Department of Finance study on potential shock to Irish economy from over-reliance on corporation tax from small number of multinationals

A Department of Finance study said the amount of corporation tax coming from a small number of giant multinationals was becoming “increasingly pronounced”.

Early conclusions from the study warned that intangible assets owned by Irish subsidiaries – including intellectual property – could account for up to half of the “observed strength in foreign receipts”.

It suggested that each €10 billion reduction in intangible stock had the potential to reduce corporation tax take by between €170 and €190 million annually.

The research, which is still underway, also said a “stylised shock” to the sector of around 20% in “traded sector GVA [Gross Value Added]” could reduce GDP growth by 2.75 per centage points after five years relative to the baseline.

Developers of new central mental health facility warned of ‘significant additional costs’ on the project in North Dublin

The developers of a new centre to replace the Central Mental Hospital warned of significant additional costs on the project.

The new complex was projected to cost an estimated €140 million but the building contractor said the Covid-19 pandemic had caused significant delays and a major financial impact on them.

The new centre in Portrane, Co Dublin – which will be called the National Forensic Mental Health Service – was due to have been completed last year but was finally handed over to the health service earlier this month.

A letter released by the HSE shows contractor Rhatigan OHL saying the restrictions had seriously impacted productivity levels on the site leading to delays.

The letter said: “The manner in which the works are now being carried out is under completely different circumstances and/or conditions to that at the time of contracting.”

The letter said construction workers had been told in March 2020 to keep two metres distance from each other at all times.

“This immediately impacted and will continue to impact the productivity levels on the project,” they said.

The contractor said this had affected construction timelines and efficiency, and warned it was having a “major financial impact on [their] business”.

The letter – which was sent to the project architects in April – added: “We have incurred significant additional costs, which we will be seeking to recover.”

HSE records on the modelling of usage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 pandemic

These records were released by the HSE in response to an FOI request by Ashley Glover of the volunteer group Bravo Charlie Tango.

The request covers work done on modelling the use of PPE during the pandemic, which was carried out both in-house by the HSE and also by consultants PWC.

Cabinet Records on Universal Health Insurance from 2015

These are Cabinet records on Universal Health Insurance from 2015: they discuss likely costs and challenges from a project that was ultimately dropped by the Fine Gael government.

Something to keep in mind when making Freedom of Information requests in Ireland is that Cabinet records are available after five years have elapsed.

It means you can go back on key decisions from the past and get a new perspective on what actually happened.

Worth remembering as well that for Cabinet decisions on the environment – especially around climate change – you can use the AIE Regulations to try and access them more quickly.

This of course is courtesy of this Right to Know case from 2018!

Discord between Department of Defence and the Defence Forces over repatriation of two officers from peacekeeping mission in Africa

The Department of Defence were worried the government jet might develop technical problems in Africa if sent on a mission to extract two Irish army officers from a peacekeeping mission.

A major rift between the department and Defence Forces developed over plans to bring the two soldiers home with senior officials later disputing the “emergency” nature of the evacuation put forward by the military.

The Department of Defence also said the military had become fixated on using the government’s Learjet for the mission despite concerns about its reliability on a journey with up to eight separate legs.

Finalising a realistic flight plan for the jet had also “proved elusive” with stop-offs in several countries en route complicated by Covid-19 restrictions.

The two officers ended up flying back to Ireland from their UN mission in the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on board commercial flights after handing over their weapons to “friendly forces”.

Internal records detail significant differences of opinion between the department and the Defence Forces over the operation with a senior official saying it “proved almost impossible” to get the military to look at other options beside the Learjet.

A ministerial brief prepared by the department’s then secretary general Maurice Quinn said it had not been an “emergency evacuation” given the two officers had been able to fly home on a commercial flight.

The brief said: “The Learjet was the only option put forward by the Defence Forces for the extraction. This clearly delayed the extraction. It proved almost impossible to get engagement with [them] … on the other options that were available.”

A report into the failure of HSE’s infectious disease reporting system during the Christmas Covid-19 surge

This is a copy of an internal report from the HSE on the failure of their Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting system.

Two days before Christmas as Covid-19 cases were surging, the performance of the system began to suffer “slow speeds and disconnection”.

The report said: “In the following days, there was an exponential increase in positive laboratory results.”

It also describes how the system was fifteen years old, no longer fit-for-purpose, and needed replacement.

However, it warned that even a new system would still face challenges.

Copy of the research paper submitted by TD Marc MacSharry to the Taoiseach seeking a return to Level 2 restrictions in October

A Fianna Fáil TD sent a research paper to the Taoiseach calling for Level-2 restrictions on a day when the Department of Health announced more than 1,000 Covid-19 infections.

Marc MacSharry said in the report that the virus was not “indiscriminate” and was mostly impacting older people and those with pre-existing conditions.

He said this rendered “a forced closure for younger, otherwise healthy individuals questionable” and suggested there was little evidence to support the idea restaurants and pubs were responsible for spread of the disease.

The Department of the Taoiseach initially refused to release the report saying it was sent on a “strictly confidential” basis.

They had said release of the research would make it less likely that other TDs and Senators would send information to the Taoiseach in future.

The case was appealed by Right to Know to the Information Commissioner and the Department relented and allowed release of the paper.

Marc MacSharry said the report was sent at a “point in time” before there was awareness of Covid-19 variants and that his views had changed over Christmas.

He said: “At the time, we were not developing any sort of strategy of trying to live with it. You try to make suggestions; society is suffering – is there any way to develop a strategy?

“From the beginning, I’ve been critical of our management [of this]. I don’t want to be put anybody in danger and my views would have changed over Christmas.

“You try to make suggestions and offer solutions; they’re not always acted upon, you’re not always right.”

Stark pre-Christmas warning for Department of Health that no public health department in the country had enough staff for Covid-19 response

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was told that not a single public health department in the country was sufficiently staffed for response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was also warned that the department in the North West of the country was “critically understaffed” and that Dublin’s public health team had a major gap at “clinical leadership level”.

The warnings came in a stark pre-Christmas message from the HSE warning that there was little “resilience” in operational plans for testing over the holiday period.

Separately, the HSE chief executive Paul Reid rejected Department suggestions of introducing self-referrals for Covid-19 testing in a letter from December 23.

In a letter to Minister Stephen Donnelly, he said the current system of using GPs to recommend testing was “the optimal model for referrals”.

He said introducing an alternative model would not be consistent with public health advice.

Mr Reid wrote: “It is also untested and therefore carries what we consider to be inordinate risk to the testing and tracing programme capacity, particularly given the current resurgence in infections.”

A pilot study on spread of Covid-19 in a meat processing plant and the latest inspection reports from abattoirs

A pilot study on the spread of Covid-19 in a meat processing plant found “inadequate ventilation” was playing a key role and that rapid testing of workers as they arrive at work should be considered.

It said one plant – which had been at the centre of an outbreak of coronavirus among workers – had a particular risk from the “re-circulation of chilled air” in areas where meat was being cut and packaged.

The report also said that rapid on-site testing should be looked at as a tool to stop infected workers before they even made it onto the factory floor.

Separately, a series of inspection reports from meat processing plants reveal continuing issues in the industry.

One plant was reported to have temperature screeners at its entrance. However, the temperature limit was incorrectly set at 38 degrees instead of the HSE guideline of 37.5 degrees.

At a number of meat processors, staff were found to be wearing less-effective visors instead of face masks. “Continue to review and adjust as necessary the use of face coverings,” the report advised.

At one plant, face masks worn incorrectly was a “common occurrence” and the plant was told to follow HSE guidelines on wearing of masks.

One report said there were “particular concerns” over layout of a canteen with seating placed close together and no protective screens between tables.

Another was told their plant needed more sanitation points and to ensure better social distancing in the smoking area.

One meat processor was told to confirm a Covid-19 isolation room would be available at the plant and to provide reassurance that the hand sanitiser gel they used contained at least 60% alcohol.

Concerns were also raised at one plant about toilets and locker rooms being too busy. “Set a maximum number of people [for them],” said the report.

Another plant was told it needed to increase the number of Covid-19 safety officers and hold a meeting with supervisors to reinforce the public health measures required.

The report added: “Proof that this has completed to be sent to the inspector.”

Non Covid-19 issues were also flagged with one plant warned about “dirty coverall” clothing strewn around a locker room at the time of an inspection. A major slip hazard was also identified on the slaughter line there and the plant was told to “reduce the quantity of animal fluids” spilling onto the floor.

Dept of Finance flagged concerns work-from-home tax credits might most benefit older men, already in secure jobs, and with higher salaries

The Department of Finance considered creating a new “bespoke” tax credit for home workers but flagged concerns the main beneficiaries would mainly be men, aged over thirty, in full-time employment, and already on higher salaries.

Officials also explored the possibility of a one-off tax credit of either €25 or €50 for every worker as well as a revamped “home renovation incentive” for refurbishing a room as an office.

A range of options were prepared for Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe ahead of Budget 2021 to help the hundreds of thousands of people forced to work from home throughout 2020.