At this late hour this afternoon, we are starting into our work on the Appropriation Accounts for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We are dealing with: Vote 11 - Office of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Vote 12 - Superannuation and Retired Allowances, Vote 18 - Shared Services, and Vote 39 - Office of Government Procurement.
We had also intended to consider the special report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the financial reporting in the public sector but because of the late hour, we will hold over that special report and come back to it in the autumn. There is one other special report from the Comptroller and Auditor General we will have to get to as well, but we will leave that to one side. If anyone had in their opening comments a reference to that, we will come back to that separately. We will stick with the Department, including Chapter 3 - Vote Accounting and Budget Management, and leave the special report to one side today.
First, I apologise for the late hour of starting. Mr. Watt will be aware we dealt with the Department of Finance this morning. The committee had four or five meetings with third level institutions over the past month or two, and as we are getting near the end of the Dáil session, we wanted to finalise our report in committee today, which we have done, with a view to launching it on Tuesday next.
That took a little bit of extra time to finalise. Even though the Dáil has still to sit for a few hours, we are only now, at this time of the evening, getting to the second half of the public part of the meeting. I have indicated the topics we are going to cover. We are joined today by Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and also Mr. Paul Quinn, Mr. David Feeney, Ms Helen Codd, Ms Paula Lyons, Mr. Frank Griffin and Ms Fionnuala Burke.
I wish to 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. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. The witnesses 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 or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members of the committee 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 or objectives of such policies. They are also reminded of the long-standing ruling of the Chair to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I call the Comptroller and Auditor General to make an opening statement.