Tag Archives: Public Accounts Committee

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)

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)