Business of Committee

We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, as a permanent witness to the committee. He is accompanied by Ms Mary Henry. Apologies have been received from Deputies Josepha Madigan and Alan Farrell. Deputy Madigan has written to the committee to state she will not be continuing as a member of the committee and will be replaced by the Dáil in due course. Deputy Farrell has indicated that he expects to continue on the committee. Until such time as they are replaced, both members will still be members of the committee.

The first item on the agenda is the minutes of the meetings of 4, 5 and 6 July 2017. They have been circulated. Are they agreed? Agreed.

The next item are matters arising from the minutes. There is nothing specific that is not on the agenda in front of us.

The next item is correspondence. Category A refers to correspondence for today's meeting. Nos. 670 (i) and 670 (ii) are a briefing paper from Brendan Ryan, chief executive of the Courts Service and a briefing paper in respect of prosecutions for fixed charge notice motoring offences by An Garda Síochána. We will be returning to that matter in the autumn. We have indicated that as the complete report from An Garda Síochána is not available at present, we are deferring detailed examination of that topic. We have received an interim report that we can discuss. We can discuss anything in front of us but as the final report has not been finalised, we will come back to it in due course.

The next items of correspondence are Nos. 671A (i) to 671A (iii), inclusive. No. 671A is a covering email from the Garda Commissioner enclosing the interim report and the second interim report into the examination of the recording of breath tests. That is the matter to which I have just referred and we will await the final report and will deal with the issue then. In the meantime we can discuss the interim reports we have received. We will note and publish them.

Category B correspondence refers to correspondence from Accounting Officers and Ministers and follow-ups to previous meetings. Nos. 681B (i) to 681B (vi), inclusive, are items of correspondence received on 10 July from Joe Nugent, chief administrative officer in An Garda Síochána. It includes a briefing note on Garda College income and expenditure, a Garda College restaurant profit-and-loss analytical review for 2009 to 2016, an analysis of expenditure for the Garda College division 2009 to 2016, a note in respect of Garda College restaurant funds transfers from 2010 to 2016, a note on correspondence relating to a previous voluntary disclosure settled with the Revenue Commissioners in 2010 and a note on an audit of EU-funded projects. We will note those documents and they will be considered as part of our report, which we will launch next Tuesday.

The next items are Nos. 686 B, 690 B (i) and 690B (ii), correspondence from the HSE dated 11 July with follow-up information requested following the meeting of 15 June including further information requested by the committee in respect of the Grace case and data for 2017 in respect of patient referrals to hospital emergency departments by GPs.

In respect of that letter from the HSE, all I can say is "here we go again". We were promised the Deloitte report time and time again and now we have been told it will be provided at some point after the summer break. The letter goes on to say that the State Claims Agency:

has confirmed that the final bill of costs relating to this specific case has not reached a final conclusion. However, the [State Claims Agency] has clarified that interim payments totalling €185,984.20 (which excludes settlement costs as per the High Court agreement) have been made.

That is the only figure we have actually received and it excludes the High Court settlement costs. We still have not seen the Deloitte report. Mr. Tony O'Brien says that he will seek the permission of the commission of investigation to give us a copy when he receives it. We will not get into a big debate. We will send this letter to the commission but we are still gravely disappointed at this delay.

We have all followed up on this and it is extremely difficult to keep track of it. We are now dealing with it under correspondence and trying to keep track. We were clearly led to believe that this report would be published sooner than it was. We still have no date in that regard. It is totally unacceptable. This was commissioned approximately a year ago. This was a simple report on what money was given or not given. This is adding insult to injury with regard to what has happened in the Grace case. This is why we end up having inquiries. This is honestly appalling. It is a bit early in the morning to be so outraged. We are having a tribunal because of the Grace case. It would be easier to extract teeth without anaesthetic than to get this report. I do not wish to personalise this, but we have asked repeatedly whether the staff were in the employ of the HSE and whether they had been promoted. We have now found out that four of the five have been promoted. It is extraordinary that, if not for the two whistleblowers whose lives have been seriously impacted upon, we would not even have an inquiry, not to mention that we would have not have questions here. Mr. O'Brien should be brought back before this committee. The man is on a very good salary, he is in charge of a huge body and he should be setting an example with candour. This whole process from the HSE does not show candour.

We have to be conscious that there is a commission of investigation under way.

I am more than conscious of that. Sometimes I am too conscious of it and too cautious but this has nothing to do with the inquiry. This is to do with Mr. O'Brien's role in giving open information. He said the report was about to be published but it has not been. It is simply not acceptable that a report of this nature is now taking even longer. It is adding insult to injury.

The costs of the Deloitte report were mentioned in the High Court settlement. We all understand that the lack of adequate payment for Grace's service provider financially compromised the organisation for a considerable period. There is no mention here of whether the organisation has received any interim payment or how much that might be. Even that information should have been included.

Not to mention that sufficient funding was not provided to the service provider into whose care Grace was put. She had already suffered.

I endorse everything Deputy Connolly has said.

I wish to add that we need this report for all sorts of reasons but the director general failed to give a full apology to the service provider pending its outcome. While it is very important that we get the report as soon as possible, he could have given an apology anyway. It deserved an apology. My understanding is that he gave a partial apology on foot of the High Court settlement but was waiting to decide whether he would give a full apology pending the outcome of this report. He said categorically that it would be published very soon. He led us to believe it would be released almost immediately. Here we are, almost a month later, and there is still no report. We have written over and back to him. This is not the first time we have raised this. We have raised it every week since he was before the committee. How many times have we written to him? Is this the only response we have received? Is this the one and only piece of correspondence we have received?

We have followed up on this on several occasions. At the end of this letter he does not even give an expected timeline as to when we might receive the report. It has actually gone in reverse.

That is not good enough. It is treating the committee with contempt. There is no doubt about it.

It is treating Grace with contempt in the first place, and the public after that.

A potential cost of €185,000 has been revealed and it could increase from there.

That was not even a High Court case. It was a case that was settled, but it did not go into the courts. It shows the type of money involved in the mismanagement of the whole Grace debacle. Whatever is added on for a tribunal, when we think of the money that could be spent on services for people such as Grace it brings home that there are consequences to this, which are lost services for those who actually need them.

We will write a stern letter to Mr. O'Brien, expressing the gross dissatisfaction of the committee at the reply and lack of timeline, and insisting he does whatever is necessary with Deloitte and his own organisation to ensure it is brought to an urgent conclusion. We are going into recess. We will note that unless we have it we will expect him before the committee in September. If it is all concluded satisfactorily that will be fine, but if it is not we will put him on notice that commission or no commission this is a financial matter. We are putting him on notice that if it is not fully resolved he will be here in September. We will forward this to the commission also.

The next items are Nos. 692B and 693B, correspondence received from An Garda Síochána. Both letters are from Niall Kelly, head of internal audit, in which he is keeping the committee up to date on his audit work. It states that two audits, on EU funded projects and on cash and general management in the Garda College restaurant and shop, have been sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General and that two further audits are in planning. No. 695C is an explanation to the committee for the delay in getting the original letter of 5 July to us. I know the Comptroller and Auditor General cannot comment, but will he confirm he has received these two reports?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes, I have.

I take it the Comptroller and Auditor General will not discuss them.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

No, I cannot discuss them.

We take that.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

We will certainly consider the implications.

The Comptroller and Auditor General will take it into consideration as part of the audit he is conducting-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes, absolutely.

-----on which he will publish a report in September.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes.

Fine. We note this. The longer this is, the more that is going on. That is all I can say.

Wider rather than longer.

Exactly.

Category C is correspondence from private individuals and other correspondence. We wrote before about the Cashel hospital issue and received a reply quite some time ago. I ask the secretariat at to write to Mr. O'Brien to state we want an update on the issue. I was asked about it yesterday.

I appreciate that. It is an outstanding question from some months ago that I raised.

The Deputy did indeed. We will ask for a more up to date position.

No. 660C is a briefing paper prepared by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, which provides an overview of the current funding model for Irish Water. It provides information on the role of the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and the Commission for Energy Regulation on Irish Water. On the same issue, No. 679C is from the managing director of Irish Water to advise that the information requested will be provided by 13 July 2017. If that letter comes tomorrow, because it is from a public body I ask members to review it themselves. The briefing note was from the Oireachtas library service and I am sure it has been widely circulated in the Oireachtas already. People can comment on and use it. The issue will come back on the agenda. We will move on.

No. 666C, dated 6 June 2017, is from Michael Lyons, chief executive officer of Towards Healing, an external group which provides non-judgmental counselling to survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse, on Special Report No 69 of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the child abuse inquiry. The correspondence states information supplied by Caranua and statements made on 13 April 2017 are factually incorrect. I propose we write to Caranua for a formal response. Is that agreed?

I looked at that on 6 June. It is referring to a letter of 7 May that I could not find. I am subject to being corrected. I see a letter of 9 May 2017 with enclosures. Here we are again. We have Towards Healing writing into us to correct what Caranua said to us in correspondence. We are going back over it.

There is a bit of a theme developing on the quality of information being provided. Perhaps we are being more precise in ensuring we follow up on these matters.

When Caranua was in we asked precise questions. Each and every one of us asked precise questions on rent and the cap on counselling as best we could. Now we find the very organisation referred to by Caranua, namely, Towards Healing, is coming back to correct Caranua. Imagine how difficult it is for the survivors using the services. This is the end point, as is value for money. We can write to Caranua but-----

We will do that and we will come back to it.

It is distressing. If we have difficulty getting accurate information, how are the service users being dealt with?

That is the point. We will come back to it. We will write and await a response and then follow up.

Will the chairman check the dates of the letters? Towards Healing is referring to 7 May but I do not see that.

I will ask the secretariat to check this. If we are missing something I will ask the secretariat to recirculate it. If we have not received something referred to, it will be circulated.

No. 667C is correspondence, dated 7 June 2017, from an individual on the public services card. The committee is being copied on this correspondence, which was sent to the Taoiseach. It is not directed to us, we were just sent a copy.

No. 668C, correspondence dated 6 July 2017, is from the Department of Justice and Equality on the appointment of a coroner for south and east Kerry. This is in response to a request for information following receipt of correspondence from an individual who queried the appointment. The correspondence confirms a deputy coroner was appointed and arrangements for the future provision of coronial services in south and east Kerry are not yet completed. I propose sending the response to the member of the public who wrote to us and that this matter is now closed.

No. 669C is correspondence dated 6 July 2017 from Professor Philip Nolan, the president of Maynooth University, on an explanatory note on procurements, as requested by the committee. We thank him for this and recognise Maynooth University was one of the exemplary third level institutions which has produced up to date financial statements and a proper consolidation. We acknowledge its good work and if others did so we would in a better position. We note the correspondence.

No. 672C is correspondence from John Kearney, chief executive of Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board, on premises for Cavan VEC. This is in response to a request for information following receipt of correspondence from an individual who queried the procurement. I propose sending the response to the member of the public who made the inquiry. Is that agreed? Agreed

Nos. 673C, 674C, 675C and 676C are correspondence from Deputies with observations on the third level report, which was launched yesterday. We note the correspondence. These are earlier emails we have received since the last public meeting when we considered correspondence on the matter, some of which worked their way into the final report and some of which did not. The report has been published. These are from members of the committee regarding input into the draft report on third level education, which we launched on Tuesday.

No. 677C is correspondence, dated 7 July 2017, from Deputy Josepha Madigan on her appointment as chair of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. I thank Deputy Madigan for her contribution to the work of the Committee of Public Accounts and wish her well as Chairman of the committee.

No. 678C is correspondence, dated 7 July 2017, from the Oireachtas ICT unit on technical issues regarding email notifications to members. A file was sent to us by email, but it was too big to be received and we did not receive notification it had been sent to us. We were in the dark. We discussed this earlier. We note the correspondence.

No. 680C is correspondence, dated 7 July 2017, from Shaun Purcell, chief executive of Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Education and Training Board, to advise that draft accounts for 2015 will be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General in the week beginning 10 July. The Comptroller and Auditor General will do the audit in due course.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

We are still finishing the draft statements sent to us for 2013 and 2014. We were unable to back them up. Revised financial statements were received on 30 June. We are working to finish the audit.

That is for the years 2013 and 2014.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

That is for an 18 month period in the years 2013 and 2014. They are the initial financial statements for the ETB.

Is Mr. McCarthy saying that, as of now-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

For the years 2013 and 2014, the accounts have not closed.

-----the final financial statements for Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB have never been published since the board was established?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

No, they have not been published.

In order that people will understand why we are critical of the third-level institutes, let me repeat that Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB has never published any set of audited accounts. Even though the information has been submitted now in respect of 2015, the Comptroller and Auditor General has indicated that the information he received for the accounts up to the end of 2014-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I would expect that we will be able to conclude the audit of the accounts for the years 2013 to 2014 during the summer. We will be beginning the field work for the 2015 accounts at the end of this month.

I propose that we write to the chairman and chief executive of Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB stating that we expect the 2016 accounts to be submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General for audit. The board has just submitted its accounts for 2015. It is six months behind in submitting its accounts for 2016. They are almost one year old at this stage.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

That is correct.

I propose that we give the board until the end of October to submit its 2016 accounts.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

That is okay.

We will write to Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB stating that if the 2016 accounts have not been submitted for audit, we will invite the chairman and chief executive to appear before the Committee of Public Account to explain the reason for the delay in public. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I thank the Chairman.

No. 682C, correspondence, dated 3 July 2018, from Mr. Justice John Cooke, Commission of Investigation into the National Asset Management Agency, requesting the committee to identify if it is in possession of additional evidential material acquired by the Committee of Public Accounts other than from the National Asset Management Agency or the Comptroller and Auditor General and not listed in our report. I propose to reply to Mr. Justice Cooke stating that we will ask the secretariat to review all material held by the committee and make any information not listed in the report available to the Commission. I read that letter in detail. It is from the Commission of Investigation into the National Asset Management Agency. Mr. Justice Cooke is the judge who is conducting the investigation. He has written a nice letter to the committee thanking it for its work and its willingness to co-operate and assist him in every way possible. He has indicated that he is obtaining all necessary information he can from NAMA and the Comptroller and Auditor General and that he is coming to the committee requesting to see if we have information that we received from bodies, other than those two sources, to identify and produce a list and forward it to the commission, which can then decide if it wants the information. The commission has been very good in that it is not asking us to provide information that it can obtain from other sources. Mr. Justice Cooke is going about the task in a very efficient manner. We will co-operate fully.

No. 683C is correspondence, dated 6 July 201,7 from Dr. Michael Crowley alleging malfeasance and corruption in the health service. I propose requesting an information note from the Department of Health. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 684C is undated correspondence from an individual in respect to the work undertaken by the Committee of Public Account regarding the Garda College in Templemore. We will note the correspondence.

No. 685C is correspondence, dated 5 July, from an individual alleging serious irregularities in respect of the thoroughbred foal levy. It is unclear what is being alleged and I propose to request that he secretariat liaise with the individual to obtain further information. The individual refers to other correspondence sent to me. Let me explain the matter in a nutshell. The correspondence was sent to the Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine but the latter indicated that the matter does not fall within its remit. As Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, I find that extraordinary.

How is the matter not within that committee's remit?

It is 100% within its remit.

Could the Chairman go back to his counterpart on the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine and ask him to explain the latter's position.

The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine states that the issue raised does not come within its remit. I will write formally to the Chairman of the committee, Deputy Deering. The issue is that a levy is payable to Horse Racing Ireland on the basis of the published fee that the owner of a mare pays for the services of a stallion. The actual fee charged can regularly be significantly less than the published fee. Should the levy be based on the published fee or the actual fee paid? It is similar to asking a person who is buying a house to pay stamp duty on the listed price as opposed to the actual price. If that is what the statutory instrument states, it makes no sense. There are vested interests in the industry that are quite satisfied with the regime, but others are very dissatisfied. It is strictly based on a statutory instrument introduced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the matter is 100% within the remit of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Due to the fact that it was done by statutory instrument and the public is paying fees based on this, however, I, as Chairman, was contacted. I am sure other members of the committee have also been contacted. We will write to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I had told the correspondent that we will do what we can at our committee. We will not ignore the very valid point he makes. If the statutory instrument does not stack up-----

Will the Chairman also have a word with the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine because I think it is ridiculous that the latter is not dealing with this issue?

Is the Chairman a voice for the mare?

I am neutral on this issue. I will speak to the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine and we will come back to it. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 688C is correspondence, dated 10 July 2017, from the clerk to the Joint Committee on Agriculture Food and the Marine in respect of correspondence we forwarded to that committee from an individual regarding the revocation of a course betting permit. The clerk has advised that there is a provision in the relevant legislation to appeal a decision to revoke a licence. I propose to write to the individual to advise that the matter is outside the remit of the Committee of Public Accounts and to highlight the relevant legislative provision that can be used to appeal a decision to revoke a licence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 689C is correspondence, dated 11 July, from Deputy Alan Kelly in respect of the committee's report on the third-level sector. We discussed this matter and the report has issued. We have agreed to come back to those issues in the autumn. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 691C is correspondence, dated 11 July, from an individual in relation to the wards of court. We will note that. A meeting was held yesterday, and I apologised for being unable to attend, but we can discuss the matter this morning with the Courts Service. Is that agreed? Agreed.

We will move from correspondence to item 4, statements and accounts received since the previous meeting. The details are on the screen now and members can see that SOLAS has a clear audit report.

An Chéim Computer Services Limited is a Dublin Institute of Technology subsidiary funded by the Higher Education Authority. It previously provided shared IT services for all the institutes of technology. The functions of An Chéim Computer Services Limited transferred to HEAnet, a HEA subsidiary, on 1 October 2015. An Chéim Computer Services Limited is in the process of being wound up. There were issues in respect of internal controls and a disclosure that retrospective salary payments of €63,000 were made to a member of staff of An Chéim Computer Services Limited without offsetting of overtime previously paid and without required sanction. We will note that.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

There are two significant matters. The control lapses were in respect of procurement. The company was in wind-down and the functions were being transferred, on 1 October 2015, to HEAnet. However, there was extensive spending in the months leading up to that of which the board was not aware. The board has investigated the matter thoroughly and produced a report. There is a lengthy dealing in respect of the matter in the statement on internal financial control.

Is there an ongoing review?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

No, the review is finished.

Who conducted the review?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It was commissioned by legal advisers to An Chéim.

Can we do anything now, particularly as the company is in the process of being wound up?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is being wound up but it is still in existence and still subject to the committee. If the committee is interested then I suggest it looks at the statement on internal financial control.

We will not do that now because we want to move on.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is about three or four pages but it gives a good précis of the matter.

We will hold this financial statement over for the next meeting and come back to it then. The next item is the accounts of Dublin City University, for which there is a clear audit opinion. The financial statements of Dublin City University educational trust group have not, however, been consolidated with those of the university group. Here we go again. The trust had accumulated reserves of €16.1 million by the end of 2015. We only touched on a sample of these the last day that we were here. There is no case to be made for not consolidating a trust. Am I correct in that? Foundations are different.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes. I think the committee has comprehensively dealt with that in its report.

The next item is the credit union fund, for which there is a clear audit opinion. We then have Pobal, for which there is clear audit opinion, and the Health Products Regulatory Authority, for which there is also a clear audit opinion. We will note these with the exception of An Chéim, which we will come back to at our next meeting.

The next item is our work programme. Today we are dealing with An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service. We will complete the public session around the voting bloc in the middle of the day today. It has been moved back to 1.47 p.m. and will probably take an hour or so as I am sure that there is a lot to cover.

If we finish early we could start early.

We could finish at 12.30 p.m. No?

We have to be realistic. There are two major groups coming in.

It will be 3 p.m. or so when we come back in the afternoon. We have agreed to take a few hours in the afternoon to sign off on matters. I think we should agree at this stage to complete the Garda Síochána and Courts Vote before the voting bloc. If we start bit late when we come back in the afternoon after 3 p.m., we will take the required hours to finish out our business. The Dáil is sitting until 11 p.m. We will finish our work. I am just trying to be pragmatic.

With regard to our work programme when we come back, there is the issue of the HSE audit of the National Maternity Hospital. Can we get a copy of that audit in order that we can look at it over the summer months?

Is it a financial or a medical audit?

It was to do with public sector pay issues.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It was an internal audit. The standard HSE practice is to publish internal audits unless they-----

No, they do not, because they did not publish the internal audit on Console.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

There may have been concerns there around not cutting across other investigations. The HSE does in fact publish many of its internal audits.

We will write to the HSE for a copy of the report.

The issue is that there was an internal HSE audit, yet Holles Street says it disagrees with the findings. It has a right to do so. I would like to see what were the findings of the internal audit. We may need to come back to this in the autumn but if we had sight of the report, we could have a look at it over the summer. Can we write to them seeking a copy?

Yes.

The media have the audit.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I am not clear as to whether it is a completed internal audit or whether it remains under discussion. That is a matter to be clarified by the HSE.

We will find that out from the HSE and ask for whatever document is available. Returning to our work programme, we will complete our consideration of the report into the Garda Training College in Templemore later this afternoon and this evening with a view to launching it next Tuesday. I propose that we do so at 2 p.m., earlier in afternoon than 4 p.m. the last day, in the audiovisual room. Is that a reasonable time for the launch? I think it is. We do not want to launch it before lunch because the secretariat will be under a lot of pressure to get it done. I will just explain this. If we finish our wording today, the secretariat will have quite a lot of tidying up to do on it on Friday. Final and legal proofreading will be completed over the weekend. We would be doing very well to get it to the printers by early afternoon on Monday and have it back 24 hours later.

Ba mhaith liom cóip a fháil trí Gaeilge. Ba mhaith liom é a chur ar an taifead. Beidh sé ag teacht, nach mbeidh, agus beidh scála ama i gceist?

In due course.

Beidh scála ama agus tiocfaidh sibh ar ais le rá cathain a mbéas an cóip Gaeilge ar fáil. Go raibh maith agat.

Go raibh maith agat.

When we come back in the autumn, I propose that, other outstanding issues notwithstanding, we prioritise the section 38 and 39 organisations and work towards doing a report on them. Very substantial issues have already emerged since we last had the HSE in to discuss Console, some that we have not even had a chance to look at. At least three further issues have been raised in the meantime. With so much public money going into these organisations, this is a massive issue that warrants a full examination by this committee.

I agree with my colleague and we have discussed this before. We need not only to do an examination but to try to get to the root of this. We need to establish what is necessary when it comes to oversight, good governance, tracking and so on. We can go from one case to another lamenting their various failures but having already done a lot of high-profile, sometimes controversial, work, our job at this stage is to assist in the process of finding as adequate a solution as we can.

I want to raise the issue of nursing homes, something I have raised here before. In fits and starts there have been question marks and controversies around various provisions and the fair deal scheme and so on. We recently had a controversy over people being charged extras, sometimes in quite dubious situations, or so it would seem from the coverage. This is an area we need to examine. It is a matter of public concern, not just because of the considerable sums of public money that are invested in these kinds of services, and rightly so, but also because we could be looking at a near parallel to the pay top-up business operating within the sector. I suggest that we strongly consider addressing these issues in the autumn.

Okay. If any members have issues that would like to include on the work programme for discussion upon our return, they need to submit them to the secretariat. The Comptroller and Auditor General will have his report towards the end of September.

Moving on, there are two outstanding reports that we have not yet looked at but will deal with again. One concerns the payment of motor tax-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The administration.

The administration of the collection of motor tax. The second report, which we have partly covered as part of the education report, concerns financial reporting in the public service. This will not take too much more time. We need to clear these as well.

One thing we should do before doing the work programme is to look back on the possibility of conducting two reports simultaneously. We also need to prioritise and look at our capacity for doing things. We need to take a hard look at what works and what does not and the ways in which we can optimise our approach. There is no shortage of things for us to look at but-----

We have to be selective.

I think we do, yes.

I think we can all agree on that. We are having two or three extensive meetings a week and our commitment is really at the limit at what might be considered reasonable for a member of the Committee for Public Accounts. We will be more targeted in what do.

Would it be possible for the Comptroller and General Auditor to give us an update on the special reports currently being worked on? What special reports are being considered? This might also shape our work plan.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I did not prepare to address those matters but I can certainly give the Deputy a rough idea of the reports I have decided to publish. We are working on a number of items and it may be moot as to whether a report will issue. There are some that I have already signalled to the committee. The report on school transport is very near completion. We are actually doing a piece of work on the fair deal scheme and its associated issues. It may not touch on everything because some issues might not come within my scope.

Those would be ones that I would hope we will have in the autumn. We will have a follow on report from the one on the timeliness of financial reporting. I think that needs routine analysis and reporting to the committee so that we can give a push to get financial reporting done earlier. I would expect that we will have that done for the autumn. We can take the two reports together, the 2014 and 2015.

My first question was on the special reports. I am glad to hear the response on school transport. We have committed to bringing CIE back very soon after the summer recess.

We have that in the work programme.

It may not take a full day but it is fresh in our minds. Can we do it as early as possible?

It is on the list. We have enough to keep us going.

We need to plough on today.

On the work programme, I wish to deal with one item of correspondence that arrived this morning, 13 July, from An Garda Síochána. It was not listed on the correspondence because it was received only this morning. The letter is from Mr. Joseph Nugent. I will read it out because it has not been published. It states:

I know from coverage in the media in recent days and from information from the committee secretariat that the Public Accounts Committee may intend over the coming days to publish its report in relation to the examination of matters arising from the interim report of An Garda Síochána internal audit unit on financial procedures at the Garda college, Templemore.

It would be appreciated if you confirm whether or not this is the case. I note to date that no draft report has been received by the Commissioner from the committee in this regard. I would be grateful for your confirmation that the committee intends to furnish the draft of its report in advance of publication in order that the Commissioner and other staff members in An Garda Síochána who may have an interest in the report be afforded the opportunity to address the draft report's findings.

The recent media coverage also refers to additional material received by the committee, extracts of which have been published. The Commissioner would be grateful if the committee would provide a copy of all such material received by it in order that it may be appropriately considered by the Commissioner and other Garda colleagues in conjunction with the committee's draft report.

I look forward to an early response.

I will respond in public. We will not discuss it in any detail. We will not be supplying a copy of the draft interim report. We issued a report just two days ago on third level education. We did not supply it to the Department of Education and Skills, the HEA or any of the colleges concerned. The reports are not about personal findings and the parliamentary legal adviser will make sure it is within the proper procedure from the Houses of the Oireachtas. It would not be normal to issue it for discussion. We will give them a draft report just immediately before the launch.

Second, I will ask the secretariat if we have received additional material that is being referred to in the letter, that did not come through the Commissioner's office. It is surprising the Commissioner has not got it if it has come from senior officers, but in the event she has not, I think we will forward it to the Commissioner in any event.

I have three points. I agree with the ruling of the Chair. It is extraordinary to be handed this letter with this request. It is no secret that this report will be published in the coming days or week.

Second, the letter makes reference to the media. I have not seen anything in the media relating to any extracts from this report. We have been very clear in how we have done our work on it.

Third, the letter is bizarre. If one reads the letter, it is more or less requesting that we send to the Commissioner a copy of the documentation that the Garda Síochána, through their CEO have already sent us. That is bizarre. We can provide the documentation just to be sure but it seems strange that the Garda is sending us information that we requested and now we have to send it back out to it again.

Exactly.

The only media coverage that I have seen in relation to this issue, is that we are going to publish a report, which is not the third secret of Fátima. We have said that will be the case.

My view of the letter is that it is a very defensive, in that I hope this will not be an excuse that there was unfair process. We need to make it very clear that the process was fair. It was the same process that we followed with the NAMA report, the Project Eagle report and subsequent reports. I make this point in case it is put forward as a defence that there was an unfair process and that they were not given an opportunity to comment.

The letter simply notes coverage in the newspaper. It does not say anything about content. To be fair, the letter writer states that he notes from coverage that the report will be made. On a general level, perhaps on the question of issuing the report, NAMA asked for a report and various other groups have asked for a report. What needs to be clarified by the Chair is the procedure in regard to when we produce a report. Any organisation is entitled to clarification on that issue.

I will ask the secretariat. I am sure there is a standard Oireachtas protocol on this. I will ask that the standard protocol be circulated to members and we can include it in our press statement so that people will be aware. There is an agreed protocol in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

NAMA asked us for the report and we went through the procedure. We need to clarify publicly the procedure when we are doing reports. That might be helpful.

We will have that circulated and published.

We are dealing with the Garda Vote No. 20; the Courts Service Vote No. 22. The intention had been that we would have had a joint discussion with An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service to discuss the collection of fines for the penalty points, but I have been informed that the report is not ready. I understand there was no separate report on the breath tests. There is a draft report in the system, which we may discuss, but it is not the final report.

It is an interim report.

There are two interim reports. The final report is due on 31 July 2017.

We can discuss the interim report. Essentially, I want to agree a timetable from now, 10 a.m. until 1.30 p.m. We have three and a half hours. Should we allocate two hours for the Garda Síochána, leave the interim report as there is an overlap with both organisations, and when the Garda are finished they are free to leave and we then move on to the Courts Service. To summarise, we will allocate two hours to the Garda Síochána and then we will decide how much time we are allocating to the interim report, so we will hold that off until the Courts Service come in and we will do 30 minutes or 40 minutes as the case may be. We will then complete the meeting with the Courts Service, with a view to completing our work at approximately 1.30 p.m.

Chairman, we will not deal with these two reports in the first part of the meeting?

We are dealing strictly with the Garda Vote. The issue of the interim report and the collection of fines-----

Also the breath tests.

We are a bit puzzled. The breath tests affects the Courts Service. We are dealing with two separate Votes today, first the Garda Síochána Vote, which we will deal with in the normal course of events in the first two hours. We have a separate Courts Service Vote being dealt with by the Courts Service which we will deal with separately, but there is an item affecting both of them, which is the interim reports. We will have a middle session where both organisation will be present.

I do not think that will work for the simple reason that the middle session will be one of the longer sessions. We have the following options: first, in the overlap area, the Chairman might allow us to question each organisation as part of the normal round of questioning.

We will do that.

Otherwise, the two organisations would have to remain for the whole day, and we are not going to do that.

We will allocate two hours for An Garda Síochána, and one hour and a half for the Courts Service. Is that agreed? Agreed. As time will be tight, I will have to be very strict. I will not be able to apply the usual latitude. The lead questioners are Deputies Catherine Connolly, Marc MacSharry, David Cullinane, Alan Kelly and Catherine Murphy and Mary Lou McDonald.

We will suspend while the witnesses-----

Before we suspend, we should wish Deputy Kelly a very happy 50th birthday.

If the Deputy drops-----

There were bonfires up the North for me yesterday. It was 12 July.

If the Deputy drops eight years off, it she will be there.

It is also the CAO's birthday, Mr. Joseph Nugent.

The meeting is suspended while the witnesses take their seats.

Sitting suspended at 10.01 a.m. and resumed at 10.05 a.m.