Priority Questions - Expenditure Programme

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 723 No. 1

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  22.  Deputy Mary Upton  Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton   asked the Minister for Tourism; Culture and Sport  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   in view of the implications of the recommendations of the report on the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes regarding her Department, the actions she has taken to evaluate the recommendations of the report; if she has identified ways by which similar efficiencies or savings could be made without resorting to the actions in the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44227/10]

Deputy Mary Hanafin: Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  The report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes, published in July 2009, made a number of recommendations, including, to reduce or discontinue expenditure programmes, to reduce the numbers employed in each area of the public service, to re-allocate staffing or expenditure resources between public service organisations as appropriate and to rationalise State agencies.

The work of the special group resulted in the identification of potential expenditure savings of €5.3 billion in a full year, with associated reductions of more than 17,300 in public service numbers. This was far in excess of what was then envisaged for budget 2010, so the special group’s report was viewed as a suite of potential savings from which the Government could choose on the basis of its own assessment of the area of spending involved. In evaluating the recommendations of the report, Ministers and the Government necessarily had regard to the fact that all expenditure programmes confer benefits on various stakeholders and that no proposals for reductions are painless. With particular regard to my Department, it was noted that all three sectors, tourism, culture and sport, make major contributions to Irish society and to the real economy. The recommendations of the special group for my Department included proposals to reduce programme expenditure by almost €105 million in 2010 and to structurally reduce 170 staff across the Department and its agencies. The special group’s report also proposed that consideration should be given to the discontinuation of the then Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism as a Department in its own right. In responding to these challenging proposals, savings of more than €35 million were achieved in the Revised Estimates for 2010 for the Department’s Vote group compared to 2009. In addition, the Government’s moratorium on staff recruitment and promotion and its incentivised early retirement scheme continue to achieve reductions in staff numbers across my Department and its agencies.

In March 2010, the Government made structural re-alignments to a number of Departments. As part of these re-alignments, the former Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism was restructured as the current Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, with an enhanced focus on maximising the benefits to Ireland in financial and other terms of both our tourism product [52]and our cultural and sporting heritage. In addition, responsibility for the horse and greyhound racing industries was transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In preparing for budget 2011, all possible measures are being considered to ensure that the proposed budget adjustment of €6 billion is achieved, including the outstanding recommendations of the report of the special group. In addition, the ongoing implementation of the Croke Park agreement in my Department and across the public service has led to the identification of a range of potential savings. While it is clearly not possible for me to reveal the details of what may be announced in budget 2011, my objective is to ensure that an appropriate level of resources is provided to ensure the continued and successful development of the three important sectors for which I have responsibility.

Deputy Mary Upton: Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  I am pleased to hear that changes are to be proposed. Correspondence I received in August stated that the Department then employed 156 staff, of whom 77, or 48 full-time equivalents, had responsibilities in the arts and culture section. Given the number of staff employed by the Department, why do several quangos continue to exist? The replies to seven parliamentary questions I submitted today state that the Minister has no responsibility to Dáil Éireann for these matters. It is extraordinary that my questions cannot be answered. Why is there such a need for consultancy given the number of staff employed by the Department?

Deputy Mary Hanafin: Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Having gotten rid of other bodies while serving in previous Departments, I genuinely believe that the agencies attached to the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sports are best served for supporting areas such as international and national marketing. The fact that Tourism Ireland is a North-South body should also be considered. The Arts Council is not only able to allocate grants, but it also enjoys a direct relationship with cultural and arts groups all over the country. The same can be said for the Irish Sports Council.

In regard to staffing levels in my Department, 44 staff work in the National Archives, which has a specific remit. Given that type of allocation, the Deputy can see where the rest of the work is done.

Deputy Mary Upton: Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  My main concern is the lack of accountability. I have raised this issue in a recent policy document in respect of sporting organisations. Direct ministerial responsibility is the way to proceed and significantly greater accountability is required.

Deputy Mary Hanafin: Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  I accept the Deputy’s point about accountability. Significant sums of money continue to be spent in the three areas under my remit.

Deputy Mary Upton: Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  That is my point.

Deputy Mary Hanafin: Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  The expertise we require does not rest within any Department. The marketing skills needed in the United States are entirely different from those needed in Germany and France. The agencies must employ people who are based in these countries. That would not be possible for a Department unless new embassies were established. It is our responsibility to determine the budget for these employees and to ensure they are accountable. If we can develop ways to ensure greater accountability, I would be happy to do so, but we would not serve the needs of the country by subsuming these four agencies into the Department.

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