Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
106. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if each of the bodies under his aegis and the ESRI, the IPA and the SEUPB hold membership with a confederation; if so, if he will provide the breakdown of payment to the confederation by each of the bodies in each of the years 2016 to 2020; if consideration of savings on this could be achieved on a shared service basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17894/21]
In the first instance, the Deputy may wish to note the nature of three of the bodies specifically referenced in his question. The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) are companies limited by guarantee who are in receipt of grant funding from my Department. The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) is a cross-border North South Implementation Body, established on foot of the Good Friday Agreement and jointly sponsored by my Department and the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland. The SEUPB operates under the policy direction of the North South Ministerial Council, and is headquartered in Belfast, with smaller offices in Omagh and Monaghan.
Of the bodies in question, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is the only one that has a membership of the confederation specified in the question and the details are set out in the table below.
|Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI)*||€5,296||€4,591||€4,479||€4,370||€4,263|
*Prior to 2020, the ESRI paid a fee to access the confederation's Employee Related Services but were not members of the confederation. Membership of the confederation was required for 2020 to access these services
107. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the measures he plans to take with regard to public bodies under his aegis and the ESRI, the IPA and the SEUPB to have designated Irish language officers and be compliant with their obligations under the Official Languages Act 2003; if the bodies have had their services competently audited for compliance with the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17895/21]
In the first instance, the Deputy may wish to note the nature of the three bodies specifically referenced in his question. The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) are companies limited by guarantee who are in receipt of grant funding from my Department. The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) is a cross-border North South Implementation Body, established on foot of the Good Friday Agreement and jointly sponsored by my Department and the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland. The SEUPB operates under the policy direction of the North South Ministerial Council, and is headquartered in Belfast, with smaller offices in Omagh and Monaghan.
I am advised of the following with regard to all of the bodies encompassed by the question:
Office of Public Works (OPW)
The OPW's Quality Customer Service (QCS) Network oversee the preparation of each new Language Scheme and monitor implementation of the scheme to ensure that the OPW is compliant with its obligations under the Official Languages Act 2003. The QCS Network comprises of members from each of the business areas within the OPW. Each business area is required to reflect the commitments of the Language Scheme in its business plan and monitor implementation, as appropriate. An updated Irish Language Scheme is due to be rolled out in the OPW shortly.
While the OPW does not have a designated Irish language officer, staff are reminded periodically of their responsibilities in respect of the Official Languages Act 2003 and the OPW Language Scheme. Detailed guidance and instructions have been made available to those who may need to implement Irish language measures.
An audit by An Coimisineir Teanga was carried out in 2019 on the use of the official languages on signage at heritage sites of the Office of Public Works and its language scheme commitments in relation to the Gaeltacht
National Shared Services Office (NSSO)
The National Shared Services Office understands its obligations in relation to the use of Irish, has a designated Irish language officer and is compliant under the Official Languages Act 2003. The NSSO is fully committed to providing a bilingual service. The NSSO is dedicated to ensuring customer service is available in both languages. The NSSO has agents available in all Shared Services Centres to take calls and respond to emails and letters in Irish. The customer service phone lines are also bilingual and stationary displays the names and addresses in both Irish and English, and all customer alerts are bilingual. Both the Payroll and HR portals (for customers and internal use) are fully bilingual, with all information and forms available in both languages. The NSSO was established as a statutory office in 2018 and has not yet had services audited for compliance with the Official Languages Act.
Public Appointments Service (PAS)
The PAS Irish Language Scheme 2017–2020 sets out the commitments which PAS has made in terms of the services which they will provide to candidates applying for competitions being run by PAS (and in compliance with the Official Languages Act). The scheme was confirmed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and remains in effect until a new Scheme has been confirmed by the Minister. PAS have a full-time translator on staff and also an Irish Language Officer.
PAS have a number of staff that are competent in Irish and offer staff opportunities to take Irish courses to learn/improve (increasing general staff competency in Irish is part of the Scheme).
Responsibility has been assigned to specific staff for all elements of the Scheme and elements of this (those which are the most subject to change) are audited on a regular basis by a dedicated staff member.
Office of the Ombudsman
The Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission for Public Service Appointments, the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information operate a joint scheme, and have a designated Irish language officer in place. The Offices are in full compliance with the provisions of the Act and also have an Irish Language scheme in place. The Irish language Officer carries out a review of the adherence of the Offices to the Act and the Irish Language Scheme. A review was recently completed and covered the year 2020.
The Standards in Public Office Commission is in compliance with the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003 and has an Irish language scheme in place. This Scheme has been confirmed by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It commenced with effect from 1 October 2018. The Commission reports on its activities under the Official Languages Act in its annual reports.
The Office of the Ombudsman provides staff to the Commission. While there is no formal “Designated Irish Officer” role set out in the current scheme, the Commission has two members of staff designated to provide services in Irish. The Commission’s commitment to the provision of services is outlined in its lrish language scheme and includes provision of reception/telephone services in Irish on request; correspondence and email in the requested official language; publication of annual reports and most documents in both official languages (further detail as specified in the scheme); publication of the Commission’s websites (sipo.ie and lobbying.ie) in both official languages; and publication of press releases in both official languages
There is no explicit provision in the scheme for an audit, however, it is not a requirement of the Act. The Act provides that a review may be conducted at the request of the Minister; no such request has been received to date. The current scheme is in place for a three-year period (2018–2021) and must be reviewed at that time. It is intended that a new scheme will be developed this year and a review of the current scheme would accompany that.
The State Laboratory is a scheduled office under the aegis of my Department which provides a comprehensive analytical and advisory service to Government departments and offices. It does not provide a service to the public. The State Laboratory is compliant with obligations under the Official Languages Act 2003. However, it does not have a designated Irish language officer and has not had services audited for compliance with the Act.
Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery
The Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery is compliant with its obligations under the Official Languages Act, 2003, but does not provide any services to the public and therefore this does not apply to the Office.
Institute of Public Administration
The IPA does not have a dedicated Irish language officer. It has a staff member who is an Irish speaker. The IPA is in the process of developing its third official language scheme. The IPA has not had its services audited for compliance with the Act
Economic & Social Research Institute
Whilst the ESRI does not have a designated Irish Language Officer, a member of staff who is a fluent Irish speaker fulfils this role when the need arises normally in relation to media interviews. The ESRI is currently reviewing its processes to ensure it is fully compliant with the Official Languages Act.
Special EU Programmes Body
The SEUPB adheres to the following mandatory requirements under the Official Languages Act 2003:
- All written communication are responded to in the Irish language when it is received in Irish;
- Headings of the SEUPB’s letterhead stationery include the organisation’s address in Irish;
- The SEUPB’s Annual Report and Accounts are laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas in the Irish language, before being published; and
- In terms of signage the SEUPB’s logo contains an Irish translation of the organisation’s name.
The SEUPB retains the services of a language translation company with immediate access to accredited Irish language translators.
108. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the bodies under his aegis and the ESRI, the IPA and the SEUPB energy policy are compliant with their obligations under the Public Sector Energy Efficiency Strategy; the bodies that have failed to meet their 2020 energy targets; the measures that will be put in place for those organisations that have not met their 2020 targets to reach their 2030 targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17896/21]