Tag Archives: PAC

This morning.

The Public Accounts Committee heard that there has been non-compliance of procurement contracts worth €5.4million at Tusla.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane asked for PAC to write back to Tusla and ask for a breakdown of the €5.4million.

He suggested PAC specifically ask how many contracts were involved, why they were non-compliant and he suggested PAC ask for a report on each incident.

He added:

“Just to make sure that they know that we’re watching this because there’s no point in us just noting it which we do meeting after meeting and the C&AG [Comptroller and Auditor General] notes it. There doesn’t seem to be, I’ve said this time and again, there doesn’t seem to be no real sanction other than they have to watch, that they have to abide by proper competition rules and so on.”

“In any event, non-compliance in its totality, year on year, is a huge amount of money – when you add in all the departments. So I’m recommending everyone on them when it comes up, we write back, we want a report – and broken down by how many contracts, because the €5.4million may be one contract in this case or it may be multiple contracts, multiple and the reason for each and every one as to why it was non-compliant.”

Earlier: How Much?

This morning.

At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.

Chair of the committee Sean Fleming, above, raised a matter he referred to as “hiding in plain sight”.

He told the committee that correspondence it received from the HSE had confirmed that PwC were last year engaged to advise the HSE about the Government’s decision regarding what to do about the National Children’s Hospital.

But, two months later, in January 2019, PwC was also paid almost €500,000 to carry out a review of the hospital’s cost overruns.

Mr Fleming said:

“It was inappropriate of the HSE to request PwC to carry out that report given that PwC, at the request of the HSE, only two months earlier were involved in the process reviewing the gross maximum cost and providing their professional and specialist input from a financial point of view to the HSE which led to the decision for the project to proceed…”

He added that it was a “gross conflict of interest” on the part of PwC and HSE were “very wrong” to commission PwC for both reports.

Mr Fleming added that the HSE also knew about the conflict.

He also said that, as Independent TD Catherine Connolly mentioned previously, while PwC wasn’t requested to give any conclusion about the best option for the hospital, following its examination in January, it did anyway and this was to conclude that the project should go ahead.

He said:

“Here we have, PwC, in a report, drawing a conclusion, saying that the decision that was made, as a result of their previous, professional input to the earlier decision-making process was the correct decision in relation to proceeding.

“I find it extraordinary…”

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said, it seemed to him, that PwC was paid twice for the same advice.

He also noted that, in the correspondence from the HSE, the HSE stated it’s satisfied there was no conflict of interest.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly asked if the Government knew that PwC had been previously been involved before it was hired in January.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said, in her opinion, such conflicts can cause “corruption of a process”.

She said the committee will likely be told about “Chinese walls” but she said the committee needs to know if the same arm of the company carried out the two reports.

Ms Murphy pointed out that there have been recent news reports in the UK about the over dominance of the four big accountancy firms [namely Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC]

In light of that, she asked:

“Do we design our rules that really don’t allow more entities into that space? I suspect that we make it much more difficult for middle-ranking firms to compete and we need to look at that. Because that would have a bearing on value for money.”

Watch back here

Secretary General of the Department of Communications Mark Griffin; Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane

This morning.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

Secretary General of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment Mark Griffin is answering questions about the National Broadband Plan.

Waterford Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane asked Mr Griffin if he’s “confident” that the NBP will go ahead.

Mr Griffin paused before saying:

“Well, let me put it to you this way, I’m confident with that the project, as presented, will deliver on all of the Government’s objectives.

“The decision to proceed or not to proceed is a Government decision so I can’t say anymore than that. I am not the decision maker…”

Mr Griffin said the Minister for Communications Richard Bruton will be bringing a recommendation on the plan and this recommendation will be based on an assessment process.

Mr Cullinane then asked if there are “a number of options” contained within that assessment process “including, potentially, not proceeding”.

Mr Griffin said:

“The focus of the work has been on evaluating the bid that has been put to us. In fairness to Government, it would be important to us to point out the implications of not proceeding. And it would be important to us to do some assessment of what other options might be available, if the Government decides not to proceed.”

Mr Cullinane asked, again, if the option of “not proceeding with the plan” been examined and is it one of the options that was contained in the overall assessment.

Mr Griffin said: “The assessment process will have to deal with that.”

UPDATE:

Watch the proceedings live here

Previously: Smells Wiffy

‘An All-Too Familiar Vista In Major Communications Contracts’

A ‘Robust’ Tendering Process

‘Too Often In Ireland We Ask The Pertinent Questions After The Fact’

‘543,000 Families And Businesses Do Not Care What Name Is On The Side Of The Van’

From top: President Michael D Higgins Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry; Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy

This morning.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

PAC member Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry raised an allowance of €317,000 that the person holding the office of the President of Ireland is entitled to per year.

The committee was told the figure was set by statutory instrument in 1998, when Mary McAleese was president.

It was also told the €317,000 annual allowance is not audited, not taxed and doesn’t need to be surrendered.

From this morning’s proceedings…

Marc Mac Sharry: “Can I ask the C&AG, are you aware of an amount of €325,000 per year in the president’s establishment – the detail of which is not open for you to audit.”

Seamus McCarthy: “Yeah, I think it’s something less than that. I think the official salary of the president is…”

MacSharry: “No, no, not the salary, I’m not talking about salaries at all. And I don’t want to talk about the president either.”

McCarthy: “No, yeah, I’m aware of the other allowance which is…”

MacSharry: “So what is that?”

McCarthy: “It is…”

MacSharry: “How much…”

McCarthy: “I don’t have the figure off hand. It’s paid through the finance accounts, the Central Fund of the Exchequer.”

MacSharry: “Do you know what amount that is, per year?”

McCarthy: “I don’t, I don’t think so deputy…”

Sean Fleming [chairman]: “What the title?”

MacSharry: “I don’t think it has a title. That’s why I’m trying to get some answers. I asked the C&AG are you aware of an amount of money, in or around €325,000 per year, I’m not talking about salaries here. Which is not open to the C&AG…”

McCarthy: “It’s a payment, I think, for 2017, the figure is €317,000.”

MacSharry: “€317,000.”

McCarthy: “It’s a payment under the Presidential Establishment Act 1938 as amended.”

MacSharry: “Ok. So the Presidential Establishment Act, a payment under that, of €317,000, in terms of 2017…”

McCarthy: “It’s an allowance.”

MacSharry: “That’s an allowance for the president. Sorry, so that, so it’s renumeration then is it?”

McCarthy: “No, well, it’s an allowance. Yeah. It’s not pensionable.”

MacSharry: “Right. It’s not a salary.”

McCarthy: “It’s not a salary, it’s an allowance.”

MacSharry: “It’s an allowance.”

McCarthy: “An allowance.”

MacSharry: “And you don’t audit that?”

McCarthy: “I don’t audit that. I audit the issuing of the payment from the Central Fund.”

MacSharry: “You audit the issuing. So what’s involved in auditing the issuing of…”

McCarthy: “Ensuring that the amount that’s paid over is not in excess of the amount that is provided for in law.”

MacSharry: “And in this act, if we look it up, does it say €317,000 or how’s that amount…”

McCarthy: “A statutory instrument from 1998 set the figure at €317,000 and it hasn’t changed since 1998.”

MacSharry: “Ok. Do you know the number of that statutory instrument by any chance?”

McCarthy: “97.”

MacSharry: “Ok. €317,000 per year. You’re saying it’s an allowance but it’s not renumeration. So, in ten years, that’s €3.2million or thereabouts?”

McCarthy: “Obviously, yeah.”

MacSharry: “Do you know what it’s used for? Does that act prescribe…”

McCarthy: “No, it doesn’t prescribe what it’s use for…”

MacSharry: “Ok. So. €317,000 per year allowance, not audited, we don’t know what it’s used for and it’s not prescribed in law. Is that correct?”

McCarthy: “The purpose is not prescribed in law.”

MacSharry: “It’s purpose meaning it’s use – what it’s used for?”

McCarthy: “Other then that it is a payment that can be made to the president, that’s what the law says.”

Later

MacSharry: “What we have – €317,000 per year, provided under an act, we don’t know what it’s for, it’s an allowance. We don’t know what it’s purpose is for, it could be spent, theoretically, on anything, it mightn’t be spent at all, presumably. Is this an amount that’s surrender-able at the end of the year or…”

McCarthy: “No. It’s not surrender-able.”

MacSharry: “Ok, so it’s an allowance for unknown items, or unknown purposes, not audited and presumably not subject to taxation because it’s not salary or whatever.

McCarthy: “That’s correct yeah.”

Later

MacSharry: “Is it reasonable to say, and I know sometimes my language is a little bit flippant but is this a €317,000 payment on the blind? That no-one passes any remote oversight, notion, idea, look, at what it’s spent on? Is that the case?”

McCarthy:I don’t know, deputy.”

Later

McCarthy: “I do have a piece of information which may be relevant. In 2011, an amount of €357,000 was returned to the Central Fund at the end of the previous president’s [McAleese] presidency.”

MacSharry: “That would indicate then…sorry, just because it’s on the same thread…that this €317,000 can be paid per annum, be accumulated and then, if there’s amounts left over, as would seem to be the case in 2011, the balance was refunded to the Central Exchequer. Ok. But still, whoever was the incumbent, or whoever was responsible at that time, we don’t know what the money was spent on per year and we still don’t.”

“We want to get the procedures but we do know the Secretary General of An Taoiseach doesn’t know, the C&AG is not responsible and doesn’t know and the Department of Finance Secretary General, according to yourself, the C&AG, also doesn’t know, or doesn’t have a role in auditing that amount of money. So I think that’s significant.”

Follow PAC proceedings live here

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launching his ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ campaign, when he was Minister for Social Protection in May 2017; the Public Accounts Committee this morning; Secretary General of the Department of Employment Social Protection John McKeon at the PAC

This morning.

At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.

Officials from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection fielded questions from the committee in light of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s 2016 report’s findings on social welfare payments, overpayments and schemes.

The officials included Secretary General of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection John McKeon, above.

And how is the meeting going?

Ah.

Previously: The Real Figure Stands At €41million

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy

This morning.

The Public Accounts Committee.

“Eight out of the 100 companies with the highest taxable income had an effective tax rates of zero, including some which had negative rates, ie instead of paying corporation tax, they received rebates.

A further five had an effective rate of less than 1%

These very low effective rates reflected the use by the companies of significant tax credits and reliefs in particular double taxation relief and research and development tax credits.”

Comptroller and Auditor General  Seamus McCarthy, this morning.

Good times.

Apple’s €13 billion won’t be transferred until next year, PAC told (RTÉ)

Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly at the PAC in May

You may recall the Public Accounts Committee has been examining the Garda College in Templemore and its financial irregularities.

A timeline about these irregularities can be read here.

The PAC has recently held several meetings with senior civilian staff, including the Head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly.

At a previous meeting of the PAC, Mr Kelly said he would be completing two additional audits, on top of his overall examination of the Garda College.

These two extra audits were to involve an audit of EU funded programmes/projects; and a systems audit of cash and general management in the Garda College restaurant and shop.

Broadsheet understands that these two reports have been completed and sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General while the first (in relation to EU funding) has been sent to GSOC and OLAF (the EU’s anti-fraud office).

Mr Kelly is also expected to carry out an audit of investment accounts associated with the Garda College and review the interim audit on financial controls in the Garda College.

Broadsheet also understands that Mr Kelly has informed the PAC that while he had previously indicated, on July 5, that he was not given access to internal audit to two St Raphael’s Credit Union accounts managed from Templemore, account statements for the accounts have been provided to him.

However, he has warned PAC that he is still awaiting access to at least one other St Raphael’s account managed from Dublin.

He previously warned the PAC that there may be accounts unknown to his department to which public funds have been lodged.

Previously: A Templemore Timeline

Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane; Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan

You may recall how Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has repeatedly told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that she first learned of the issues concerning the Garda College on July 27, 2015 when head of HR John Barrett briefed her and others.

Mr Barrett claims he was told by College Administrator Sgt Pat McCabe that Ms O’Sullivan knew as early as June 23, 2015, while Mr Barrett claims former Chief Administrative Officer Cyril Dunne told him Ms O’Sullivan knew on June 30, 2015.

Specifically, Ms O’Sullivan told PAC that, after she was briefed on July 27, 2015, she set up a working group to deal with the issues. But Mr Barrett also told PAC that a meeting on July 2, 2015 was “the first meeting of the steering group established to examine the issues”.

Further to this…

The Irish Independent is reporting that the Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane has written to PAC contradicting Ms O’Sullivan’s account of events from her most recent appearance before PAC last week.

Cormac Quinn reports:

During last week’s appearance at the PAC, Ms O’Sullivan said: “The fact is this [working] group was established and it was to go through the process of informing all the relevant parties, keeping the Department [of Justice] and everyone else informed of that.

“I entrusted the job, and the sequence with which that was done, to the group as it was established. It is my understanding that it is accepted practice that the Accounting Officer cannot have oversight and responsibility for absolutely everything.”

In his letter, Mr Ruane quoted this section of Ms O’Sullivan’s evidence.

He wrote: “In my personal capacity as an individual who was asked to be a member of this group, I do not accept and cannot agree with the statement made above by the Commissioner in the context of the process of ‘informing all the relevant parties’.”

Garda legal chief disputes O’Sullivan evidence to PAC on training college (Irish Independent)

Previously: A Templemore Timeline

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking Leaders’ Questions earlier today

Earlier this afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked about the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald reminded Mr Varadkar of several items that emerged in the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, including:

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan claims she first learned of the concerns about the Garda College on July 27, 2015 when head of HR John Barrett briefed her and others about the matters.

Mr Barrett claims he was told by College Administrator Sgt Pat McCabe that Ms O’Sullivan knew as early as June 23, 2015, while Mr Barrett claims former Chief Administrative Officer Cyril Dunne told him Ms O’Sullivan knew on June 30, 2015.

Either way, on July 31, 2015 four days after the briefing from Mr Barrett – Ms O’Sullivan wrote a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy stating: “I have disclosed to you all the instances of loss, fraud or irregularity are known to have occurred or have been reported”.

But she didn’t disclose the matters concerning the Garda College to Mr McCarthy.

And the C&AG was only eventually made aware on May 31, 2016, by the head of internal audit Niall Kelly – who has previously cla

Readers may wish to recall that at a previous PAC meeting, on June 14, 2017, the current Chief Administration Officer at the College Dónall Ó Cualáin said:

At that point [October 2015], the advice was that the legal advice had to be sought and obtained before Mr [Niall] Kelly could commence his work [audit], all the bank accounts had to be closed, and all the moneys and investments had to be brought into one account. All that work was ongoing.”

It’s understood this advice was not from Head of Legal Affairs Ken Ruane but from Cyril Dunne.

Further to this, Ms McDonald asked Mr Varadkar if he has confidence in Noirin O’Sullivan, who became interim Garda Commissioner in 2014.

Further to this…

Mr Varadkar replied:

“Yes, I do have confidence in the Garda Commissioner and the Government does, too. The problems that are besetting the gardai are long-standing.  Many, most, if not all of the problems that beset the gardai predate her becoming Garda Commissioner. And I believe that she is somebody who is fighting many battles on many fronts in an effort to put things right.”

Hmmm.

Previously: A Templemore Timeline

Meanwhile…

In The Irish Times

Political reporter Sarah Bardon writes:

The [PAC] session was mammoth and the line of questioning was robust. But at times it seemed unfair to the witness.

O’Sullivan faced committee members that have already decided she is unfit for office. Can she expect a fair hearing when at least 10 of the 13 members have stated publicly they believe she should be removed as commissioner?

Questioning of Nóirín O’Sullivan was intense and sometimes unfair (The Irish Times)