Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Public Accounts Committee

Business of Committee

9:00 am

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois, Fianna Fail)
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We are now in public session. Apologies have been received from Deputy Marc MacSharry.

I welcome members to the first meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts of the Thirty-second Dáil. I am pleased to have been selected as Chairman. I am committed to working with members to fulfil our remit. We will hold approximately 300 publicly funded organisations to account on how public money is spent. Our focus is to ensure that citizens get best services and value whereever possible and that all public moneys are well spent. Our work is primarily historical in that we must examine spending that has already taken place. The basic question we must ask is whether the money given to Departments and public bodies has been well spent. From past experience we know the answer is not always "yes", but where past mistakes cannot be corrected, we must learn from them. We must expect or demand that bodies examined by the committee recognise where things could have been done better and, more important, commit to the need to improve in the future. We have an important role in ensuring this happens so that citizens get the best possible service.

We will be calling witnesses here every week and we expect prompt and comprehensive answers from them. If witnesses do not have the answer to hand when they appear in person, I will expect them to have an official who can obtain the relevant information and supply it to us before the end of the meeting. In circumstances where they cannot provide the information before the end of the meeting, I expect they will answer the questions in writing within two weeks. If this is not done, they will be brought back in person to answer why the information was not provided. This will happen automatically four weeks after their first appearance before the committee. This should ensure that questions are not left on the long finger. That fact will be stated in the letter of invitation to the witnesses. Having said that, witnesses will be treated fairly. I encourage members to pass on their areas of interest to the Clerk in advance of a meeting so that witnesses can prepare in advance to respond to the questions. This will lead to a more productive meeting. We will allow for a general discussion after I take the first item on the agenda.