Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Public Accounts Committee

2017 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 8 - Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

9:00 am

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

As members will be aware, I am supported, and enabled to carry out my role, by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Legally, the office is part of the Civil Service and is funded through Vote 8. As the Constitution requires that I must audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas, specific arrangements have to be put in place to facilitate this being done in an independent fashion.

First, it should be noted that Ms Drinan, as secretary, is the administrative head of the office, with responsibility for operations and ensuring good value delivery of the service. This is in addition to her responsibility as a director of audit for delivery of a portfolio of audits and reports. As Accounting Officer, she controls the annual Estimate and the office’s spending, and is responsible for submitting the appropriation account.

Second, I appoint a competitively procured, private sector auditor to carry out the audit of the appropriation account on my behalf, and to report to me on the results of the audit. The contract for the audit is currently with Mazars. The objective of the audit is the same as for all other appropriation account audits and the audit approach is similar to that carried out by my office for all other Votes. I rely on the certificate and report of Mazars as the basis for presentation of my own certificate, and the auditor’s certificate is presented with my own to the Oireachtas. Consequently, I am accompanied for this session by Mr. Bernard Barron, a partner at Mazars, who leads the audit for the company.

Due to the requirement under auditing standards to rotate responsibility for particular audits, I appointed Ms Drinan to her current portfolio in January of this year. She replaced Mr. Harkness on that portfolio, and also as secretary of the office and as Accounting Officer. Mr. Harkness had fulfilled that role for just over six years and members will note that he signed off on the 2017 appropriation account. He, too, is in attendance.

The office’s appropriation account records gross expenditure of €11.9 million in 2017, representing an increase of around 3% on the 2016 expenditure. The bulk of the expenditure each year is on salaries. Non-Exchequer receipts into the Vote amounted to just under €6 million in 2017. This mainly comprised receipts of fees charged by the office for non-Vote financial audits carried out by the office. The office’s policy, as agreed with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, is full recovery of the costs incurred on non-Vote audits over a three-year cycle. Fees are not charged for Vote audits or audits of the finance and Revenue accounts, or in respect of any reporting work undertaken. As a result of the recovery of fees and some other appropriations-in-aid, the net expenditure on the Vote in 2017 was just under €6 million. The surplus for surrender at the year end was €978,000. I am glad to report that the office received a clear audit opinion and there were no matters arising from the audit that I or Mazars considered required reporting to Dáil Éireann.