Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Ceisteanna - Questions
In general terms, the Department of the Taoiseach is not involved in the delivery of major schemes and programmes. The spending review will involve a detailed and comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the expenditure of the Department. The main focus of the review will be on general administration. There will be an examination of whether there is scope for further savings and efficiencies in addition to those already identified in the Department's action plan for implementing the Croke Park agreement.
The Taoiseach will be aware that previously he promised to find significant savings in the Department of the Taoiseach immediately. When I asked a question on this matter on a previous occasion, the Taoiseach was not in a position to point to a single area in which a significant cost saving had been implemented. He accepted at the time that the transfer of a section of the Department of the Taoiseach to a new Department would not constitute such a saving, in his opinion. Since then, has the Taoiseach identified any areas in which savings can be made? What is his opinion of the important expenditures within his Department that might potentially be open to efficiencies or savings? Surely he does not need a comprehensive spending review to identify where savings can be made at this stage.
The Deputy is aware of the changes that have happened in the Department of the Taoiseach. He is aware that the most significant element of the Vote relates to administration. The Forum on Europe and other bodies have been closed. The Newfoundland arrangement has been subsumed back into another Department. The National Economic and Social Development Office, which includes the National Economic and Social Council and two other bodies that are now out of commission, is the only agency of that type for which the Department of the Taoiseach is still responsible.
The answer to the Deputy's question, therefore, is that the Department of the Taoiseach is dealing with its administrative Vote. It will continue to reduce its numbers while maintaining high quality services. By the end of 2014, its number of staff will decrease by a further 2% below the employment control framework target set by the Department of Finance. The Deputy is aware that 55 staff have been redeployed since January 2008. A further five support staff will be redeployed shortly. The Department will continue to facilitate the reallocation of staff to those areas of greatest need, in accordance with the system of redeployment set out in the agreement.
The total budget of the Department of the Taoiseach was reduced by 31% between 2008 and 2010. There was a reduction of 11% in the administration budget during that time. The 2011 administration budget Estimate has been reduced by 15% by comparison with the Revised Estimate for 2010. Further savings will be achieved over the period of the plan through continued efficiencies in procurement practices, greater use of technology and shared services, energy efficiency programmes, the use of central framework agreements and close monitoring of all expenditure. The Department of the Taoiseach incurs its operating expenditure across a range of goods and services, including travel services, staff training and development, State functions, telecommunications, office equipment, premises expenses, information technology, library costs, consultancy, printing and other incidental costs. An average of €3 million is spent on such matters each year.
I am well aware of the ongoing run-of-the-mill expenditure that has been incurred by the Department of the Taoiseach. Contrary to commitments given a number of months ago that there would be a radical downsizing and changing of the Taoiseach's office, and a very significant reduction in expenditures, the Taoiseach seems to be saying that is not the case and that while he intends to achieve some efficiency savings, there are no fundamental change in terms of how the Taoiseach's office will operate.
-----dealing with the downsizing of the Department of the Taoiseach by 50%. Deputy Martin is incorrect in that assertion in that the programme for Government does not state that. It refers specifically to a reduction in the size of the Taoiseach's Department to, effectively, a Cabinet office to oversee the implementation of the programme for Government. The Vote of the Taoiseach's Department deals with administration, the issues I mentioned earlier and the NESC which is still attached to the office of the Taoiseach. There are a number of other costs involved, including moneys still remaining in respect of the Moriarty tribunal and one or two other issues, that we can talk about if Deputy Martin wishes. The Vote of the Department now relates to the administrative cost. The Taoiseach's Department, no more than any other, will continue to monitor that to achieve efficiencies in respect of those items I mentioned in order to have it as lean, professional and efficient as one would expect.