Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 22 February 2018
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, as a permanent witness to the committee. He is accompanied by Ms Patricia Devlin, the deputy director of audit in his office. Apologies have been received from Deputies McDonald, Cassells, Aylward and Farrell. The first item on the agenda is the minutes of the meeting of 15 February 2018. Are they agreed? Agreed. The next item is matters arising from the minutes. I have one question in this regard. We wrote to the HSE a week or two ago about salary overpayments. Has any response been received? I understand we will have a reply to that next week. That is grand. It may or may not be a significant item. We will wait and see. We will move on to correspondence received. We have some correspondence today.
The first item of correspondence is No. 1105A, briefing material from the Revenue Commissioners for today's meeting. We will note and publish that.
No. 1107A is briefing material on corporation tax from Dr. Brian Keegan of Chartered Accountants Ireland for today’s meeting. We will note and publish that and circulate it to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight and the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, both of which may also have an interest in it.
Under category B, correspondence from Accounting Officers or Ministers and follow-up to previous meetings of this committee, No. 1081 was received on 12 February last from the Higher Education Authority. It comprises a follow-up review report, carried out by Dr. Richard Thorn, regarding certain matters and allegations relating to the University of Limerick. We mentioned this last week. Dr. Graham Love has requested that the report be dealt with confidentially and that it not be published. He has also mentioned that there are three related ongoing High Court actions. Having checked with the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Adviser here in Leinster House, we have circulated the report. I propose that we will respect the request for confidentiality and therefore will not publish it. The report is available to members but is not being published. I ask members not to publish or circulate it by any other means. We will note the item for now.
No. We could not know that at this stage, in fairness.
No. 1087, is a letter from Mr. John O'Sullivan, who is the chief executive and commissioner of valuation. It is a follow-up to information requested at a previous meeting. We will note and publish that.
The next item-----
I was about to move on to No. 1089. The previous item, No. 1087, is a letter providing figures "before and after the Tribunal determination for the valuations upheld and changed by the Valuation Tribunal by reference to .... the C&AG chapter". Mr. O'Sullivan says in the letter that "because of the requirement to validate this information with the records of the Tribunal, I regret that it was not possible to have same included with the material forwarded to the Committee with my letter of 8th February" and accordingly, he is now asking us to include this document with our previous correspondence received from the Valuation Office. Is that okay?
Okay. We understand that issue. We ask the Comptroller and Auditor General to come back to us on that specific issue as part of his ongoing work. We will let him report back on whatever he thinks is the best and most efficient format from his point of view.
No. 1089 is a letter, dated 14 February 2018, from Mr. John McCarthy, who is the Secretary General of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Following our recent discussions on the funding of local authorities, we requested follow-up information on local government funding and local property tax allocations, as well as a note from the National Oversight and Audit Commission. We will note and publish that. We have that on our work programme. They will be coming before the committee in a couple of weeks. We will discuss that on our work programme.
No. 1091 is correspondence, dated 15 February 2018, from Ms Hilary Murphy-Fagan, who is the chief executive of the National Shared Services Office, providing follow-up information in relation to the previous meeting. I have marked item No. 8 on the correspondence in question and I want to raise it now. We asked her for a written explanatory note on how the figure for temporary rehabilitation remuneration is calculated. I was keen to know how they calculate this figure when people are out for extended periods on temporary remuneration for rehabilitation purposes. She wrote back to say that regulation 6 "provides that the rate of pay of temporary rehabilitation remuneration is the same as the rate of pension that the individual would be paid if they were to be ill-health retired". In other words, I asked her how her office calculates this and she wrote to say that it calculates it in the same way that it calculates something else. We will have to go back to ask her to give us a specific information note on how this figure is calculated. It is not enough to say it is calculated in the same way as something else if we do not know how the something else is calculated either. Deputies will understand my question.
That is the one I am talking about now. This is the one where they had the overpayments. It subsequently transpired that there were substantial overpayments in other payroll systems in the public service, the biggest one being the HSE. We will have a response from the HSE next week in relation to the level of overpayments in the HSE. At that point, we will be able to compile a more complete picture. The National Shared Services Office deals with a certain number of public servants only.
On the same correspondence, but a different issue perhaps, we asked for a breakdown of the €812,000 training and development costs. I do not know whether this is an accountancy standard, but there is an awful lot of-----
Why would anybody be paying corporate subscriptions? If it is for the chamber of commerce, maybe it is reasonable enough. Who is getting their third-level fees paid? The relevant figure is €47,000. The figure for training - €270,000 - is still huge. Are we employing untrained people to the extent that such a significant amount of the budget needs to go into training? I suggest that €80,000 seems a lot for office security. I have made a couple of points on that. It would be useful to know which firm the audit and professional fees of €130,000 were paid to.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
We would have it. The classifications of administrative subheads on appropriation accounts are dictated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform so that there is consistency across Departments. There are about ten or 12 subheads at most and everything has to be fitted within those.
I thought the Comptroller and Auditor General was going to say the department of arts culture and design or something like that when drinking water and corporate subscriptions can be stuffed into training and development.
We will ask the secretariat to look into the issues the Deputy mentioned to get a further breakdown and information note on those items as well as the item I mentioned about the rehabilitative pay. We note and publish that.
Correspondence No. 1094B is from Ms Rosalind Carroll, director of the Residential Tenancies Board, dated 16 February providing a response to the committee's request for information on expenditure of €2.1 million for non-competitive procurement of legal fees. We will call up that document. Members can read paragraph 3.1 of the explanation for the delay in the competitive procurement process. If members have not had an opportunity to read that four-page reply, which deals with expenditure of €2.1 million for non-competitive tendering, we might just hold it over for discussion. For some reason I missed that and I did not get the-----
It is one company. We will hold that over and discuss it the next day because people might want to read that in full. We will note and publish it, but we will discuss it the next day.
Correspondence No. 1100B is from Ms Oonagh McPhillips, acting Secretary General in the Department of Justice and Equality, enclosing the governance framework agreement between the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána. We note this. I note from the back page of page 28 of that document that that agreement was signed by the acting Garda Commissioner, Dónall Ó Cualáin on 20 November 2017 and Noel Waters on 20 November on behalf of the Department.
We will come to that. We will ask the secretariat to clarify that for the next meeting, together with the other items of correspondence we have not received that we will have before us the next day.
Correspondence No. 1102B is from Mr. Patrick Hopkins, chairperson of the Charities Regulator providing requested information for today’s meeting regarding charities holding shares in section 110 companies. We will note and publish that. We will discuss it with the Revenue Commissioners after lunch.
Correspondence category C is related to private individuals and any other correspondence. Correspondence No. 1068C is from a whistleblower regarding the University of Limerick dated 7 February 2018. The individual has been in contact with the committee previously and has sent a copy of a letter sent to the president of the University of Limerick for the attention of the committee. The individual expresses hurt that some of the people employed by the college who, she believes, cost her her job, have not been held to account. Can we note the correspondence for now? The letter states that the individual would welcome the opportunity to meet the Committee of Public Accounts either privately or publicly with reference to the email attached. As High Court proceedings are involved, we certainly will not hold a public meeting with the whistleblower. We will either do it in private or the members of the committee will find some mechanism.
I call Deputy Cullinane, followed by Deputy Kelly and Deputy Murphy.
We circulated it. It is to be noted by members of the committee, but because of High Court actions, we are not publishing it. We are asking people not to circulate it. We have it and we are noting it for now.
A number of items concern me in the cover letter. Dr. Love has indicated that no further action is required because this report has been given to us. We are not going to circulate it, but it has been given to us. The difficulty is that we will have a report from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. We do not know what that report will contain. Therefore, it is not right to say that at this point no further action is required.
I am even more concerned about a second point. It states that on the basis of Dr. Thorn's findings, the HEA is satisfied that no further action is required in this regard apart from the need for UL to implement fully the recommendations made by Deloitte. I have a difficulty with that. Deloitte should not set down recommendations. It can publish a report, but at some point we will have our own report which will deal with some of these issues. It is up to policymakers to set down what changes should be made and not Deloitte. I have no difficulty with Deloitte publishing a report setting out the problems. I have a difficulty if the university and the HEA are suggesting that the recommendations to fix problems will come from Deloitte. I do not accept that at all. Given that this will be part of our work programme, I am sure we will come back to it because we will have the special report from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. We will have them back in here at some point. This letter is trying to bookend the issue by saying we have this report, there are recommendations from Deloitte and everything is okay, but it is not.
I propose we write back to Dr. Love, thank him for his letter, but point out to him that we are awaiting a report from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. We also need to ask what recommendations the HEA is making. This goes back to what we collectively have been saying for some time, namely, that the HEA is the body that should be setting down what changes should be made, not Deloitte or any other organisation which is a private company which should not be the body that recommends changes. What changes does the HEA recommend? It is the oversight body.
We agreed last week that it would be in the work programme but that will depend on when the Comptroller and Auditor General's report comes back to us. Therefore, it will probably be closer to the summer before we deal with that.
Regarding the whistleblower, much of this would not have come to light without the assistance of a whistleblower. Yet again there was a significant consequence for the whistleblower. If it is going to be on the work programme, the most effective time to talk to the whistleblower, which we should do, would be closer to the point where we will deal with this on the work programme because it will be fresh in our memory and of more assistance.
We should give some assurance that this matter will not be ignored and that we will revisit it.
I accept the point made about the Higher Education Authority, HEA. As several of us have repeatedly said, the HEA delegation was less than impressive when they were here. We want the HEA to change its culture of oversight. It should not be down to the Committee of Public Accounts to provide the oversight that the HEA is supposed to provide. It is not about outsourcing the job to some other agency or company.
We have a report compiled by Dr. Thorn. The HEA appointed Dr. Thorn to examine this matter and compile a report, which we have received but will not publish. We also have the Deloitte report. Is it an internal audit report? Was Deloitte commissioned to do some work? Is Deloitte the internal auditor?
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
Yes. I think when UL was here last year it was announced that Dr. Thorn would undertake an examination of a number of issues in the university. While that work was going on, the university appointed Deloitte to look at matters. Deloitte reported in August. Dr. Thorn took account of that and the findings relating to that. He was commissioned to do a follow-up report. What the committee has today is the follow-up report, specifically relating to the contracts that were placed with two individuals whose employment was subject to a severance agreement. This, if one likes, dealt with one specific issue in the university.
Deloitte's recommendations were to the governing body. It is for the governing body to accept and own or, if one likes, make alternative proposals for actions to be taken. If one likes, Deloitte has no purpose in this beyond making its report to the governing body. Deloitte did not publish the report itself. It was the university that made it available to the committee following on from the committee's interest in its activities.
Yes. I have no difficulty with Deloitte being employed to do a job, but this matter goes back to what I have said for some time. Again, Deloitte has compiled a report for a third level institute. Deloitte has been paid by the third level institute to analyse the difficulties within the institute. I would have preferred a different process. I would have preferred if the HEA based its recommendations on the report compiled by Dr. Thorn.
I accept what the Comptroller and Auditor General has said, that Deloitte was commissioned by the university to do a job of work and it reported back to the board, which is independent and which can accept, reject or do what it likes with the recommendations. Dr. Thorn was then asked to do a separate piece of work and he would have incorporated into his work, if I am right, the Deloitte recommendations.
The HEA should be do its own work and make its own decisions. It can have the recommendations from Deloitte and it will have a report from Dr. Thorn. The authority should set out what it believes should happen and not simply say that it will accept the recommendations made by Deloitte, which is a body that was employed and paid specifically by the institute. That is my personal view of this matter and people may disagree with such a view. I do not accept that this is the process that will get us to the best place in terms of accountability.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
Yes. I am examining the severance cases specifically, and they will be dealt with in the report. The Deloitte report specifically looked at those as well and raised some matters of concern. They are matters of concern for me and I am including a full review of their findings in my consideration as to what happened.
We have had a Deloitte report, Thorn No. 1 report, Thorn No. 2 report and the HEA's conclusions. The Comptroller and Auditor General has deemed that it is necessary for him to compile a further report. Therefore, we will not accept any recommendations from anybody on the matter until we see his conclusions and his report comes back before the committee.
Around that time we will meet the lady who wrote - the whistleblower. We will decide closer to the time. I am cautious about having a meeting in public but we may choose to do so. We will meet her but the format has yet to be agreed. Does Deputy MacSharry wish to comment on this topic?
Can we agree on this matter? To an extent the ball is in the court of the Comptroller and Auditor General while he completes his report. There is no point in us trying to pre-empt his report by us doing anything in the meantime. I think that is the sensible thing to do and the matter will be placed on our work programme.
We have a report from Deloitte that includes recommendations. I have no difficulty with Deloitte conducting an examination that identifies problems. In my view, it is up to the HEA to make recommendations and not Deloitte. Obviously it is up to the governing body of any university to employ independent organisations to carry out an analysis and make recommendations and they will be guided by that. The HEA is the governing body. As we have said for some time, the HEA needs to adopt a more hands-on approach and not simply say that Deloitte has done a report and it accepts the recommendations made by Deloitte. No, the HEA has a role.
I propose we write back to Dr. Graham Love, who is the chief executive of the HEA, and enclose two things: first, a transcript of the discussion that takes place today, and second, draw his attention to the fact that the committee awaits a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General and, therefore, we cannot accept or reject his letter but will note that we received it and we will reach our own conclusions on the matter when we receive the report.
We have decided what to do with No. 1068 after a discussion.
The next item, No. 1083, is correspondence from an individual dated 9 February 2018. It requests the committee to investigate the correctness of the opinions stated by the local authority in a Kerry County Council planning zoning document, which is attached. I printed it for myself, and as the document is 200 pages in length, I chose not to read it last night. This matter is outside the remit of the committee. I propose that we write to the individual advising him that he should contact the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Is that agreed? Agreed. Let us not go there.
The next item, No. 1084, is correspondence from an individual, dated 13 February 2018, updating the committee with a copy of correspondence between him and the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, regarding St. Angela's College, Sligo. This matter has been before the committee before. The secretariat has written to the individual and enclosed the information provided by the Department of Education and Skills and the HEA, as well as the relevant transcripts on the matter. We will note that.
I am interested in this matter because I have received a lot of correspondence on this matter. I want to make sure that we cover all of the areas that we have to and we do so appropriately because the individual in question does have very serious concerns.
I know we passed it to the HEA but we need to be happy as a committee that the HEA is doing what we would like it to do. What did it say in the response?
If Deputy MacSharry wants to raise it next week he can, if he is not happy. We have two items of correspondence, Nos.1085 and 1089, dated 13 February, from an individual in respect of overcharging by a bank, the bank's response and matters related to the appointment of a receiver. The matter is outside of the remit of the committee and I propose we advise the corespondent to contact the Office of the Financial Ombudsman. Is that agreed?
Correspondence No.1086 dated 7 February is from an individual regarding a planning matter in Roscommon County Council. We have only received a copy. We will note it. We are not required to do anything. Correspondence No.1088 dated 14 February is from an individual in respect of expenditure relating to the Irish language. The individual questions whether value for money is being achieved. While it does not seem the correspondent is a supporter of the Irish language, the question of whether value for money is being achieved in relation to Irish language teaching and spending is a question which strong supporters of the language may also wish to address. I believe Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga has dealt with these issues in the past. Does anyone want to deal specifically with it? We will note it but not take specific action. There is no specific requirement.
Correspondence No. 1090, is from Mr. Patrick O'Sullivan, head of the technical unit and actuarial adviser at the Pensions Authority, dated 14 February enclosing a reply to our request for information on the Córas Iompair Éireann, CIÉ, pension scheme for regular waged staff. We will note this. Deputy Cullinane might want to speak.
This is the correspondence we received from Mr. O'Sullivan. I have met some of the workers and unions involved on this outside of my work on this committee. I am sure other members have as well. This is something the unions raised with me. The Pensions Authority was informed on 4 September 2009 that the scheme was no longer in compliance with the statutory funding standard as set out in Part 5 of the Pensions Act.
In the wake of the financial crisis the authority adopted a general policy of allowing schemes extra time to enter into a funding proposal, which they were required to do. Has the Pensions Authority the right to override what is a statutory instrument? That is what seems to have happened here. A separate briefing document, prepared for CIÉ and released under an FOI request, was given to the secretariat. It is not in the pack for this week. I think it was sent yesterday. It refers to CIÉ pensions and superannuation schemes. One paragraph refers to the board's responsibilities as set out in the statutory base rules. It goes on to say that independent legal advice would suggest it would be difficult for the board to ignore the advice recommended by the authority, unless there was some compelling reason to believe that the authority's recommendation was flawed. There is no reason to believe the data on which the valuation is based is incorrect.
I have two questions. Does the authority have the right to override what is a statutory instrument? The second and bigger issue is one the unions are asking us to try to establish. Is there a policy in CIÉ to engage in deliberately underfunding the defined pension scheme in an effort to make it insolvent at some point? There are serious questions that need to be answered.
I received quite a bit of correspondence as well. I suspect we all did. There is obvious frustration given this is a semi-State company. What can we, as the Committee of Public Accounts, do directly on this? Does it come under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General?
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
There is probably a difficulty. Perhaps the committee needs to consult about that. To intervene in a determination of the Pensions Authority would probably be outside the remit of the committee. I certainly would not want to be trying to second guess a determination by the Pensions Authority. If there are grounds for action, then it is for those who are affected by it to take an action against the trustees or-----
I am certainly not looking to intervene in a decision made by the Pensions Authority but I am asking whether it has the authority to intervene in this case. Has it overstepped its mark? It may not have. There is a statutory instrument here which is clear. It seems from the correspondence the extra time was allowed. Perhaps it does have that authority. I think would should certainly try to establish whether it has or not.
We will ask and get a reply. We will come back then. We will note that and we will follow it up with the specific questions raised. Correspondence No. 1092C from an individual dated 16 February regarding the sale of land by the congregation of Christian Brothers at Clonkeen College in Blackrock in County Dublin. The individual wrote to the committee regarding this matter last year. We sent the response from the Department of Education and Skills to the individual. The person has now asked the committee to look at the role of the Department of Education and Skills arising from its failure to safeguard fully the State's investment in schools that were built on land owned by third parties, and in particular on lands owned by religious orders.
This may be an interesting point. I propose we write to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for an information note on the models used to protect capital investment by the State on land owned by private or charity entities. This has far reaching effects, with the State investing money in lands not in its ownership. A local authority would not build a house on land it did not have the title deeds to. We want to get a note from Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on that. We will come back to that broad issue. Agreed.
The next item is correspondence 1093 from Deputy Alan Kelly suggesting amendments to our working document in relation to our report. We will come to that in private session and we will have another meeting after today before we finalise it.
No, we will discuss in private session about progressing the correspondence. We are going into private session in a few moments. Correspondence No. 1106 is from Deputy Shane Cassells in respect of our proposed engagement on funding of local authorities. We will discuss that as part of our work programme because we are bringing in the local authorities. That is the end of correspondence just for now.
We move on now to statements of accounts received since the last meeting. They are coming up on the screen now. The first one is St. Patrick's Teaching College, a clear audited opinion, with attention drawn to the recognition of deferred pensions, as is normal. St. Patrick's Teaching College was incorporated into Dublin City University with effect from 1 October 2016. Is that the final set of statements?
Okay, we will note that. The University of Limerick, a clear audited opinion, with attention drawn to the pensions issue again. The university procured a material level of goods and services during the year without competitive tendering. We will certainly be coming back to UL as part of our work programme. The next item is Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga. It monitors compliance with the provisions of the Language Act 2003, a clear audited opinion. The next item is the Health and Social Care Professional Council, a clear audited opinion, and again attention is drawn to the pensions liability issue by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The following item is the Regulator of the National Lottery Regulator's Administration account, a clear audited opinion. Then we come to the National Lottery Fund, a clear audited opinion.
Will the Comptroller and Auditor General just explain that to us? We know the regulator is paid by the lottery operator, as I understand it. It is meant to regulate the new games or new contracts that come up. That is a small item.
Camelot, the operator of the national lottery, every so often transfers money. What is the flow a month? Where does it go?
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
The universities are obliged in their accounting to recognise the liability for pensions that have accrued to staff of the universities and retired individuals. In order not to have a huge deficit on their balance sheet, they recognise a matching asset, which effectively is saying that in the future we will receive funding from the Exchequer equivalent to the amount of our liability so that we will be in a position to pay the amount. This is what we are drawing attention to. They are making an assumption that they will receive funding to cover those liabilities.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
The pension fund is what the pension is. It is not a question of there being a hole in it. What the beneficiaries of the pension scheme get is what is in the pension pot. A defined benefit scheme is more general in the public sector, and the State as well operates on a pay as you go basis, so what the State does, as pensions require to be paid, is to fund the public body to pay those pensions. The accrued liability that staff have earned is recognised as a future liability.
Chairman, I have two more questions, and I promise I will finish then.
The Comptroller and Auditor General has given the University of Limerick a clear audited opinion, but obviously Deputy Cullinane and others have serious concerns about Limerick. Was this an exceptional year, where everything was tickety-boo?
I see here that the health and social care professional council promotes standards of professional education, training, competence and so on. It is a clear audit opinion, but it states, attention is drawn to the non-recognition of pension costs and liabilities.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
In this situation, I gave a note on it to the committee a couple of months ago, there is a specific direction from the Minister for Health in relation to health bodies that they do not account for pension liabilities in their financial statements. They account for pensions as they pay them, and because that is not consistent with what is required under FRS 102, I draw attention to it. It is a deviation from FRS 102. They do give a true and fair view in their financial statements, but it does not recognise that they have liabilities in relation to future pension payments to their staff.
We have touched on an important issue. Again it is an issue because one would have assumed that the reporting of all public bodies would be in line with approved international accounting and financial standards, but the Minister can overrule that in legislation. On the legislation for the HSE, in particular, and other health organisations such as we have seen here, there is a statutory provision to account for it in the way the Minister says so, notwithstanding that it is not in accordance with international accounting standards.
Another major example of this that the Comptroller and Auditor General will give is the almost €2 billion in claims against the State, mainly for medical negligence is not recorded in the HSE's financial statement. There is no organisation of this size anywhere in the world that can produce its financial statement, given that it has a calculated estimated liability of the claims against it, and utterly exclude them. They put a little note to say the State Claims Agency are dealing with it, but they are not recorded in the accounts in the normal way. It is in line with the legislation passed by the Oireachtas but it is not in line with anything else.
The Comptroller and Auditor General draws attention to where the Ministers have passed legislation to the effect to ignore the international standards, so this is another example where the Comptroller and Auditor General highlights that.
We will now move on to the work programme. We will come back to the third level colleges separately. I wish to highlight that on Thursday, 8 March there is a meeting on the funding for local government. What I am proposing to do is to manage the meeting by breaking it up into two chunks. In the morning we will deal with the central government funding of local authorities, and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government will be here to deal with that, as the funding body. We will also deal with the Local Government Fund on that day, even though that is closing down a bit, but it was in existence last year; funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which goes to local authorities; and, funding from Transport Infrastructure Ireland. There is a special report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on motor taxation. In the morning session, I propose that we agree to deal with the funding of local government, and that includes the roads funding as well as funding directly from the line Department.
I will come to that in a minute.
I propose that in the morning we will deal with local government funding, transport funding, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, the Local Government Fund and the special report.
In the afternoon, we will deal with the rest of the Department's Vote for housing, planning, community and local government separately. We can then let the people from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, go. They do not need to be here when we are discussing housing in the afternoon. Essentially, we are looking at a morning and afternoon session.
Yes, as part of special funding in local government. We have received an information briefing note. Are we agreed to divide the work into two halves? We do not want to mix housing up with roads. Housing is an issue in its own right to be dealt with separately in the afternoon.
The work programme is an ongoing item and people can come back on it.
I suggest between now and the next meeting we think about who we should bring in from the third level sector.
I wrote to the committee about UCC. For a third level college to spend €500,000 on a partnership with Cork Opera House is one matter. The reply to that from UCC was that funding from UCC comes from non-taxpayer revenues. However, we need to have public revenues in the first place to be able to generate non-taxpayer revenues. We have had this debate here for hours with all third level colleges. The partnership and the link-up is a separate matter. To claim the college has non-taxpayer generated revenue, when the reason it has income in the first place is because of taxpayer funds, is a laugh.
Basically it all goes into one big pot. The idea it can be separated out, the college can spend €500,000 and then come crying looking for money for everything else is a laugh. Whatever about the particulars for each college which we all went through, the message has not got through in this case.
We have had two sizeable pieces of correspondence on open disclosure and contingent liability of €2 billion and the State Claims Agency. We were told a pilot study was commenced eight years ago. If the open disclosure proposal was fully implemented, it could end up being a good model for reducing liability on the courts or legal side. Has that been factored in?
There are a range of issues on which we are waiting for reports. We are waiting for a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General's office on the University of Limerick. We have accepted that until we get that report, we cannot advance it. We need to get that report first and then we can deal with it.
There is the report on the consistency of intellectual property policy across all third level sectors. The report on Waterford Institute of Technology has still not been published as it is still with the legal people. There was the issue of spend on legal and consultancy fees. We got a report on this but it is still sitting there. There is the UCC issue which Teachta Kelly raised.
Can we have a report from the secretariat on all of the outstanding issues for the third level sector for the next meeting? Maybe from that, we will be in a position to decide what we can and cannot deal with. Maybe the Waterford report might be out by then.
When An Post was in some time ago, I asked for a schedule of Prize Bond winners over the past 20 years. An Post said no problem. None of us knows anyone who ever won it. Has any correspondence come back on this? If not, we might request it.