Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Public Accounts Committee

2017 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 1 - President's Establishment
Vote 2 - Department of the Taoiseach

9:00 am

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois, Fianna Fail)
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In this session we will be examining the 2017 Appropriation Accounts for the President's Establishment, Vote 1, and the Department of the Taoiseach, Vote 2. We are joined from the Department of the Taoiseach by Mr. Martin Fraser, Secretary General; Mr. Denis Breen, head of corporate affairs; and Ms Geraldine Butler, finance officer. From the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform we are joined by Ms Victoria Cahill and Mr. Brian O'Malley.

I remind members, witnesses and those in the Visitors Gallery that all mobile phones must be switched off or switched to airplane mode. Leaving them in silent mode is not enough as they may still interfere with the recording and broadcasting systems.

By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the provisions of Standing Order 186 that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policy or policies.

While we expect witnesses to answer questions put to them clearly and with candour, they can and should expect to be treated fairly and with respect and consideration at all times in accordance with the witness protocol.

We will take the Comptroller and Auditor General's opening statement first.