Public Accounts Committee
Yesterday the Office of Public Works came before the PAC. We were examining the 2011 annual report carried out by the Controller and Auditor General and in particular Chapter 14 on the OPW’s procurement performance.
In part 1 of the meeting, I focused my time on the costs associated with providing accommodation for Ministerial office holders and for other senior civil servants following on from reports regarding works done to a Junior Ministerial Office in 2007.
In part 2 I examined the methodology used by the OPW to measure savings achieved under new procurement initiatives following criticism of this methodology by the C&AG. It’s actually a very interesting insight into how the public sector, before this government, was calculating savings based on estimates and not of what was actually saved. We then discussed proposed changes in methodologies under the current government.
I also spoke to the OPW on its work with the Irish Insurance Federation in communicating improvements in flood defences in order to help those who are finding it difficult to get home insurance. (This features at the beginning of Part 2 of the meeting in the video).
To view my contribution on the costs associated with providing Ministerial office accommodation click here.
Today the Department of Environment were before the PAC. We were examining in particular the special report carried out by the Controller and Auditor General on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Authority.
The central theme of this week’s meeting was the Department of Environment’s oversight function before, during and after the Irish Glass Bottle site acquisition and in particular the sanction given by the Department to increase the Authority’s borrowing limit and permission to enter a joint venture.
I focused my time on issues regarding the potential conflict of interest that may have arisen at the time of the acquisition of the Glass Bottle site.
To view my contribution please click here.
On Thursday the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources were before the PAC. We were examining in particular the chapters of their vote concerning the Broadcasting Fund, The Broadcasting of Ireland’s financial statements and the department’s appropriation account. Colleagues took the opportunity to raise the proposed new broadcasting charge and the diversity of programmes awarded grants from the broadcasting fund. I focused on issues regarding the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland: the accounts for the authority, how the authority levy is calculated, the consultancy and legal fees of the authority and the cash flow available to the authority.
To watch my contribution click here.
For a transcript of the proceedings please click here.
Today the Department of Justice & Equality and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor were before the PAC. We were examining in particular the chapters of their vote concerning the lease of accommodation for a probation service project and the asylum process in Ireland. Colleagues took the opportunity to raise uncompleted building projects by the department of justice. I focused on issues regarding the asylum process in Ireland including: the cost of accommodation to the state, the length of the process and the prohibition on asylum seekers seeking employment or further education while their requests are being processed.
To watch my contribution click here.
Today the Department of Education was before the PAC. We were examining in particular the chapters of their vote concerning Public-Private Partnerships in the education sector and legacy issues regarding overpayment of teachers. Colleagues also took the opportunity to raise school transport issues, SUSI and the Department’s payment system. I raised the following matters: retired teachers acting as substitutes, fee-paying schools and governance irregularities at Cork County VEC; click here to watch a video of my contribution.
This week the National Transport Authority came before PAC. A number of topics were up for discussion and I focused my intervention on the new Leap Card, the expansion of DublinBikes and the office of the Taxi Regulator. Interestingly, the staff from the Taxi Regulator’s office on Fitzwilliam Square have now moved into the NTA proper. However, an upward only rent review leasehold remains in place until 2024. Another state agency will occupy the building on a fixed rate. So, if the landlords up the rent, the NTA will have to foot the bill with no way of recovering the money lost in the difference.
Also, following our discussion on racism in the taxi driving profession, the Authority are going to investigate the possibility of an educational programme for drivers. We also spoke about enforcement at taxi ranks where discrimination is evident (for example the ‘white drivers only’ rank that is alleged to be operating on O’Connell Street).
Click here to watch the proceedings.
This week the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) appeared before the Public Accounts Committee to discuss their role in public private partnerships. In 2007, the NDFA was responsible for conducting a value for money audit (VFM) in relation to the proposed Poolbeg incinerator. I’ve consistently argued on the PAC that this VFM should no longer stand given the number of significant changes that have occurred in relation to the project and to the contract since then. At the PAC this week, the CEO of the NDFA confirmed that this VFM from 2007 is null. If Covanta manage to secure financing for their side of the deal, the project in its entirety will have to once again undergo a value for money audit.
We also learned that the cost benefit analysis for this project is conducted by Dublin City Council and only Dublin City Council. No other state body is responsible for assessing the cost/benefit analysis independently. This is unacceptable in my view given the number of mistakes with this project to date and given the conclusions of the internal audit of the project (which said financial management had been weak and also criticised management of the project), furthermore as partners in the process DCC are, at the very least, objectively conflicted.
To watch proceedings click here.
To watch video click here
Local audit report available here
This week the PAC received the details of the local government audit in to the Poolbeg incinerator project. The audit came to some serious conclusions regarding the financial management and the governance of the project since its inception – basically, it has been weak to non existent.
The tax payer’s bill for this incinerator to date, which still hasn’t been built, is in excess of €80 million euro.
Today the Secretary General of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government was before the PAC and I took the opportunity to go through the various elements of the report with her in detail. You can watch the video below and the full transcript will be up soon.
Today the Director General Designate of the HSE came before the PAC as we reviewed the current allowances available within the HSE. To view the full list allowances click here to watch the proceeding click here.
Today the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan appeared before the committee. We examined the business cases of the 108 allowances currently available within the Garda Síochána.
To watch the proceedings click here