Dáil Éireann - Volume 542 - 24 October, 2001

Other Questions. - Convicted Persons.

73. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) who is serving [1507] a jail sentence for conspiracy to defraud the Revenue Commissioners is an employee of the Commissioners; the total amount paid in salary to this person since the conviction; the steps being taken to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25348/01]

Mr. McCreevy: The internal disciplinary proceedings in this case are ongoing. In addition, the officer, who was convicted on his plea of guilty on a count of conspiracy to defraud the Revenue Commissioners, has lodged an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal. This appeal is listed for hearing on 5 November 2001. As this criminal appeal is sub judice, I am advised that I am precluded from replying to this question at this stage.

Mr. McDowell: I accept the Minister's statement on the appeal. However, I echo the view expressed by the chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts that it is truly extraordinary that, four years after a tax official has pleaded guilty to attempting to defraud the Revenue of the better part of 5 million, he would still be on the payroll of the Revenue. It suggests there is something wrong with our procedures.

Mr. McCreevy: The Deputy represents a party with very close ties to the trade union movement. He is, undoubtedly, aware that all disciplinary procedures must be conducted in accordance with the Civil Service disciplinary code, including the appeal process provided for under the code. Such proceedings can be very protracted, especially when the appeal provisions of the code are invoked. Every action in this area has to have full regard to the requirements of natural justice and fair procedures. With regard to any officer in any Department or office who is suspended from duty, the relevant legislation – the Civil Service Regulations Act 1956 – provides for the payment of a portion of an officer's salary, for the mitigation of hardship, on application from the officer. Such payments are intended to allow an officer to maintain his or her family, rather than as a form of remuneration.

Mr. J. Mitchell: It was my understanding that trade unions would not seek to represent somebody who has admitted criminal responsibility. Does the Minister agree there is no place, especially in the Revenue, for entertaining any leniency where there is criminality involved, because of the message that sends to other officers in such an important organisation?

Mr. McCreevy: I am aware that the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners dealt with this case in a written reply to the chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. This case is under appeal in the criminal courts and, as that appeal will come forward shortly, I do not wish to say anything which could be regarded as impinging on the courts. I remind Deputy McDowell that [1508] there are very detailed and protracted procedures for disciplining any officer in the Civil Service.

Mr. McDowell: Notwithstanding the protracted nature of the procedures, it seems extraordinary that, three years after the individual in question pleaded guilty in court, on 28 September 1998, he is still on the payroll. It points to a deficiency in the appeal mechanism.

Mr. McCreevy: Perhaps the Deputy should raise the matter with his friends in the trade union movement.