We are resuming our examination of the 2017 appropriation accounts for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Vote 29, and we will deal specifically with matters relating to broadband provision. Following our previous meeting with the Department, we met the following broadband service providers and representative organisations to inform members of the committee in respect of the topic: BT, Eir, Imagine, Enet and the Regional Internet Service Providers Association. Members found it to be a useful exercise and this meeting will provide us with an opportunity to discuss the matter in further detail. I apologise to Mr. Griffin and his colleagues for the late start. Due to the celebrations for St. Patrick's week, the Dáil did met for a week or two and there was a build-up of correspondence, which took a little longer to process. We wanted to address that before we began this part of the meeting.
For context, broadband is an issue under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The topic of the previous meeting was the national children's hospital and we examined the major items of capital expenditure under the Government's capital plan, and broadband is one of the major projects in that regard. Across the board, rather than just in the case of broadband or the children's hospital, the Committee of Public Accounts is examining the processes, procedures, governance and procurement in place in respect of such projects. We have not been impressed to date but that is a matter for another day. The committee has decided that, following our earlier meeting with the broadband provider and today's meeting, we will issue a report on broadband and housing, on which we have held a few meetings, as soon as practicable rather than waiting to include them in our periodic report, which is some months away. As a result of today's meeting, we ask that witnesses revert with any information requested as soon as practicable because we want to complete our involvement in the project as soon as possible.
From the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, we are joined by Mr. Mark Griffin, Secretary General, Mr. Ciarán Ó hÓbáin, Ms Finola Rossi, Mr. Fergal Mulligan, Mr. Patrick Neary and Ms Orla Ryan. We are also joined by Mr. Brendan Ellison from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
I remind members, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery that all mobile phones should be switched off or switched to airplane mode because merely putting them on silent mode can nonetheless interfere with the recording system.
I advise witnesses that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members of the committee are reminded of the provisions under Standing Orders to the effect that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government, a Minister or the merits of the objectives of such policies. While we expect witnesses to answer questions put by the committee clearly and with candour, witnesses can and should expect to be treated fairly and with respect and consideration at all times in accordance with the witness protocol.
I understand that Mr. Griffin's opening statement will be short as it follows on from our previous meetings. I invite him to make it now.