Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 9 July 2015
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
Are the minutes of the meeting of 2 July 2015 agreed? Agreed. Are there any matters arising from the minutes? Members were circulated yesterday with a briefing note on the non-compliance with procurement rules arising from the Comptroller and Auditor General's audits in 2012 and 2013. We will schedule a meeting with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Office of Government Procurement in regard to this matter. That will be in September, I presume. Arising from our meeting last week, and I think Deputy Connaughton raised this matter, the Department is meeting that group today.
No. 3A is correspondence from Accounting Officers and-or Ministers. No. 3A.1 is correspondence dated 6 July 2015 received from Health Service Executive. It is a follow up to our Committee of Public Accounts meetingon 23 April 2015. It is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.2 is correspondence dated 7July 2015 received from Mr. Aidan O’Driscoll, Secretary General, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. That is a follow-up to our Committee of Public Accounts meeting on 18 June 2015. That correspondence is to be noted.
On the review he had spoken about, and the internal report is part of that, I raised that in the last few meetings and I think we should push them for confirmation that the review he agreed to in committee will take place. He should be asked when that will start.
We will put that on the agenda for the September meeting because there is a lot in the correspondence, and I certainly want to raise some issues that we raised with them at that time. We will put that on the agenda for our first meeting in early September.
No. 3B is individual correspondence. No. 3B.1 is correspondence dated 11 June 2015 from Mr. Ray Skitch re spending of public moneys by the Football Association of Ireland, FAI. This is to be noted. The matter does not fall within the remit of the committee and the individual has been informed. Whose remit does it fall within?
No. 3B.2 is correspondence dated 3 July 2015 from Mr. Hugh Rance re the Comptroller and Auditor General's Special Report No. 89. It is to be noted. This issue will be dealt with as part of today's meeting.
No. 3C is documents relating to today’s meeting. Nos. 3C.1 to 3C.4, inclusive, are the briefing documents, all to be noted and published. Nos. 3C.5 and 3C.6 are the opening statements for today's meeting, to be noted and published.
No. 4 is reports, statements and accounts received since our meeting on 2 July. They are all noted from 4.1 down to 4.21. The one we have to draw attention to is 4.20, which is the Higher Education Authority and the fact it has accumulated funds in five universities of €159 million at 30 September 2014. On 30 September 2013, the figure was €125 million. The Comptroller and Auditor General has drawn attention to this fact in previous meetings. I think we have to get an explanation as to the use of these funds and what they were intended for. The Comptroller and Auditor General might-----
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
I think the Chairman has summarised it. Essentially, it arises from a change in the pension arrangements in respect of those five universities as a result of the 2009 Act where an existing pension fund into which the universities were contributing was transferred to the National Pensions Reserve Fund. However, the Higher Educational Authority, HEA, continued to fund them as if they were still contributing and they were instructed to pay the surplus funds into individual pension fund accounts. They are recorded in the individual universities but they will be there in the future to meet liabilities that otherwise would fall on the HEA. It is an anomalous situation, and the fund is growing by about €30 million a year. I was just drawing attention to it in the circumstances.
We might review that when the HEA comes before us in the autumn. On 4.15, financial statements - IDA, it is a clear audit but note 8(e) of the financial statements discloses that non-effective expenditure of €1.28 million was incurred in 2014 on rent and associated costs related to unoccupied office space in two buildings.
Arising from that, and because we do not have a meeting scheduled with them, perhaps the clerk would write to the IDA and the Office of Public Works and ask for their plans for this, following which we can then take up the matter again.
The committee's work programme is now showing on members' screens. There are a number of provisional meetings scheduled for the autumn. We will also deal in September with the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, which sets out our work programme.
We can reconvene the week before, depending on the work schedule. The HEA has appeared before the committee. We had scheduled a meeting today in relation to Waterford Institute of Technology and the Kelly report.
We have received correspondence from the Department of Education and Skills on three different letters received from whistleblowers. I understand that correspondence is significantly large. I hope we can deal with that matter when the HEA appears before the committee. In the context of the presidents of the colleges, can we invite them in?
I asked that question last week and we had intended to do that this week. We should have the HEA, Mr. Kelly, the departmental officials and the presidents of the colleges concerned in together. There was an issue in relation to Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Cork Institute of Technology. We have yet to get an updated report on WIT.
This is not so much to do with the report but the audit of what went on there. We need to close that off. On the report, I know Deputy Deasy has an interest in that. We can deal with that on that day and then arrange a further hearing if we have to.
In terms of the agenda for that meeting, Mr. Kelly will be here, I presume. However, we will be dealing with the HEA. CIT is a different issue. We also need to address the issues raised previously in relation to WIT in terms of how they are being resolved and the current status in that regard.
Mr. Kelly's report deals with the potential amalgamation of the Waterford and Carlow institutes. If he is going to be before the committee to discuss his report, surely we should ask the presidents of the two institutes and, perhaps, the two chairmen also to attend.