Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 10 May 2018
Public Accounts Committee
Business of Committee
We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, who is accompanied by Ms Ruth Foley, deputy director of audit. Apologies have been received from the Chairman, Deputy Fleming, and Deputy Pat Deering.
The minutes of the meeting on 3 May will be ready next week. Are there any matters arising?
There is something arising but I did not bring the details with me. It relates to Caranua. I will not delay the meeting but I wish to raise it now. I will also raise it again at the next meeting. It is about the review being carried out in respect of eligibility for the Caranua scheme. I asked a series of questions and the original answer I received was that an economist was going to be seconded from another body to carry out the initial phase of the review and that it was to be published. That has not happened, as far as I can see. We are now told that the second or some other part of the review will be published in the coming weeks.
Can we get clarification from the Department of what review took place, whether there was a first phase, if the economist was seconded to carry out the review, if it is being done in phases and whether there are details available?
I wish to raise a matter that arises from last week's meeting with the representatives from RTÉ and the issue of bogus self-employment. It was confirmed to the committee that one in four workers is on a bogus self-employment contract. An issue that was not raised, and it was raised with me later by a number of staff who contacted me to tell me they are in that position, is that there is also a potential loss to the State. If these people are being paid as contractors, RTÉ does not pay employer's pay-related social insurance, PRSI. Can we write to the Revenue Commissioners and ask them what is the difference-----
One of the matters discussed at last week's meeting related to corporate tax and the document on corporate tax that the committee will publish in the future. It appeared practically verbatim in one of the Sunday newspapers. It undermines the committee when that happens.
Okay, that is noted. We will proceed to correspondence. There are three categories of correspondence. The first is briefing documents and opening statements.
No. 1271A is correspondence received from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, dated 10 May, providing briefing for the meeting which was scheduled for today but has been postponed until a later date. We note that. No. 1288A is from Mr. Kieran Breen, director of the State Claims Agency, enclosing his opening statement for today's meeting. That is noted. No. 1290A is from Mr. Jim Breslin, Secretary General of the Department of Health, enclosing his opening statement for today's meeting. That is noted.
Category B is correspondence from Accounting Officers and-or Ministers and follow up to Committee of Public Accounts meetings and other items for publishing. No. 1266B is correspondence received from Mr. Niall Cody, chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, dated 1 May 2018, providing a note on non-resident high wealth cases and how the Revenue Commissioners monitor their compliance with residency rules. We note that. No. 1268B is from Mr. John O'Sullivan, Commissioner of Valuation, dated 2 May 2018, providing information on the failed tender process to procure external services for the proposed independent review of the Reval 2017 projects. That is noted. No. 1272B is from Mr. Derek Moran, Secretary General of the Department of Finance, dated 3 May 2018, providing additional information as requested at the meeting of 19 April 2018, including an explanatory note on the different models for measuring of national output and income, that is, gross domestic product, GDP, gross national product, GNP, gross national income, GNI and modified gross national interest, GNI*, an update on the Apple escrow fund, Ireland's contribution to the EU budget and components of the national debt figure. That is noted. No. 1273 is from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, dated 3 May 2018, providing information on funding and governance models of Benefacts. It was very interesting and I noted that.
Category C is correspondence from and relating to private individuals and any other correspondence. Nos. 1265 and 1274C, are correspondence received from an individual regarding allegations against Novartis. We dealt with this matter last year and wrote to the Department of Health on the matter. A reply from the Secretary General stated that the information had been forwarded to the Health Products Regulatory Authority, the Medical Council and the HSE. I suggest that we write back to the Department for an update. Is that agreed? Agreed. Nos. 1279C and 1282C are from Mr. Ray Mitchell, assistant national director at the HSE, dated 9 May. In the first item he states that Mr. Tony O'Brien, director general of the HSE is not in a position to attend today’s meeting. Obviously, this has been superseded so we will move on. No. 1280C is from Deputy Cullinane in regard to Mr. Tony O'Brien. Again that has been superseded.
No. 1281C is from Deputy MacSharry, dated 2 May 2018, in regard to a case against Department of Finance on liquidation of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC. We discussed this briefly last week and are formally noting it now. We will discuss it in private later. Is that agreed? Agreed.
No. 1283C, dated 9 May 2018, is from Ms Geraldine Finn of the National Cancer Registry stating that the director, Professor Kerri Clough-Gorr, is not in a position to attend today’s meeting as requested as she is out of the country. Can we note this item? It is noted. I spoke with the National Cancer Registry and was told she was out of the country. I asked if there was anyone else it could put forward and it said there was no one else and that if we wanted to correspond with it, we could do so. I explained that being present today would be far more beneficial, given the dynamic of the situation and the topic but the organisation is not in a position to send somebody. The director general is away, which is noted and is of concern. I note that we have now made the decision to bring the National Cancer Register in next week, so it has enough notice to send somebody forward.
Item No. 4 is statements and accounts received since the last meeting. One account and statement has been received from the Irish Film Board and it has a clear audit opinion. Can we note this? It is noted.
We will move on to the work programme. The secretariat circulated a note regard to our upcoming meeting with the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, and a copy of the committee's draft discussion document on corporation tax. The committee will have to agree on the report and I propose we meet in private session to finalise the report the week after next.
On the work programme, we agreed to have a session with Cork Institute of Technology, University College Cork and the Higher Education Authority. The clerk to the committee said at the time that the likely date for that was 14 June. I do not see any date for that, so have we tied down that date?