Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
Today, we will deal with the HSE report to the Committee of Public Accounts on the former foster home in Waterford community care area, which was the subject of the Conal Devine report. I draw the attention of members to three pieces of correspondence; first, correspondence from the Office of the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána relating to today's meeting; and, second, correspondence from Ms Mary Farrell about the wards of court. It is disappointing that at the final meeting of the PAC, this issue still has not been dealt with. We issued the report last June and at this stage we should have had a formal response to our recommendations. It will now be a matter for the next committee. I urge this Department and all other Departments involved in this to deal with the issue of the wards of court as quickly as possible. Wards of court are very vulnerable individuals and the funds in this instance are about to run out. Following the request of the Committee of Public Accounts at its previous meeting for this information, I would have expected those concerned to provide a speedy response. We have not had a response.
Chairman, I was going to say that was astonishing, but it is not. In some ways it is nearly par for the course in terms of the slow response rate of certain Departments and agencies to this committee. I have had correspondence from Ms Mary Farrell on behalf of the families of the wards of court. They are extremely disappointed, frustrated and angry at this stage that not alone is the committee left waiting for the Department's response but, more important, they are left in this position. I cannot understand the attitude of the Department that they can disregard the committee. They have had the report provided by the PAC since July 2015 and have had ample time and opportunity to respond, and now at the conclusion of this Dáil we have not received its response. It will fall to the next committee which must be firm and insistent that when a response is sought by the Committee of Public Accounts, it is supplied in a speedy fashion. It shows the level of contempt for the Committee of Public Accounts and the parliamentarians who are on the committee, but most disgracefully it shows a level of contempt for the families who are directly affected by the issue of ward of court and the fund itself. The families have been left hanging.
In the course of today's meeting with the representatives from the HSE, we will discuss the culture of that organisation, the deficiencies and the issue of accountability. The attitude of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to the Committee of Public Accounts and the families involved reflects a major problem of accountability and an issue around its response to the families and to the committee.
Similarly, I had contact on this issue. I agree with Deputy McDonald's comments.
What concerns me most, beyond the lack of respect for this committee, is the situation regarding the victims in terms of wards of court. We are talking about vulnerable people, and it is very shoddy that we have not had a response.
To add to that, because it is to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, it does not say much about its attitude towards reform and the importance of dealing with such issues.
The third piece of correspondence is from Mr. Kieran Byrne, which we will circulate because it has just come in, formerly of Waterford Institute of Technology, WIT, responding to issues raised at the last appearance of the Higher Education Authority, HEA. That will be circulated, and we will note it and publish it.
The next business for today is the HSE report. We will call in the witnesses.
What about Tom Galvin, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine? To remind the Chairman, the last note we got was from the Department, which stated that it would be corresponding with the committee very shortly, so we still have nothing.
It was in contact with the Clerk just before the meeting to say it would have a draft report and that he will be in touch with the Clerk again, but presumably when the Dáil election is called we probably will not hear any more from that. It will come to the next meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts.