CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Select Committee on Justice and Equality

 

Supplementary Estimate 2017- Garda Síochána Vote

 

 

 

Opening Remarks by the Minister for Justice and Equality,

 

Charles Flanagan T.D.

 

30th November, 2017

Chairman,

 

I want to thank the Committee for making time available today to consider the Supplementary Estimate for the Garda Síochána Vote.  The supplementary estimate requirement in respect of the Garda Vote is €44.2 million in 2017. It is projected that there will be an underspend of at least €25.5 million in the remaining seven votes in the Justice Vote Group, which reduces the net additional exchequer funding to approximately €18.7 million.

 

An additional €50.4 million is being made available to meet payroll and overtime costs. The additional requirement in relation to pay and allowances is €8 million and €42.4 million relates to overtime. While the increased requirement in overtime is directly related to the measures taken to combat organised and other serious crime, the costs associated with the implementation of the Labour Court Agreement in relation to Garda Pay are also a contributory factor. The offsetting of the additional requirement in part, by underspends in other votes, reflects the commitment given by the Department in meeting the partial cost of the Labour Court Agreement for 2017. It is expected that the total expenditure on Garda overtime in 2017 will exceed an unprecedented €130 million. This compares with expenditure on overtime of some €91 million in 2016, some €56 million in 2015 and some €37.7 million in 2014. Budget 2018 provides for nearly €100 million in overtime next year. It is the case that that overtime worked in December will be paid from the 2018 Budget not the 2017 Estimate, which is under discussion today.

 

There are additional requirements in a number of other administrative subheads also including travel and subsistence, expenses associated with road traffic policing, training and other expenses, maintenance of Garda premises and certain other station services amounting to almost €12 million after offsetting underspends in other areas such as telecommunications services.  Further additional requirements arise in relation to the Communications and Other Equipment subhead of almost €2.7 million primarily relating to the increased costs in respect of operational equipment. This is mainly in respect of specialist areas such as the Armed Response Units.

There are offsetting underspends in other areas within the Garda Vote such as superannuation due to less retirements than expected.  Also, there are surplus receipts  of approximately €14 million, by far the largest proportion of which relate to more pension related deductions than envisaged. This is directly related to the increased expenditure on pay and overtime and the supplementary estimate is making these additional receipts available to offset a proportion of the overtime and payroll cost. A further aspect of this process is the reallocation of an underspend of €8 million in capital expenditure from the Buildings subhead to ICT €6.7 million and Transport €1.3 million. The underspend relates to the timing of the completion of new Garda Divisional and Regional headquarters in Kevin Street, Dublin and Galway. These buildings will now be completed by the end of the first quarter in 2018 following on from the completion of the new Divisional headquarters in Wexford in September this year. The additional budget allocated to ICT will ensure a total capital spend of over €40 million for ICT in 2017 including in relation to a  number of key systems  such as Rosters and Duty Management,  Investigations Management and Enterprise Content Management. These projects are key components of the Garda Siochána Modernisation and Renewal Programme.

 

The additional €1.3 million for transport will bring expenditure on the Garda fleet to over €5 million in 2017. This is following on expenditure of €10 million in 2016, which allowed for the purchase of 462 vehicles and I am pleased to say the Government’s Capital Plan for the period 2018 to 2021 provides for a further €31 million for investment in the Garda Fleet. The additional amounts made available to ICT and Transport in 2017 are in effect bringing forward expenditure in these areas with the corresponding budget being reassigned in 2018 to complete the Building Projects. The utilisation of the capital budget in this manner ensures prudent use of available resources on a multi–year basis.

 

This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime.  The substantial increase in Garda numbers is tangible progress on achieving this Government’s vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. The continuation of the high level of investment in the Garda workforce will ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. A further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College in 2018, an additional 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties.

 

I am pleased to say that this investment is yielding results in terms of a number of very successful Garda operations such as Operation Hybrid, which will continue apace throughout 2018. As of 31 October 2017, there have been 71 arrests and 11 charges (3 for related offences) brought in connection with the gang-related shootings. In addition, 30 firearms have been seized and over 14,260 lines of enquiry conducted. In the region of 44,500 high visibility checkpoints have been implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units and a significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic and forensic evidence is being examined. Concentrated Garda actions against criminal gangs have been illustrated by a number of notable successes this year with a series of very significant drugs seizures valued at over €79.5 million. This includes  the huge haul of illegal cannabis valued at €37.5 million seized at Dublin Port on 20 January 2017 and most recently a significant seizure on the 15 November 2017 valued at €7 million.

 

Rural communities are also benefiting from the significant injection of policing resources provided by the Government and the concentrated initiatives such as Operation Thor. As part of the Garda approach special targeted patrols are carried out with the assistance of Garda National Support Services against criminals who are committing crime inter regionally, including a focus on the use of motorways by criminal gangs to disrupt and arrest those involved.

 

These initiatives have provided a very beneficial return on the Government’s investment in resources and we will continue to back –up the investment in resources with strengthening the necessary legislative provisions, where required, to ensure that the multi-faceted response to crime in all its forms is maintained.

 

The underspends across the other seven votes in the Justice Vote Group has reduced the net additional exchequer requirement for the supplementary estimate to circa €18.7 million. The savings mainly arise in the Justice and Equality Vote and are largely accounted for by payroll  savings in that the full year cost of additional recruitment during 2017 will not materialise until 2018. There are underspends in a number of programme areas also including the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

 

In conclusion, I recommend the supplementary estimate for the Garda Síochána Vote to the Committee and I am happy to address any questions you may have.