We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, who is a permanent witness to the committee. Today he is accompanied by Ms Mary Henry, deputy director of audit. The first session today deals with the reopening of Garda stations. The next item will be Chapter 12 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, which is on the management of ancillary services at the Garda training college. We are dealing with these matters first and we will defer our normal consideration of correspondence, our work programme and accounts received until the afternoon, as the witnesses from the Garda Síochána must attend a Policing Authority meeting later on today. They have to be long gone from here before 1 p.m. We will come back to our normal business in the afternoon.
As I mentioned, two matters are to be considered today. However, we also requested and received a note last week from the acting Garda Commissioner, Dónall Ó Cualáin, on the recruitment process and a breakdown of costs associated with the Charleton tribunal. This had been raised in previous correspondence with the acting Garda Commissioner. We received a letter from him yesterday evening on this particular item. I will read it into the public record. It has not yet been circulated but it will be published now. It is addressed to the committee and is dated yesterday. It states:
I refer to your email of 16th November 2017 and note the Committee's intention to set aside a small amount of time at the PAC to questions on the setting up of the Tribunal Co-Ordination Office.
Please note that this matter has been the subject of correspondence between ... An Garda Síochána and the Committee [since] August 2017.
Beyond the delivery of the public funding information furnished in that correspondence, and having taken Counsel's advice on the matter, I am concerned that discussions in the Public Accounts Committee concerning the Tribunal Coordination Office might easily trespass on the work of the Tribunal. The Coordination Office are fully cooperating with the Tribunal on behalf of An Garda Síochána and I wish to ensure that there is no potential for any trespass on it's [sic] important work.
In the circumstances, I would be grateful if the Committee could postpone discussions on this particular matter.
We will confine this matter to the very tight issue of costs, and there will be no straying into discussions that are taking place in the Chamber every day and the matters before the tribunal. I have not spoken to the acting Commissioner because I have just received this letter, but can we deal with that one small item without straying any further? I am saying to both the witnesses and the members that they are not to stray any further. It is not within the remit of this committee to discuss what it happening at the tribunal, but we can talk briefly on the costs issue in terms of that unit. I am not sure if such a comment is in the acting Commissioner's opening statement.
I have been asked to read the normal welcome. I skipped that.