Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 1 November 2012
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
We have engaged in significant scrutiny during a useful series of recent meetings, but, ultimately, it stemmed from a Government target to achieve savings of €75 million in allowances. The taxpayer is providing approximately €636 million in overseas development aid each year, much of which is well spent, but in the past few days it has emerged that €4 million intended to assist people in Uganda ended up in a government account there, which raises significant questions. We should reopen discussion on Vote 29 on international co-operation and ask the chief executive officer of Irish Aid and the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to come before the committee for a special meeting to scrutinise how the moneys in the Vote are spent and check what safeguards are in place. A number of questions, some of which were raised in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, are more relevant and topical now than when the committee examined the Vote. There are also new questions about aid provided by the Government through NGOs versus bilateral aid, the checks and balances in place and learning from international best practice. If the taxpayer is to be asked to continue to allocate such a large sum abroad - we have always been a generous nation - we need to know the money is going to the places the taxpayer intends it to go.
The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade is dealing with aspects of this matter. While I respect the Deputy's request which is supported by other members, perhaps we can deal with the matter in the context of the chapter in the current report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade is examining the matter from a different perspective. As a committee, we could adopt, the view that the Joint Committee on Health and Children examines HSE issues. We have a specific role in ensuring the correct appropriation of funds gifted by the House and the taxpayer to certain projects. I would like to examine this issue from a funding point of view, not from a policy point of view, in the context of where the money goes once it leaves the country.
There will not be because the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade is dealing with policy, whereas we will discuss a specific chapter in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. We can deal with the issue raised by Deputy Simon Harris in that respect. A delegation from the committee will travel to Mozambique to examine the processes in place to protect the taxpayer's money and where the money is going in respect of projects undertaken. We will have the opportunity, together with officials from the Comptroller and Auditor General's office, to inspect at first hand what is in place and we will do this on the basis of an invitation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It will also be connected with the report on what happened recently in Uganda.
We have agreed to request a meeting. I will ask the clerk to the committee to agree the date with the relevant officials as soon as possible, as the Deputy requested.