LAST week, I briefed Oireachtas Members on progress in modernising the process by which the State spends over €12bn on goods, services and works. It is a huge sum and a major contributor to our economy.
Our aim is to ensure not only that the State delivers the services on which citizens depend, but that it spends taxpayers’ money wisely. We are also mindful that many businesses depend on public works, so it is essential that contracts are seen to be awarded in a process that is fair and transparent.
The Office of Government Procurement was set up in 2014 to achieve these objectives. I outlined to legislators some of the initiatives taken, such as Framework Agreements and the use of systematic market analysis prior to tendering. As part of the drive towards greater eGovernment, another area of my Finance portfolio, firms have been encouraged to register on eTenders, the Government’s national tendering platform.
Much has been achieved in terms of ensuring value for money and fair dealings with businesses. Looking to build on this, one of our chief priorities will be to look at including social clauses in contracts, aimed at helping the long-term unemployed back into work and training.
You can see the briefing document Oireachtas Members received here.
You can see a separate press briefing about the legal services framework here.
MAKING life simpler for citizens and businesses is one of this Government’s core objectives. To this end, on Tuesday I commended to the Dáil the second stage of a measure which will remove hundreds of outdated and obsolete laws from our statute book.
The Statute Law Revision Bill, which has cross-party support, will repeal 301 laws passed between 1922 and 1950. Examples include emergency legislation allowing for the death penalty during the Civil War and dealing with matters such as the League of Nations and the Eucharistic Congress.
As I told TDs: “This Bill is a rather technical piece of legislation, but an important and necessary one. It will clear away the redundant and obsolete acts clogging up our statute book and it will have benefits, including a modern and streamlined statute book, which is more accessible to citizens and businesses as they go about their business in their daily lives.”
Read my speech to the Dáil here
And, watch it here (22 minutes in).
I spoke in the Seanad about the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and the State investing in tobacco and alcohol companies.
You can watch my contribution here (52 minutes in).
We should direct our money away from these companies and I have asked officials to look at this.
You might recall my Ethical Investment Bill from the last Dáil – go here for more.
The Finance Bill implements Budget 2017. This week I took it through committee stage, you can watch the proceedings here (2016-11-15).
Minister Noonan and I completed the Bill in the Dáil here.
For more information on Budget 2017 go here.
On Tuesday, during Topical Issues, I answered questions about the presence of Revenue Officers at out ports.
We discussed the deployment of officers and resources at our airports, harbours and coasts. I spoke about the intelligence based enforcement approach which uses data analytics, technology and various information flows to clamp down on smuggling and evasion.
You can watch a video of the discussion here.
The Budget for 2017 was announced on Tuesday. You can find all of the details here.
You can watch me introduce and debate the budget in the Seanad here (at 1:36).
Go here take a look at the new website which shows you how your money is spent.
To listen to an Irish Times podcast where we debate the politics of the budget go here.
We also debated aspects of it on Sean O’Rourke’s weekly gathering here (at 1:32).
You can see some of the highlight changes here.
On behalf of the Government I attended the recent Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg with other European Finance Ministers to discuss the situation in Greece, as well as number of other issues.
You can find out more about the meeting here.
Recently I led a delegation to Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo to promote Ireland’s International Financial Services, our IFS2020 strategy, and the European Financial Forum which I will be hosting in Dublin Castle in January. You can read more about the individual events here, here and here. (To see a press release about our overall activities, go here.)
In launching our new IFS-Ireland brand (details here) I had the opportunity to speak about the challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit, to make Ireland’s case regarding the recent Commission ruling on Apple, to highlight the strong investments already in Ireland, and to introduce Irish FinTech companies to key players in each country.
The details of the IFS2020 strategy, which aims to make Ireland the global location of choice for innovation and specialisation in financial services, and increase jobs in the sector by 30%, can be read here.
To see some pictures from the trip go here.
Banking Union in the EU is not just about supervision but it’s also about breaking the link between taxpayers and bank rescues by setting up a mutualised rescue fund – paid in to by the banks.
Recently I moved my first piece of Government legislation on behalf of the Minister for Finance, introducing the Finance (Certain European Union and Intergovernmental Obligations) Bill 2016.
This Bill will provide for a temporary loan from the Government to the rescue fund, to be used only in exceptional circumstances, and only until the rescue fund is fully in place (2024). It also has some measures to deal with white collar crime.
You can watch second stage of the debate here (at 8:13).
Our detailed discussion at committee stage is here.
Report stage sees further debate on amendments in the Dáil chamber here (at 5:13).
We discussed the Bill in the Seanad here (at 2:38) where the process continues, if there are no amendments, the Bill will be enacted.
Minister Noonan has asked me to chair a Working Group on the Cost of Motor Insurance. The Government is determined to tackle this as a priority. The group’s remit is to identify immediate and longer term measures which can address the increasing cost of premiums.
By the end of October I hope to have identified the priority actions required to tackle the high cost of your insurance and this will form the basis for an update report to the Minister for Finance. During November and December we will agree an action plan to enable the relevant Government Departments to commence the implementation of these priority actions.
The Finance Committee is holding public meetings to hear the views of interested stakeholders on the cost of motor insurance. The first meeting took place on the 7th September where I answered questions for over two hours. You can read my opening remarks to the Committee here. To watch a video of the proceedings at the Joint Committee, click here (at 3:15). And, you can watch all of the public proceedings via the Oireachtas player here. For the details of the meetings, go here.
The Government cannot set the price of premiums; what we can do is put the right people together, from Government and industry, and dedicate resources to identifying and implementing solutions that will help tackle escalating costs. This will not happen overnight but we are working day and night to solve this problem.
To read my recent opinion piece on the issue from the Irish Independent click here.
To hear our discussion on Sean O’Rourke, go here.