Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Public Accounts Committee

Business of Committee

9:00 am

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

It is stated that to minimise the reoccurrence of the issues, additional training was provided to a targeted group of time-returning officers. We want them to spell out who are the time-returning officers and the staff in the payroll and staff records department. We want a more detailed view. This correspondence will come back to us when we get that information.

The next correspondence is No. 2591B from Mr. Terry Sheridan, principal in planning policy and legislation in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, providing information relating to gender equality and the appointment of board members to An Bord Pleanála. It gives detail of how many people were nominated, with 37 male nominees and 23 female nominees. Four men and three women were appointed to the board. The board now comprises seven men and three women in comparison with the position before 2017, when there were nine men and one woman on the board. We will keep after this but that provides some clarification.

No. 2592B is from Mr. Ray Mitchell of the HSE, dated 29 November 2019, providing information requested by the committee on the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Cuisle holiday resort. We will note and publish this but we will hold over discussion. Deputy MacSharry raised the matter of the facility in Roscommon the last day we met and we can give him an opportunity to discuss it next time.

No. 2596B is from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, providing information requested by the committee regarding the post-project review of the Pálás cinema project. We will note and publish this. It is interesting as, essentially, we were critical of the post-project review and the Department's response that a particular section in a particular Department would get this report to learn from it. We said there is no Department-wide learning process and, far more important, there is no learning across the wider public sector from such post-project reviews. We wrote to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to determine its role with respect to learning from these post-project reviews. We also asked Mr. Watt about the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, which was referred to in the report but which most people had not heard of before. He gives the detail of this and we will publish that.

There was a second recommendation that spending codes should include a requirement for every post-project review to have a section outlining key learning for the public service. It was suggested that an appropriate way of communicating such learning to all public bodies be explored. Mr. Watt's response is that the recommendation is being addressed in the forthcoming update on the public spending code, a guide to evaluation, planning and managing public investment, which is due to be published shortly subject to Government consideration and approval. It appears that after all these years this type of process will be included in learning through the public spending code. Where mistakes happen or learning should occur from a particular project, there should be a system-wide learning experience. It is similar to the HSE experience with State claims. Everybody makes a mistake, gets something wrong or does not do something the best way but people seem to do an internal report and do not tell anybody else about it. We would like a little more openness and the correspondence is indicating we will get there. We will keep an eye on that new code whenever it is published. We will note and publish the correspondence, and at least it is a positive response to a recommendation that there should be learning across the public sector from these reports.

Next is correspondence from private individuals and other correspondence. We can deal with these but we will not publish them because they are from private individuals. The first is from the Irish Road Hauliers Association, IRHA, dated 5 November 2019, responding to recent correspondence from the Road Safety Authority, RSA, on its functions that have an impact on the licensed road haulage sector. The IRHA expresses doubts about the capacity, competence and the effectiveness of the RSA in enforcing regulations and controls in the haulage sector. The president of the organisation also states that it is not inclined to participate in meetings with the RSA. We will note that item. The matter has been well aired.


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