Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Public Accounts Committee

Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Appropriation Account 2018

9:00 am

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois, Fianna Fail)
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We are examining the 2018 appropriation account for the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. We are joined by Mr. Peter Finnegan, Secretary General; Mr. Michael Errity, assistant secretary, corporate and members services division; Ms Elaine Gunn, assistant secretary, parliamentary services division and Clerk Assistant of Dáil Éireann; Ms Mellissa English, assistant secretary, chief parliamentary legal adviser, Office of the Parliamentary Legal Advisers; Ms Máirín Devlin, principal officer, finance division and Office of the Commission and Secretary General.

Seated behind them are Ms Margaret Crawley, principal officer, HR services, Ms Denise O'Connell, principal officer, the Parliamentary Budget Office, PBO, Mr. Conor Morrison, finance officer, Ms Angela Branigan, management accountant, and Dr. Finn de Brí, IT digital transformation office. I remind committee members, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery that all mobile phones must be switched off or put on airplane mode, as merely putting them on silent can still interfere with the recording system.

Mr. Finnegan probably wrote this next bit, so I will read it back to him now. I advise the witnesses that, by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by it to cease giving evidence in respect of a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a 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 are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded that, under the provisions of Standing Order 186, the committee shall also 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 policies.

While we expect witnesses to answer questions asked by the committee 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.

I invite the Comptroller and Auditor General to make his opening statement.