Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 27 May 2021
Public Accounts Committee
2019 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 31 - Transport, Tourism and Sport
I have a couple of things to mention to Mr. Spratt before we close up. I do not want Mr. Spratt to give me an answer now, in terms of the roads in County Offaly. There is a special case for north County Offaly, because the roads are over peat. Mr. O'Leary is nodding in agreement. There is a serious issue there, in terms of road safety. Can someone please have a look at the R400? The engineers and councillors need the money for it. The local population needs it. There are road safety issues with the R400 in the area where the old Derrygreenagh works were. There is a serious situation in north Offaly, because it is going over peat.
The other thing I wanted to briefly mention was the 1951 CIÉ pension scheme. I do not want to go into it in detail. There are people there for 40 years who have paid into a pension scheme and are left in a precarious situation. The trustees have made a High Court application. There should be no further discussion of the 1951 scheme, until that happens. Another member of the committee has already raised this. The Department needs to keep an eye on it, because there are people who have paid into that scheme throughout their term of employment with CIÉ.
The last thing I want to raise with the witnesses is the issue of bus shelters. I have had to write, as a member of a local authority and as a Deputy, to the chair of the National Transport Authority, about bus stops for Mountrath, Castletown, Borris-in-Ossary, Doonane, Crettyard and Ballylynan. It is crazy stuff. There is provision under the local authority Act brought in by the former Minister, Mr. Phil Hogan, whereby that power is given to local authorities. I did not agree with him on many things, but one of the things he did was the provision in that Act.
There is huge frustration at local authority level, because they feel there is significant micromanagement by the Department of Transport. Local authorities have excellent engineers. There are good local authority members. There are good management systems in place. I know it is a matter for the Minister of Transport more than the witnesses, but I do not want to let the opportunity pass. We need to allow the local authorities to breathe. We need to breathe a bit of life and democracy back into local authorities.
Can the issue of bus shelters be delegated back to local authorities? If one goes over the Border, into the Six Counties, there are bus shelters all over the place. There are bus shelters at every half-mile point on the road, including for school buses. We cannot seem to get them in counties Laois or Offaly and every other Deputy here will concur with me on this, in terms of their counties. It is too bureaucratic. It is the local authority. Give it the money. Let it do it. It will do it cheaper as well. I ask Mr. Spratt to come back to me with a note on that. I am saying that in a constructive way.
It is good news about the driving tests. I welcome that staff numbers are being increased. We look forward to that being expedited.
We are out of time. I thank all the witnesses for joining us and the Department for the information it provided on a wide range of issues. I also thank the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff for attending and assisting the committee. It is agreed for the clerk to seek any follow up in the information and carry out any agreed actions arising from the meeting? Agreed. Is it also agreed we publish any opening statements and briefings provided for us today?
I remind members of the committee that directly after the meeting there will be a photo shoot outside, on the Plinth, so they should have their best suits on. I remind members also that we will launch a report on our engagement with the Office of Public Works at 12 o'clock and that the launch will be published on the Oireachtas website. I thank everyone. Go raibh míle maith agaibh. The committee is adjourned. On 9.30 a.m. next Tuesday, 1 June, the committee will meet in private session.