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Opening Remarks by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD – Justice Group of Votes & Supplementary Estimates 2014



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Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality

Justice Group of Votes – Supplementary Estimates 2014

Opening Remarks by the Minister for Justice and Equality,

Frances Fitzgerald TD
26 November, 2014


I want to thank the Committee for making time available today to consider my request for a Supplementary Estimate for the Garda Síochána, Prisons and Courts Service Vote.

There are a number of factors giving rise to the supplementary estimates which can be broadly summarised as follows;

– Additional requirements in relation to Garda and Prisons payroll costs,
– Implementation of a capital investment announcement on Budget day in relation to Garda Transport and ICT,
– Technical adjustments to utilise savings in certain areas, including surplus receipts to offset additional expenditure requirements, thus making maximum benefit of the resources available to the Justice Vote Group.

While there are substantive additional requirements in respect of the Garda Síochána and Prisons Votes of €75.24 million and €9.25 million respectively, they are being off-set in part by savings from elsewhere within the Justice Vote Group of approximately €24.7 million. Thus, in real terms the external funding requirement is under €60 million.

The Justice and Equality Vote is contributing at least €22.30 million to offset the cost of the supplementary estimates and there are savings of approximately €1 million in the Property Registration Authority Vote available for offset. The supplementary estimate in respect of the Courts Service Vote is self-funding in that savings including surplus receipts income is being utilised to offset expenditure requirements in other areas in the Vote. After allowing for the various adjustments, it is expected that the Courts Vote will have a surrender balance of approximately €1.4 million.

It is not uncommon given the fact that the Justice Sector Vote Group is made up of five different votes that there is a need to adjust budgets across the Group as part of the supplementary estimate process. This is particularly the case prior to year end to ensure that maximum value is derived from any funding which becomes available.

The largest individual element of the supplementary estimate for the Garda Síochána Vote relates to the payroll subhead where there is an additional requirement of €65 million.

It was brought to my attention shortly after becoming Minister for Justice and Equality that there was likely to be a substantial shortfall in the Garda pay subhead in 2014. As a result, I made this one of the priority issues to be addressed in the recent estimates and I am pleased to say that €40 million in additional funding is being provided in the Garda pay subhead in 2015. This addresses the shortfall in this subhead and also allows for the recommencement of Garda recruitment with an initial 100 recruits having started their training in Templemore in September. I am pleased to confirm that another group of 100 recruits will commence training in early December and will be joined by a further 100 recruits early in the New Year. These are the first Garda recruits to enter the College since 2009 and these new Gardai are needed to contribute to the revitalisation of An Garda Síochána.

The supplementary estimate process is also the mechanism through which part of the capital investment funding announced on Budget Day is being put in place. In total €10 million is being provided and this funding is reflected in the ICT and Transport subheads.

An additional €7 million is being assigned to the capital element of the Transport subhead as part of this supplementary estimate process and a further €3 million will be available for the subhead in 2015. This will result in the procurement and fit-out of over 400 new vehicles for the Garda Fleet. These vehicles will come on stream in early 2015.

The ICT investment of €3 million in 2014 will allow for a much needed information systems upgrade which will provide an essential platform for further systems development. As I outlined on the publication of the recent Garda Inspectorate Report on Crime Investigation, there is an urgent need to ensure that An Garda Síochána has access to effective, modern systems and processes; particularly where systems and processes have not kept pace with developments in broader society and other police services globally. I will continue to work with my colleague, Minister Howlin to secure the necessary and early investment in upgrading Garda technology to bring outdated paper based practices into the 21st century in line with the recommendations in the most recent and indeed other reports of the Garda Inspectorate.

There are various other over and under spends across the Garda Vote, which are being streamlined through the supplementary estimate process before the end of the financial year. There are surplus appropriations –in-aid receipts of almost €22.7 million, a proportion of which relate to various pension deductions, which are directly related to payroll expenditure. Similar to recent years, certain receipts of almost €17 million from fixed charge notices are being used, as part of a technical accounting exercise, to offset the cost of Road Traffic measures, mainly in relation to the cost of the Go Safe Road Safety contract.

It is clear from this supplementary estimate and the recently published estimates for 2015 that this Government will continue to provide the necessary financial resources to An Garda Síochána. It is also clear that there is a need for continuing reform in the way that An Garda Síochána does its business. In this context, I reiterate my commitment and that of the Government to the implementation of the comprehensive Justice Reform programme which is currently underway.

The publication of the recent detailed and far-reaching recommendations from the Garda Inspectorate in relation to crime investigation presents a significant opportunity for a fundamental programme of modernisation within An Garda Síochána. This report will be supplemented by other reports, due shortly under the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement including a review of all aspects of the operation and administration of An Garda Síochána.

I look forward to the significant contribution to this process by the Policing Authority which is to be established shortly. In this regard the recent appointment of the Chairperson designate of the new Authority is a welcome development.

I would like to take the opportunity at this point, Chairman, to wish Ms. Nóirin O’Sullivan all the very best in her appointment as Garda Commissioner.

A supplementary estimate of €9.25 million is required for the Prison Service in 2014. The major components are as follows;

– Additional payroll requirement of €7.000 million,
– Additional requirement of €3.220 million in the buildings subhead,
– Overrun of €1.000m in the compensation subhead.

There are offsetting savings of over €1 million in the administrative non-pay subheads including €0.900 million in ICT capital; €0.400m in the Prisoner Services subhead and surplus appropriations-in-aid of €0.400m.

The net outcome is an additional requirement of €9.250 million in 2014.

The shortfall in the payroll subhead arises due a number of budgetary pressures including the full year cost of Prison Administration and Support Officers (PASOs), a number of recruit Prison Officers progressing to the Prison Officer pay scale in 2014 and the appointment of Work Training Officers.

There were reductions made to the payroll budget in 2013 and 2014 of €2.605 million related to projected staffing reductions in accordance with the Employment Control Framework (ECF). The target serving staff number for the Prison Service at the end of December 2014 in ECF terms is 3,265. The current actual serving number is in the region of 3,390. It is projected that there will be less than 50 retirements in the Prison Service in 2014 whereas the corresponding figure in 2013 was 62 with over 100 retirements in each of the years 2011 and 2012.

While there is an increased capital allocation of €0.9 million in the Prison building subhead in 2014; this is offset by corresponding capital savings in relation to ICT of €0.9 million. I am pleased to report to the Committee that work is progressing well in relation to the new Cork Prison and is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2015. The modernisation project in Mountjoy Prison is also on schedule with an expected completion date for the works in D-wing, which includes in-cell sanitation expected to be completed by mid 2015.

The main reason for the supplementary estimate requirement in the non-payroll expenditure relates to an additional requirement of €2.3 million on current expenditure in the Buildings subhead and is accounted for by essential works on heating and boiler systems across a number of Prisons (€1.5 million) and the increasing cost of utility charges of circa €0.8 million.

The work on the heating and boiler systems arose out of necessity, for example, existing systems (particularly in Wheatfield and Mountjoy) could not function without this work being carried out. This work had been planned for some time but had been postponed due to budgetary constraints. The essential boiler works should help to deliver a more efficient and cheaper heating service.

The supplementary estimate for the Courts Service of €1,000 is of a technical nature in order to meet additional costs in some subheads by savings in other areas including surplus appropriations-in-aid.

The additional requirements consist mainly of the following;

– Increased cost of the annual repayment in relation to the Criminal Courts of Justice Complex due to indexation, €0.7 million,
– Additional ICT capital expenditure costs of €0.4 million following offset of savings in other capital subheads.

While there are other over and under spends in the administrative subheads which are offsetting each other through the supplementary estimate process, the main source of funding for the additional requirement is from surplus receipts in appropriations-in-aid.

This surplus has arisen for the main part from a greater than expected intake of Court Fees primarily relating to the Circuit and High Courts, both of which have benefitted from the introduction of new fee orders in January 2014.

These surplus fees are being used to offset costs within the Courts Vote but it is also expected that the Courts Service will have a surrender balance of approximately €1.4 million which will offset the additional costs in the Garda and Prisons Votes.

I am particularly pleased that the Court of Appeal sat for the first time earlier this month following it’s establishment by order of the Government on 28th October, 2014. I want to acknowledge the work of everybody associated with the establishment and operation of the Court of Appeal in such a timely manner considering that it was only a little over 12 months since the referendum to amend the Constitution to set up a Court of Appeal was passed.

I am sure that the Committee appreciates that there are many issues impacting on the Justice Sector Group of Votes and that it is essential to have the flexibility, approaching year end to offset savings in one area against additional costs in other areas. Even allowing for the offset of savings from within and outside the particular votes, it is necessary in the current year to provide additional funding for the Garda Síochána and Prisons Votes.

On that note; I recommend the supplementary estimates for the Garda Síochána, Prisons and Courts Service Votes to the Committee and am happy to address any questions you may have.