Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 1 November 2012
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
The first item on the agenda concerns the minutes of our meeting on 23 and 24 October 2012. Are these minutes agreed to? Agreed. The minutes of 25 and 31 October will be taken at our next meeting.
Deputy Harris had indicated that he wished to raise the issue of Irish Aid and we had that down as No. 2 on the agenda, but we will wait and see if Deputy Harris attends and we can take it at that point.
No. 3 is correspondence received since 25 October. No. 3A is correspondence from Accounting Officers. No. 3A.1 is correspondence dated 12 October 2012 from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, that was deferred from our meeting on 25 October 2012. It is a minute from a previous report and we will take that at another date. Is that agreed? Agreed.
No. 3A.2 is correspondence from 5 October from Mr. Ray Mitchell, parliamentary and regulatory affairs division, forwarding a note regarding the deal on the cost of drugs with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association. This is to be noted and we will incorporate this note in our upcoming report on the HSE, which is being completed.
No. 3A.3 is correspondence dated 25 October 2012, from Mr. Tom O'Mahony, Secretary General, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is linked to correspondence under No. 3A.7 re providing information previously requested by the committee regarding CIE and Bus Éireann. This is to be noted and published. There is a separate letter relating to the oversight of the spend from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Taking the two together, I think the committee could have a useful session with the National Transport Authority whose accounts are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and who has received independent audits of the public service obligations payments made to CIE. We can table that for a future date, perhaps as early as possible now that we have the information.
No. 3A.4 is correspondence dated 26 October 2012 from Mr. John Moran, Secretary General, Department of Finance, re providing information previously requested by the committee regarding taxpayers' money given to AIB for the purposes of mortgage write-downs. This is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.5 is correspondence dated 26 October 2012 from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, re providing information requested by the committee at its meeting of 18 October 2012. This is to be noted and taken into consideration in the context of our upcoming report on the review of public sector allowances.
No. 3A.6 is correspondence dated 30 October 2012 from Mr. Tom Boland, chief executive, Higher Education Authority, re providing information requested by the committee at its meeting of 4 October 2012. This is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.7 is correspondence dated 31 October 2012 from Mr. Andy Harkness, secretary and director of audit, Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, re providing information previously requested by the committee regarding CIE. This is to be noted and published.
No. 3C is individual correspondence. No. 3C.1 is correspondence dated 26 October 2012 from Mr. John Curry re County Wexford Vocational Education Committee, to be noted. This is an individual grievance issue, although it also shows up how the Department mishandled the issue and did not issue a reply to this individual's concerns for three years. The resolution of this is not a matter for the Committee of Public Accounts, however, so we will ask that the Department and County Wexford VEC deal fully and openly with this individual's complaint and correspond with us concerning the response they issue.
No. 3D concerns documents relating to the committee meeting of 1 November 2012. No. 3D.1 is correspondence dated 17 October 2012 from An Garda Síochána forwarding details regarding payment of allowances in An Garda Síochána, to be noted. No. 3D.2 is correspondence dated 24 October 2012 from An Garda Síochána forwarding details regarding payment of allowances in An Garda Síochána, to be noted. No. 3D.3 is correspondence received 31 October 2012 from Mr. Martin Callinan, Commissioner, An Garda Síochána, re opening statement, to be noted and published. No. 3D.4 is correspondence received 1 November 2012 from Mr. John Redmond, General Secretary, Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, re opening statement, to be noted and published.
No. 4 concerns reports, statements and accounts received since meeting of 11 October 2012. No. 4.1 is Leopardstown Park Hospital, annual financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2011. No. 4.2 concerns the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland's annual report for 2011.
No. 5 is our work programme which is now on screen. It takes account of the schedule of meetings on the payments of public sector allowances in 2011 and also includes meetings scheduled up to 20 December 2012. The meeting arranged with the HSE on Tuesday, 6 November will have to be rescheduled due to an issue with the availability of Oireachtas committee rooms. The HSE representatives are available on Thursday, 8 November but only in the afternoon. I propose, therefore, that we schedule the meeting for 2 p.m. on Thursday, 8 November. Would members consider that to be an appropriate time? The HSE representatives are not available on Tuesday or on Thursday morning so we have suggested to them to meet at 2 p.m. on Thursday, 8 November.
Clerk to the Committee:
There was a problem with the room here because we do not have first call on it on Tuesday. We had them booked and they agreed to come on Tuesday but because we do not have first call on the committee room, we were basically gazumped out of this room. It will, therefore, be on Thursday at 2 p.m. to deal with the allowances issue.
I have a point regarding the report itself and how we will draft it. We are having many very good meetings about this issue and are well into the trees, but we must also be mindful of the forest. I would like first to have a discussion about how we are going to engage in drafting the report in order that when a draft appears in front of us, neither the structure nor the content will come as a big surprise to anybody. I would be hopeful the agreement of it will be as straightforward as it can be.
Clerk to the Committee:
There are a number of issues. First, the committee will have a full involvement in drawing up the report. Primarily the conclusions and recommendations are where people go to first, so that will be the key issue. I have a consultant who, as we speak, is looking at our meetings. He is pulling all the information together. We will be able, therefore, to pull together a lot of the information that has been given, especially the information on graphs that has come to us. We will be able to put them into a series of chapters with the issues we have discussed. It will be based around the issues that have arisen in the discussion in each meeting. We will synopsise those issues.
There is a notice here that states we want to launch the report on 14 November, while we have our final hearing on 8 November which is the end of the previous week. When does the clerk think we will have a draft report?
Clerk to the Committee:
We will have a draft for the following week. We may have to push back the launch because the HSE has pushed us out a small bit. In order that members can have a full input into it, we will have one or two private meetings the following week to get to grips with it. I would be anxious to have the first draft for members by Tuesday, 13 November and maybe have a meeting on Wednesday or Thursday in order that people have a chance to read it.
Could I make a suggestion? If we are going to have the launch on 14 November, and will have a draft report ready on 12 or 13 November, perhaps we should push back the suggested launch date to the following week.
We have to give as much attention to the actual report and its content as we did to all the hearings to date. If individual members want to discuss this with the clerk, they should feel free to do so. If extra time is needed as we work our way through the report and its recommendations, we will then give extra time. The dates are just to give a reasonable structure but we will not rush into a final report. It may very well be towards the end of November and something else may happen in terms of our consideration of the report, which will push it back by a number of days. I do not think anyone will mind that provided we are all happy with the report at the end of the process.
Before we get the content of the report, would it be possible for someone to share with us what the suggested structure of the report is going to be? If we get agreement on what the structure looks like, including headings, we will not end up with a big discussion at the very start with people saying they wished we had done it another way, and someone else disagreeing.
Once the Health Service Executive submission is heard, we will probably look at a private meeting with a consultant to have an overview of what has happened to now and the structures being put in place. If there are any difficulties, that would be the time to raise that issue.
Clerk to the Committee:
That is a good suggestion. The HSE report is being drafted as we speak. Nothing major will change with the HSE’s details. The general themes that we can take from all members’ contributions can be fed into it. I will have an early draft ready for next week. The more rough drafts one has, the better.