Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 3 December 2015
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
Are the minutes of our meeting of 26 November 2015 agreed? Agreed. Are there any matters arising from the minutes?
The next item is correspondence received since our meeting on Thursday, 26 November 2015. Correspondence, dated 25 November 2015, received from the HSE is a follow-up from our meeting on 2 October 2015 and Nos. 1, 2 ,3 and 9 are to be noted and published. Correspondence, dated 20 November 2015, received from Mr. Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, on the PAC and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority report is to be noted and published. The position of the council can be dealt with in reply by the Minister to the committee's report. The DDDA, which is to be subsumed into the city council, is involved in a process seeking to find a solution to the structural deficits at Longboat Quay.
Sorry, that is correct. The Dublin Docklands Development Authority, DDDA, would be the responsible body. Will this have implications for the legislation on the transfer of liabilities from the DDDA to Dublin City Council when it is dissolved, which is before the Dáil and due to be completed this evening?
No. 3A.3, correspondence, dated 26 November 2015, received from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, regarding commissions of investigations. This is to be noted and published. This matter is relevant to today’s meeting when the Cregan inquiry into IBRC can be raised.
No. 3A.4, correspondence, dated 27 November 2015, received from NAMA, regarding submission to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance personnel. This is to be noted and published.
No. 3A.5, correspondence, dated 30 November 2015, received from Mr. Noel Waters, acting Secretary General, Department of Justice and Equality, regarding follow-up from committee meeting 5 November 2015. This is to be noted and published.
There are major areas of procurement involved in this correspondence. Chubb comes to €1 million. I presume there are problems in regard to alternative tenders in that matter. The other two personnel items, Noonan Services Group comes to €2 million and Aramark Workplace Solutions, €91,000. There are questions in regard to the wage payments by Aramark. Can we request the Department or the Prison Service to provide the committee with the wage levels of these two services groups?
Yes, we can.
No. 3B.1, correspondence, dated 27 November 2015, received from Ms Mary Farrell, regarding wards of court. This is to be noted. The reply to our report is still being finalised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We will follow up again on this matter.
No. 3B.2, correspondence, dated 30 November 2015, received from Mr. Brendan Moore, former board member of Bord na gCon, regarding Irish Greyhound Board. This is to be noted. The issues raised by Mr. Moore relate to the regulation of greyhound racing and are outside the remit of this committee. I propose we bring these matters to the attention of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This is one of the individuals who resigned from the board. When asked last week as to why this happened, we were not given full information. It might have been far more helpful to us if what was contained in this letter, if known to Bord na gCon, was explained to us. It is just a case of people being economic with the information they have. That is not good enough either.
No. 3B.3, correspondence received from Mr. Paul McQuaid, regarding allegations of irregularities in tender processes. I propose we ask the OPW for a full report on the matter and the Comptroller and Auditor General can follow up on this in the context of his audit.
No. 3C relates to documents relating to today’s committee meeting. Nos. 3C.1 and 3C.2 are briefing documents and opening statements for today’s meeting. These are to be noted and published.
No 4, reports, statements and accounts received since meeting of 26 November 2015. Will Mr. McCarthy comment on these?
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
The significant point is in regard to No. 4.2, St. Angela’s College Sligo Limited. Apart from the fairly standard recognition of a deferred pension funding asset by the college, which is standard for third level education bodies, the college discloses that it applies a minimum threshold of €50,000 for advertising of contracts for supplies and services, rather than the threshold of €25,000 set in Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines. The committee will recall that a similar issue arose with University College Dublin, which was applying a €60,000 threshold. My recollection is that at one stage €50,000 was the former threshold level but it was reduced to €25,000 by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2010. St. Angela’s has not brought down the threshold.
We have written to the college and are waiting for a response. The Higher Education Authority will be attending the committee next week and that matter will be raised with it, along with St. Angela’s.
Are there any queries about the proposed work programme?
We have pencilled in those two meetings for the new year, should we still be here.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald is late but has asked that attention be drawn to the fact that we have not received a response from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in respect of Mr. Douglas Fannin. Members will note the State’s attempted prosecution of the individual in question collapsed over two years ago. In that case, Judge Reynolds was highly critical of the actions of the State. Mr. Fannin left the courtroom with his integrity intact. At this stage, we have had an ongoing discussion with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on this matter. We have failed to get a satisfactory conclusion to some of those matters.
I will ask the clerk to remind the Department of the fact that we are still awaiting that response and bring Mr. Douglas Fannin’s case to the attention of the Department again. We have no work programme for 17 December 2015. We might be able to find half an hour on that date for the Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to come in and answer those questions.
Is the work programme agreed? Agreed.
Is there any other business?
I was contacted this morning about the Conal Devine report into allegations of abuse of foster children. It seems that the HSE still has not released the sections of the Conal Devine report as directed by the Office of the Information Commissioner. The eight-week appeal period expired over a week ago. I think it expired on the 24 November or 25 November. This really flies in the face of what Tony O'Brien, the head of the HSE, said at our previous meeting. He said he wanted to see the report published as quickly as possible. So a question arises. Why the delay? The report was commissioned using public funds. The Office of the Information Commissioner is funded through the Exchequer. The decision has been made. I do not know where to go with regard to actually making it happen. It is clear what the intent of the committee has always been. It is now clear what the Information Commissioner has directed. Maybe the first port of call might be the Secretary General of the Department of Health, with whom we have dealt on this matter on a couple of occasions, to ask him to expedite it and have it published by the end of the week, which is tomorrow. If that is agreeable, we should register that intent with the Department of Health immediately.
The Information Commissioner should express his view on this delay as well. If he makes a direction, examines the issue and comes to a conclusion, he has a role in terms of expressing a view on withholding it as well. He should do that.
We will write to the Department and the HSE in respect of the matter.
On the letter from Brendan Moore on the Irish Greyhound Board, in which he sets out different issues, we should send that letter to the board as well and ask it for its views on the issues that have been raised by Mr. Moore. We have agreed a letter to the HSE in respect of Deputy Deasy's remarks. In terms of the wards of court, that is an issue that needs to be dealt with. Again, can we set a timeframe by asking if the office would come back to us within a week? It has the report long enough and we had the correspondence this morning from Mary Farrell, which members should note and read. It is interesting. We should try to progress it as quickly as possible.
On that point, in her letter Ms Farrell indicates that this matter has been before the committee in one form or another since the year 2000. It is quite clear that there is some degree of urgency now. We should put it to bed before the end of the year as there will be very little time in the coming year. I agree entirely with the Chairman that we should now demand a response as quickly as possible from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform initially. What about the Courts Service? There seems to be an indication that this is where the resolution would take place. Have we written to the Courts Service about this matter?
-----bodies. Now it is coming back through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to us. The issue now is to ask that the report be given to us as quickly as possible. We will write again to ask where the report lies at present and set a deadline for next Thursday so we can have it at our meeting.
There is just one other matter with the HSE. It received a letter in respect of the carers and issues that were raised at a previous meeting. I do not recall receiving the response. We had asked them to deal with it urgently and that it was to have a complete breakdown. I ask that the clerk remind them again of the fact that the information in question seems to be outstanding? If there is no other business-----
One short item. If we are going back to Bord na gCon - we have a number of requests listed on which it is to come back to us and another one is being added - could we also ask it for an update or progress report on the sale of Harold's Cross? There are serious questions relating to planning applications and permission and so on.
Yes. So our business for 10 December will be the 2014 financial statements of Cork Institute of Technology and the 2013 financial statements of Waterford Institute of Technology. We will now deal with today's business. I ask that the witnesses be brought in.