Dáil Éireann - Volume 533 - 28 March, 2001

Priority Questions. - Defence Forces Finances.

23. Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the plans he has to extend the Chief of Staff's position to increase his control over the Defence Forces' finances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9113/01]

90. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Defence the plans he has to extend the Chief of Staff's position to increase his control over the Defence Forces' finances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9165/01]

Mr. M. Smith: I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 90 together.

In recent years there has been a progressive increase in the amount of expenditure delegated to the Chief of Staff and it is intended that this delegation will continue. The areas of delegated expenditure include allowances, clothing, catering transport, training, communications and IT, barrack expenses and maintenance. In 2000 the total amount delegated to the Chief of Staff was more than £95 million, while the corresponding figure for this year will be approximately £110 million. There are no plans to extend the areas of expenditure delegated to the Chief of Staff.

Mr. Timmins: Does the Minister agree it was acknowledged during an early stage of the review of the Defence Forces that there was a flaw in the financial management whereby the Secretary General, as accounting officer, is responsible for the spending of the Defence Vote but is not responsible for performance? This anomaly should be corrected so that the Chief of Staff is the accounting officer. Some years ago there was a debate in the House on giving the Chief of Staff the role of chief executive but this was not agreed [855] to. In fairness to the Minister, no Government would agree to the Chief of Staff having this role.

I do not see any difficulty in the Chief of Staff being the accounting officer. Can the Minister give me a reason he should not assume this role? I want to give the simple analogy of a woman or man who takes care of the home and who is given a budget by the other person. They have no say in the amount of money they receive or how they spend it. The person carrying out the duty should be responsible for spending the money and have control of the purse strings.

Mr. M. Smith: When the Government approved proposals for greater financial delegation to the military authorities in 1993 it rejected the option of making the Chief of Staff the accounting officer. I have no plans to change this position. I said in my reply that a significant amount of delegation has already taken place. I want to look at the areas which are not included.

I do not think Deputy Timmins would agree that the military authorities should decide on the issue of compensation.

Mr. Timmins: I am the one asking the questions.

Mr. M. Smith: The issues of pay, pensions etc. are organised from Galway and a significant number of military staff are dedicated to this important area. On capital building projects, defensive equipment and procurement of contracts, there is a civil-military procurement team. We work as a team to get the best possible results and this is the way it will continue. It is not as if there are two sides. We reach agreement on what is necessary for the Air Corps, Naval Service and Army. My job is to find the resources for it and by comparison with my predecessors it looks like I am doing a better job than anyone else has done.

Mr. Timmins: I do not see any questions on the Order Paper to me or to Deputy Wall so I am sorry I cannot answer the Minister's question. He has certainly put more funding into the Defence Forces but we live in a better climate than heretofore. There are certain areas over which the military would like to have more control and I ask him to revisit those issues and see if he can extend their role. I realise that he cannot extend their role on pay but as an innovative Minister he could put his stamp on other issues.

Mr. M. Smith: I said earlier that I wanted to continue delegation and the amounts of money each year which are under the control of the Chief of Staff keep on rising. I will look at other areas. This is a job we all want to do successfully together and the military can make a significant input.