Donegal County Enterprise Board.

Mr. C. Lynch (Chief Executive Officer) Galway Enterprise Board; Mr. M. Collins (Chief Executive Officer) Kerry Enterprise Board; Mr. D. Dalton (Chief Executive Officer) Kildare County Enterprise Board and Mr. M. Tunney (Chief Executive Officer) Donegal County Enterprise Board called and examined.

Acting Chairman

We are now taking Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9 together. These are the examination of the Galway County and City Enterprise Board Annual Financial Statements for 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997, the Kerry County Enterprise Board Annual Financial Statements for 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997, the Kildare County Enterprise Board Annual Financial Statements for 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998, the Donegal County Enterprise Board Annual Financial Statements for 1994, 1995, 1996 and l997.

All witnesses should be aware that they do not enjoy absolute privilege. I would also draw their attention to the fact that as and from 2 August 1998, section 10 of the Committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunity of Witnesses) Act, 1997, grants certain rights to persons who are identified in the course of the committee's proceedings. There is a list of rights. Members should be aware of that. I would remind members of the normal parliamentary practice.

We will take the four boards together, but I would like to ask each of the chief executive officers to introduce their staff. Mr. Charles Lynch?

Mr. Lynch

I am accompanied by Therese Clare.

Acting Chairman

You are both welcome. Mr. Martin Collins is solo?

Acting Chairman

Mr. Donal Dalton?

Mr. Dalton

I am accompanied by Mary Fitzpatrick.

Acting Chairman

Mr. Michael Tunney?

Mr. Tunney

I am accompanied by Mr. Gary Martin.

Acting Chairman

You are all welcome. Mr. Seán Murray of the Department with responsibility for the enterprise boards is also welcome. Mr. Purcell will introduce the accounts. It is rather unusual but we are examining the four together because of similarities.

Mr. Purcell

What we have today are the accounts of the four county enterprise boards, and they are for the years since their incorporation as limited companies. Before that the boards had acted in an informal sense as committees and their expenditure was met directly by the Department from the Vote.

We are talking about the company accounts today for the years since 1994 when, generally speaking, they were incorporated as companies. According to the agenda, the only 1998 accounts down for examination are those for Kildare County Enterprise Board, although I should say that the 1998 accounts for Galway and Kerry were certified earlier this year. The field work on the audit of the 1998 accounts for Donegal is completed but there are just a few outstanding matters that need to be resolved before the accounts can be certified.

To go back to the origins of the boards - 35 city and county enterprise boards were established in the second half of 1993 with the aim of fostering and facilitating the economic development of local areas. In the case of, perhaps, Galway it goes back as far as 1992, subject to correction. The boards were initially set up as committees and were later incorporated as companies limited by guarantee - it gives them a particular status from a tax point of view.

Grants are provided to the boards as part of the operational programme for local, urban and rural development. The bulk of the boards' expenditure tends to be on the granting of financial assistance to new and existing businesses below a certain threshold. Apart from this a range of enterprise support services are provided at local level such as advice, counselling and management development. Each board would see itself as having a role in promoting an enterprise culture in their particular areas.

Although each board is a legal entity in its own right, it was decided with the co-operation of the Department and the boards at an early stage that there should be a common format of accounts. This is something which is very helpful from an audit point of view. Obviously, it makes my job a little bit easier but it is also useful from an accountability point of view in that valid comparisons can be made between the accounts of each board. Inevitably there were some teething problems during the setting up of the boards and so on but nothing which in my opinion merited public accountability. Therefore, there are no critical reports as such on any of the boards. The report is merely the standard company audit report which I append to accounts.

Generally speaking, procedures appropriate to the scale of operation have been put in place by the boards. As far as I am concerned, Chairman, the boards have settled down well. There will always be small issues here and there but nothing that I feel needs to be debated on a national stage.

ActingChairman

Thank you, Mr. Purcell. I invite the chief executive officers to make an opening statement. I call Mr. Lynch.

Mr. Lynch

I will be brief. Galway County and City Enterprise Board was established with the objective of creating an enterprise culture, facilitating the development of small enterprises, and ensuring it was widespread throughout the county in encouraging all economic activity. I believe we have genuinely made efforts to do that and that we have evidence to show that we have given extremely good value for money.

Acting Chairman

Thank you.

The inaugural meeting of Kerry County Enterprise Board took place in September 1993 under the then chairmanship of the then county manger Mr. Paddy D'Arcy and it was incorporated as a limited company in November 1994. With unemployment running high at the time, the board concentrated to a large extent over the first two to three years of its existence on the provision of funding for the establishment of new micro enterprises. In the period 1993-95, for example, a total of 134 projects were established or expanded with grant aid in excess of £1 million.

Following this initial drive, the board began to concentrate also on other strategies which would provide benefits of a more long-term nature. In Kerry, for example, we began to promote enterprise at second level schools and third level colleges and, more recently, even at primary level. Actions of this nature will not bear fruit by way of job creation until further down the road.

Other actions included the provision of business advice and counselling, management development and training mainly, but not exclusively, for the clients we helped set up in business in the first place. To date 568 additional new jobs have been created which represents a cost per job of £4,385. Of the projects approved there has been a good geographic spread and also a good sectoral spread. For example, 36% of projects approved have been in the production sector, that is, manufacturing industry, food processing and craft production, 26% relate to tourism based projects and 25% relate to services. The other 13% has been spread over sectors such as alternative form enterprises, industrial units and waste management.

All in all the board is reasonably satisfied with progress in the 1993-99 period and is now looking forward to the challenge of implementing the new operational programme for micro enterprise which has just come to hand and covers the period 2000-2006.

Mr. Dalton

Kildare County Enterprise Board has been in existence since the end of 1993 and I believe it has carried out its functions in a very satisfactory manner. The rationale for providing support to micro enterprises is in respect of job creation - the development of entrepreneurship and the promotion of local development and social inclusion. I think the board has achieved that satisfactorily. Kildare is very satisfied with its performance to date.

Mr. Tunney

The structure in Donegal County Enterprise Board is the same as that of other boards. The first job of work which Donegal County Enterprise Board went about in the early days was a detailed analysis of the economy of Donegal and following that the adoption of its first draft enterprise plan. On the basis of the economic review the board identified a need to diversify the traditional economic base. That was a role which the board set itself with agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta.

The two key objectives were to create and help to maintain new employment opportunities and to build the capacity and capability of companies and individuals and communities in the county. Given that Donegal is a Border county, the board as well as using the resources available to it under the operational programme tries to maximise the available resources such as INTERREG, the Peace and Reconciliation Fund and the International Fund for Ireland for the benefit of companies and communities in the county and try to identify new opportunities for business development models to be brought into the county. In developing the capacity of our sister company, the County Enterprise Loan Fund provides low interest finance and is also administered through the offices.

The Donegal board considers it has done a reasonably good job and has been successful. We have exceeded the targets set for us in the original operational programme and we look forward to the next five or six years under the new micro business operational programme.

Acting Chairman

Mr. Murray, given that your Department is responsible for the enterprise boards I wish to put one question to you in view of your experience over the past six to eight years. Is the Department satisfied and happy with the workings of the boards? Is there overlapping? How do you see them progressing?

Mr. Murray

I took responsibility for the enterprise boards on 1 January 1998 and since then I have visited all the enterprise boards. I am acquainted with the staff and the activities of all the boards. The Department is satisfied that they are doing a good job. Some of my colleagues mentioned that the job targets are being exceeded. The boards derive most of their funding under the local urban rural development operational programme. Under that programme there was a target of 8,000 jobs. The outturn was in excess of 20,000.

Acting Chairman

Mr. Murray, do you wish to see any major changes made in the working of the boards?

Mr. Murray

The national development plan signals certain changes in direction. Those changes in direction were predicated by the value for money report compiled by the Comptroller and Auditor General last year, by analysis done by the evaluators of the operational programme and by recommendations which emanated from the small business and services forum. Essentially there were two main pillars. One was that there would be a progressive shift from direct financial intervention to soft supports, that is, management development, mentoring and advice. In parallel the boards would have greater recourse to refundable forms of assistance rather than non-refundable grant-aid which would be in the form of, say, repayable grants or equity. We also see a role for the boards nationwide in the promotion of e-business among micro enterprises. Those are the main changes in direction.

Other changes include intensification and women in business. Under the last programme, only about 15% of the businesses supported were run by women. Our aim is to double that number over the lifetime of the present operational programme. To that end, a number of boards will implement programmes to identify the specific obstacles to women going into business.

Reference was made by a number of colleagues to the enterprise culture. Essentially, that was concentrated on second level colleges. More recently, it has been focused on primary schools. Those are the changes in direction and the parameters against which boards will be judged during the lifetime of the present national development plan.

What was the total number of projects grant aided by the various boards and what was their success rate?

Mr. Lynch

In the period under review here, we dealt with almost 800 approvals. It is very difficult to define the failure rate. We find, due to the size of what we are dealing with, that the rate of absolute failure, where somebody disappears and we have to go after the money, has been extremely low. I am aware of only one case where we had to look for the money. Sometimes, a person might change direction and, if one were to be strict about it, one would say they started out making ashtrays but now they are making something else. The absolute maximum failure rate is 10% and quantifiably less. I did a survey some years ago, outside this remit, dealing with small businesses. Over a ten year period in County Galway, the absolute failure rate was 6.8%. That was the number of people who disappeared off the face of the earth and we never had any come back against them.

Are there any particular enterprises you would be reluctant to get involved with, given your experiences in the period in question?

Mr. Lynch

Yes, some can be of a very transient nature. Some proposals are very hard to pin down to see where they are likely to be over the next 12 or 18 months, when one examines the track record. It is not that we look for 100% success stories. There is an element of gamble and risk that must be taken to give an equitable distribution to anyone who comes in.

It is hard to isolate a particular trade. However, sometimes people in the crafts area have difficulties. They might have excellent intentions but they have difficulties in focusing on what they are going to do. While they might be very talented in terms of their craft skills, they might not be quite as talented at managing money and taking a business approach to the marketing and delivery of their products, which look very good on paper.

What kind of craft industries would you be most interested in supporting? Are they the ones that depend on the home market or are you more concerned about those involved in exports? I remember when I was in a Department some years ago looking at a very minor proposal which turned into a very big international business very quickly.

Mr. Lynch

Our approach in Galway has been to ask everybody, however big or small, to give us a basic business plan. We quantify the business plan to them and give them documentation and guidelines. We tell them that a business plan is like baking a cake, in that there is a number of ingredients that have to be put into it and if one is left out the cake goes flat. We ask them what they are going to do, where they are going to do it, who is going to do it, what it is going to cost and who will buy it. They complete that questionnaire, which is relatively short. The members of our evaluation board and our board are pretty experienced and have been around for a long time. We can eliminate problems early on.

Reference has just been made to the participation of women in enterprises. Can any particular trend be readily identified in that regard? Why is the participation rate low?

Mr. Lynch

The trend is improving very dramatically. When we started out in 1992, bearing in mind that we evolved from the county development team system, the amount of female participation was 8%. In 1997 the amount of female participation, in terms of ownership or direct control, was 27%. In addition, the amount of female and male partnerships would bring the female participation rate quite close to 30%.

I do not think we can claim credit for that because there have been huge changes. More women are getting involved constructively in running their own businesses and in making the decisions. Ten years ago, even if the husband or partner had no involvement, the application was in his name because he was more likely to get a loan from the bank. Things have changed and females are putting in applications in their own names and it is being dealt with in that fashion. There has been a significant improvement in the situation.

Does that apply to the other boards?

Mr. Tunney

Yes. In 1994 about 16% of our applications were from women, either as individuals or as part of a partnership or company. That has grown to about 33% in 1998 and 28% in 1999. In tandem with that, we have over 55% participation by females in the management, development and training programmes we run. Like a number of other boards, over the past two years we have been running a dedicated women into business programme, trying to generate both interest by women in starting businesses and providing direct and targeted support for women already in business in the county. We had access to additional funding on a cross-Border basis for that programme. As my colleague said, there has also been a significant change in the whole socio-economic make up at county and national level.

How many approvals did you have in the relevant period?

Mr. Tunney

We had 308 approvals over that period. Our failure rate is about 6.5%. I think we can account for a total of 15 failures. The majority of those were due to changing circumstances, mainly of the promoters. It might have been a career change, different opportunities, personal life experience and so on. We have only had to go after two to get the grant aid back. One or two businesses were sold on and are still trading.

I suppose I should ask the same question in relation to Kildare.

Acting Chairman

I suggest the witnesses identify themselves so that they can get credit from our record takers.

Mr. Dalton

In Kildare, we also have a dedicated women's initiative which has been in operation for the past two years. It has shown very positive results. The level of participation by women in grant applications increased from 14% in 1996 to 18% in 1997, 26% in 1998 and 32% in 1999. It is quite a bit higher in even the first half of this year, at in excess of 40%. Some 70% of the participants in our training courses last year were women, many of whom came through the women's network.

How many approvals did you have in the relevant period?

Mr. Dalton

We have had about 300 approvals since we started.

We had a similar experience in regard to the take-up of projects by women. In each year in the 1994-98 period the take-up was about 15% to 17% but there was a dramatic improvement in 1999, when 31% of projects were exclusively by women. As my colleague, Mr. Lynch said, that does not take into account the number of male and female partnerships, of which there is quite a number. Like Mr. Dalton, we have had a dedicated training programme specifically for women in business over recent years. While man of those businesses would not come to the attention of the enterprise board - they would probably be starting businesses which would not qualify for grant aid for one reason or another - quite a number have come through the system and have been granted aided subsequently. Again, in the period 1993-9, we approved 415 projects.

Are there any particular projects of which you are, or are likely to become wary of in the future having regard to past experiences?

The Comptroller and Auditor General's value for money report probably put a figure on the question of what they term deadweight and displacement. Our boards would be conscious of that fact and of grant aiding projects which would start up anyway without any grant aid or projects which would be in danger of displacing other projects. We are always looking out for projects of that nature no matter what sector in which they are. In manufacturing, for example, there is always an over-supply of people making joinery products. You are always conscious that somebody looking for a grant to start a joinery project is displacing somebody else because there are so many people doing this anyway. There are examples of that nature.

I welcome the enterprise boards. As the Committee of Public Accounts, our function is to ensure there is value for money and that there is no misuse of State funds. Given the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, our task is very easy today. This is one of the easiest runs we have got in a long time. The sooner these important people get back to their counties to continue their good work, the better. It is not for us to delay them here today.

We are getting information that may not relate entirely to the function of the committee but which is, nevertheless, useful. I would like to ask Mr. Lynch if the enterprise board system is an improvement on the previous county development boards? How does he see that?

Mr. Lynch

They are two different animals. The county development system was directly under the Department of Finance. The enterprise boards have broadened local participation and have more relevance at local level. In fact, without trying to claim too much, they have given a local face to decision making whereas before, decisions were made, they went to Dublin, they had to be ratified and they came back. When the enterprise board makes a decision, people know who makes the decision and from where the input comes. They can see the decision being implemented. It is hard to say one system is better than the other.

The only problem I would see is the scarcity of money. The training programmes we use are having a huge input in terms of getting people involved. Cleggan to Portumna, as you know, is a huge area.

I know Galway to Cleggan anyway.

Mr. Lynch

It is a huge area and there are many programmes. It is very demanding. The amount of paperwork involved is enormous for the amount of money we handle. At the same time, I am satisfied that the system is good and has a way of providing a certain amount of compassion while, at the same time, it can deal with local cases because of the board's knowledge of the differences, even within the county. Something which might go in Ballinasloe might not be suitable for Clifden or vice versa, while Galway city would be completely different. Because of the knowledge available locally among the members of the board, they have an input and can influence how policy is made and can implement it.

I have direct knowledge of the valuable work carried out by my enterprise board. Apart from money, if you, Mr. Lynch, or any of the other managers or chief executive officers, could suggest one thing which would improve the service being given, what would it be?

Mr. Lynch

I would have to think very carefully. I agree that, like everything else, there is room for improvement everywhere. Room for improvement could be made in terms of the promotion of a greater awareness of the important role the enterprise boards play. It is wrong to quantify what the enterprise boards do in direct capital returns and cost per job. Our records show that last year we dealt with 6,000 people through our office. Some of these people were "no hopers" but at least they came in and felt they had a hearing. They felt somebody was willing to listen to their proposal and try to change the thoughts behind it. That is very time consuming and it places an enormous amount of pressure on people. However, at the same time, it is the local face of the enterprise board.

When one comes to quantifying what the enterprise board does, it is not the number of grants it gives but the service it provides which is not quantifiable in capital terms. We put 500 people through various training courses last year. That does not reflect in jobs created. At the same time, 500 people were given an opportunity to do their own thing - not necessarily to create jobs but they were more equipped to do jobs which they might find elsewhere. For instance, the university adopted our training courses for teachers in schools which was set up by Therese Connaire. It uses it as a module in the Masters of Education course. That does not appear in the financial statements but it took an enormous amount of time and effort.

I am beginning to think your job is a lot like our own. Are there any figures available for the number of jobs created annually as a result of the activity of the Galway City and County Enterprise Board?

Mr. Lynch

I can give them to you. We believe with absolute conviction that 1,709 are in employment in County Galway from 1992 to 1999 as a result of the activities of the Galway County and City Enterprise Board. In fact, I have a letter here which was unsolicited. The Deputy might know the person, but I will not mention names. The author of the letter wished to place on record their thanks for my advice and help. He said the foresight, judgment and assistance given to him by the enterprise board has now provided employment for in excess of 200 people in Galway, 16 of whom are special needs people. He estimated that over the past few years, they had paid wages and salaries in excess of £8 million and also contributed value added jobs through sub-contractors, etc. That man had no money. He came to us and we gave him a discretionary grant of £3,000. We brought him to the bank and he got £3,000. He now employs over 200 people. We got him a premises in Sandy Road from Galway Corporation in which the enterprise board was involved. He has paid £8 million in salaries over the past two years. There are people like that. The number of people who started off through the enterprise board and who are now millionaires would be five or six. They are providing employment.

I am familiar with the Galway City and County Enterprise Board. I was mayor of the city when the Galway City and County Enterprise Board was set up.

Acting Chairman

There is a suggestion you might have applied for a grant and done well.

They were very helpful to me in a mayoral enterprise scheme which I initiated at the time. It was one of the first bodies to come on board. In view of my earlier comments, I think I had better stop asking questions.

Mr. Tunney, you are the only board representative from the Border region and that is why Deputy Gildea and I are keen to question you. Could you indicate if the signing of the Good Friday Agreement has had any effect on your activities? Has there been a positive financial reaction? Given the number of agencies operating in the Border area and the special financial provisions, North and South, is there sufficient co-ordination in the Border area for the operational spending of the moneys involved?

Mr. Tunney

In response to your first question, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the announcement of the peace process almost five years ago, when I was then in another Border county, has had a positive effect on business in a number of ways. First, from the point of view of tourism, a number of micro-businesses in the tourism sector have actively encouraged southerners - we call them southerners - to actually travel to the Border area and to the North of Ireland to help business. They also encourage more northerners to travel south. In addition, there has been an increase in the level of trade on a cross-Border basis.

While there was always openness for organisations and State organisations at local level to engage with each other, since the signing of the Agreement there has been a much more positive response and engagement from both sides. The availability of funding provided opportunities for organisations, companies and individuals and that has probably also helped.

The sterling/punt differential is also adding to the development of trade, particularly in the southern Border counties. We are getting a very large number of inquiries from companies in the North of Ireland. While they may not be considering relocating to County Donegal, they are looking to setting up companies to avail of the benefit of the currency differential and the fact that a significant number of people are still unemployed makes the availability of labour not such a great issue.

With regard to the perception, or the reality, of the proliferation of organisations, the fact that there are at least three sources of additional funding is a factor. There are the INTEREG and the Peace and Reconciliation funds, which has two bodies administering the funding, Co-Operation Ireland in Belfast, which was a business related body, and ADMCPA. In addition, the International Fund for Ireland has been in existence for the past ten or 15 years. They do not interfere with the operations of the likes of Enterprise Ireland, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the enterprise boards, FÁS or even Leader companies and partnerships companies because we as State organisations and local development organisations can apply to and access those funding mechanisms and use them for the benefit of our client companies.

There are three Border networks in the Border area. They have played a key and developing role over the last three or four years in trying to co-ordinate a more meaningful way of developing more cross-Border projects. I understand that perhaps in the next round of INTEREG and the Peace and Reconciliation funding they may even have a greater role to play in terms of acting as possible conduits for that money and for delivery agents like ourselves and Enterprise Ireland.

Has the substantial increase over the last couple of years in the price of building land, development land, building prices, etc., had any great effect on the operation of the boards and on job creation? Do the chief executive officers have any ideas as to how this might be addressed financially? Are they satisfied with the co-operation they get from local authorities, two of which I have served on for 29 years, in the provision of services to back up the work of the boards?

Mr. Dalton

We would experience that difficulty in County Kildare. Parts of the county are particularly expensive, especially the north-east. For people who want to set up business there, there is a lack of availability of industrial land and they are not able to handle the costs. That part of the county is quite well developed. We concentrate on the least developed regions of the county. The county council has recognised that and it would form part of the strategy of the county development plan.

Having worked with the county council for a long number of years, I have a good working relationship with it. We are working with it at the moment. It has land available in a number of locations where we would be interested in establishing enterprise centres. Our relationship with the local authority would be particularly good, but there are difficult areas of County Kildare where the costs would be so prohibitive that small businesses are not able to start up.

Mr. Tunney

Similarly in County Donegal with regard to the price of land. Also, the construction costs have increased significantly. We are trying to build an enterprise centre comprising 25,000 square feet through the county enterprise fund company. We have a great piece of land, but on Monday morning, when we met the quantity surveyor it was clear that in the past nine months the cost of construction has increased by almost £800,000. There is an issue there.

The capital requirement for businesses has increased. Approximately ten years ago somebody could think of starting a business with £10,000 or £20,000. Realistically, today the figure would be £40,000, £50,000, £60,000 or £70,000, which may not include the land. In rural counties there is a role for local authorities to enable small business owners to build on land they own rather than trying to corral them into towns of villages. That is an issue for local councils and councillors when devising their development plans.

Local authorities play a positive role. Donegal County Council is very proactive. If it has land available it will consider proposals for the use of enterprise space, especially from community groups. Enterprise Ireland, ourselves and other organisations have tried to assist communities with proposals to develop enterprise space, to facilitate local businesses with perhaps the council providing the land. That is one solution.

Mr. Lynch said that your clients may change direction after perhaps a year or two. Are they facilitated in this regard? Would you continue to give them advice in this regard?

Mr. Lynch

We encourage direction because we believe that standing still is equivalent to going backwards. Given recent developments and the future of e-commerce, regardless of whether or not it will be as great as it is being hyped, there must be an awareness. Only last week we brought 40 hand picked small businesses into a seminar of two and a half hours. We will select 12 of them and give them their own web-page as an experiment to try and get them on to the e-commerce scene so that they can get on to the world market with their products, even in a small way. As a result of that combined effort we reduced the price of creating a website for each of these individuals by approximately 50%. A number of tenderers are offering to provide the service and are ready to proceed.

We encourage change. Very few of the businesses established over the past ten years are doing what they set out to do. If they are, they are lucky.

Mr. Tunney

This ties in with a question Deputy McCormack asked. A key aspect of the board's activities is advice and guidance to clients. We will increasingly see the benefit of that by focusing on client needs all the time and helping clients to change direction with a focus on making their business sustainable and viable. If we make requests for resources it will be for additional staff. We all have a large base of micro-businesses we have assisted, but our staffing is limited. Therefore it is difficult to do the grant aid side and that mentoring, advice and capability development with limited resources. That is a key area for the future.

Boards were set up to try to increase the number of micro-businesses nationally. If we are to grow micro-businesses, then we need to keep nurturing them and try to grow another crop in the next five years. However, to do that one must have people working with them. That is one thing I hope we can do.

Does Mr. Tunney foresee that he will have the funding necessary to be able to do that?

Mr. Tunney

Obviously the funding for the micro-business programme is set out in the national development plan. We in Donegal and the Border counties are lucky in that we have been able to access other funding and we have three staff who are funded by other mechanisms. Otherwise we would not be able to engage in the same way with the number of companies with which we deal at present. I hope we will be able to access more of that funding when it comes on stream in the next 18 months.

Acting Chairman

As members mentioned, our task is to evaluate accountability and value for money. The report referred to earlier will be looked at again. It also covers Leader, ADM and various other such enterprise groups. It is obvious from the evidence received today, the Comptroller and Auditor General's statement in all cases that the accounts have a clear bill of health and Mr. Murray's comments that to date the enterprise board concept has been a great success and is working well.

I thank the four chief executive officers and all their staff for their efforts to date. I hope they will also have found this a useful exercise. Sometimes we must be forced to examine situations from which we would stay away otherwise.

Is it agreed that we note the accounts of the Galway City and County Enterprise Board, Kerry County Enterprise Board, Kildare County Enterprise Board and Donegal Enterprise Board? Agreed.

The witnesses withdrew.

The committee adjourned at 11.43 a.m. until 10 a.m. on 8 June 2000.