Business of Committee

Are the minutes of the meeting of 19 June agreed? Agreed.

The next issue is matters arising from the minutes. The replies on the issue of the compellability requests are being drafted and are not ready for members this morning. I suggest that we meet the parliamentary legal adviser on this at 2.30 p.m. We could not meet her this morning because another meeting was being held. This would help with completing the replies to both queries we received from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The parliamentary legal adviser will meet us at 2.30 p.m. after we finish our morning business.

The next item is correspondence received since our meeting of 19 June 2014. No. 3A.1 is correspondence dated 24 April from the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding further information requested at our meeting on 6 March 2014, to be noted and published. No. 3A.2 is correspondence received on 24 June from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government regarding a reply to Deputy Simon Harris on tendering and value for money regarding the running of elections in Ireland, to be noted and published. Does Deputy Harris wish to comment?

I thank the clerk for his assistance with this. I have been trying to get to the bottom of what safeguards are in place for taxpayers' money regarding the running of elections and serious concerns have been brought to me that not all returning officers have followed tendering guidelines and rules for obtaining equipment such as tables and chairs for polling stations and count centres, which comes to a significant amount of money. There is also an issue with regard to how items are invoiced and what documentation is provided. I raised a parliamentary question to the Minister of the Environment, Community and Local Government on 19 June but it was disallowed by the Ceann Comhairle, which is fine. He stated the Minister was not accountable to the House. The note obtained by the clerk clearly states the OPW is the responsible body with regard to the expenditure of funds. The note is helpful but it does not answer the specific question. We need, in tabular form, a list of the returning officers, whether they tendered for the purchase or use of equipment during the election, what were the amounts of the tender and what was the amount spent by each returning officer for the local and European elections. This information should not be impossible to get, but trying to get to the bottom of it has become like trying to discover the third secret of Fatima.

The Accounting Officer for the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is here.

It is not the responsible Department.

I understand that, but perhaps the Deputy could start by fleshing out the issue and afterwards, if it is still not to his satisfaction, we can pursue it with the appropriate Accounting Officer.

I am agreeable to that.

The best approach is probably to start a discussion with the Secretary General.

If it is not complete we can follow up on it. If there are questions that arise at today's hearings which remain unanswered we can liaise with the clerk and write to the appropriate people.

That would be good. I thank the Chairman.

No. 3A.3 is correspondence dated 25 June from Mr Tony O’Brien of the HSE, regarding the invitation to attend our meeting on 3 July 2014. Mr Cregan completed his report on the CRC and members now have a copy. The report raises issues on governance and oversight which we want to examine, as we must complete our report to the Dáil on issues relating to section 38 and section 39 bodies. Mr. O'Brien will not be available on that day because he has already scheduled his annual leave. Ms Laverne McGuinness will be responsible on the day. Mr. Cregan will be here to deal with the issue of the report. We have invited the new and previous chairmen of the CRC. The committee intends to do its business with all of these witnesses together.

Have they all confirmed they will attend?

Clerk to the Committee

The HSE will be in attendance. I have spoken to Mr. Timmins, the new chairman of the CRC, and he and the new CEO will be in attendance. I have been in contact with the former board through a consultant, Mr. Gallagher, it retained. It has not confirmed yet it will be in attendance.

What about Mr. Kiely?

Clerk to the Committee

I have been in touch with Mr. Kiely's legal representative. He will not be in a position to attend as he is very ill and is not in a position to give evidence.

We should accept this.

Clerk to the Committee

I got permission from the legal adviser to tell the committee because I did not want to operate on hearsay. It is the case that Mr. Kiely is unwell.

We wish him well.

Has the former chairman, Mr. Goulding, accepted the invitation? He publicly stated he would come before the committee.

Clerk to the Committee

He has not confirmed. When I wrote to him this week I referred to the fact he had already given a commitment he would attend. That is where I left it with him. They must come back to me.

Is there any doubt about them coming in or are they just worried about the date?

Clerk to the Committee

No, they are not worried about the date.

What is the problem then?

Clerk to the Committee

I cannot-----

In fairness, we set out the wishes of the members for certain individuals to attend, and they are those from our previous meeting apart from Mr. Kiely because he is ill, the chairman of the new board, Mr. Cregan, and the HSE. A suggestion has been made that Mr. Cregan would present himself and deal with the report on his own, but I do not believe this should be the case. He should be here with the new chairman and-or representatives of the new board, and with other members of the CRC and the HSE so we can deal with this fully and openly and complete our business. We should make this view known to Mr. Goulding and get a response to this.

I would hate to think there is some type of backsliding going on and the indication is that there may be.

We do not know that as a fact.

I would hate to think it was true, that is what I am saying. The old board still has many questions to answer. The report mentioned missing files and other issues which are outstanding about which, undoubtedly, we ought to ask. There are also issues which the administrator did not address. As the Chairman knows, the administrator did not interview the old board at all. He decided this for reasons which we cannot understand but it did not happen. He did not interview the old board when he was conducting the examination, apart from one or two of them in their role as members. He did not interview them on the issue. It is very important that we ask them to come in and that they do so. It is somewhat worrying that there is a doubt about them attending in principle.

The only question that arises now is the fact they have not replied. No one is saying he or she will not attend. We will ask the clerk to check again in the afternoon and determine what witnesses will come before us next week.

The other issue is that they should all attend together. The committee is agreed on that. Deputy Harris had indicated, then Deputies Dowds and O'Donnell.

I accept what the Chairman has outlined. Given what the clerk has stated about it not being the date they have a problem with, though, there may be a degree of backsliding. I note the presence of Mr. Goulding's consultant in the Gallery. Mr. Goulding chose to go on the national airwaves via RTE Radio 1. It was his first time publicly commenting after failing to engage with this committee, which is his right. Importantly, the CRC is a section 38 body. Mr. Goulding gave two clear commitments on "This Week". They are there for anyone to hear. First, he stated that there was documentation that this committee was seeking, which the Chairman will recall related to the minutes and agendas of meetings that decided the remuneration package of Mr. Kiely. Second, he stated that he would be willing to attend this committee. In the context of any conversation that the clerk is having with him and his team, he should be reminded of his public pronouncements on this issue because nothing has changed in that regard.

Mr. Goulding did not fail to attend.

He did not. The clerk or Chairman can correct me if I am wrong, but we have written to Mr. Goulding seeking documentation. That is my understanding. We were certainly meant to write.

We should not make a judgment this morning.

It is not a judgment. I will be very careful in what I say.

I understand that, but we have to be careful because-----

Why not wait until we get a response from him, for God's sake?

Exactly.

Just to be correct, we corresponded with Mr. Goulding and requested the documentation that he publicly promised.

But we did not get it.

I will make three points. I agree with Deputy Ross's contribution. From conversations I have had, I understand that the CRC expects to attend. Will the clerk clarify who he meant when he stated that someone needed to attend again?

Clerk to the Committee

The Deputy will recall that a decision was made by the committee after the hearings that we would put all board members on notice. I recall writing to all board members-----

Does the clerk mean the members of the former board?

Clerk to the Committee

Yes. They were all put on notice. We have been dealing with Mr. Goulding on the issue. That is where the matter lies at the moment.

We will pursue it further in the afternoon.

I am worried about pursuing it further in the afternoon. What will happen will be-----

We cannot do it now because we have to hold our meeting.

Wait a minute. We are heading for a summer recess. It is important that we get some evidence from those in question before then. If we leave the matter until this afternoon, we will be into next week and they will not attend.

It will not be next week. The fact of the matter is that the individuals, as the clerk remarked, have been put on notice. They have not stated that they would not attend. We are simply setting up the meeting for next week in the context of who will attend. We understand that they have not responded and we are just going to check, but our meeting will go ahead next Thursday. We will let members know in the afternoon, if we can, who will attend. Let us not make a judgment call on it now.

As long as we get a response.

From conversations I have had, they expect to attend again.

I call Deputy O'Donnell, and then we must finish on this matter. We are just going around the houses with it now.

I will be brief. Just to clarify the current situation, who will be attending and who has not responded to our invites? Our job of work as regards the CRC is to ensure that we have people before us who can answer our questions and provide information. I am not totally clear. At this moment in time, who is definitely attending and who has stated that they will not? This is not personal. This is about having people who-----

That is okay. Ms Laverne McGuinness will be attending on behalf of Mr. O'Brien with officials from the HSE. The request was for Mr. Cregan to be taken separately, but that request was denied and we will take Mr. Cregan and the HSE together.

The chairman of the CRC's new board will be present.

Yes. I understand that the witnesses from our previous meeting, with the exception of Mr. Kiely, have been put on notice.

Mr. Goulding did not attend that meeting. Am I correct in believing that he was not invited?

Clerk to the Committee

He was invited, but he was not available. For the avoidance of doubt, I wrote to Mr. Goulding asking him to attend. I referred to the letter of 19 February in which he was put on notice. In his reply, he confirmed that it was his intention to give a full and frank account of his involvement in the matters under question. I stated that it was the requirement of the committee that the former board members who had a central involvement in the issues highlighted in the report of the interim administrator would attend it. In that regard, I have held discussions with Mr. John Gallagher, who is acting for Mr. Goulding and a number of former board members.

Who among those we have sent invites to have not responded yet?

Clerk to the Committee

Mr. Nugent and Mr. Martin, who attended the previous meeting, are probably the primary ones other than Mr. Goulding. They had a central involvement and appeared before this committee.

What about Mr. Conlon?

Clerk to the Committee

I can contact him again and put him on notice if the committee wants.

It is slightly vague. Who specifically have we asked? I do not know.

Clerk to the Committee

I have read into the record that we have written to Mr. Goulding and the group of former board members represented by Mr. Gallagher. I have asked for those who had a central involvement in the issues highlighted in the interim administrator's report to attend the committee.

We have not asked for anyone specifically by name.

Clerk to the Committee

I have not named them. I have left it to Mr. Goulding and Mr. Gallagher to revert to me on that, but if committee members so wish, I will ask. I have no difficulty whatsoever in making contact individually. I do not have contacts with these individuals, but I am sure I will be able to do so in the afternoon.

To avoid ambiguity-----

With the exception of Mr. Kiely, the three individuals are Mr. Conlon, Mr. Martin and Mr. Nugent. Separate from the clerk's direct contacts with the representative of that group, we will now direct our invitation to these individuals.

To avoid any ambiguity. I thank the Chairman.

Turning to individual correspondence, we received correspondence dated 12 June 2014 from Ms Patricia Doherty, CEO of St. Michael's House, in reply to correspondence received from Dr. Mark Harrold. This is to be noted and a copy forwarded to Dr. Harrold.

I will not detain the committee for too long. I am concerned when an organisation, in the second paragraph of its reply, dismisses a former employee who made a detailed set of claims against it as being someone who is just disgruntled and has a score to settle. Dr. Harrold made some serious claims about the organisation and I would like to know where the matter sits. Has any material on the claims been forwarded to the HSE for comment and has a response been received?

Clerk to the Committee

A response has not been received. Dr. Harrold's letter raised a number of issues, some of which related to administration and would fall within the remit of this committee, for example, procurement. Those issues were forwarded to the HSE and St. Michael's House. The latter has responded and dealt with them, but the matter is outstanding with the HSE. The answer on the procurement issues is that everything was documented in the annual report and there was full disclosure of all issues relating to the supply of goods by a firm associated with a board member. This is my understanding of the matter and, to my mind, was the only issue relevant to us.

The issue of Dr. Harold's dismissal has been considered by the Employment Appeals Tribunal and is not a matter for the Committee of Public Account. The issues relating to the incident at Leas Cross was the subject of two fairly detailed senior counsel reports to the Department of Health and the HSE.

I appreciate that. I am not referencing at all any of the internal reviews undertaken by that organisation. There are some outstanding matters that need to be resolved in terms of the expenditure of public moneys and whether that was appropriate. I accept that we must await the view of the HSE on this matter but I would like it confirmed that this matter is not closed as far as this committee is concerned.

Clerk to the Committee

It is not closed.

We will send a reminder to the HSE.

No. 3B.2 is correspondence from Mr. Martin McMahon regarding investigation by the PAC of widespread misclassification of workers as self employed, to be noted and a copy forwarded to the Department of Social Protection for a note on the matter.

No. 3B.3 is correspondence received anonymously from a member of An Garda Síochána regarding waste of public funds by failure to charge for policing of events, to be noted and a copy to be forwarded to An Garda Síochána.

No. 3B.4 is correspondence dated 24 April 2014 from Mr. Tony Barrett, CEO, Irish Seaweed Processors Limited regarding sale of Arramara Teoranta by Údarás na Gaeltachta, to be noted. The Departments of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Agriculture, Food and the Marine have been asked to provide a note on the impact of the sale of Arramara Teoranta on local seaweed producers.

No. 3B.5 is correspondence from Ms Maura Rawson, Chance Wicklow, regarding dog pound tenders, to be noted. This issue appears to be one for the local authority. The correspondence will be forwarded to the Local Government Auditor and the National Procurement Service for appropriate follow up. We might also raise this matter later this morning with the Accounting Officer.

No. 3B.6 is correspondence dated 12 June 2014 from Mr. Nicholas Furling, Pageant Holdings Limited re proposed NAMA funding of Scotch Hall, to be noted and a copy forwarded to NAMA for a note on the issues raised. We will ask NAMA to respond promptly with a comprehensive note on this so that we can deal with the matter.

No. 3B.7 is correspondence dated 17 June 2014 from Mr. F. John Herriott regarding use of taxpayers' money for visit of US First Lady Michelle Obama, to be noted. The Department of Foreign Affairs may be able to provide some information on this issue.

We now move to documents relating to today's meeting.

No. 3C.1 is correspondence dated 19 June 2014 is from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government regarding briefing paper. No. 3C.2 is correspondence dated 24 June 2014 is also from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government regarding opening statement. Each of these is to be noted and published.

The next item is reports and statements and accounts received since our meeting on 19 June 2014.

No. 4.1 is correspondence 4.1 is from the Pensions Ombudsman, regarding Clear Audit, to be noted.

In terms of our work programme, the committee will meet next week with representatives of the CRC and the following week with An Garda Síochána.

Regarding any other business, the committee received correspondence from a Mr. John Shine which relates to the fisheries department. I have asked the clerk to seek documentation in regard to that file so that we can determine of what assistance the committee can or cannot be to that individual. Likewise in regard to Mr. Charles Farrell who has also written to the committee on numerous occasions in regard to an issue dating back a number of years, which issue is still ongoing, we have asked for the relevant papers from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, following which the committee will determine if it can or cannot be of assistance in regard to the complaints being made. We will ask that those two sets of documents be provided as soon as possible.

The agenda for our meeting on 3 July 2014 is the 2012 Annual Report and Appropriation Accounts of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Vote 39, HSE Section 38 agencies' remuneration. We will also examine the report of the interim administrator appointed by the HSE to the CRC and Friends and Supporters of the CRC Limited. Is that agreed? Agreed.

We now move to today's business.

Deputy Kieran O'Donnell took the Chair.