‘A Harvey Smith To The Committee’ [Updated}


This evening.


Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure answering questions about the National Children’s Hospital overruns this morning at PAC this morning

The most senior civil servant in charge of public spending has become embroiled in a row with members of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee over claims he said they were “a mob” that needed to be controlled.

Sinn Féin’s David Culliane told the committee it was reported by a “very responsible journalist” that Mr Watt had said, outside of the committee room, that Committee Chairman Sean Fleming, “needs to control the mob.”

Mr Watt said: “I don’t recall saying it to be honest but if I did say it, it is a colloquial expression. It is not in any way intended to be demeaning to anybody. I don’t recollect to be honest.”

…Fianna Fáil’s Mark MacSharry said that the 18-page opening statement to the committee from Mr Watt did not mention the new children’s hospital once.

He described this as a ‘Harvey Smith‘ to the committee.

Watt embroiled in row over ‘mob’ comments about PAC (RTÉ)

Watch: PAC chairman ‘highly frustrated’ over senior official’s absence (RTÉ)


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35 thoughts on “‘A Harvey Smith To The Committee’ [Updated}

  1. Fact Checker

    Robert Watt is not the Accounting Officer for health spending in Ireland.

    That is the law, plain and simple. See below.

    The Accounting Officer is the Secretary General of the Department of Health. Politicians and media all know this, but are just interested in theatrics and headlines.

    “The Accounting Officer has specific statutory responsibilities under the
    Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act, 1993 to give evidence to the
    PAC on the issues set out in Paragraph 19 of the Comptroller and Auditor General
    (Amendment) Act, 1993 relating to regularity and propriety of transactions
    recorded in any account subject to audit by the C&AG as well as the economy,
    efficiency of the Department in the use of its resources and the systems,
    procedures and practices for evaluating effectiveness (VFM). “

    1. Mickey Twopints

      If Mr. Watt were to attend a similar review meeting in the private sector, and display that body language and clear contempt for the room, not to mention his clear ineptitude, he’d be out the door with a P45 in his pocket so fast that he’d break the sound barrier. We pay that muppet 200K p.a.? FFS.

    2. Truth in the News

      MR Watt is the SG at the Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform as such has the official
      and legal responsibility for capital programmes where public monies are expended and
      in the same way he is answerable to the PAC as the SG of the Dept of Health, there are
      not too dissimilar statutory obligations for one Dept and not the other…..otherwise it would
      be mob rule:

      1. Fact Checker

        His department does POLICY and OVERSIGHT of capital spending.

        He is not legally responsible for spending OUTSIDE his own department. That is up to the department in question.

        This is the Westminster public spending accountability system we have in Ireland.

        Try to understand its subtleties.

    3. Nuala Mc Namara

      ‘Oversight and implementation of capital projects’ was subject of the PAC meeting today.
      The National Children’s Hospital is the biggest capital project undertaken by the State.
      Mr Watt is also Accounting Officer for Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform and is required to attend PAC meeting to answer questions.
      Also Office of Government Procurement is part of DPER & the Government Chief Procurement Officer was on the Board of the National Children’s Hospital.

    1. Rob_G

      Maybe not. But its disrespectful for a civil servant to sigh in response to a question from an elected representative.

      1. phil

        It sure is , I hope his boss will have a word with him about that , Oh wait he is the boss isnt he ?

  2. Johnny

    Catherine Connolly is an incredibly gifted politician,watched her on the PAC with NAMA,extremely impressive.
    She masters her brief is polite but given her barrister background,asks by far the best questions,a credit to Galway.

      1. Fact Checker

        She is a very serious parliamentarian.

        I don’t always agree with them, but the female left/independent TDs like her, Clare Daly and Catherine Murphy are very good at holding the government to account, and not just jumping up and down to make a noise.

  3. BB

    Catherine doing us proud as usual.

    Mr. Watt appears more than a little out of his depth – he only holds a Masters Degree in Economics and is on a salary of almost 200K p.a.

    In Jan 2018 when he was due to step down, the Government extended his contract (Irish Times)

    Robert Watt of the Department of Public Expenditure, Jim Breslin in the Department of Health and Martin Fraser of the Department of the Taoiseach have had their terms extended for three years.

    Robert Watt, Jim Breslin and Martin Fraser were due to step down after seven-year terms
    All three were due to step down after serving the standard seven-year term at the top of their departments, but the Government has decided to extend their contracts. Secretaries general are paid up to €192,233 a year.

    In 2011 The Government appointed Mr Robert Watt as Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

    Mr. Watt is an economist and has broad experience in both the public and private sector. He has worked in a range of roles within the Department as well as previously working with Indecon Economic Consultants and London Economics. Mr. Watt is currently an Assistant Secretary in the Sectoral Policy Division of the Department of Finance and has responsibility for overall expenditure policy including the Comprehensive Spending Review, capital investment policy and managing the annual Estimates process.

    He has a primary degree in business studies and a masters in economics.


  4. realPolithicks

    Under qualified and overpaid seems to be par for the course with these jokers.

      1. Itchysays

        Explain Cian, if you will, exactly how myself or any member of the electorate, keep voting in Robert Watt, or anyone of his ilk ?
        An example of his name on a ballot paper perhaps…..

      2. Cian

        Come on lads – have you no sense of humour?

        It was the old switcheroo.
        You know, ‘misunderstanding’ something on purpose for humours effect?

    1. Liam Deliverance

      I did wonder why DPER were not cracking the whip in many projects and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer, watching this guy and his arrogance explains a lot. No doubt it was Enda Kenny that pulled the strings to get him the position. They had to demand he appear before the PAC to answer questions about a €1 billion over-run on the NCH. His 7 year term should have finished in 2018 but the government extended his term. A quick search shows him in the news for mostly the wrong reasons.

      IT, Jan 23rd 2019
      “An Oireachtas committee has accused the head of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform of treating it with disrespect over his refusal to give evidence over cost overruns at the new national children’s hospital.”

      Well done Ms Connolly, as always, formidable.

  5. Bren

    A chink of light breaks through. That what is said by the permanent govt is not for the public to hear. Here is another. Re public funds & the people “Its NOT their money”. You wont here that said out loud but it is whispered in the culture. You & I are not fit to see how our taxes are spent. Well the permanent govt boys & girls are just great to date. To my mind they have managed to break everything. Pretending to be competent in fields they clearly are NOT. Politicians come & go ad nauseam but the grey suits fester each for 40yrs. It is an actual form of institutional madness – bit like the priests. Very unhealthy for the ordinary man in the street.

  6. Johnny

    Sarah Carey on trust,is what Dennis O’Brien is to poker.

    “There’s something that happens to people when they see the opportunity to make money. Greed flavored with desperation, especially at a poker table, gives rise to a moment when the eyes change, the humanity vanishes, and the players become bloodthirsty, flat-eyed predators.”
    ― Molly Bloom

    H/T The Phoenix,which has great piece on Dennis and losing.


    1. Giggidygoo

      Think she was on dinnymedia Moosetalk for a while. ‘Journalist’ would be a term to be used loosely as regards her.
      Did she not resign from the Irish Times, saying that she was ‘sorry’ for lying to the Moriarty Tribunal about leaking some information about Denis O’Brien making a donation to a political party?

        1. martco

          jasus you’d think someone caught out that badly would stay well away from the twitter machine, wouldn’t ya?

          some brass neck. surprised she’s not in the cabinet wha

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