Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Public Accounts Committee

Business of Committee

9:00 am

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

We will discuss the acceptance of the specific recommendation regarding the Kildare and Wicklow ETB investigation. The committee also recommended that the outcome be established and agreed between the Department of Education and Skills and Education and Training Boards Ireland, ETBI. It was also recommended that all future public funding to ETBI be clearly aligned to clear and measurable goals. The ETBI stated that the format of the engagement will be reviewed for 2019 with a view to including more measurable goals, where appropriate. That is good and we will presume that will be done in 2019.

The committee recommended that the Department of Education and Skills carry out a full assessment of the risk associated with an ETB chief executive and the director not being based in the head offices. That has been accepted and, as an initial step, the Department will collect further information from the ETBs on how functions are managed across their offices, the locations of the relevant senior personnel and it will engage further as appropriate. The Department is taking up that recommendation and obtaining the necessary information to help it do that.

Recommendation 15 was to the Department of Education and Skills and referred to the conclusion of a transfer of property - here we go again - from religious organisations to the State under the redress scheme. That job is not being done and we are having to do it for the Department. We have been doing it here every quarter. We are being told that quarterly reports are being produced but they indicate that the dates are being moved out. That issue will not be dropped from our agenda. We are pleased the Department has accepted the recommendation but we want it to ensure it is implemented.

The next item is the published quarterly report of the Department of Education and Skills. We are agreed on that. Some of our recommendations are on the same topic but from different angles. We had a recommendation that the Department of Education and Skills complete and publish the Caranua eligibility review forthwith. The Department stated the review had been completed and published in May 2018, which was after our report was produced.

The next recommendation was to An Garda Síochána. It referred to the Garda internal audit service and improvements in respect of Templemore Garda College. That has been accepted. I can deal with all of these now. An Garda Síochána wrote back to us stating that 11 of our 19 recommendations were completed or closed. The Policing Authority is dealing with that issue but it is no harm for us to ask for an update on the recommendations in the report. There were 19 and 11 had been completed when we received this letter in the summer. We also had other recommendations on all of the internal audit reports. That correspondence will cover it.

In recommendation 21 the committee recommended that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection prioritise the recruitment of additional medical assessors to ensure that cases awaiting medical review are dealt with in a timely manner. The Department states that a further recruitment drive to establish new medical assessors on a panel is proposed to commence in quarter 3 of 2018. Will that add to the problem with disability payments? It could be a different issue. There was a slowness in processing any application that had a medical assessment because there was a shortage of medical assessors. The Department has stated it is recruiting more assessors in quarter 3 of 2018.

The next item was the committee's recommendation that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection focus social welfare debt recovery efforts on the 5.7% of cases which contribute 60% of the outstanding debt. The Department has accepted that. We also made a recommendation that every amount on its books of under €100 should be written off. To chase those debts would probably cost more than it is worth. The Department has also accepted that and it is looking at the procedure in respect of writing off older and smaller debts. I am sure that the Comptroller and Auditor General will report on how the Department gets on to us next year.


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