Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 25 November 2021
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
Okay. We will ask for clarification on that. Do any other members wish to come in?
As regards the cover letter, in the final paragraph the Secretary General refers to comments I made during the afternoon session on 14 October after we had completed our engagement with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and specifically relating to the attendance of the programme director. The Secretary General goes on to say he can assure the committee that the taking of the evidence of the programme director by way of remote connection from his home accorded fully with the parameters of the committee's invitation. That is fair enough; it is allowed for within the parameters of the invitation. However, the problem is that we were not able to communicate with the person with overall responsibility for the project on a secure or reasonably good quality broadband connection. That is the point we are making. I raised it in the afternoon session that day. Reference is made to a specific reason the director could not attend the meeting in person or attend the Department on that day. That is fair enough. We do not want to know everyone's business and sometimes people are is tied down for a specific reason. There are several reasons a person could be tied down. However, If witnesses are going to give evidence remotely to the committee, we need to hold to the point that they do so from their headquarters or, at the very least, have a good broadband connection where they are. That day was a long way from satisfactory in terms of trying to organise and run a meeting and allow members to ask questions and get answers. I note that. We need to be firm in respect of witnesses ensuring they have a good broadband connection on the day. I understand that things can go wrong at the last minute, technology being technology.
That the Department charged with responsibility for rolling out the broadband plan was not able to communicate with us, or us with it, on the day of the committee hearing is just not acceptable.