Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Public Accounts Committee

Transport Infrastructure Ireland: Financial Statements 2020

9:30 am

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

No apologies have been received. Deputies Carroll MacNeill and Sherlock have advised that they will be late arriving due to other engagements.

I welcome everyone to the meeting. While Covid-19 restrictions have been relaxed, it is open to members and witnesses to attend in person. They should continue to wear face coverings when not addressing the committee. Members of the committee attending remotely must continue to do so from within the precincts of Leinster House. This is due to the constitutional requirement that, in order to participate in public meetings, members must be physically present within the confines of the Parliament. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, is a permanent witness.

This morning we shall engage with officials from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, to examine its financial statements for 2020. TII has been advised that the committee may also wish to following matters during the course of the engagement: TII's role as a sponsoring authority for MetroLink; public private partnerships, PPPs; and matters relevant to TII's remit in recent correspondence from the Department of Transport to this committee. That correspondence is item R0967.

We are joined in the committee room by the following officials from TII: Mr. Peter Walsh, chief executive; Mr. Nigel O'Neill, director of the capital programme; Mr. Pat Maher, director of network management; Ms Audrey Keogh, director of business services; Mr. Cathal Masterson, director of commercial operations. Attending remotely from outside the precincts of Leinster House are the following officials from the Department of Transport: Ms Ethna Brogan, assistant secretary; Mr. Garret Doocey, principal officer, who was with us last week; Mr. Andrew Ebrill, principal officer in the national roads, greenways and active travel division; and Mr. Dominic Mullaney, principal adviser in the regional and local roads division. They are all very welcome.

When we begin to engage, I ask Members and witnesses to mute their microphones when not contributing so we do not pick up any background noise or feedback. As usual, I remind all those in attendance to ensure that mobile phones are on silent or switched off.

I wish to explain some of the limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses in respect of references witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the precincts of the Parliament is protected, pursuant to both the Constitution and statute, by absolute privilege. A number of today's witnesses, however, are to give their evidence remotely, from a place outside the parliamentary precincts, and, as such, may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as witnesses physically present do. Such witnesses have already been advised of this and they may think it appropriate to take legal advice on this matter.

Members are reminded of the provisions of Standing Order 218 to the effect that the committee shall refrain from enquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government, or a Minister of the Government, or the merits of the objectives of such policies. Members are also reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside of the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

To assist our broadcasting service and the Debates Office, I ask that members direct their questions to specific witnesses. If a question has not been directed to a specific witness, I ask each witness to state his or her name the first time he or she contributes. This applies mainly to those contributing online from a remote location.

I now call on Mr. Seamus McCarthy, the Comptroller and Auditor General, to make his opening statement.


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