Tag Archives: Public Accounts Committee

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)

Rollingnews

From top: Alan Kelly and Tony O’Brien this afternoon

This morning/afternoon.

Public Accounts Committee

Labour TD Alan Kelly, vice-chair of the Public Accounts Committee, raised a memo sent to HSE chief Tony O’Brien in 2016

Mr O’Brien said that while he learned about the Vicky Phelan case on RTÉ News, he said he was told in the briefing note that a communications process was about to begin to notify patients with cancer about an audit of their smear tests.

“I was aware that an audit was carried out which was good practice. I was aware of a detailed plan to communicate the results of that audit,” he said.

….Mr O’Brien told the committee that he will strive to get a copy of the memo to the PAC today before the meeting concludes

More as we get it.

Wat live here

Memo over cervical audit did not ring alarm bells, says O’Brien (RTÉ)

Earlier: Unspeakable

From top: Templemore College; the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon, from left (front row(  Alan Kelly (Lab) Deputy Chair, Sean Fleming (FF), Chairman. Back row, from left: Shane Cassells (FF), Catherine Murphy (SD), David Cullinane (SF), Bobby Alward (FF), Mary Lou McDonald (SF), Catherine Connolly (Ind) and Peter Burke (FG); Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan

This afternoon.

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee’s report into the Garda Training College at Templemore was published this afternoon.

The PAC report finds  Garda management failed to rectify financial situation at the Garda training college :despite numerous opportunities to do so”.

The report says it was “unacceptable” that the C&AG was not informed about financial issues there until ten months after the Garda Commissioner was told about

…and the assertion made by Nóirín O’Sullivan to the Comptroller and Auditor General on 31 July 2015 that she was disclosing all relevant information was “not accurate

…The PAC says there is a notable absence of common purpose between members of senior management in the force.

The PAC concludes that delays in getting the Department of Justice to sit on a steering group examining the finances at Templemore “does not support the Garda Commissioner’s view that she took decisive action.”

Report criticises O’Sullivan over ‘unacceptable’ Templemore delays (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

There you go now.

Head of HR at An Garda Siochana, John Barrett, speaking at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in May

Earlier this week.

The head of HR at An Garda Siochana John Barrett wrote an 88-page document to the Public Accounts Committee to assist it further in its inquiries into the financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore.

Further to this.

Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, in the Irish Examiner, reports that in his statement, Mr Barrett has told the PAC:

He was subjected to a “whispering campaign”, with his “reward for my persistence” in highlighting garda college financial concerns being “spurious criminal allegations” that he breached the Official Secrets Act by keeping notes on what he found;

That one senior garda sent him documents at the time of his discoveries about the garda college “to suggest that I was aware of all the issues at play and that I did nothing for a number of months”, a claim against Mr Barret that has been proven to be untrue;

That Ms O’Sullivan’s PAC evidence about when she was informed about the garda college concerns is contradicted by clear, private records from the period kept by Mr Barrett;

That garda head of legal affairs Ken Ruane and director of communications Andrew McLindon were subjected to “revised reporting arrangements” and different management structures after highlighting the college issue alongside Mr Barrett.

In a separate section of his 80-page letter, Mr Barrett also called for a forensic examination of the St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union since 1999, which he said is needed to uncover whether EU funds and other money related to the garda college passed through accounts.

He concluded by quoting a book called Lies In The Mirror by current Disclosures Tribunal chair Mr Justice Peter Charleton, in which the retired judge writes that “deceit is the primary instrument for doing evil”.

Claims of ‘whispering campaign’ over Garda College scandal (Irish Examiner)

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and Sinn Fein TD David Cullinan in the Public Accounts Committee

This afternoon.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

Garda Commissioner Nóiriín O’Sullivan is continuing to be questioned in relation to the financial irregularities at the Garda College.

Readers will recall how Ms O’Sullivan has maintained that she first became aware of these issues on July 27, 2015.

And that the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy was not told until May 31, 2016  – by head of Internal Audit Niall Kelly.

Mr McCarthy told the PAC previously, and this morning, that the matters should have been referred to him immediately.

It has now emerged Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan sent a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy on July 31, 2015.

From this morning’s PAC…

David Cullinane: “I just want to get to a letter that you did send Mr McCarthy and he furnished this committee with the letter. The 31st of July, 2015. Was that before or after you were made aware of the irregularities at the Garda Training College?”

Noirin O’Sullivan: “It was four days after.”

Cullinane: “And was this a letter of representation or understanding, Mr McCarthy?”

Seamus McCarthy: “A letter of representation.”

Cullinane: “And what is a letter of representation?”

McCarthy:It’s a letter that we seek from an Accounting Officer at the end of the aduit to basically confirm to us that all accounting records have been made available and that all information that should be brought to our attention has been.”

Cullinane: “And I’m reading from it her, Commissioner. It says:

‘I can confirm to the best of my knowledge and believe, and having made appropriate enquiries of my officials at An Garda Siochana, the following representations, which are given to you in connection with your audit of the Appropriation Account for Vote 20 (An Garda Siochana) for the year…

I am satisfied that the expenditures and receipts enclosed in the Appropriation Account for the Vote have been applied only to the extent and the purposes indicated

‘All the accounting records have been provided to you for the purpose of your audit and all the transactions undertaken by An Garda Siochana have been properly reflected and recorded…

I have disclosed to you all the instances of loss, fraud or irregularity are known to have occurred or have been reported in the year.’

So irregularities were reported to you and here you are on the 31st of July, 2015, sending a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General saying that you have disclosed all instances of irregularities. You did not, Commissioner, disclose all instances of irregularities.”

O’Sullivan: “Well, deputy, what I had been informed on the 27th, on the evening of the 27th. What I was informed was, in the report from Mr Ruane that basically Mr Barrett had identified a number of issues. The nature of…”

Cullinane: “No, no, sorry Commissioner, that’s not the case, I asked you earlier on and you were very clear to this committee that the first time you became aware of irregularities in the Garda Training College in July 2015. You were briefed on the issues, you had a meeting with Mr Barrett and others I take it aswell. But you were most certainly aware of the issues involved

O’Sullivan: “Deputy, can I be very clear on what I knew. What I knew was that Mr Barrett had raised certain matters with Mr Ruane, our Head of Legal Affairs. Mr Ruane had reported those matters to the Deputy Commissioner Strategy Governance. That was on the 27th. On the 28th I got a report – so three days before this letters was issued –  I got a report from the Deputy Commissioner. I caused enquiries to be made in my office…”

Later

Cullinane: “With respect, you’re counting down the clock..”

O’Sullivan: “No, I am not Deputy…”

Earlier: A Templemore Timeline

Screen-Shot-2016-02-02-at-12.48.06

HSE general director Tony O’Brien before the PAC on February 2, 2016

This afternoon.

At 2.30pm.

Officials from the Health Service Executive, including HSE director general Tony O’Brien, will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Committee Room 3.

Ahead of this, one of the ‘Grace’ whistleblowers has written a lengthy piece in The Irish Examiner in which she highlights inconsistencies in public statements made by Mr O’Brien and the HSE about the ‘Grace’ case in relation to:

– The HSE’s three-year delay in seeking clearance from the gardai to publish the Conal Devine report and what prompted it to finally seek that clearance.

– Whether or not people who were involved in the Grace case are still working within the HSE.

– Procurement issues relating to the two reports, Conal Devine report and the Resilience Ireland report, commissioned into the foster home.

– Allegations of a cover-up.

Watch the proceedings from 2.30pm live here

Time for someone in the HSE to learn how to say ‘mea culpa’ (Irish Examiner)

Previously: Still In The System

Related: Member of HSE ‘Grace’ panel continues to work for public service (Paul Cullen, Irish Times)

UPDATE:

UPDATE:

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 14.52.35Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 14.52.54Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 14.56.34

A letter sent by Mr O’Brien to chair of PAC, Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming yesterday – correcting what he told PAC on February 2, 2016.

Meanwhile…

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Blimey.

HSE chief Tony O’Brien last year (top) and today (above).