting to build a computer system. How long would that have taken? How could it be done? In the meantime, what would one do with the creaking IT system? We must have an appropriate technology system in place, not just as far as payroll, personnel and roster issues are concerned, but also in respect of financial management and the two functions must be compatible. There are thousands of variations and many different methods for remunerating staff. People doing the same job are remunerated in different ways. Indeed, the hours of work appear to differ, with individual arrangements being made in many cases.

Ideally, one would have a computer system that never made an error. However, the Inland Revenue service in the United Kingdom deleted 1 million taxpayers over a three year period without anyone noticing. Similarly, the United Kingdom's Child Support Agency, which spent £670 million on its computer system, was obliged to postpone the transfer of client files to its new computer system because problems were identified. A total of 400,000 payments have been made in the first half of this year. A small number of errors occurred. The largest error affected 2,000 people, whereby a small sum of additional tax was deducted. This was rectified in their next pay packet. Otherwise, the problems have concerned individual cases. However, it has recently been brought to my attention that elsewhere, a manual system has also made a rather large error in respect of an individual pay cheque. Hence, both manual and human errors occur. A system without errors is an ideal.

The real issue for the House and the health service is how to ensure we have appropriate responsibility and accountability in the future. When establishing the Health Service Executive, I was determined to ensure its chief executive officer would be responsible for both the day to day running of the organisation and would be financially accountable. He is the Accounting Officer and is accountable to the Oireachtas. This was a fundamental departure from the norm, in which the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children would remain as the Accounting Officer. One cannot have responsibility if one does not have financial control. That decision was opposed by the Opposition Deputies. Deputy Twomey stated that we should have dual responsibility in respect of the Accounting Officer. In other words, two people would be financially responsible. That system would not work and is the kind of system that leads to errors.

I am delighted the Health Service Executive is examining this matter tomorrow. I want to express a number of concerns. The first is in respect of the very large bill paid to consultants. It seems to me that it was extraordinary and excessive. Now that a single organisation is in place, consultants should only be engaged where there is no in-house expertise. An organisation as large as the Health Service Executive, with 100,000 employees, must have its own in-house expertise in information technology and many other areas. The hiring of consultants should be the last resort. The norm should be to operate without them and to do so should be exceptional. Unfortunately, in recent years the hiring of consultants has become the norm. In a sense, it often gives the illusion that one has a golden cover if one has consultants to say what is appropriate. Frequently, public servants are not respected or trusted in this regard. We have outstanding expertise and we need to use it more.

In this House and in the media, people have referred to the Comptroller and Auditor General drawing attention to this matter in a report two years ago. That is not true. The only reference to PPARs in his report was an account given by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children to the Comptroller and Auditor General, explaining the new costs for the IT system. The Comptroller and Auditor General is currently examining this issue. He will have to decide whether the system was appropriate and whether we got value for money. He is the officer charged under the Constitution with carrying out value for money audits on these matters. I look forward to hearing the deliberations of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I am sure Members will be more than prepared for the outcome of those deliberations. Any spending on technology systems should be put on hold and reviewed, so that we can make sure that we are putting the appropriate system in place and that we are getting value for money. Trying to marry a system that might have been appropriate for a small health board into a big national organisation may not satisfy the needs of that organisation. It is appropriate that all of these matters will be thoroughly examined and I have every confidence in the management team, in the director of ICT, Mr. Seán Hurley, in Professor Brendan Drumm and in the board of the Health Service Executive.

If this system is not appropriate, we must be honest enough to stop throwing good money after bad and to put in place whatever is appropriate. I know that some staff at ground level were annoyed with PPARs because it showed up extraordinary practices. I was not aware that in some places in Ireland, a holy day of obligation was regarded as a bank holiday. I was not aware that some people had to work for 35 hours a week, while others doing the same job only had to work for 32 hours a week on the same pay. I was not aware that people doing very similar things got very different rates of pay and in some cases individual arrangements were made. That was the hangover from the existence of 11 health boards that so many Members wanted to retain. They still shout at me and claim, as Deputy Twomey did, that I am a control freak. We want to get rid of all of that incoherence and that waste of money.

We wish these matters did not arise in this way. However, this matter had been under investigation over the summer, as soon as the Secretary General of my Department, of the Department of Finance and I became aware that there were real concerns emerging. We wish to see a system in place where all of the rosters and all of the staff are recorded on a single system. We would then know who is employed by the health service, what he or she is supposed to do, what is his or her pay and remuneration and so on. Absenteeism in the HSE is estimated to cost about €350 million per annum, representing 5% of the pay cost of €7 billion. We need a system in place that can identify work practices, that can ensure that we create rationalisation, that we pay for what we are getting and that we have greater accountability. In particular, we need a system to ensure that patients get a better deal than that which they got for years under the incoherent health board system. That is the system that led to the chaos that may well be the story of PPARs. I welcome the fact that it will be evaluated and I understand the board will recommend to suspend it tomorrow until we have a thorough evaluation. It is correct to pause and reflect. If the system is wrong, we can move on to something else and if it is right, we can continue with it.

The jury is out on whether the system is flawed. I am not an IT expert and I have had hundreds of such experts call me over the past two days with all kinds of extraordinary stories. I am as confused as anyone else. From the analysis done on our health system, ordinary common sense would dictate that unless we have sophisticated personnel and human resource systems in place, we will not get the kind of value for money and the delivery of health services that are appropriate for 2005 and beyond.

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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In the case of the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Comptroller and Auditor General's report drew particular attention to 46,000 overpayments amounting in value to €56 million. While taking on board the lessons to be learned from the report, it is also important as it shows the extent to which a minority of people often set out deliberately to mislead the Department. For instance, one third of the overpayments were traced to cases of fraud that mainly involved people working and at the same time claiming benefits to which they were not entitled. More than half of the overpayments were described in the report as a customer error. That means that when the cases of more than 20,000 welfare customers' means were reviewed, they were found to have means greater than had been disclosed to Department officials. Examples include almost 1,400 one parent family cases, accounting for more than €l7 million, and more than €7 million in overpayments in 409 estate cases where the full extent of the customer's means only came to light after his or her death.

When all this is distilled, the actual level of overpayment directly attributed to departmental error was €1.6 million or 3%. This amount is still too much and serves as a timely reminder of the need for constant vigilance and even tighter monitoring of expenditure management systems.

The overpayments figure for my Department, while substantial, also needs to be viewed in context as the Department of Social and Family Affairs is this year spending more than €12.2 billion on welfare benefits, entitlements and supports. That represents €1 in every €3 spent by the State in 2005. Every week, €250 million in benefits and entitlements reach more than 970,000 welfare customers and directly benefit almost 1.5 million men, women and children. The vast majority of these are genuine customers for whom the weekly payments are often a welfare lifeline and the main contribution to household income. It is also worth noting that each year my Department makes almost 60 million payments to customers. It is clear the Department is involved in assessing, administering and delivering payments on a major scale every day of the year. The Department is working constantly to update the monitoring and inspection systems and the strengthening of detection measures so that the maximum amount of overpayments are recouped and fraud is traced and prevented. Overpayments are recovered either by repayments from the customer or else by deductions from a subsequent social welfare payment. The scale of recoveries of overpayments is increasing. Last year, almost €20 million was recovered, compared with €7 million in 2000.

The Department is also involved in constant and intensive measures to identify and combat welfare fraud. Around 600 staff are engaged in anti-fraud work that has resulted in anti-fraud savings of almost €390 million in 2004. It is encouraging that in the first six months of 2005, savings of more than €200 million have been achieved. An impressive amount has been achieved by my Department in reducing fraud, overpayment and waste. Naturally, there is still much more to be done. Significant progress is being made in modernising and increasing the effectiveness of the Department's computer system which is central to tracking overpayments and curtailing fraud. The current computer system for recording and reporting overpayments has been in place since 1987. It is a stand alone system which requires a high degree of manual input. As the Department's Accounting Officer pointed out in responding to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the inadequacies of the current system impact on the Department's overall ability to provide timely accurate data on over-payments. A major project is now in place to replace the current computer system. The requirements for the new system have been specified and the first phase is scheduled to go live in early 2006.

The new overpayments and debt management system will improve the identification of ways to prevent overpayments occurring and of methods to increase the levels of debts recovered. The system will facilitate the recording of overpayments, allow ongoing tracking of repayments, produce regular management reports and deliver a new debt management strategy. Armed with that extra resource the Department will be able to continue to deal with the overpayment and fraud situation I have outlined to the House.

Photo of   John Curran John Curran (Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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I will be brief to afford the Minister, Deputy Cullen, the opportunity to speak. I speak primarily as a member of the Committee of Public Accounts. I am very disappointed that the motion has been tabled and signed by other members of this committee. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, which forms the basis of the motion, is traditionally discussed in detail by the Committee of Public Accounts. Those who signed the motion for tonight's debate have tried to use the Comptroller and Auditor General's report for political purposes and gain rather than to address the issues dealt with therein.

As a member of the Fianna Fáil Party and this side of the House, I make no apology for saying I do not stand over the abuse, waste or squandering of public money. It is appropriate that the issues raised in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report for 2004 would be addressed fully by the Committee of Public Accounts. The motion tries to go a step too far in the judgments it makes before the committee has had an opportunity to address the issues. When Deputy Burton spoke last night on the motion, she mentioned that the Comptroller and Auditor General's report has been produced year on year, and yet the issues addressed in the report continue to be identified. I am disappointed by the Opposition's attempt to deal with the issues generally and to attribute political responsibility before they have been addressed specifically. That is by no means appropriate.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Where should we do it?

Photo of   John Curran John Curran (Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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I am especially disappointed by those in the Opposition who are members of the Committee of Public Accounts who signed the motion, such as Deputy Boyle, Deputy Rabbitte, who is not here tonight, and Deputy Noonan. These are members of the Committee of Public Accounts who will address the specific issues in the coming months.

Not one issue raised in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report for 2004 has yet come before the Committee of Public Accounts. The manner in which the motion has been discussed before the House appears to indicate that these issues are highlighted but nobody does anything about it. That is factually incorrect. The issues raised come up year in, year out and they are addressed by the Committee of Public Accounts. Departments have accordingly made changes to the way in which they operate. The Committee of Public Accounts has acknowledged the changes that have been made.

I do not stand over squander or waste by any means. The committee will address the first of the issues raised in this report tomorrow. The issue at stake is not which politician decided X, Y or Z, it is to ask the Accounting Officer why the policy that was in place was not adhered to. Bonuses and promotions often come up for discussion. We must address the issue of accountability. Deputy Boyle knows this as well as I do. Many of the issues under discussion are the responsibility of Accounting Officers and they must account for why certain matters have gone astray.

I am conscious that the Minister, Deputy Cullen, is anxious to make his contribution. I would not like the debate to end with the belief that the issues raised, which the Committee of Public Accounts will address over the next six or nine months, are new. They are not. No matter what Government has been in power, the Comptroller and Auditor General has produced reports, be they related to the introduction of the PULSE system or the collection of taxes back in the mid-1990s when other parties were in Government, and if we look back over recent years the same issues have come forward time and again. It is the responsibility of the Committee of Public Accounts to address these issues to the relevant Accounting Officers. The motion tonight tries to go a step beyond that, to say that the role of the Committee of Public Accounts is not important.

I did not count the names of all those who signed the motion but I wonder how many of them read the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, which is the basis of tonight's motion. How many of them will ever address a single issue raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General? I cannot understand this attempt to bypass the procedure of the Committee of Public Accounts which addresses these issues. I have served on the Committee of Public Accounts for three years. In that time, many Departments have acknowledged its recommendations and findings and have implemented the relevant changes. I am disappointed that the motion was brought to the House. I support the Government's amendment to the motion.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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My contribution will focus on the national roads programme and the West Link bridge.

The Government is committed to continuing to invest in our roads infrastructure. With the delivery of each new road, jobs can grow and community life is enhanced. When our programme is completed, Ireland will for the first time have a modern roads infrastructure to support economic and social life.

The Government has committed record resources of €7.8 billion over the period 1997-2005 for national roads. The return and benefits this investment is bringing in every part of the country are clear, especially for those who have had to put up with poor quality roads for too long. For each new project we are seeing the elimination of major traffic bottlenecks leading to shorter journey times and greater journey time certainty. The removal of key bottlenecks at Monasterevin, Kildare and Cashel, the opening of the Limerick southern ring road, the Sligo inner relief road, the Kinsale road interchange, the Kinnegad-Enfield bypass and the Dundalk Western bypass, and the widening of the Naas dual carriageway are just some of the significant benefits we have, or will see, on our road network.

The high quality network we are putting in place is contributing significantly to our national competitiveness, job creation and more balanced regional development. With the delivery of each new road we are ultimately improving the quality of life for thousands of people in bypassed towns and villages. We will continue to support this ambitious programme.

I want to place on record a few facts relating to the cost of the national roads programme. First, the NRA is completing this year's projects with a total outturn cost of €1.17 billion, which compares to a pre-construction budget for these projects of €1.18 billion. Second, of the 21 large scale road projects currently in construction and costing in excess of €15 million, 18 of these are on or under budget and will be delivered on or before time. Of the other three, each will be delivered on time. Any overruns are the result of increased land acquisition costs, planning matters or on-site construction issues.

It is fair to say that on infrastructure costs, for several Governments, involving several political parties, over several years, there have been challenges. The old style of contracts of the 1980s and 1990s, where any additional costs fell to the taxpayer, resulted in increased and inflated outcomes. The Government and its agencies, recognising this, have moved progressively and have changed this outdated structure. Most significantly, since 2002 we have moved to the greater use of the design and build form of contract which ensures greater certainty of outturn costs. This measure, introduced by the Government, has resulted in greater accuracy than existed ever before.

In addition, since 2000 the NRA has strengthened its cost estimation, control and procurement procedures on the delivery of roads. This is designed to have more accurate cost estimates from the earliest stages of a project and to ensure greater certainty of outturn costs between tender stage and completion date. Improvements include a greater use of the more efficient and cost effective design and build, lump sum fixed price contracts, the appointment of a cost estimation specialist who reviews all cost estimates, benchmarking of tender and scheme outturn costs, design and construction standards established by the publication of the NRA specification for roadworks and a design manual for roads and bridges, the adoption of a 26 m instead of a 36 m carriageway cross section for motorways and high quality dual carriageways, further attention to improving the quality of site investigations and acceptance by contractors as an agreed basis for pricing.

Each of these measures has led to an improvement in project management and consequential tightening on cost controls. The costs of construction services are determined through an open transparent public tendering process. Let us be honest with the public which we serve, it is the tender price that matters. The cost of the other major element of road projects, namely, land, is determined by negotiation and, if necessary, arbitration within the statutory process for purchasing land compulsorily. Every Member in this House who has worked for improved infrastructure in his or her constituency is very familiar with this process.

It is important to note that major road improvement projects are subject to robust economic and environmental appraisal. All the projects demonstrate a high rate of return. The Government will continue to work to achieve even greater certainty. We have initiated a process between Government and construction industry interests on fixed price contracts. This process is progressing and will conclude shortly.

The West Link bridge was also raised in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. A copy of my speech, which sets out the facts of this matter, has been circulated to the House. I thank the Comptroller and Auditor General who spotted an underpayment in respect of the bridge. We immediately had the matter resolved. While I am unhappy that such a matter arose, I want to ensure it will not happen again.

Deputies from Fine Gael and the Labour Party, during their time in Government, aspired to nothing more than mediocrity. Mediocrity in respect of the economy meant we did not generate the resources, mediocrity of vision meant we did not plan for the future, and mediocrity of management led to a growing infrastructural deficit.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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And the Minister produced electronic voting.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The people delivered a verdict on this mediocrity in 1997 and in 2002.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Electronic voting was his bit of mediocrity.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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I call on Deputy Boyle.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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It is for these people that the Government will complete the generation of new public wealth in respect of road, rail, bus and air transport.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Minister is now a minute over time.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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He is the architect of electronic voting.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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I am sorry the Deputy does not like hearing these facts.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Minister is the architect of electronic voting.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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I am not and the Deputy knows this well. Whatever I might be, I am not its architect.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Minister oversaw it and——

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy knows that well.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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Order, please.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Two minutes over time.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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I have called Deputy Boyle.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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I wish to share time with Deputies Ó Caoláin, Gregory, Catherine Murphy, Connolly, Healy and Finian McGrath.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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This side of the House will not take any lectures on mediocrity from a mediocre man. We will not have any lessons on the proper use of public money from someone who, in every Department in which he has served, managed to come up with at least one crisis that kept this House and nation entertained, if not furious.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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It kept the Deputy entertained. It is time he came up with a point with a bit of substance.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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In the sense of things——

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Fifty-two million euro.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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I will first address the issue——

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The public is being worn down by the same old talk. What is Deputy Boyle going to do?

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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——of whether we should have a debate of this nature.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The first thing that would happen is that there would be a split among the Green Party, Fine Gael and the Labour Party because their policies are so disparate. It would be impossible for them to work together.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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I have moved on to another point, just as the Minister should move to another Department, or preferably the backbenches.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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That is old hat. The Deputy should be a little more original and witty.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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On Deputy Curran's point on whether we should have this debate, it is a quite legitimate use of this Chamber's time to discuss, as a matter of right, the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General before referring it to the Committee of Public Accounts, just as every Bill is subject to a Second Stage debate and subsequently referred to committee. I am privileged to serve on the Committee of Public Accounts, which I am pleased to say is quite effective in the limited role it is asked to play on behalf of this Parliament. Just as the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General can only record historically, the Committee of Public Accounts is limited similarly in that it can only say what has happened after it has happened. It lacks the power to intervene and to be proactive rather than reactive.

In having this debate, which should happen on an annual basis, we should bear in mind the need to reform the Committee of Public Accounts and give additional resources and powers to the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The dispiriting aspect to this debate is that, even today during Leaders' Questions, the Taoiseach stated by way of defending himself that the issue of the payroll computer system for the Health Service Executive was mentioned in last year's annual report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. That being the case, the Taoiseach has no defence because, since the issuing of that report, the circumstances in question have deteriorated and have been left unchallenged. No one at administrative level and particularly at political level has been able to take responsibility for the matter.

The litany of instances of over-expenditure exposed by the Comptroller and Auditor General——

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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That is incorrect. The Taoiseach said action was being taken in the middle of last year. The Deputy is misquoting him.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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I am talking about the fact that circumstances have worsened since last year's report. The Government has allowed the problem to deteriorate and has no defence in that regard.

Consider the transport budget that the Minister for mediocrity and his predecessor in that office have tried to defend. It increased from an original Estimate of €5.8 billion to an eventual cost of €18.2 billion. If one added up all the sums pertaining to excess expenditure by the Government since it came into power in 1997, the total would come close to a whole year's expenditure. One would find that the budget for one year in every eight is wasted through excess expenditure. When the Minister talks about the amount being spent and the amount of tax being collected, I think he should qualify his boasts by stating that quite a large proportion of that money is being flushed down the toilet.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy is saying "I think".

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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We are getting less bang for our buck, fewer public services and less capital infrastructure because of the mediocrity and mismanagement of the Government.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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Thoughts from Dan Boyle.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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Debates of this nature are very important to ensure the Government is brought to account and that the means exist, within this Parliament through an effective Committee of Public Accounts and through a strengthened Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, to ensure these events do not recur.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Sinn Féin supports the motion in the names of the Deputies of the Labour Party and Fine Gael. The latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is but the most recent chapter in the story of massive mismanagement for which this Government is responsible.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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It is not massive mismanagement. Hyperbole again.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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No Government in the history of this State has had the resources available to it that have been enjoyed by the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition since 1997. Few governments in the world have had the potential to plan and spend over such a protracted period, yet one must ask how many could have made such a hash of their opportunities as this one. Its record stands to prove it.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The record shows Ireland has the most successful economy in the world.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Despite the many warnings over the years, the Government has presided over a system in which contracts for massive public infrastructural projects have been exploited shamelessly by developers. The enormous overruns on road projects have drained oceans of public money into the pockets of the big players in the construction industry and to flocks of contractors and consultants.

The tribunals have cost——

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy would be swinging off a tree in the Glen of the Downs holding up snails.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, is there any chance of putting a bit in the mouth of the Minister of State and exercising a little control over him?

The tribunals have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of euro. The Government would not listen to the appeals on this issue in this House, just as the Minister of State and his colleagues would not do so tonight. How many times did Deputies, including myself, point to the astronomical fees being paid to tribunal lawyers and the need to curb their expenses? We now find that, in both the cases I have cited, half-hearted efforts are being made to close the door, long after the horse has left the stable and, in many cases, bolted the country.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I am tempted.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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We are being told moves will be made to establish fixed-price contracts for public infrastructural projects. Will the Minister of State tell the House when this will be done? If ever it comes about, it will be too late because the fortunes have already been made and the hundreds of millions of euro that could have been saved and used for health services, education and child care are now lost and gone. Similarly, the tribunal lawyers have made their money and the new rates of pay are being set as the tribunals themselves are closing down.

This Government introduced a wide range of property-based tax reliefs and exemptions without any cost benefit analysis.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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It brought about full employment.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The same Government has pushed ahead with its public private partnership strategy despite the findings of a previous Comptroller and Auditor General's report that showed schools built under private partnership strategy could have been built in the normal way by the State at a much lower cost to the Exchequer.

Another massive waste of money is on the way, perpetrated by the Minister for Health and Children. She wants to give away sites at public hospitals to the private health sector and subsidise the building of more private hospitals. The same Minister is now faced with the mess that is the PPARS computer system. I have been contacted by workers in the health system who confirmed all that has been said about this in the past few days.

When the PPARS system was initiated in 1999, workers at the coalface, including those working on health service payrolls, warned that it would not work. They are angry that they were not listened to, just as the Minister of State refuses to listen tonight. That is typical of the arrogance of the Government of which he is a member. The Minister of State and management swallowed the assurances given by highly paid consultants responsible for the system.

Health service workers speak with frustration about the junketeering of senior management since 1999. When we delve into the full details of this particular disgrace, information will emerge on the weeks and weekends spent in Sligo and elsewhere under the guise of getting the system up and running. However, here we are six years later and nothing is up and running.

In one HSE location in Dublin, Deloitte and Touche have two employees in situ and the consultancy firm is being paid €15,000 per month. I was contacted by one of my party colleagues, a former member of the North Western Health Board, who queried the amount of money being spent on PPARS by the health board. He was reassured that this was all necessary and above board and would improve efficiency. We now know that those assurances were wrong. With all that has been exposed, rather than heckle Members of the Opposition, this Government would do better to shut up and listen. Maybe it will learn.

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy is getting very hot.

Tony Gregory (Dublin Central, Independent)
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I support the motion. There is widespread public concern at the revelations of the incredible waste of hundreds of millions of euro by this Government. Last year, it was the Punchestown event centre and €60 million for electronic voting. This year, it is the purchase of agricultural land at exorbitant rates for a prison and €160 million for a botched computer system for the health service, and these are just the more glaring examples of incompetence and mismanagement which have become the trademarks of Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats misgovernance. Meanwhile, the scandal of tax evasion remains widespread and, as always, the overwhelming burden rests upon the pay packets of the PAYE sector. Anger is increasing among PAYE workers and this Government's squandering of resources is fueling that anger.

People are outraged that incompetence results in the loss of vast amounts of taxpayer's money whereby essential social and educational facilities for communities might have been financed. Schools such as Gaelscoil Bharra in Cabra are left in sub-standard prefabs. Accident and emergency wards are in deplorable conditions. An autistic child was refused funds for specialist help. Pre-school and after school projects for the disadvantaged would be non-existent but for the efforts of local people. Organisations such as Women's Aid are unable to cope because of inadequate funding. A whole range of school building projects is put on the long finger, while a vast amount of taxpayers' money is literally thrown away. That is the perception and people are asking when they can rid themselves of this Government which has shown itself incapable of proper management of resources to benefit those sections of society in urgent need of a range of facilities and services.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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There is little point in the Comptroller and Auditor General issuing a report which the Committee of Public Accounts forensically examines each year if we continue to act the same way. Taxpayers' money belongs to taxpayers. In Kildare last March, I met many people who do battle every day with traffic jams to and from work, struggle to find affordable child care places and watch their children being educated in schools with the highest pupil-teacher ratios in the country. They know waste is a cost for them. The people of my area are no different to those of any other constituency. They know that we have a good economy, which they have worked to build. The return they want from that good economy is a good society with solid community support and adequate services.

When Ministers refer to "our" economy, I get the impression they mean "their" economy. There was a lack of outrage with regard to the €52 million hit on e-voting or the 30% increase in West Link tolls. The litany of cost overruns is simply explained — there is no sense of outrage among Ministers.

It was a political decision to substitute private beds for public beds. The Comptroller and Auditor General did us a great service when he highlighted the ways in which the treatment purchase fund can be abused. Are we surprised to learn that substituting privately run facilities for publicly run ones adds to the cost because of profit margins?

It is a political decision to impose a staff embargo, yet this morning the Taoiseach claimed that good value was achieved in his Department by doing the work directly. He tells us that consultants were overused in the payroll scandal. It is a political culture that allows €50 million to be spent for advice on the purchase of the payroll system without seeking guarantees. I would not purchase an electric toaster without a guarantee. The Government needs to sit up and think because it will be confronted by these matters in the next election.

Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
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The Comptroller and Auditor General's report comes around with groundhog day inevitability, an annual litany of sheer incompetence and bungling. The theme song for this annual report should be the traditional tune of Quare Bungle Rye. Year after year, we return to the glaring waste and mismanagement of millions of euro in taxpayers' money. I have no doubt that similar situations will arise in future years.

I have yet to learn of any individual being brought to account for the intolerable cost overruns and wanton waste outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. This contrasts with the State's enthusiasm in pursuing social welfare fraud. Some 46 people went to jail for misappropriating less than €500,000. I do not suggest that fraudsters should go unpunished but what is happening to our public funds is a type of fraud, yet nobody has been held to account.

An example of shameful mismanagement occurred in my constituency, where €12 million which was handed back by Waterways Ireland could have been spent in the area. A shining example of cross-Border co-operation could have involved improvements in the infrastructure of the Ulster canal. This represents the mismanagement of public money. At this juncture in the peace process, the canal's re-opening would demonstrate the Government's intentions to renew and revitalise all-Ireland infrastructures. The tragedy in this matter is that the money was available but was handed back.

The Health Service Executive has an end of year budget, from which various sections receive funding to buy, for example, paint or pictures to decorate rooms. However, it is not possible to get the funds to buy a nappy for a patient. These are the type of issues we will have to investigate because funds cannot be transferred from one area to another. It leads to irresponsible spending at the end of the year. If people discover that they have money to spend, they will spend it come hell or high water. This situation also obtains among local authorities, which dig up streets during Christmas each year because budget money must be spent.

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
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I strongly support this motion. Waste has to be confronted, cannot be condoned and must be eliminated. As someone who has worked at the coalface of general hospital services for more than 20 years, I am keenly aware of the absolute need to efficiently use scarce resources. Were waste confronted, the additional monies made available could be used for hospital, educational and housing services.

For the past ten years, €5 million has been sought by my constituency for South Tipperary General Hospital and to provide proper services in Cashel and Clonmel. The €50 million wasted on e-voting would supply ten times and the €150 million wasted on PPARS 30 times the required funds. I am aware of this situation and would like to see waste confronted and eliminated. I hope that neither the Government nor the Opposition will use this issue as a smokescreen to deflect from the more serious issue of the mismanagement of Government funds whereby the budget surplus, which currently is €34 billion, was used and prioritised in the eight years the two Government parties have been in office to build roads and bridges and roll out broadband instead of being used to provide social services such as health, education and housing. The best infrastructure a country could have is a well educated workforce and a healthy population. That money should be used to fund social services. The Government's failure to do that marks its greatest mismanagement and scandal.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion. I deplore the Government's incompetence, mismanagement and the failure to ensure that taxpayers get value for money. This issue concerning the lack of accountability and proper respect for the citizens of this State highlights once again the waste of resources in our health service and in other public projects. This is not good enough when people are lying on trolleys and special needs assistants cannot be retained for children with disabilities. Children who need it cannot get speech therapy or occupational therapy services. This is not good enough and it makes my blood boil to listen to this debate.

On the wider issue of the waste of public money, I wish to highlight a number of examples. We learnt a month ago that the Dublin Port tunnel in my area was €200 million over budget and now it is in region of €335 million over budget. The electronic voting system cost taxpayers €52 million. The Government spent €30 million to buy a farm that was valued at €4 million. The Battle of the Boyne site, which could have been bought for €2.7 million, was bought instead by a private business and then sold back to the Office of Public Works 18 months later for €7.8 million. There was the revamping of the courthouse in Cork estimated to cost €6.5 million but which ended up costing the taxpayer the much larger amount of €26.5 million. Some 30 road projects, which were estimated to cost €932 million, have set us back €2.97 billion. Other road projects were 86% over budget.

I raise these issues along with the Trim Castle issue. They highlight the waste of taxpayers' money — the money of the Deputies opposite and of ours. The finance wasted could have ended the scandal of patients being treated on trolleys. It could have been used to build all the new schools required. It could have made a major dent on social housing waiting lists. It could have provided child care services and services to assist our elderly. That deals with a point raised by Deputy Curran.

This motion is about waste, taxpayers' money, accountability and, above all, ensuring that the money of citizens of this State is spent effectively and wisely. I urge all Deputies to support this Opposition motion.

Photo of Liam TwomeyLiam Twomey (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share time with Deputies Broughan and Costello.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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That is agreed.

8:00 pm

Photo of Liam TwomeyLiam Twomey (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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I was delighted to be in the House tonight to see the Ministers who were present scratch around for something to say to save their miserable reputations in their Departments. After they uttered their few measly words, they all scurried out of the Chamber rather than stay and listen to what we have to say about them.

In regard to the health service on which I wish to comment, it is amazing that the Tánaiste, who brought a few of her Progressive Democrats colleagues to support her, can come into the House to talk about the Health Service Executive as if it will dramatically change something. The Health Service Executive and its management is made up of the former health boards and their staff and nothing has really changed in that respect. The idea of a changed management structure means nothing more than the positions such staff held have changed. As the Tánaiste raised this issue, I do not see any problem in commenting on it.

There was an able administrator in the Southern Health Board who was put in charge of the information and communications technology unit of the Health Service Executive, the same person who oversaw this PPAR system. One of the findings that might emerge from this debate is the level of expertise this gentleman had in running a complex information technology system for the health service. The Tánaiste pointed out the complexity of this system and referred to the 900 forms of payments. This issue is the Tánaiste's responsibility. That is the reason there is a senior Minister and three Ministers of State in the Department of Health and Children. They are supposed to give direction via the Department of Health and Children to what is happening in the HSE. If there is something seriously wrong with the HSE, it is the Tánaiste's responsibility. That is one point I wish to make.

I also point out to the Tánaiste that in other jurisdictions, such as in America, there are health management agencies which cater for 30 million to 40 million patients rather than numbers such as the 4 million population here. They can use information technology to connect to general practitioners' surgeries, hospitals, laboratories and radiology departments, yet we cannot even pay 100,000 people working in our health service. There is serious problem and it starts at the top with the Tánaiste and the Government because they have allowed this mess to develop. They do not have to go far to find solutions. The Tánaiste needs to do the job properly and not treat taxpayers' money as if it were the Government's slush fund to look after its cronies and party people. That is part of the problem.

It will be nice to hear what the HSE has to say tomorrow. It is bringing in a recommendation of the Hanly report, the dealing with which will take up the time of many of the Fianna Fáil backbenchers over the weekend. This issue is probably far more important to them in terms of trying to save their seats because the Government is not doing anything to help them.

The national treatment purchase fund is the only aspect of the health service that arose in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, which is surprising considering the mess in accident and emergency departments. As we debate this motion, 250 patients are on trolleys in hospitals throughout the country. Some 30,000 people are anxiously waiting for medical cards and 200,000 are waiting for doctor-only medical cards that were promised last January. The MRSA and many other bugs are rampant in our hospitals, yet the Tánaiste's response to this problem is to issue guidelines that were last issued in 1996. The best she can do is re-issue a set of guidelines.

On the issue of the illegal nursing home charges, we discovered during a debate in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children that nobody was responsible for that and that it just happened. Now €150 million of taxpayers' money has gone down the drain on PPARS. It does not matter what excuses the Taoiseach made in that regard. Perhaps it is difficult for him because he was not quite sure whether it was an information technology project, but he changed his mind, read his brief and realised it was an information technology project. At least there is some hope that matters will move on from there. However, what is happening at Government level has a considerable bearing on the misery inflicted on many children and vulnerable communities in our country. It is a disgrace.

I wish to deal with the national treatment purchase fund. Of the 23,000 patients who were treated under that fund, and no doubt they were delighted to have been treated, half of them will not have noticed that they were treated under it because they will have been treated in public hospitals while one third will have been treated in the hospital where their names were on the waiting list. It is possible that they will have been treated by the same consultant under whose name they were.

This report exposes one of the first lies about the national treatment purchase fund. In 2002, medical advice to the fund stated that there can be nothing more frustrating for a group of consultants than to see a contraction in the public hospital service and money being diverted to the private system. In the past three years that has reached a double contradiction because the public health service is still starved of money and other resources, while the same hospitals and, in many cases, the same consultants are doing between one third and half of all procedures under national treatment purchase fund. There is something wrong about that. This report poses two questions which should be answered, namely, how a hospital with a long waiting list for operations can have the spare capacity to do private work and whether these hospitals, if funded properly, could do the same work. Is the national treatment purchase fund nothing more than a photo opportunity for Ministers? This is a serious question.

I will use general practice as an example to explain what is happening under the national treatment purchase fund because people might understand it better. Imagine if GPs approached the Government and said they were finding it difficult to see their medical card patients and the Government responded by indicating it would set up a medical card treatment purchase fund under which the patients they could not get to see would be seen by a private doctor. Three years later someone suggests that the system be examined. They find a third of those patients are being treated by the doctor being paid for their medical card capitation. Half of all those patients are being treated by doctors who look after the medical card patients. That is an outright scandal and that is how stupid it looks when put in terms that people can understand.

I also want to know what is going on as regards orthopaedic surgery. Some 83% of the cases for hip replacement under the national treatment purchase fund were carried out in public hospitals. Some 45% of them were carried out in the hospitals where the patients were on waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery. There is something seriously wrong when my patients are waiting for anywhere between three and five years to get to the outpatient clinic of the same consultant. These are the types of anomalies Deputy Curran was very worried about earlier, concerned as he was that this report was being debated before it goes to the committee. It is far more important that he should investigate why such anomalies exist within the system.

The national treatment purchase fund is another lie. A lie is a deliberate deception. That is the issue as regards the three months waiting time.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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The word "lie" is not used in a parliamentary context.

Photo of Liam TwomeyLiam Twomey (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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I will settle for "deliberate deception", so, because the public pronouncements on the national treatment purchase fund are peppered with references to three months waiting time for an operation. A patient will not even get to see a consultant within three months from the time the general practitioner writes a letter. For many specialties such as dermatology, ENT, orthopaedics etc. it is between two and seven years. A patient will not even get on the national treatment purchase fund scheme for three months after he or she is put on the waiting list in the hospital. At least the television advertisements say, "Terms and conditions apply". Let us stop misleading the general public or I will tell every patient to go and talk to the Minister if they are not seen in three months, since that is what people are promised.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I have reflected on the nature of Government and Opposition in recent weeks. I recalled in particular the 1994-97 period when the Minister of State and his colleagues were in opposition. It was a very good Opposition in many respects. Each morning, the present Ministers, Deputies O'Donoghue and Martin, who were backbenchers would jump up and down and rant and rave, and the present Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, would sit there with a really cranky face. Basically, there was very little policy on offer, just a cranky, obstreperous opposition. They were really good at it. When I read the Comptroller and Auditor General's report I concluded they were equally bad at Government. One of the problems highlighted in this House in report after report is that based on its past record, the Government should ideally be in opposition and perhaps the people on this side who have some policies and strategies should be in government. I hope tonight's debate and the unbelievable stream of incompetence and waste this report displays confirms that both Fianna Fáil and the PDs should head into opposition as soon as possible.

I will deal briefly with chapter 11 of the report on the astonishing saga of Media Lab Europe. It opened in May 2000 and collapsed ignominiously earlier this year. During its lifetime it employed more than 70 workers and just prior to closure there were 45 people. It was part of the regeneration of the digital hub project in the Liberties. It collapsed with ultimate losses in the region of €65 million, and astonishing direct costs to the State of almost €40 million in subsidies and grants to MLE, MIT and property spending of almost €24 million or €25 million. It is clear that the sad and sorry saga of Media Lab Europe's existence has cost the Irish State dearly. However, it appears that once again this Government is prepared to shrug its shoulders and paint the disaster as just one of these things that happen, attributing it to just the normal cost of technological change and risk. It is only €65 million or €40 million, or only €150 million this morning. It does not really matter.

Media Lab Europe, however, was at the very heart of the digital hub strategy for the regeneration of the Liberties. Yet when it was established with a hefty outlay of taxpayers' money, the Taoiseach and his aide de camp, Mr. Paddy Teahon, put no structures in place to ensure effective, transparent and fiscally responsible management for the centre. From the outset there was a total lack of strategic vision for the digital hub and MLE, especially up to 2002. When compared to what the Korean government did in Seoul and the Malaysians did in Kuala Lumpur one can see what a pathetically organised plan it was. It lacked dynamic leadership and vision from the very start, although there were four highly rewarded chief executives. The Taoiseach liked to swan around with Professor Nicholas Negroponte of MIT, the MLE chief executive, Dr. Rudy Burger and the others. None of them, including the Taoiseach, gave the slightest thought to what this project was actually for.

The conclusions of the Higgins consultancy report in 2004, from which the Comptroller and Auditor General quotes, are pretty devastating. It stated that the contribution of MLE to its founding objectives appeared to be zero or close to it and that the quantitative indicators pointed to a flawed and largely failed entity. That report went on to identify failure after failure. When negotiations between the Minister then responsible, Deputy Dempsey, MIT and MLE finally collapsed, one of the fundamental conclusions was that there had been almost no link or collaboration with Irish universities such as Trinity College Dublin, DIT and the National College of Art and Design, all located close to the project. The mismanagement of MLE was mirrored at Government level where responsibility for the laboratory was shifted from pillar to post — from the Department of the Taoiseach to the Department of Public Enterprise, to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The Taoiseach had two pet projects, both disastrous for the State. He and Mr. Teahon gave their favourite pet project, the Abbotstown campus, at least some attention, and so we have the leaking National Aquatic Centre. However, they totally and disgracefully ignored and neglected Media Lab Europe. It was obvious from an early stage that we would head into serious difficulties. Earlier this year on behalf of the Labour Party I requested that the Comptroller and Auditor General urgently investigate the MLE disaster and how it was being run up to 2005. I know that Deputy Noonan, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts did so, too. I welcome the Comptroller and Auditor General's investigation of the disgraceful mismanagement as revealed in his report, which makes such grim reading.

Even allowing for the hi-tech downturn and the level of risk involved in any technological development, MLE was a unique €60 million disaster, another desperate failure for which the Minister responsible would immediately resign in a normal democratic country. In this case the Minister responsible is the Taoiseach. It is past time for him to resign.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General has found that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was one of the worst offenders in terms of incompetence, mismanagement and failure to ensure that the taxpayer got value for money in 2004. The incompetence did not start in 2004. In 2001 the Department purchased Brock House in Donnybrook for €9.9 million and it still lies idle even though it was intended for asylum seekers. In my constituency the Department purchased Parnell West Hotel in 2001 and after two years it is lying idle and disused on health and safety grounds. It was not properly examined by the OPW in the first place. Only last week we saw how Thornton Hall, a farm in north County Dublin that should only have cost €5 million to €6 million had been purchased by the present Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for €29.9 million. If we go back earlier than this I am sure we can find similar examples of extravagant wastage in the Department.

While the Minister presents himself as the terror of "bogus" asylum seekers the Comptroller and Auditor General found that of the 10,813 failed asylum seekers from 1999 to 2004 on whom deportation orders had been served, only 2,275 were actually deported. He found that it took an average of eight months for the Department to translate asylum seekers' applications into English. There was an average gap of one to three years between the final refusal of an asylum application and the issuing of the deportation order. The entire asylum system is a slow, expensive, wasteful shambles, which cost the taxpayer a whopping €129 million in 2004. Failed asylum seekers are playing ducks and drakes with the Minister and his Department. Behind the Minister's bluff and bluster on the issue is a track record of gross incompetence and harsh insensitivity. A few vulnerable non-nationals, mainly women and children, are targeted, rounded up and deported in a glare of publicity.

The position in respect of the Garda Síochána is equally ludicrous. A questionable agreement was approved by the Cabinet in 1997 for the use of masts on Garda stations by the Esat mobile telephone company, now known as O2. It took the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform five years to finalise the licence fee, by which time Esat owed the Garda €3.6 million in arrears. Although these were belatedly paid, not a cent in lost interest was recouped. Amazingly, the 1,000 mobile telephones provided by Esat as part of the agreement became the only secure communications network the Garda possessed between 1997 and now.

In the absence of a secure Garda communications network, the GSM network supplied by Esat to less than 10% of gardaí as an incidental part of the telecommunications mast contract remains the only secure Garda communications system. Every criminal in Ireland can listen into the outdated analogue radio system which must be used by 11,000 of the 12,000 members of the Garda force. It is no wonder the robbers are a step ahead of the cops.

The Minister is guilty of the gravest dereliction of duty by not having the proposed digital Tetra communications network up and running and available to the Garda. In the fight against crime, particularly gangland crime, technology is essential but the Minister makes the Garda look like Keystone Cops by failing to equip them properly. Incidentally, the 1,000 gardaí who have O2 mobile telephones have all premium lines, that is, chat lines, blocked, no doubt to protect their faith and morals. Moreover, the Garda must operate its dubious PULSE computer system which is only available in one quarter of Garda stations. This results in rural-based gardaí having to travel 20 to 30 miles to input material into a system which is incredibly slow and cumbersome.

The Prison Service has not covered itself in glory either. The attempt by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, beginning in 2002, to introduce a modern information technology-based human resource management system, HRMS, for the Prison Service ended in disaster in December 2004 when it was discontinued and the old system reinstated at a cost of €450,000. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Accounting Officer for the Department assured him that his Department "had learned a very considerable lesson from its experiences with HRMS". The Comptroller and Auditor General concluded that "any further IT projects on a cross-agency basis, will need to be critically examined — irrespective of the demands or where they are coming from — to ensure that they can meet the requirements of the different entities involved." In other words, the job was botched and while a costly lesson had been learned, nobody was for the high jump.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has informed me that the purchase of Thornton Hall will be the recipient of his attention in next year's annual audit. I have no doubt that his 2005 report will put this year's findings in the shade.

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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In this debate we have heard repeated references from the Opposition to a relatively small number of projects in which management problems and cost overruns have occurred, many of which pre-date the Comptroller and Auditor General's report for 2004.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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Who wrote the Minister of State's speech?

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Members of the Opposition have also levelled charges of Government indifference to the issue of value for money for the taxpayer. I reject such charges. Poor management of public expenditure and occurrences of wasteful expenditure have not, are not and never will be acceptable to the Government. More than previous Governments, we have been particularly active in improving arrangements for the management of public expenditure and seeking to address the issues and concerns raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General and others.

Since 1997, the Government has presided over a major improvement in public services across the board and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, set out the record in this regard in his cogent address last night. I remind Deputies of the significant measures taken by the Government to improve appraisal and management of public capital programmes and projects and generally secure better value for money from the high levels of public expenditure. They include the introduction in the budget for 2004 of a five-year rolling, multi-annual capital envelope framework incorporating a carry-over facility, new capital appraisal guidelines published in February 2005 and reform of public procurement and public sector contracts. The rolling five-year, multi-annual capital envelopes with their carry-over facility provide medium-term certainty for Departments and their implementing agencies. Together with the revised capital appraisal guidelines, they are delivering better management of public programmes and capital projects and producing a more even flow of projects which is resulting in better project appraisal and projects being completed on time and within budget in many cases.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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If it was a public limited company, the Government would be sacked.

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The planned changes in public construction and construction related contracts involving a move to fixed price contracts will shift risk to private contractors and provide much greater cost certainty in future construction projects. The majority of projects constructed in the past two years, especially in the key transport sector, are coming in on budget, with many ahead of schedule. These include the Monasterevin and Cashel bypasses opened in 2004, the Dundalk bypass, which was a public private partnership project, the Heuston Station redesign and the DART upgrade project opened in 2005.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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What about the metro?

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Opposition said it would never run. I reiterate the statement by the Minister for Finance last evening——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister of State should conclude.

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I am entitled to speak for another few minutes. The Opposition has hogged the debate. The relevant yardstick for measuring cost overruns on public capital projects is the contract price rather than the original pre-tender estimates, which may have been drawn up many years previously and may bear no relation to the specifications of the project tendered for or completed.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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The Minister of State is repeating the mantra of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen.

Photo of Noel TreacyNoel Treacy (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Having listened to the contributions of Opposition Deputies, one group argues the Government did not spend sufficient money because Departments returned it to the Department of Finance, while another claims we misspent it. This is typical of the Opposition's approach. It does not know its left hand from its right and does not have the capacity to govern. The people have not trusted them to do so, nor will they trust them in the immediate future.

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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The Comptroller and Auditor General has done an exemplary job in preparing his most recent report. Among the many areas he identified in the report as being in serious need of overhaul are fishery harbours and foreshore licensing agreements. There are five designated fishery harbours in the State, namely, Killybegs, Castletownbere, Rossaveel, Howth and Dunmore East. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to manage, control, operate and develop each fishery harbour centre. The Minister is also required by order of the Fishery Harbour Centres Act 1968 to keep an account of all moneys received or expended in connection with each harbour.

This year's report by the Comptroller and Auditor General raised the issue of the lack of accounts for the five centres for the years 2000 to 2003. It is a shocking indictment of the Minister that our five main harbours cannot keep proper accounts. Yet again the Government's mismanagement of public funds has been brought to the fore. External accountants had to be engaged in January this year to bring the accounts up to date. The ease with which this Government will spend our money is appalling. Why is an efficient, competent system not in place to ensure taxpayers' money is not spent on outsourced accountants?

The issue of debtors also shows how badly the harbours are managed and the level of priority this island nation accords its main fishery ports. The Comptroller and Auditor General's report for 1999 expressed concern about the amount of debts owed to the five harbours. External services were engaged in 2001 to assist with the collection of accumulated arrears. It is now claimed that a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance debt recovery at the harbours. While the Government has claimed that real progress has been achieved in increasing debt recovery levels, we need to examine the figures to find out the real picture.

In Rossaveel, County Galway, the percentage of debt recovered compared with the total amount which should be collected has dramatically declined. In 1998, 80% of debt owed to the State was recovered, whereas the figure had sunk to a shockingly low 21% in 2004. This constitutes an astonishing drop of nearly 60% in the levels of debt recovered. Last year in Dunmore East only 32% of money owed was collected. In Howth, recovered debt levels declined from 70% in 1998 to 55% in 2004, a 15% drop during six years when the Government was supposedly more efficient in debt collection.

As an island nation we must value our ports and harbours. The inefficiency of this Government indicates it has nothing but contempt for this valuable resource. In Rossaveel harbour charges are being resisted and legal action may be necessary to recover some of the money owed. No harbour master is in place in Dunmore East. To maximise the full potential of our five main fishery harbours we need to treat these areas and their problems as a top priority. Unfortunately, under this Government the harbours have been relegated to a low level. The Government's response to the serious concerns of our fishing fleet accounts for little more than lip-service.

The Government lists a range of reasons our harbours have accumulated so many bad debts. The list consists of a series of basic problems facing our fishing fleet. I have been a strong advocate of adopting a sustainable policy for our fishing fleet to help combat these problems. Hiding behind the many difficulties fishermen are facing is no way for a Government to behave. Due to the many challenges the industry is facing, fishermen and their families will obviously not be able to deal with massive and surprising hikes in rents and charges but rents and charges at the harbours were increased in 2003 for the first time in 13 years. Considering the last price increase was in 1990, revenues had obviously not been keeping apace with costs and that is no way to run a successful harbour.

There was obviously strong resistance from the fishing industry when these costs were introduced, especially given that their introduction coincided with new charges. How did the Government expect people to react? This is an industry on which many jobs depend, and on which we, as an island nation, depend enormously. The people behind the industry need to be treated with a great deal more respect than this Government gives them. It is an indictment of the Government that the fishery harbours, which are owned and managed by the State, are totally mismanaged. There has been little or no investment, except at Killybegs which has practically closed down.

There has been not only horrendous inefficiency in the treatment of accounts but also a great deal of incompetence when dealing with roles, responsibilities and work practices at the harbours. While a substantial programme of change and modernisation was supposed to have taken place in this regard, the position at Killybegs, Howth and Dunmore East tells another story. All of these harbours are in disarray due to mismanagement at a ministerial level.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has told us that there have been considerable difficulties in the filling of harbour master vacancies. That such high level jobs would be unwanted is evidence of the incompetence of the Government's handling of our nation's harbours. At present, harbour debts are calculated locally at three fishery harbour centres but because the harbours at Howth and Dunmore East are without harbour masters, the dues at these are left unattended. The level of collection of foreshore licensing fees is equally as bad but, unfortunately, I do not have time to go into that matter.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's report is a clear document, independently assessed. It is an indictment of the Government's failure, yet again, to manage State assets.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I thank all those who contributed to this debate over the past two nights. In particular, I thank our spokesperson, Deputy Burton, and the Fine Gael Party for co-sponsoring the motion.

It has been an important and valuable debate. Indeed, it is regrettable that the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is not debated as a matter of course in the House each year. I know that the Committee of Public Accounts will now deal on a weekly basis with the detailed findings in the report but the conclusions and recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General are of vital interest to all Members of the House, who should have the opportunity to speak on them

By any standards the 2004 report is a shocking document, containing, as it does, a long list of cases where the Government has simply failed to exert proper management over the spending of public funds or to ensure that taxpayers got value for their money.

An equally important area of the report — one that perhaps did not got the attention it merited — was the further evidence it provided of continuing massive tax evasion by a number of mainly very wealthy people. In my experience most hard-working families accept the need to pay tax. They may not be enthusiastic about it, but they accept it is necessary in order to provide for the range of public services on which we all depend.

There are two aspects that infuriate ordinary PAYE taxpayers. One is the realisation that while they are willing to pay their fair share, there are others who are willing to use every device — legal and illegal — to avoid making their contribution. Apart from the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the list of tax defaulters published every quarter by the Revenue Commissioners shows that despite amnesties, efforts to close loopholes and promises of clampdowns, there is still no shortage of people prepared to take a chance and evade paying the tax they owe.

The other aspect that infuriates compliant taxpayers is the realisation that the euros, for which they worked so hard and which disappear each week or month from their pay cheques, end up being squandered. Indeed, any taxpayer who takes time out to read this year's report from the Comptroller and Auditor General can only react with blind fury at the litany of botched projects, management failures and examples of sheer incompetence revealed.

The response of the various Ministers who have spoken in this debate has been quite revealing. The response of the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, was surreal. The attitude seems to be, "What are you getting so excited about? We have loads of money." The response of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, on RTE radio this morning was a typical example. He stated that the €166 million blown on the PPARS project was relatively small compared to the €41 billion Government budget. There we are. What is €166 million between a few extravagant Ministers? On second thoughts, I suppose that this attitude is not all that surprising, coming as it did from the father of the botched electronic voting system and virtually the last person in the country still prepared to go out and defend one of the greatest white elephants in the political history of the State.

The tale of the HSE computer system that does not work despite more than €150 million having been spent on it is just the latest, but also perhaps the most stark, example of the extraordinarily cavalier approach on the part of the Government to the waste of taxpayers' money. Full political responsibility for this waste rests with the three Ministers who have held the health portfolio while this saga was allowed develop. Why did the Ministers and their myriad advisers fail to exercise any supervision or control over this project? Why did nobody shout stop as the costs climbed and climbed?

Nor can the various Ministers be allowed to pass the buck on to the Health Service Executive. This waste of money has its origins in decisions made well before the HSE was established. In addition, the HSE is the creation of the current Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. If the HSE structure is proved inadequate, then she must bear political responsibility.

The scale of the waste involved in this case beggars belief. The Taoiseach was correct this morning, of course, when he said that €166 million would not build Tallaght Hospital nowadays but it would do a great deal. It would build a small to medium sized hospital. It would ensure the completion of Mullingar Hospital. It could provide an additional 150,000 full medical cards or it could ensure that everyone who needs a home help can get one.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Instead, it appears that this money has been allowed to disappear into a financial black hole or, more accurately, into the bank accounts of the Government's favourite consultants.

When a story like the PPARS fiasco emerges taxpayers expect three actions. They expect the Taoiseach, as head of Government, to acknowledge that a problem exists and that errors have been made, they expect that somebody will come forward and accept responsibility at political level for such a waste of taxpayers' money and they expect a commitment from Government that steps will be taken to ensure that lessons are learned and that there will be no repeat of such waste of money. Instead the reaction of the Taoiseach has been to circle the wagons, deny that there is any problem and try to bamboozle the public and the Dáil with waffle. This side of the House has not been taken in and the public will not be taken in either.

There are other areas of concern about waste within the Department of Health and Children. There are reports about other computer systems within the Department which are causing similar difficulties.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's report also raised questions about the national treatment purchase fund and the Labour Party has called for a complete review of this scheme. It is astonishing to find that 36% of patients dealt with under the NTPF were referred for private treatment in the same hospital for which they were waiting for public treatment. This confirms that public hospitals are being prevented from working at full capacity because of budgetary constraints.

I remind the Government that when this scheme was originally announced with such great fanfare by the Progressive Democrats, the Labour Party warned of the danger that we would end up paying hospital consultants twice for treating the same patient and that is exactly what has been happening. I was always sceptical about the NTPF plan because it seemed to me that the needs of patients would be far better met by investing in public hospital services rather than diverting millions into the private hospital system, and certainly we would expect to get better value for money.

Following the issues raised in his report, the Comptroller and Auditor General should be asked to undertake a value for money audit of the entire NTPF scheme before we continue on the road the Minister for Health and Children seems determined to take towards privatising large sections of the health service.

There is real anger among taxpayers at the ongoing waste of their money by the Government. That concern will have been greatly exacerbated by the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the disclosures regarding PPARS. Ministers are custodians of taxpayers' money. They must ensure the money is well spent and not wasted on vanity schemes or ill-conceived or poorly thought out projects. This Government has failed miserably in this regard. It must be compelled to bring forward proposals to improve the system of public expenditure decision making, to get better value for taxpayers; money and to the tackle the ongoing waste of public money.

I assure the Government that this side of the House is determined, when we return after the next general election, not just to be in Government, but to be in a better Government that will deliver value for money and excellent public services. What concerns me more than anything is that many of these projects meant significant amounts of money were lost.

In terms of the health service it was not just money that was lost. I have no doubt that lives were lost because money was not spent where it was most needed. People were left on trolleys or endless waiting lists trying to access the care they needed. Families were unable to get a medical card. Our hospitals are dirty and there is insufficient investment to deal with MRSA. Many of us know people who have suffered from the bug. A friend of mine died from it. These are the kind of changes that could have been delivered by a Government committed to ensuring quality public services delivered on the basis of efficiency and value for money. We now have a record of this Government's total failure to do so.

Amendment put.

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 62 (Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, John Dennehy, John Ellis, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Mary Wallace, Ollie Wilkinson)

Against the motion: 53 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Seán Crowe, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Olwyn Enright, Paul Gogarty, Tony Gregory, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Enda Kenny, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Breeda Moynihan-Cronin, Catherine Murphy, Denis Naughten, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton, Jack Wall)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and G. Murphy.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 62 (Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, John Dennehy, John Ellis, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Mary Wallace, Ollie Wilkinson)

Against the motion: 52 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Seán Crowe, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Olwyn Enright, Paul Gogarty, Tony Gregory, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Enda Kenny, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Breeda Moynihan-Cronin, Catherine Murphy, Denis Naughten, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Liam Twomey, Mary Upton, Jack Wall)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and G. Murphy.

Question declared carried.