Skip to main content
Normal View

Thursday, 23 Nov 2017

Business of Committee

We are resuming in public session with the business of the committee. This morning we dealt with the reopening of Garda stations and Chapter 12 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report dealing with the management of ancillary services at the Garda College in Templemore. We also had a discussion about the unit established by the Garda to deal with the Charleton tribunal.

We will turn now to the other items on our agenda. Are the minutes of the meeting on 9 November agreed? Agreed. We will have the minutes of the meeting on 16 November next week. We will come to the matters arising in our work programme so I will proceed to correspondence.

I will be very brief on the first items of correspondence which were in respect of today's meeting. It is a formality. No. 939A is from the office of the Garda Commissioner and is an update from Mr. Niall Kelly on the audit of cash and general management of the Garda College restaurant and shop. We will note and publish that, even though we discussed it today. Nos. 939A and 940A were in connection with the discussion with the representatives of the Garda Síochána today. We will publish those items now.

No. 941A is the opening statement for today's meeting from the acting Garda Commissioner. We will publish that.

No. 943A is the opening statement for today's meeting from the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality. We will publish that.

No. 944A is correspondence dated 22 November 2017 from the acting Garda Commissioner which we dealt with at this morning's meeting so we will publish that.

Category B is correspondence from Accounting Officers and other items for publication. No. 890B, dated 8 November 2017, is from Mr. Fred McBride, chief executive of Tusla, providing follow-up information to our meeting on 19 October. He has provided a comprehensive and extensive reply to many of the issues we raised. We note and publish that. Members are free to discuss and use the large amount of useful information in the document.

No. 914B-----

What number is on that document from Tusla?

It is carried over from the last time. It is No. 890B and it was on last week's list. There is a lot of good information in it.

No. 914B, dated 13 November 2017, is from Dr. Graham Love, chief executive officer of the Higher Education Authority, HEA, on the HEA review of Waterford Institute of Technology. The correspondence states that the deadline for the review has been extended to 15 December 2017. An interim review is also attached. We will wait for the final report.

Obviously, it would have been more helpful to have had it at the time it was promised. However, it appears that many people have come forward. There have been 50 meetings and 20 companies are being examined so it is a quite extensive examination. Bear in mind that the completed report is something we said we would use to conduct a wider examination of intellectual property across the sector. When that report is published it should come to the committee for consideration. Whether we will have to invite the author to a meeting to discuss it will depend on the content of the report. However, we said we would use it as a guide to inform us as to whether there might be problems in this area across the sector.

Absolutely. Hopefully, we will have that report early in 2018.

The next item of correspondence is No. 933B, dated 16 November 2017, from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and provides information on the transfer of assets of dissolved companies to the State. The correspondence sets out in detail the legal situation and complexities. Members might wish to study this detailed response. If they have not yet had an opportunity to do so we will hold the item over and put it back on the agenda for the next meeting. There is a good deal of reading in it. Members could spend a few minutes reading it privately before we discuss it in public. In any case, it is held over to be on the list next week.

No. 934B, dated 17 November 2017, is from Mr. Paul O'Toole, CEO of SOLAS, and provides follow-up information requested by the committee at the meeting of 16 November. It includes SOLAS salary costs, staff numbers and a summary of consultancy costs in 2016. I should point out that these representatives appeared before the committee a week ago and this letter was sent to us the day after that meeting. That is an example of how public bodies should be able to supply information in written format to the committee. I contrast that with the Department of Education and Skills whose officials appeared before the committee and we are still waiting for extensive information from them. There has not been a dicky bird from them yet. We will watch and wait for that. We have not even received clarification of basic items that were discussed that day. SOLAS could teach the Department a lesson.

There was the issue of the breakdown of costs in terms of people attending interviews and who goes.

Was that education and training boards?

There is an extensive list.

I do not see that there.

No, we have received nothing from the Department of Education and Skills since the meeting last week. We will follow up closely on that to ensure we get answers to all our questions.

The next item is No. 935B from the Secretary General of the Department of Health, providing an information note on the working group established by the Minister to investigate the relationship between the voluntary and State sector. A review group has been established. Somebody asked for a briefing note on that and the information is available to whoever is interested in it.

The next item is No. 937B, correspondence dated 20 November 2017 from Dr. Graham Love, CEO of the Higher Education Authority, providing a response to matters raised by the committee in relation to a president's retirement event at Cork Institute of Technology. The HEA is following up the matter. It is currently seeking a full explanation. That is a holding reply for the moment. That was discussed at length at the previous meeting.

It was discussed at length but I was not at the meeting where it was discussed. I commend Deputy MacSharry on raising the issue in the first place. The reply says that no specific guidelines are in place. Could we write advising that the HEA would seek to put guidelines in place? The HEA said it shares the committee's concern about the appropriateness of signing off on the expenses. Again, that goes back to what happened earlier today. Obviously it is not a huge issue but at the same time when there is wrongdoing, what is the sanction?

As Senator Cullinane suggested, we might send a note back to Graham Love asking him to consider the point about there being no specific guidelines in relation to expenditure for retirement events. I will ask him to consider that matter before he gives us a full response because there is a gap there.

That is also good, but as a general point - Deputy Cullinane hit the nail on the head – if and when we do make a finding or report there needs to be some level of sanction. At the moment it is noted and that is the end of the matter. It devalues the constitutional status of this committee if we are discovering or highlighting issues and there is little more than a rap on the knuckles.

No, the point is well taken. We will come back to it when we are drafting the report. The PAC cannot implement sanctions against organisations but we can ensure they have proper arrangements in place.

Could I make a broader point on that? I do not think we should, nor would I advocate that we should, but Accounting Officers should and if they cannot do it then it is indicative of a bigger problem. I do not know what Department this would come under. Is it possible for us to get some guidance on what processes are in place to allow Accounting Officers to sanction people? Let us take the Templemore issue as an example. If nobody is held to account then what is stopping the same thing happening again? Absolutely nothing other than the Accounting Officer would come into the Committee of Public Accounts, spend a couple of weeks getting his or her knuckles rapped and he or she would go out the door and nobody is held to account. That seems to be the case with almost every scandal or issue that comes before this committee. I am not doing their job for them, nor would I want to, but there never seems to be anybody held to account on the back of any of this stuff. Either that is because they do not want to do it or because they cannot do it. If they cannot do it, that is a matter for the legislators. If they can do it and it is not being done then that is our job to hold them to account.

Okay. Deputy Cullinane is quite right. As part of the process when we produce the next report, which we will come to shortly, we will ask the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to specifically address that question. We will include that in our next report which we will discuss shortly as part of our work programme. The point Deputy Cullinane raised is quite correct.

We now move to category C correspondence, which is from private individuals. No. 884C was carried over from the previous week. It is from an individual in the Irish Prison Service who made a protected disclosure. The person has previously written to the committee and he maintains that he continues to suffer in a number of ways including financially as a result of making the disclosure. The committee has written to the Minister on the matter drawing attention to the issues. We have yet to receive a full reply on the matter and the secretariat has followed up on the matter with the Minister's office. We will tell the Department of Justice and Equality that we need the reply by next week. Can we note the item?

Is this another whistleblower?

Yes. He is a prison officer. The case has come before us a couple of times.

What prison is he from?

It is the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise. We will follow that up.

The next item is No. 913C, correspondence dated 15 November 2017, from Deputy Josepha Madigan, Chair to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, regarding the Coffey report into corporation tax. We will note that. We have our job to do.

The next item is No. 915C dated 13 November 2017 from an individual following up on information received on the thoroughbred foal levy from the Department. We got a reply from the Department which we sent to the gentleman concerned and he has written back with a further detailed reply. We will note it. Essentially, he calls for a change in the legislation to have the levy based on a percentage of sales. We cannot change the legislation in the Committee of Public Accounts. We will note the request. I do not think we can take it any further. We have exhausted the issue. There was a Private Member's Bill introduced by Deputy Clare Daly in the Dáil but it did not proceed. I do not think the Bill got to Second Stage.

That issue is ongoing for some time.

It is, yes.

One would have to wonder who the individual who has written to the committee represents. Is he representing a small group or a bigger group? You can correct me if I am wrong, Chairman, but my information is that there is up to 97% compliance with the foal levy.

Yes, and that is stated in the letter. We got a good letter from the Department the previous day setting out the facts of the case. The individual who wrote to us has a point in that the levy is based on the published band of charges as opposed to what is actually charged but the matter requires a change in the legislation. We have exhausted the matter in the committee.

Some people have a fixed price for the sire and then they go along and make a deal with the customer. The point being made is that the levy should be paid on the price paid not on the listed price.

That is a fair point.

I have been contacted by the individual several times about the issue. The Bill was going through the Oireachtas. Is it not going anywhere?

Is he not also querying where the money is being spent?

He is separately querying the use of the money, but that is a secondary point. The main point is the levying of the fee. We have discussed the issue at length and we have had detailed replies from Horse Racing Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and a Private Member's Bill was sponsored. Reference is made in the correspondence to Deputy Clare Daly's Bill which sought that the levy would be 1% of the actual sale price. I am not sure of the status of the Bill but I do not think it got to Second Stage.

What the owners wanted, if they could have got it, was that when they registered the foal that the levy would have to be paid. I know it is to suit them but they do not get their fees until perhaps two years later. They want the system to be changed so that a foal could only be registered when the levy was paid and that way they could get their money and the foal could be registered.

In fairness-----

Are we stopping for the vote?

I think we will have to suspend if most members wish to vote. I do not propose to carry on by myself. We will suspend and come back straight after the vote.

Sitting suspended at 2.48 p.m. and resumed at 3.08 p.m.

We are now back in public session and will resume our consideration of correspondence received since our last meeting. Item No. 916C is correspondence dated 10 November from an individual relating to the awarding of a contract to a body without a tender process by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The correspondence raises questions as to why this Department is developing the framework when it has been previously undertaken by the Department of Justice and Equality. I propose we write to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for a full note on this to address the questions contained in the correspondence. When we get a reply we will follow it up at that stage.

No. 917C is correspondence dated 15 November 2017 from Mr. Aidan O’Driscoll, Secretary General in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in reply to a request for information on the PRSI classification of certain staff employed by Coillte. The reply says that the Department is not involved in this case and suggests that we direct our enquiry to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I propose that we write to that Department, as suggested and also request information directly form Coillte.

No. 920C, correspondence dated 16 November 2017 from an individual in regard to a number of issues including the Rugby World Cup, Government funding for the RDS and lobbying by an insurance company. This is only a copy of letter that has been sent to the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, Deputy John McGuinness. I suggest that we note it. The original has gone to the aforementioned committee and there is nothing in it for us to follow up on.

No. 921C is correspondence dated 23 October 2017 from an individual regarding the Irish Prison Service and the individual’s sentence management. This matter is not within the remit of the committee and as the individual has also made contact with the office of the Minister for Justice and Equality office and the relevant sectoral committee, I propose we note the correspondence and communicate with the individual to that effect.

We are simply noting it. The individual has already written to the other people directly on it.

No. 922C is correspondence dated 31 October from an individual in respect of proposed TV licence increases and freelance contracts at the national broadcaster. As we are considering an engagement with RTÉ early in the year, I propose we simply note it. We might discuss the RTÉ issue on the work programme presently and we will note the correspondence in the meantime.

No. 923C is correspondence dated 9 November 2017 from the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, in respect of an ongoing case with which members will be familiar. The Minister has stated the need for the individual to make contact with An Garda Síochána if he has information relating to the murder of a State employee and that matters relating to the individual's dismissal cannot be provided to the committee for data protection reasons. I propose that we forward the response received from the Minister to the individual and advise that we will not be considering the matter any further. Is that agreed?

What prison is that?

It relates to Portlaoise Prison. There was an attempted escape. There is a reference to a former prison officer who is deceased.

That individual was in contact with me several times.

He has been in contact with several people.

It has been ongoing for years.

It is ongoing. He has been dismissed from the service.

He maintains he was traumatised after the shooting and so on.

The soldiers over the prison fired shots during an escape or attempted escape.

That is the incident.

He was a prison officer on duty. He maintains he was close to being hit and has been traumatised. However, all of that aside, his case has gone through the chief medical officer and everywhere along the line. The person has been officially and formally dismissed at the end of a long process. Obviously, I can understand he is not satisfied with that but it is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality and not for the Committee of Public Accounts.

No. 924C is correspondence dated 16 November from John McKeon, Secretary General, Department of Employment and Social Protection, regarding the Money Advice & Budgeting Service, MABS. Deputy Aylward raised this matter. The letter advises that the chief executive of the Money Advice & Budgeting Service is an Accounting Officer for the body and not the Secretary General of the Department. The letter indicates that the chief executive could be invited to attend and answer questions. MABS is directly answerable to the Committee of Public Accounts because the Comptroller and Auditor General audits the MABS accounts. We can consider that.

MABS is under the Citizens Information Board. It is aligned to the board and under it. I got a letter from MABS yesterday complaining that the board has gone ahead and regionalised the service. Those operating the service are still not happy. The Minister agrees that there is nothing we can do about it. I am still keen to get representatives of the service before the committee, if it is possible, to establish the reason why. Are we bringing in representatives of MABS or CIB?

MABS is accountable to the Committee of Public Accounts. I suggest that the committee writes to the chief executive or Accounting Officer of MABS directly putting the questions that we want. When we get a reply in writing we can consider inviting the chief executive.

We will have to bring someone from the Citizens Information Board as well because the organisations are tied.

Okay. I will get you to liaise with the secretariat. We will get letters out.

All I am saying is that the horse has bolted and we are too late.

It is too late.

MABS personnel are not happy over the change. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it. The Minister is backing up CIB. Anyway, it is no harm to bring in the representatives and go through the reasons. We should at least let those responsible explain it.

The annual accounts are reportable to the committee. We can bring in representatives to discuss the annual accounts at any time.

Can we bring in the two bodies together? Is that possible?

We will put it on the work programme. Do you want us to get a letter out to them?

Yes, we will have to do that.

The best thing is for you to liaise with the clerk on what you want in the letter to go out and the questions you want to ask.

Personnel in the service are not happy over the decisions made by the Citizens Information Board. The service is being reorganised from county to region. That is what I am asking for. We want an explanation from CIB. Can we arrange that? Can we ask CIB to explain why it has regionalised the service, what criteria were behind it and why MABS people are not happy with it? Can we have the two bodies here together, provided it is feasible to have the two bodies here together?

We will ask them for a full information note.

I propose that we write and ask both bodies. We can do it in line with the audited accounts.

We can say that they may be invited to a meeting. We will not set a date. We will seek an information note relating to the changes that CIB is implementing. Maybe CIB was directed from on high to implement it, but the board is responsible for implementing it and we want to ask why.

That is grand. I hope we can get the two bodies in together.

The board is implementing this and we want to know why. We want to know the basis of the decisions and how they are implemented.

That is it, exactly.

The next item is a letter from Deputy McGuinness, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Taoiseach, stating that committee is looking at the Paradise Papers and the issue of corporation tax. We have noted it. We are carrying on with our work. There is a chapter in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on corporation tax. It is our duty to follow that.

No. 927C is correspondence dated 17 November from Deputy McDonald. I am told we are holding that over. We will come back to it. There is a related item.

No. 928C is correspondence dated 1 November from an individual questioning the public funds that are used in the National Women's Council of Ireland. The body receives a significant amount of money from the Exchequer. I propose that we write to the National Women's Council of Ireland for a note on the matter. I am unsure what the particular query is but we will send the council an information note.

Is it something to do with the eighth amendment?

We will write indicating we received the correspondence and ask for a reply to the email we have received. We will take it from there.

No. 930C is correspondence from an individual with further questions for NAMA in respect of the sale of a hotel in Cork. I propose that we forward it to NAMA. We have done that before. We have got replies back. We have sent them out. They are back again. We will send them on to NAMA. On she goes. We will forward the correspondence to NAMA for follow up.

No. 931C is correspondence from an individual in respect of Ireland's health service. The correspondence seeks the best method of getting in touch with committee members. We will ask the secretariat to liaise with the others – they have done that – and to clarify it. It is an administrative query on dealing with the committee. I note that the correspondence includes the letter I had issued to the individual some time ago.

No. 932C is correspondence dated 19 November regarding an alleged mock customs post set up in Dundalk earlier this year. As the person is alleging impersonation of Revenue officials, which may be a criminal offence, I propose that we write to the individual and suggest that the matter be reported to the Garda Síochána if the person believes an offence has been committed.

That is for the Garda.

The individual maintains it could be a criminal offence to impersonate a Revenue official. It may be a criminal offence to set up a customs post if it is bogus. I have no idea what is behind this. If the person has something to say and believes an offence has been committed, the matter should be reported to the Garda rather than us. On we go. Deputy Deering is surprised at the correspondence that is coming our way.

No. 936C is correspondence dated 20 November from Marty Whelan of the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, referring to documentation received by the committee from a private nursing home. The nursing home has sent two appeal notices to HIQA and these appeals will be heard in February. Enclosed is a copy of the letter from Phelim Quinn, chief executive of HIQA, to the nursing home. HIQA has stated that as the matter is under appeal, the authority will not be commenting further on the individual circumstances of the case. We have also received another item of correspondence submitted by the nursing home earlier. It was forwarded to the committee by Deputy McDonald. There are some legal concerns about the correspondence that was sent to us. We need time to consider how we should proceed. The secretariat is asking the parliamentary legal adviser to look at the correspondence before we discuss the matter in public.

No. 938C is correspondence dated 21 November 2017 from Dr. Richard Thorn relating to the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board. What is that letter? I have not seen it. It came in yesterday. It relates to the University of Limerick review. He thanks us and acknowledges the work on the University of Limerick review. He understands that we asked for an executive summary. We had the report but no summary. He is happy to provide that and an explanation of why he did not have an executive summary.

I will quote from his email to the committee secretariat.

In relation to the Kildare and Wicklow ETB investigation, I will provide an Executive Summary and/or a Summary of Findings and Recommendations in line with the Committee's wishes.

Apropos the Committee's concerns about the unwillingness of members of Kildare Wicklow ETB to answer questions at a recent Committee hearing, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Committee to answer any queries they may have in relation to the conduct of the investigation once the report has been finalised and submitted to the Minister for Education and Skills, as per the legislative requirements of Section 40 of the ETB Act of 2013. I anticipate this submission taking place by the end of January 2018.

Is that correspondence from Professor Thorn? Who they were quoting at that meeting?

He is the person conducting the investigation.

It looks as if Professor Thorn is saying that he will have his work done at the end of January 2018. We will note that and will include it for consideration in our work programme for 2018.

On that matter, is there correspondence pending that we need to deal with arising from a report on those who were described as the whistleblowers in the University of Limerick?

There is. We will deal with it next week. Correspondence was sent to me and to the secretariat yesterday. A member of the ETB phoned me directly in my office.

Chairman, are we discussing two different items? I presume the Chairman is referring to the Kildare and Wicklow ETB?

I am talking about the Thorn report on the University of Limerick.

I am told that people referred to by an initial in the report contacted the secretariat, but they did not want the issue to be public. The secretariat advised that if the persons wanted to contact individual members of the committee, they should please do so.

Can we come back to that if necessary?

My understanding is that the correspondence is now being sent to some members of the committee, whoever they choose to contact.

Can those members come back?

If they choose. The issue is not now before the Committee of Public Account except if a member raises it at the committee and brings it back to us. They might not have wanted it to be discussed in public when they wrote in. We advised them to contact individual members.

I only wanted the matter clarified. Now I wish to raise a question on correspondence on the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board.

I said something else there as well. I took a phone call from a member of the Kildare and Wicklow ETB and she sent me an email expressing difficulties on how the board was operating and in connection with the evidence provided, principally by the chairman of the board to the committee when he appeared before us. She raised health and safety issues in some of the schools and included some document that referred to a High Court dispute. Since it referred to a High Court dispute, I have asked that the email be checked by the legal adviser before we look at it.

I wanted to clarify that because I think some members of the committee may have received a copy of that correspondence.

Some members may have received correspondence.

Will it be clarified how we will deal with it in due course?

Yes, we are getting advice. There was a reference to High Court proceedings.

Is Professor Thorn investigating the allegations this person is making?

Yes, because it concerns procurement. I think this is about the building of a school.

On that, and I was speed reading when I read the letter, a number of issues were raised and I do not think it is appropriate to go into them now at this point. I am raising this because the issues need to be teased out. Some of them relate to the Thorn report, and we would not be able to discuss those, but others are not. Will the Chairman come back to me on this?

We will. It is not before us today because we want to take legal advice before we bring the letter to the committee. It just arrived and we will come back to it. The next item on the agenda, which is on the screen, the accounts and statements received since-----

Are we finished with correspondence?

I mentioned two outstanding items last week. One is the outstanding Deloitte report that we have not heard anything from, and the other item relates to further clarification on the nursing home letter. Have we got that further clarification?

Which nursing home?

A response to the nursing home complaints, which I am not going into. There was a follow-up in relation to the inspector's-----

We have had a response from Deloitte. We got a letter of a couple of pages yesterday evening. It will be on the agenda for the next meeting.

My other issue relates to clarification. We had to follow-up on a good letter and seek clarification on whether the inspector roles were part-time, full-time or whole time.

We are still awaiting for the details of that. The Deloitte letter will be on the agenda for discussion at our next meeting. We did not get a chance to circulate the letter in time for the meeting.

The next issue on the agenda is financial statements received since the last meeting The United States Commission for Education Exchange has a clear audited opinion on €1.2 million and it provides grants to Irish citizens to study, research and teach in the US and for US citizens to do the same in Ireland. The Laois and Offaly Educational and Training Board 2016 accounts have been submitted and there is a clear audited opinion.

The next item is unusual, the National Asset Management Agency Investment Limited. We have just received its accounts for 2011 to 2016, inclusive . All the accounts were certified within a reasonable period in the following year but for some reason they are now only being presented to the Oireachtas, even though the 2011 accounts were certified by the Comptroller and Auditor General in July 2012. We must write to NAMA and the Minister for Finance seeking an explanation as to why these accounts were not laid before the Oireachtas or published before now. I want the people who are watching these proceeding to understand that the National Asset Management Agency Investment Limited is the holding company that owns NAMA. A couple of weeks ago when I was following up on correspondence from NAMA, I saw a reference to this company and on 10 October I tabled parliamentary Question No. 28, reference number 42512/17, and received a reply. It will be circulated as part of correspondence. I asked the Minister for Finance the persons or organisations that are the 51% owners of the NAMA group. I now suspect that because I tabled a parliamentary question, it probably prompted the publication of these accounts.

Why were the accounts not presented to the Comptroller and Auditor General?

They were. The Comptroller and Auditor General did an audit on the 2011 accounts in 2012.

Why were they not presented to the Oireachtas?

That is the question. The Comptroller and Auditor General has audited these accounts every year since 2011 but they were never laid before the Oireachtas. We are writing today to NAMA and to the Minister for Finance asking them to explain why they were not laid before the Oireachtas. I will read one or two sentences from the Minister's reply.

The NAMA loans are not on the State balance sheet. EUROSTAT ruled that special purpose vehicles which were majority owned by private companies would be regarded as being outside of the government sector if they met a number of conditions. It was necessary under EUROSTAT rules to set up a special purpose vehicle, that is, a company to own NAMA, that would not be on the State balance sheet. That can only happen if the majority shareholding is held in private ownership. People may find this very strange. This is a mechanism to take major debts off the State balance sheet. The statistical office of the European Union, EUROSTAT, will only allow them to be taken off the State's balance sheet if the debts are majority owned, 51%, by private investors.

One newspaper picked up on the Minister's reply to my question on 10 October 2017. I had asked in respect of the 51% owners of the NAMA group, the shareholding of each of these persons and organisations and the amount of dividend paid to each in each year to date since NAMA was established.

Is this sensitive information?

No, and this may surprise the Deputy. I asked the amount of funding each of these invested in the NAMA group and how much they will get when NAMA is being wound up, because NAMA will have a surplus.

In recent weeks, the Minister would have made a statement that Members asked about paying off the NAMA debts earlier because NAMA has plenty of money in its account and will have a surplus. The Minister for Finance said that they could only return the money to the Exchequer when all its debts are paid off and the investors in the holding company have been paid. I asked who were the investors in the holding company. Let me read from the Minister's reply to my parliamentary Question No. 28.

The reply said there was a decision issued by EUROSTAT in 2009 that only special purpose vehicles, SPVs, that were majority owned by private companies would be regarded as being outside the Government sector, which means off the State balance sheet. It said:

Among the conditions were that the SPVs were of temporary duration and were established for the sole purpose of addressing the financial crisis.

In order to avail of this accounting treatment, NAMA established an investment holding company – National Asset Management Agency Investment D.A.C. – which is majority-owned by private investors. 51% of its shares are collectively owned by private companies and the remaining 49% are owned by NAMA. Under the shareholders’ agreement between NAMA and the Private Investors, NAMA exercises a veto over decisions ... EUROSTAT gave its approval to this structure in October 2009.

Even though they own 51% and 49% have a veto, EUROSTAT accepts that once there is 51% private ownership, it is off the State balance sheet.

The reply continued: "The total issued share capital of National Asset Management Agency Investment D.A.C is €100m of which €51m ... was invested by the Private Investors, each receiving an equal share of the 51 million B ordinary shares." It then gave a breakdown of the share capital invested by the original private investors in 2010. I will not read it all. To come up with the €51 million, the 51% of the NAMA holding company, Irish Life Assurance Plc put in €17 million, New Ireland Assurance Company Plc put in €17 million and a company called Percy Nominees Limited put in €17 million. That €51 million gave them 51% ownership of the holding company in NAMA and that took NAMA off the State balance sheet. EUROSTAT is happy with that but 51% of it is owned by the private sector. Some of those companies changed and now the final shareholding is still owned by a company called BNY Custodial Nominees, which owns €17 million; New Ireland Assurance, which owns €17 million; and the €17 million owned by the other company is now being split between Arthur Michael Joseph Keeley; the Church of Ireland Clergy Pensions Fund, which owns 3%; the Representative Church Body, Church of Ireland investment fund, which owns another 2.5%; Geoffrey Ian Broomhead, who owns 1.3% of the shares and Simon Stuart Haworth, who owns 1.2% of the shares. The arrangement is they get a dividend each year based on the interest available on the market at that time. At the end of it they get a dividend. Before the €3 million surplus of NAMA can be handed back to the State, that €51 million has to be bought back by the Government. They have to get their dividend which they are getting each year. The dividends paid to these companies was €5 million in 2011. It is on the record in a reply to a parliamentary question on 10 October. They have been paid €13.52 million in dividends to date. They will get a dividend at the end of the process and €13.552 million has been paid to them by way of a dividend for their investment in the NAMA holding company.

Is that collectively or individually?

It is each individual. I have the amounts paid out in each year. The shareholding changed in each year because one of the organisations had a change in ownership. It is probably a technical point. Perhaps it was coincidental, but I think that parliamentary question, which I submitted around a month ago, prompted the financial statements of the NAMA investment agency investment limited, the holding company for all of NAMA. Even though they had accounts every year since 2011 and they were audited every year by the C&AG, they were never laid before the Oireachtas. Now we have five year's sets of accounts being laid before the Oireachtas. The question is why were they not acknowledged-----

That is a lot of money. It is €13.5 million already and there are more dividends to come. They will double their money in other years. They put in €17 million each.

They put in €17 million.

They are at €13.5 million already. They will more than double their money in the length of time involved.

No. I will read out the paragraph about the dividend. "Under the shareholders’ agreement, the maximum return which will be paid to the private investors by way of dividend is restricted to the 10 year Irish Government Bond Yield applying at the date of the declaration of the dividend." So it can change. The interest rate is based on the Government borrowing rates. They are not getting an exorbitant interest rate. It is based on the Government borrowing rate and then there can be another small amount of a dividend given on the winding up of the company. When they get all their money back, the €51 million plus the dividend and their final dividend and when that company is dissolved, the surplus of €3.5 million in NAMA can then come to the State. This has to happen first. I say that by way of information. The date that written parliamentary question was answered was 10 October. We will write to the Minister and NAMA to ask why the accounts of the holding company for the past five years were published? I found it interesting. When it comes to social housing, I see no reason why on a temporary basis, to deal with the housing emergency as we did with the financial one, we cannot come to an accounting arrangement, as it is called in the reply by the Minister to the parliamentary question, that would allow a company to technically own 51%. The State would have a veto on all operations and it would take all borrowings off the State's balance sheet. The argument we cannot borrow because of EUROSTAT is right but if we go about it this way, we certainly can. It is an eye-opener. It sets a precedent. When the Government wanted to get permission to borrow tens of billions off the State balance sheet, there was an accounting mechanism introduced to satisfy EUROSTAT and I think it could be used for other purposes. It is up to members. I think they get where I am coming from.

Good work, Sherlock.

That is the accountant coming out in me. Our work programme is on the screen. We are getting there. Today we had the Garda Síochána in and there are a few comments I want to make. Next Thursday, we have the Revenue Commissioners in on corporation tax receipts, chapter 20 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and the question of dealing with corporation tax. We decided two weeks ago, as part of assisting the committee in our understanding of how multinationals understand our taxation system, that we would invite Apple, Google, Citibank, JP Morgan, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer to appear before the committee. The letters were issued this week inviting those six companies to send their most senior representatives to the committee early in 2018. We cannot pencil in dates or anything like that. We will talk about scheduling meetings over a couple of days if we can get them to come in on a particular date. Those letters of invitation have gone out this week and we wait to hear from them in due course.

The following week we have the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection which will be straightforward. It is a very big Department and there are lots of questions to ask. The following Thursday, 14 December, we are starting into chapter 3 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General dealing with the cost of banking stabilisation. IBRC liquidation has been mentioned for special consideration as part of that meeting.

I am most keen that instead of having public sessions here and that being the end of it, the Committee of Public Accounts should draft a summary of our meetings and any conclusions and recommendations we make. Since we came back at the end of September, we are being assisted by an additional staff member who is now carrying out drafting work on a report of every meeting we have had and the key topics covered. I will summarise them now in a minute. That has been done since we came back in September with a view to producing a report on our work every so often. It is part of our duty when we find something, not to walk out the door but to put it in writing in a report, send it to the Minister and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to get a formal response and follow through.

On 28 September we had HIQA in. On 5 October, we had the IDA in. On 12 October, we had Transport Infrastructure Ireland in. On 19 October, we had Tusla in. On 27 October, we had the HSE to deal with section 38 and section 39. We have dealt with the issue of Garda stations. I think we have nearly concluded it today. The secretariat is now working on the report and we will have it next month. The reports will not be very extensive. They will be a short chapter to summarise each of the meetings and recommendations. We will have an update with a view to the following week having a look at a draft report with those six chapters in it. We might then sign off on it a week or so later, probably with a view to launching it in early January. We have enough on our plate between now and Christmas. There is no point in launching a report Christmas week. We could nearly get it put to bed. I do not think the report will be too complicated. Some people will be interested in some chapters and some people will be interested in others.

We might have a full briefing at next week's meeting, even if we have to do it in private session, with a view to having a preliminary draft ready as soon as possible. I have seen the modus operandi of the secretariat and it is starting to put a nice, concise report together for us. The plan then would be to have a report on the five or six meetings between mid November and Christmas one month later. After every five or six meetings we need to do a short report so that people can see the outcome of those meetings. That is where we are at and I do no think there is anything else to be discussed now. The issue of RTÉ has been mentioned and we will talk about it next week. Deputy Cullinane brought it up-----

Will it be put into our work programme?

It will be included next year. I think that our programme from now until Christmas is staying as is.

There was just one outstanding item relating to correspondence. I could not recall it last week. I could not remember whether it was related to IDA Ireland or Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII but the issue was goodwill payments.

We got a big note on that.

Did we? I missed that somehow. We were to get clarification on the goodwill payments.

We will send it on to the Deputy. I saw something about goodwill payments-----

Yes, I think so.

It was to come back to us to outline how extensive such payments were and the criteria used.

I have seen some correspondence on that.

If that is available, I would like a copy.

I will ensure that it is sent on to the Deputy. That is where we are with regard to our work programme. As there is no other business, we will adjourn the meeting until Thursday, 30 November when we will meet representatives of the Revenue Commissioners to consider Chapter 20 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the accounts of the public service which relates to corporation tax receipts.

The committee adjourned at 3.42 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 30 November 2017.