Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform: Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform

Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013: Committee Stage

8:15 pm

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

In law the Minister is the Department. A Department does not have two heads so one cannot have a Minister with one view and somebody else in the Department with a different view. I accept this and it makes for common sense. If an inquiry is being held and we accept civil servants cannot comment on the policy, how can they help the committee in its consideration of what went on? Surely they would have put various policy options. They may not have agreed with the options, and they may not have reflected their individual positions, but they may have tabled them as being worth considering. For me it would be important to know what was presented to the Minister by way of options and not which was the favourite option of a civil servant. I would like to see how they provide information. It comes back to the paper trail. Depending on its nature, some of this information is obtainable under the freedom of information legislation. There is nothing wrong with the public seeing the documents sent to a Minister in the run-up to a budget outlining various approaches that could be considered. This would help us, and not just the elected Government, understand the preparedness of senior State officials at the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator. If it transpired they had no options to offer the Government at a key point it would be an observation in its own right, or if they tabled several options, some of which were valid but were ignored, it would give us a better understanding of how the system operated.


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