Dáil Éireann - Volume 477 - 08 April, 1997
Written Answers - Mobile Task Units.
Miss Coughlan Miss Coughlan
58. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners are proposing to reduce the number of mobile task units from four to three in County Donegal; if he proposes to centralise the units; if so, if he will reconsider these proposals in view of the increased volume of smuggling of drugs and the need for coastal observations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8808/97]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn) Ruairí Quinn
Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn): I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have conducted a review of all aspects of the operation of the customs mobile task units (MTUs) with particular regard to staffing, organisation and overall effectiveness. At present MTU teams are distributed across 25 centres, of which 17 are single MTU centres. The consequences of single unit centres are diffused management of the service, the associated problems of underdeveloped  resource allocation and performance management. The objective is to transform the MTU service into a more effective operation where staff activities are better targeted and directed. A key element in the new MTU service is the development of its wider potential in tackling tax evasion generally.
In relation to County Donegal, it is proposed to centralise three of the four existing single MTU centres in Letterkenny. This centralisation will assist in the modernisation and development of the MTU service in the area, in which upgraded information technology and risk analysis techniques will play an important role.
A unit of the Customs National Drugs Team (CNDT) is also located in Letterkenny with responsibility for the Donegal area. This unit has built up many contacts both inside the county and amongst the coastal communities. The wide distribution of the coastal and airfield reporting packs under the Drug Watch Programme, which enlists the assistance of coastal communities, maritime personnel, people residing in close proximity to airfields and other members of the public and encourages the reporting of unusual occurrences in their areas to customs by freefone or freepost, has played an important role in this regard. Coastal observations in County Donegal will continue as a priority for the Letterkenny-based CNDT staff who can call on the assistance of the Sligo-based maritime unit and sniffer dog unit, as required. MTU staff will, of course, continue to support the CNDT staff in the normal course of day-to-day operations.
In the circumstances I am satisfied that the centralisation of the MTUs in Letterkenny, with the resultant loss of one unit, will not adversely affect the role of customs in County Donegal in the battle against the illegal importation of drugs.
Dáil Éireann 477 Written Answers Mobile Task Units.