Tag Archives: Public Accounts Committee

From top: Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Seán Fleming; clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan, a Komori offset printer; live link to today’s Public Accounts Committee meeting

This morning.

The Public Accounts Committee asked the clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan and representatives of the OPW to appear before the committee at 3pm to answer questions about the controversial Oireachtas printer.

It follows reports last night that the total cost of the printer has reached around €1.8million, €200,000 more than the €1.6million outlined by the Oireachtas two weeks ago.

It also follows the publication of Mr Finnegan’s report on the purchase of the Komori printing press, which is located in the basement of Kildare House.

Previously: “I Was Advised That The Estimated Cost Was €230,000”

Meanwhile…

The meeting can be watched in the link above or here.

Public Accounts Committee chairman Seán Fleming

This morning.

At the beginning of the weekly Public Accounts Committee meeting.

Chairman Seán Fleming referred to figures that the PAC received from the National Transport Authority – after they were “shocked” to discover last week that the “majority of the staff” in the NTA are outsourced contracts.

Mr Fleming said: “We never met a State organisation before where the majority of the day-to-day staff are not direct employees.”

He said the 10-year-old organisation has 118 direct employees and 148 people sourced through agencies.

Mr Fleming explained that, after learning that last week, they sought a breakdown from the NTA in regards to pay and other matters.

He said the cost of employing the 118 direct employees is €8.7million and that of the 148 outsourced workers is €21.6million.

Mr Fleming further said this works out at an average of €73,728 per employee and €139,189 per outsourced worker.

Meanwhile, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked that the committee write to the NTA to find out, among other matters, where the money from advertising on bus shelters goes.

Watch live here

This morning.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

The committee’s chair Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming read from a letter outlining the costs to date related to the Public Services Card.

The letter sent to the committee was from secretary-general of the Department of Employment and Social Protection, John McKeon, and stated the cost of the card has, so far, amounted to €67.8million.

Reading from the letter, Mr Fleming said:

“€36million of which is in respect of staff costs, related to the administration of the SAFE process and then there’s €31.8million has been paid – broken down as follows: €29.2m to the card production company, set-up costs of €26 [million]….that doesn’t add up. It might have been €2.6 [million] perhaps. And they have desk and card activation at €2.64million.”

The Irish Times reported on the letter this morning, stating that, from the €67.8million figure, €36million was spent on staff costs, and:

“€29.2 million was spent on the card production company, €294,000 was spent on facial matching software and maintenance, and €2.3 million was spent on departmental hardware and ‘systems development’.”

Mr Fleming said representatives from the department are scheduled to come before the Public Accounts Committee in a few weeks and that members will then get to ask them specific questions about the card.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked that they be asked about the lifespan of the card, what the projected cost is, and if there are any storage costs in relation to the card.

She also added:

“I note here that ‘we don’t have biometrics’ , according to the department but ‘we have facial matching software and maintenance’. It’s not a gigantic amount of money but that, to me, suggests biometrics.”

Watch the Public Accounts Committee meeting live here

Public Service Card cost nears €68m as enforcement order ‘imminent’ (The Irish Times)

Previously: Public Services Card on Broadsheet

Public Services Card; Heuston Station in Dublin

This afternoon.

During the Public Accounts Committee meeting, during which the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon fielded questions about the controversial Public Services Card…

The committee’s chairman Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming spoke about the experience of one of his constituents with their PSC.

He said:

“As TDs, I’m sure we all run into different constituents with different problems but a particular person I met had the travel pass as part of their social welfare card, they could present it and go on Iarnród Éireann and present it as the case may be because they were a carer.

“But a point came when they were no longer a carer.

“But they kept using the card and they weren’t carers. They weren’t entitled to use the card, but the card was still working.

“So about four or five months later they got a bill from Iarnród Éireann for about €1,048 and it listed all the dates that they’d used the card since, in their opinion, they were no longer deemed to be a carer.

“So they used that information, Iarnród Éireann used the Public Services Card to collect the information in relation to the number of trips the person made on the train.

“And one day they arrived in Heuston Station and they couldn’t get through the gate because Iarnród Éireann had obviously been in touch with Social Protection.”

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy suggested Iarnród Éireann presumably sought reimbursement from the Department of Social Protection for the trips taken and were subsequently paid for some trips and not for others.

Mr McCarthy said:

“Social protection would have no way of knowing what journeys were being taken.”

Mr Fleming again suggested Iarnród Éireann sought and obtained information from the Department of Social Protection.

Ms Dixon responded:

“We’d be very interested in looking at that in the context of the findings we’re about to issue…We’d be very happy to receive details on that in the context of what we’re looking at.”

Mr Fleming added that he doesn’t believe the case he referred to was an isolated case.

Anyone?

Earlier: The Irish Taxpayer May Have To Pay ‘By Virtue Of These Companies Being Headquartered Here’

Meanwhile, At The Public Accounts Committee

Public Services Card; Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee this morning; the Public Accounts Committee

This morning.

The Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon is appearing before the Public Accounts Committee.

It follows Ms Dixon finding that there is no legal basis for the State demanding the use of the Public Services Card in order to access a range of public services beyond social welfare payments.

Ms Dixon ordered that Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty’s department stop issuing new PSCs, with immediate effect, to people seeking a service outside of her department, and that it delete the supporting documentation – such as utility bills, etc – that the department has retained on the 3.2million card holders.

Ms Doherty is categorical her department will not be complying with these orders and has said the State will challenge the findings of Ms Dixon – in court, if needs be.

Meanwhile…

Irish Times journalist Jack Horgan-Jones has obtained documents [above], under the Freedom of Information Act, outlining radio ads that the Road Safety Authority planned to use but scrapped.

It’s understood they were scrapped after Minister for Transport Shane Ross announced in May 2018 that applicants for the driver theory test would not have to produce a PSC to satisfy identification requirements, reportedly after the Attorney General told the minister such a mandatory requirement was not legal.

This is despite Minister Doherty saying over the past few weeks that the State will challenge the findings of the DPC based on “incredibly strong” advice from the Attorney General.

Asked about Mr Ross’s announcement, Ms Doherty told the Dáil last night:

“I cannot say why the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, said what he said other than to say I am not responsible for the delivery of policy…

“I cannot say why he said what he said. I am only responsible for delivery of policy in my Department. I do not know if he got legal advice and to answer the same question, I do not know if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade got legal advice on its policy formation.”

Watch the Public Accounts Committee proceedings live here

From top: Denis O’Brien; CEO of Granahan McCourt, the preferred bidder for the National Broadband Plan, David McCourt and former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; tables from the Public Accounts Committee’s latest periodic report

Yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee published its latest periodic report which included a chapter on the National Broadband Plan and its meetings about the same.

In the report, the committee said it was “unacceptable” that significant changes to the National Broadband Plan –  made without a new cost/benefit analysis test being carried out – resulted in escalated costs.

The PAC is recommending that a new cost/benefit analysis test be carried out before the final contract is signed.

It also found the procurement process “may have partly deterred parties interested in tendering for the project from doing so” and has called for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to carry out a review of the procurement process.

PAC found…

“As of 28 March 2019, the total expenditure on the NBP since 2013 was €25.4m. The Department [of Communications] informed the committee that the majority of the spend to date had been on consultancy fees.

“The committee was informed that the value-for-money requirement of the NBP was governed by the public procurement process but consultancy fees had risen since 2014.

“The NBP was issued for tender in December 2015. However, the plan has undergone what members considered to be significant changes since it was first explored and these changes have influenced the procurement process.

Continue reading

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

The Public Accounts Committee wants immediate clarity over any possible conflict of interest over firm PwC which not only advised health chiefs on the children’s hospital, but also completed a review of the project.

The committee heard this morning that PwC was involved in advising over the second phase of the massive children’s hospital project last November.

A review by PwC of cost overruns for the €1.7bn project was only released this week after that was separately commissioned by the government.

Come on.

Clarity sought on potential conflict of interest over hospital review (June McEnroe, Irish Examiner)

Previously: Read It And Weep

 

Fianna Fail TD and chair of the Public Accounts Committee Sean Fleming and Fergal Mulligan, programme director at the Department of Communications

This afternoon.

At the Public Accounts Committee where senior members of the Department of Communications are answering questions about the National Broadband Plan.

Fianna Fáil TD and chairman of the committee Sean Fleming had an exchange with Fergal Mulligan, programme director at the Department of Communications in which Mr Fleming mentioned the second mobile phone licence.

Sean Fleming: “The next question I want. The person who gets it, because this is very important ’cause when we come back to the communications area and we look at the second mobile phone licence issue, and we look at Eir, or Eircom, that was privatised and sold off and changed hands multiple times, right.

“So will the winner – whoever is the winner, we’ll call them a winner because they presume to make money – will they be able to sell that on? To somebody from China, or Taiwan? Will they be able to sell on the contract?”

Fergal Mulligan: “The way the contract works, the winning bidder, if they were to sell this, there are arrangements in place where, in the event of a sale, we can’t prevent a sale to a reasonable third party.

“But we would share any upside there might be for them in that sale, I won’t disclose what the upside is, but we’d also have to approve that, so it couldn’t go to an unsuitable third party.

“For example, I won’t go into what the definition of…I’ll leave that to the lawyers. But there are a lot of protections in the contract.”

Related: How Denis O’Brien made his fortune (The Guardian)

Earlier: Broadband Options

Former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins

This morning.

In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has found that the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee acted significantly outside of its terms of reference in its dealings with the former Chief Executive of the Rehab group, Angela Kerins.

The Court found it has the power to declare the Public Account Committee’s actions unlawful in the light of the fact that the committee was acting outside its remit and that a relevant Dáil committee had come to the same view. The High Court found the courts had no such power.

Supreme Court finds PAC acted outside remit in relation to former Rehab group CEO Angela Kerins (RTÉ)

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