Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 16 April 2015
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
The Chairman asked for a note on the Jeanie Johnston, which I sent across yesterday evening. The key issue is the total amount of public funding provided for the Jeanie Johnstonproject. In so far as we can establish, while it is some considerable time since funding was provided, it appears the total was €12.24 million in public funding of a total project cost of €15.5 million. That includes allowances paid to FÁS trainees working on the programme which totalled some €1.78 million. A comprehensive report was produced in 2003 and I have made a copy of it available to the committee. It was commissioned by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, as it was then.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
My predecessor, Mr. John Purcell, reported in 2001 on the project but it was not completed at that stage. In August 2002, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Kerry County Council commissioned a report from Mazars and Mr. Sean Cromien, the former Secretary General of the Department of Finance. The report is the most comprehensive overview if members are visiting the project. It gives a good summary of the lessons to be learned from the project.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
My understanding is that it came from the International Fund for Ireland, the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation funds, corporate and private sponsors and some business expansion scheme investors, who received tax relief. There is an element of public subvention associated with the business expansion scheme contributions.
With the International Fund for Ireland and the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, are there not conditions that the money must be used for some purpose? It is lying idle at the moment, incurring losses. Perhaps we can find out whether there are conditions attached to the funds from the International Fund for Ireland and the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.
No. 3A is correspondence from Accounting Officers or Ministers. No. 3A.1 is correspondence, dated 16 March 2015, from Mr. Dermot Quigley of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is a follow-up from our meeting with the Office of Public Works and it is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.2 is correspondence dated 25 March 2015 from the HSE regarding a value for money report in regard to section 38 and section 39 bodies and it is to be noted and published. We can deal with this matter next week when the HSE is before us.
No. 3A.3 is correspondence dated 25 March 2015 from Mr. Joe Hamill, Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and is a follow-up on airstrips at Inishbofin and Cleggan and the commemoration of the 1916 Rising. That is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.4 is correspondence dated 1 April 2015 from Ms Clare McGrath, chairperson of the OPW, and is a follow-up on our meeting on 26 February. It is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.5 is correspondence dated 2 April 2015 from Mr. Niall Cody, chairman of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, and is a follow-up from the meeting on 12 March 2015. It is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.6 is correspondence dated 2 April 2015 is from Mr. John McCarthy, Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, and is a further follow-up regarding water services. It is to be noted and published.
No. 3B is individual correspondence. No. 3B.1 is correspondence dated 25 March 2015 from Mr. Gary Delaney, Loc8 Code Limited, regarding issues with the national postcode procurement process. It is to be noted. This matter is being examined by the Comptroller and Auditor General and we will await the outcome of his investigations before pursing it.
No. 3B.3 is correspondence received from Mr. William Treacy regarding Horse Racing Ireland and is to be noted.
No. 3C is documents relating to today’s committee meeting. Nos. 3C.1 to 3C.4, inclusive, are the briefing documents and opening statements for today’s meeting and are to be noted and published.
No. 4 is the list of reports, statements and accounts received since the meeting of 26 March from various bodies and includes Nos. 4.1 to 4.11, inclusive. Nos. 4.6 and 4.7 relate to the Family Support Agency.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
Yes. The 2013 financial statements are the last financial statements for the Family Support Agency. I have given a clear audit opinion on the financial statements, but there was a matter about which I was concerned regarding the regularity and propriety of certain travel and subsistence expense payments. I have issued a formal query to the Child and Family Agency, which has taken over responsibility for the areas previously managed by the Family Support Agency. A reply is due this week and, depending on the completeness of the reply, I will consider whether a separate report is required on the matter.
Before we move on, about a month ago witnesses from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform met the Small Firms Association regarding school arts supplies. We heard many of its concerns at the time. I think it was agreed that a meeting would take place as soon as possible. I understand that meeting has not yet taken place. Since then, two companies have closed down, with the loss of 15 to 20 jobs. They were family businesses, one in Mayo and one in Dublin. I am not suggesting that they closed down because that meeting did not take place. However, members raised concerns on the day that without movement on Government procurement this would become a wide-scale problem. Would it be possible for us to get in touch with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Secretary General to see why that meeting never took place?
The clerk informs me that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said that the meeting has been arranged. I want to express some concern about that. At that meeting it was stated quite clearly that we wanted the meeting to be held as soon as possible. It was also asked that the members here be informed of that meeting. From the papers I have received to date, I received no indication that the meeting had been arranged or would be arranged, or a date for the meeting, bar what the clerk has informed us. We should request that the meeting be held as quickly as possible.
I do not think it is okay, actually. That meeting was agreed. It is typical of Departments, when they come before us, to say they will do something and then go away and not do it. It is simply unacceptable, when one is dealing with people who are in business and who take risks every day to help the economy through their taxes and everything else, that they are ignored like this. I find it unacceptable. I ask the clerk that, before the end of business today, we have a date set for that meeting and that the members be informed as we requested.
The other part of the work programme is-----
There is one other item. At the last meeting I proposed that we invite the Courts Service and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor to come before the committee to discuss the Ian Bailey case on the basis that matters that were statute barred were only brought to the attention of the court on day 62 of a 64-day trial, which meant that most of the discussions that took place dealt with matters that could not be adjudicated on by the court. The planning of the Courts Service, the recruitment of the jury and all of that was quite a potential waste of taxpayers' money. Has there been any communication on that? Has that invitation gone out?
I understand there may be an issue in dealing with a specific case. At the last meeting we had agreed that we would invite the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and the Courts Service to deal generally with how they approach cases and what information is available. I would like to see that meeting held as soon as possible. We suggested that even if we had to schedule another meeting we would do that. Maybe we could make it clear that what we are anxious to discuss here is the whole approach of both agencies to court cases, how they are pursued and the costs generally involved, and for that meeting to be held with the Committee of Public Accounts as soon as possible.
Yesterday, or maybe this morning, the report on SUSI was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. We had discussed this briefly at one stage. It shows another failure on the side of the State to be able to efficiently set up an agency and deal with it without such problems arising. That report is available. We will issue a statement on it and we will arrange a meeting. I understand we have a schedule. It is on the work programme for 18 June.
The report on Cork VEC which we mention every week has not been released. We might remind the Secretary General again that we know it is there and we would like to see it. The Department might find time to review it at some stage and release it.
Is there any other business? Do any members wish to raise matters? Regarding Dublin docklands, I remind members to tell the secretariat of their availability for Wednesday at 2.30 p.m.
Yes. We can move on to the agenda for next Thursday, 23 April, which is the 2013 Appropriation Accounts of the Comptroller and Auditor General, Vote 39 - Health Service Executive, and Chapter 14 - Procurement by the Health Service Executive. That is next week's business. There are a lot of issues in the context of that particular hearing. Members may want to set time aside next Thursday if they have an interest in any part of it, because it may go beyond lunchtime. If it does, I ask them to select the section they are interested in and ensure that they are represented at the meeting.