Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 4 July 2013
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
We will now begin in public session. No. 1 is the minutes of our meetings of 20, 26 and 27 June. Are they agreed? Agreed. No. 2 is matters arising from the minutes. There are no matters arising.
No. 3 is correspondence received since our meeting on Thursday, 27 June.
I had requested that the Valuation Office appear before the committee. I raised that when the officials from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government appeared before the committee last week. Have we set a date for the Valuation Office to come before the committee to speak on the issues I raised, particularly as they pertain to the increase in commercial rates due to revaluation?
It is okay. Will any other officials appear before the committee with the officials from the Valuation Office? It would be helpful if one or two officials from the line Ministry, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, who deal with revaluations would come before the committee with officials from the Valuation Office.
There is the element of statutory independence but it is the line Ministry. I have checked the Act and the Minister has power to revoke and amend the Act if necessary. It would be helpful if officials from the Department that is the line Ministry were to come in as well.
I am sure the officials from that Department who would be knowledgeable about that will be in with us. The Clerk has advised me that the Secretary General of the Department, Mr. Watt, will be in next week and the Deputy could raise the issue with him also.
Is that fair enough? I do not know what is on the agenda in terms of Mr. Watt from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform coming in but this is an important issue that has been raised here and we could give him due notice of it.
The next item is correspondence received since our meeting of 27 June 2013. No. 3A.1 is correspondence dated 28 May 2013 from Mr. Frank Ryan, chief executive officer, Enterprise Ireland, re Wicklow Enterprise Park, to be noted and published. Nos. 3A.2 to 3A.5 all refer to matters relating to Wicklow Enterprise Park which was raised by Deputy Harris.
Nos. 3A.3 to 3A.5 will be dealt with next Thursday.
No. 3A.6 is correspondence, dated 25 June 2013, from Chief Superintendent Orla McPartlin, personal assistant to the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, re providing additional information requested at our meeting of 16 May, to be noted and published. No. 3A.7 is correspondence, dated 25 June 2013, from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, re forwarding the minute of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in response to the committee's report on the Health Service Executive, to be noted and published. No. 3A.8 is correspondence, dated 2 July 2013, from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, re forwarding the minute of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in response to the committee's report on Irish Aid, to be noted and published.
Moving on to individual correspondence, No. 3B.1 is correspondence, received on 16 June 2013, from Mr. Edward Gus Ryan, chairman, Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, re the Irish greyhound industry, to be noted and forwarded to the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for appropriate follow up. Is there a timeframe for them to come back to us on that?
No. 3B.2 is correspondence, dated 27 May 2013, from Mr. Frank Russell re Build and Allied Trades' Union, BATU, to be noted and a copy forwarded to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners for appropriate follow up on the settlement of a tax bill and to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for a note on use of departmental funds.
No. 3B.3 is correspondence, received on 11 June 2013, from Mr. Kevin Fitzgerald, Corbally, County Limerick, re digital audio recordings - Irish Courts Service, to be noted and a copy to be forwarded to the Courts Service for a note on the matter. No. 3B.4 is correspondence, dated 27 June 2013, from Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills, re forwarding correspondence with Mr. John Fallon, Ballina, County Mayo, to be noted. No. 3B.5 is correspondence dated 19 June 2013 from Mr. Eamonn O'Neill re previous correspondence with the committee regarding An Garda Síochána, to be noted. As this issue is before the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, we have no function in the matter.
No. 3C is correspondence related to today's meeting. No. 3C.1 is correspondence, dated 26 June 2013, from Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills, re briefing paper on matters to be considered at the meeting of 4 July 2013, to be noted and published. No. 3C.2 is correspondence, dated 27 June 2013, from Mr. Paul O’Toole, director general of FÁS, re briefing paper on matters to be considered at the meeting of 4 July 2013, to be noted and published. No. 3C.3 is correspondence, received on 1 July 2013 from Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills, re the opening statement, to be noted and published. No. 3C.4 is correspondence, received 2 July 2013, from Mr. Paul O'Toole, director general of FÁS, re the opening statement, to be noted and published.
The next item is reports, statements and accounts received since our meeting of 27 June and No. 4.1 is Waterford County Enterprise Board Annual Report 2011.
No. 5 is the work programme, which is now on screen. The IDA will meet with the committee on Thursday, 19 September 2013. We will meet with the Department of Social Protection on 18 July. As agreed with Deputy Deasy, we will deal with the matter he raised as well.
The next item is any other business. Do members have any other business to raise?
I wish to raise a minor point which I raised with the Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government last week.
It highlights yet again our lack of oversight of local authorities and I want to place it on the record of the committee, especially when we see media reports in The Sunday Timesof council chambers under a local government reform programme that is meant to reduce the cost of local government engaging in lavish public expenditure of taxpayers' money. People are now paying property taxes directly into the local authorities yet they see in a number of local authorities, particularly in the Dublin area, large sums of money being spent on rennovating council chambers, with more than €500 being spent on chairs and so on.
There is a broader issue here in that when central Government makes a decision, the trickle-down effect of the cost at a local level does not come under the same level of scrutiny, and I wanted to put that on the record. We have corresponded with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform previously about our frustration at not being able to examine these areas, and this is another example of it.
I agree with the Deputy. I do not want to sound like a broken record but it has a relevancy when it comes to the levying of commercial rates as well. Whether it is the spending of the property tax or the levying of commercial rates, it is an issue that needs scrutiny. It is unchecked in some local authorities as far as I can see.
These are points that we have made previously and as I said, we should possibly make them to the Secretary General next week but they are noted.
The first draft of the bank stabilisation report will be circulated to members this evening. I suggest that we sit for some time in private session at the commencement of our meeting on 11 July to discuss that draft. If members have any amendments to make they should contact the clerk before next Thursday. If they want to raise any other issue around it they should raise it with the clerk.
Can we agree our agenda for our meeting on Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 10 a.m.? We will meet with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The agenda for the meeting will consist of the 2011 Annual Report and Appropriation Accounts of the Comptroller and Auditor General: Vote 7 - Superannuation and Retired Allowances; Vote 42 - Office of the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform; Chapter 6 - Financial Commitments under Public Private Partnerships; Chapter 12 - Vote Accounting; and Chapter 13 - Procurement without a Competitive Process. Is that agreed? Agreed.
When the representatives of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform attend next week, Mr. Quinn, the official was responsible for procurement. Could we ask him to attend as well because they overlap in terms of procurement and public-private partnerships.