Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Public Accounts Committee

Business of Committee

10:00 am

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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Are the minutes of the meeting on 26 September, 2013, agreed? Are there any matters arising from the minutes? I will move on to correspondence. No. 3B.2 is correspondence from Councillor Padge Reck, Mulgannon, County Wexford. I will send it to the Department of Education and Skills to establish the outcome of complaints made to the Minister in 2008 by Councillor Reck. We will determine what happens there.

No. 3B.3 is correspondence dated 20 September 2013 from Mr. Owen Mullins, Dunlavin, County Wicklow, concerning education grants. It is to be noted and a copy is to be forwarded to the Minister for Education and Skills for a note on the matter. No. 3B.4 is correspondence dated 25 September 2013 from Mr. William Treacy, County Laois, concerning a request on the non-implementation of cost saving measures at Horse Racing Ireland. The letter is to be noted and forwarded to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for a note on the substantive issue raised in this correspondence.

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to comment. This issue has been ongoing for some time. On the work programme there is publicity about Bord na gCon, which is due to come before the committee. Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon get funding. In the article Mr. Treacy supplied to us from The Irish Field, there are allegations that €750,000 was lost due to a cost savings plan delay. The journalist who wrote the article said the loss was due to a delay in implementing cost saving measures agreed by the Turf Club and Horse Racing Ireland. We must invite both of those organisations to the committee to find out why there was such a delay and to discuss their financial situation. The organisations get large sums of money from the taxpayer. We have already agreed to bring in Bord na gCon which is the dog side of the fund allocated compared with the horse version of the fund. The vast majority of the overall fund goes on Horse Racing Ireland and a small amount goes to Bord na gCon. I do not say the organisations should come on the same day but they should both appear before the committee. I would send them the article, of which they are probably aware as it is in the public media.

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? What we will do is ask for a note from the Department and then schedule a date in due course for the organisations to come before the committee. No. 3B.5 is correspondence dated 30 September 2013 from Mr. Alan Smith regarding the Committee of Public Accounts investigation of the HSE SKILL programme. It is to be noted. Mr. Smith was the former general manager of SKILL and he has been referred to at a number of hearings of the committee in the context of the operation of the unofficial SIPTU account. In that regard he has been fully informed of his rights to give evidence to the committee and, indeed, the committee has invited him to do so. He has so far declined this opportunity. His position that he has co-operated fully with the HSE is therefore noted. We have found it extremely difficult to deal with the issue. We have applied to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for compellability powers under the new Act and we await the outcome of the application.

No. 3C.1 is correspondence dated 27 September 2013 from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This is final briefing material on matters to be considered at today's meeting. No. 3C.2 is correspondence received on 1 October 2013, from Mr. Robert Watt regarding his opening statement.

Under reports, statements and accounts received since the meeting of 26 September 2013, we have heard from Sligo Institute of Technology, the Higher Education Authority and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

No. 5 is the work programme. A meeting has been scheduled with Paul Maloney, former CEO of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, on 28 November 2013 to examine the Comptroller and Auditor General’s special report No. 77. A meeting has been scheduled with the HSE and the Department of Health on 14 November 2013 to examine chapter 22, eligibility for medical cards in the 2012 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. We will follow up early in the new year with another meeting when we will examine chapter 21, which deals with budgetary controls. At that stage the outturn for 2013 will be known. Is that agreed? Agreed. As we now have the Comptroller and Auditor General annual report for 2012, we will revise the work programme for the remainder of 2013 and circulate it next week. If members have proposals on the work programme, they should contact the secretariat. We will note the decision already made on the commissioner and see whether we can have an early hearing.

No. 6 is other business. Do members have any other business? Can we agree the agenda for next week, Thursday, 10 October 2013? The agenda for the meeting will consist of resumed consideration of the Comptroller and Auditor General special report No. 78 on matters arising out of education audits. The Department of Education and Skills, Waterford Institute of Technology and the Higher Education Authority will be in attendance. If the work programme is agreed, is it agreeable that we will call the witnesses into the room? Agreed.