Thursday, 8 July 2010
Dublin Docklands Development Authority
Question 3: To ask the Minister for the Environment; Heritage and Local Government the progress made in having Comptroller and Auditor General investigate past decisions actions of executive board Dublin Docklands Development Authority; if he will make a statement on matter. [30803/10]
Arising from the comprehensive analysis and conclusions of the corporate governance reviews undertaken by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and acknowledging, in particular, the view of the authority's board that it considers a further investigation would be required to deal with certain matters, the Government has decided to bring the authority within the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General. This will mean that the DDDA will become subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General and may also be subject to the preparation of specific reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the efficient use of resources and value for money.
The Attorney General has advised that the authority can be brought within the Comptroller and Auditor General's remit by means of an order to be made by the Minister for Finance. This will move the authority from the Second Schedule of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act 1993 to the First Schedule, alongside the other State bodies that are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. I understand that this matter will shortly be addressed by the Minister for Finance.
Thereafter, the nature and timing of action or investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General will clearly be a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General himself to determine, having regard to his constitutionally independent role.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I am surprised the Minister for Finance has taken so long, in view of the fact it was a Government decision about six weeks ago to make the order to allow the Comptroller and Auditor General to investigate these matters. What additional powers does the Comptroller and Auditor General require to fully investigate all of the decisions that were made having the potential to lead to all of those decisions being responsible for a significant sum of money being borne by the taxpayer? When will the annual report for 2009 be available from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority for publication?
To answer the Deputy's last question, I hope the annual accounts will be available fairly shortly. I hope to have it signed off at Cabinet next week so that it will be available for inspection. This is the type of corporate governance we have come to expect now from the new chairperson, Professor Niamh Brennan and I believe she has done a very good job. It is important to remember that the authority's own analysis, the two independent reports by Brassil and King, were commissioned to assess all of those issues, the planning and financial procedures. I acknowledge that it was six weeks ago but it is a matter for the Minister for Finance. I understand he wants to act promptly and that it will then go to the committee. The committee can then decide on what it wants to do with that issue. I have always said that we want to ensure we have the very highest standards in the Dublin docklands. I know the people who are interested in developing the area and those who have benefited, want to see the Dublin docklands continue. It would be a mistake were we to go down the road of simply abolishing the Dublin docklands authority as has been proposed in some quarters. I want to ensure we get all the answers to the relevant questions.
The record of the House will show he voted down a Fine Gael motion to that effect last December. What were the reasons for his change of heart? What issues came to his notice that warranted a Government decision to have the Comptroller and Auditor General investigate these matters, in light of his decision to vote down a Fine Gael Bill on the same matter last December? What is the status and validity of all the planning decisions made, arising from the recent report he commissioned on planning in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority?
There have been no challenges to the legal standing of any of those planning decisions. In answer to the first charge that I changed my mind, I did not do so. The Deputy may recall during that debate on the Fine Gael Private Members' motion I said very clearly that I was keeping open the option-----
I did. The Deputy should check the record of the House. I said I was keeping open the option of widening the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General. However, I felt it would have been premature to do it before I had received the reports which I had commissioned. I received those reports, the two independent consultants' reports, Brassil and King, and I acted on foot of those reports.
Deputy Hogan decided to leak the reports. He had copies of them.
I waited until all of the outstanding legal issues were dealt with comprehensively. I then published the reports in full. As I predicted, they were not the sort of explosive reports that others had warned about. As a consequence I said I would widen the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General. It is as simple as that. I have always said I was open to widening the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General.