Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill, 1964: Second Stage.

Tuesday, 30 June 1964

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 211 No. 7

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Minister for Finance (Dr. Ryan): Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The general purpose of this Bill is to provide that the remuneration of the Comptroller and Auditor General shall, with retrospective effect to 1st November, 1961, be the same as the normal salary for Secretary of a Department, thereby enabling eighth and ninth round increases to be paid to the Comptroller and Auditor General, whose present rate of remuneration, £2,850, has remained unchanged since 1st January, 1959. The revised rates payable would be £3,375 with effect from 1st November, 1961 and £3,780 with effect from 1st February, 1964.

As the House will recall, the office of Comptroller and Auditor General exists pursuant to the Constitution, Article 33.1 of which reads:

There shall be a Comptroller and Auditor General to control on behalf of the State all disbursements and to audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas.

In common with the judiciary, the Comptroller and Auditor General's salary is determined by statute. Up to 1962 his remuneration was increased on each occasion on which the remuneration of the judiciary was increased. Following the 1962 increase for the latter, legislation would have been proposed for an increase in the [1090] Comptroller and Auditor General's remuneration were it not for the publication of the White Paper Closing the Gap early in 1963. The judiciary have since obtained a further increase with effect from 1st February last.

While past revisions of the remuneration of the Comptroller and Auditor General have been related, in timing, to those for the judiciary, they have, as to amount, been determined by reference to the normal rate for Secretary of a Department. When first fixed in 1923, the Comptroller and Auditor General's rate was slightly in excess of the Secretary rate; the relationship varied from time to time over the years but, on redetermination of the Comptroller and Auditor General's salary subsequently, the rates were brought approximately into line on each occasion. The fact that the Comptroller and Auditor General's salary was from time to time out of alignment with the Secretary rate was due to the circumstance that the increase had to be made by statute—which involved delay —rather than by direct adjustment as in the case of the civil servants. While there was a case for statutory adjustment when changes were infrequent, it is nowadays in danger of leading to unreasonable delays. To avoid such delays in the future, provision is being made in the Bill for permanent identity between the Comptroller and Auditor General rate and the normal Secretary rate. Future adjustments in the Comptroller and Auditor General's remuneration will thus automatically follow after changes in the Secretary rate.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  This is a Bill of which we approve for the purpose of giving the Comptroller and Auditor General the percentage increases all civil servants have got. There seems to be some confusion, however, about what the exact term “Secretary of a Department of State” means. The Secretary of the Department of Finance is the Secretary of a Department of State and is paid a different amount from that of the Secretaries of other Departments. The Minister will understand that I appreciate the reason for that and approve of it, though some of his colleagues might not approve in [1091] the same way. Apart from that, is the figure that is paid to Secretaries of Departments entirely fixed and the same for all the other Departments? I do not think it is, though the difference may perhaps be because it is on a personal scale.

The Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, for example, is I think paid £3,850 per annum but the Secretary of the Department of Defence is paid a lesser figure—£3,375 per annum. I always understood that all Secretaries of Departments were on the same scale provided they were all married or all single, as the case may be. Have I correctly understood the situation to be that they have gone off that figure?

Perhaps the Minister would refer to page XII of the Book of Estimates where the rates of pay for General Service grades are set out, I presume A is the married and B the unmarried salary. I cannot reconcile the figures there with the figures given in the Book of Estimates in other places in relation to individual Secretaries. That is a matter which should be clarified if we are relating him to a Secretary. I agree entirely that it is much more satisfactory that it should be related in this way so that his salary will get the benefit of such percentage increases which there may be from time to time.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I agree entirely that it is a good thing to relate the salary so that the same trouble will not arise again. The thing I do not like is the period of retrospection. It appears rather astonishing that the Minister should ask here for permission to pay a substantial retrospection, in fact to 1st of November, 1961, for this one person when we have had experience over the years of attempts being made by Departments of State to prevent increases given to ordinary employees of the State, even from a current date. Sometimes these increases are postdated so that there will be a saving of a very small number of pounds, or in some cases a saving of shillings. It is rather extraordinary, that being the case, that the Minister should now ask for a retrospection date back to 1st [1092] November, 1961. Is there some particular reason, apart from the one given, for doing this? I know there has been a change of office in the recent past.

Mr. Jones: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  I should like to support this measure, naturally. The Comptroller and Auditor General is the custodian, in so far as the House is concerned, of public money. This is a very important position. At the present time, as I happen to be Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, it is only right I should say that the link between the House and the control which the Oireachtas exercises on the spending of State money is accounted for by the Comptroller and Auditor General. As he is an officer appointed under the Constitution, he is responsible for seeing that the various Departments of State not alone conform to policy, as laid down, in the expenditure of money, but account equally for the proper expenditure of the moneys voted by this House.

Therefore, he should certainly be in a position comparable with that of any Secretary of a Department in the State. It is an important principle that the constitutional officer, who has that responsibility, should not feel in any way inferior to any Secretary of a Department. I should like the Minister to inform the House whether the figures now proposed for the Comptroller and Auditor General will apply to the occupant of that office at the present time or whether these will in fact be equal to what is paid, or will become payable, to the secretary of any Department of State, taking into account the payment of the 12 per cent in the latest round of wage increases. It is a point of some importance that this officer should not be in any inferior position to any of the officers whom he may have to ask for an explanation in regard to their control or disbursement of moneys provided by the House.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The words in the first section of this Bill state that the Comptroller and Auditor General will be paid the same remuneration as the secretary in the General Service Grades.

[1093] In the preface to the Estimates, there is a list of salaries for the various officers in the Civil Service and the term used is “General Service grades”. Therefore, it would apply to the ordinary salary paid to the Secretary of the Department. There are, as Deputies are aware, three Secretaries who are paid higher salaries than those of officers in the General Service grades. These are the secretaries of the Department of Finance, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Industry and Commerce.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Are those three paid the same salaries?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  They are. Of course, one of them is a single man and that makes a difference.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Is the scale for all of them the same?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Yes. With regard to retrospection, I explained there is always a lag from the time the judiciary or secretaries of Departments get increases and the time the Comptroller and Auditor General is thought of. There was, of course, a practice of giving retrospection in regard to him to the date when the Secretaries of Departments got their increase. For one reason or another, he has not been dealt with now for about ten years. There is, therefore, a big lag to be made up. The present salary is £2,850. Under this Bill the Comptroller and Auditor General will be brought up to £3,780 so he is almost £1,000 behind what he should be paid at the present time. That is the defence, if you like, for retrospection, to bring the salary of the former official and the present Comptroller and Auditor General into line with the salaries of Secretaries of Departments.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Can the Minister appreciate therefore that Closing the Gap was not a good thing?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  It did an amount of good.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Except that those who did not get their increases yet will feel there is no justification for this present substantial increase.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The Deputy must realise that the eighth round of wage increases [1094] was given before Closing the Gap came into force. The ninth round was given after the gap was opened. Closing the Gap did a great amount of good, despite what the Deputy may think.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I am afraid the good it did can only be seen by the Minister.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  When this Bill is passed, it will not be necessary to introduce the question of retrospection so far as the Comptroller and Auditor General is concerned. The salary fixed, on the whole, is reasonable. As the Taoiseach explained, when we were appointing the new Comptroller and Auditor General, we could legally appoint anybody for that position but the senior man in the Department has been appointed from the very beginning. We might, therefore, regard the appointment as practically a Civil Service appointment, although, constitutionally, it is done by the Dáil. Looking at it that way, I think the salary fixed is reasonable for this particular person. I therefore recommend the Dáil to accept this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.


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