To ask the Minister for Social Protection the contents of the new service level agreement that has been issued to the money advice and budgeting service companies and in particularly the concerns raised by MABS officials in relation to the restrictive nature of the agreements; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D.):
The Money Advice and Budgeting Service ( MABS), under the aegis of the Citizens Information Board, provides a high quality personal service to assist people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems, in particular those on low incomes and people living on social welfare payments.
In 2013, the Citizens Information Board has been allocated some €47.4 million from the exchequer of which some €19 million has been assigned to MABS and €14.6 million has been assigned to the Citizens Information Services. The corresponding allocation to the Citizens Information Board in 2012 was €46.8 million of which some €18.3 million was allocated to MABS and €14.6 million for the Citizens Information Services.
The Citizens Information Board is responsible for ensuring that all appropriate governance arrangements are in place in relation to the expenditure of these public funds. It is essential that this significant amount of public monies is carefully monitored and properly accounted for, in terms of financial accountability, effective performance and excellent delivery of quality services to the customer and taxpayer, who ultimately funds these services. The Board is responsible for ensuring that all appropriate governance arrangements are in place in relation to the expenditure of these public funds.
An important element of assessing accountability is through the formal arrangement of Service Level Agreements. These are annual contracts between the CIB and the 96 separate companies, which provide the services for which the Citizens information Board has responsibility, including the 42 local Citizens Information Services and the 53 MABS companies. These contracts are agreed by the governing board of the Citizens Information Board and cover standard items such as service delivery, governance, financial controls, HR practices, reporting, evaluation, monitoring etc. This enables the Board to ensure that excellent service and best value is achieved across the wide range of services it provides.
With regard to the 2013 Agreement the CIB met with the representative forums of MABS and CIS to discuss issues raised. To date, some 40 CIS companies and 19 MABS companies have signed the contract and are fully compliant with the governance and accountability requirements.
The Citizens Information Board is engaging with the remaining companies to resolve outstanding matters and following consultation with the MABS and CIS network is bringing forward a longer term contract to govern the period to end 2016. I am confident this will secure the agreement of all and would like to assure the Deputy that there is no risk to service delivery and all parties are fully engaged in ensuring that the excellent service to those most in need continues as required.