Business of Committee

We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, who is a permanent witness at the committee. He is joined by Mr. Mark Brady, deputy director of audit. Apologies have been received from Deputy Deering.

The first item is the minutes of the meeting of 9 May. Are they agreed? Agreed. There are no matters arising from the minutes which cannot be dealt with as we move through our correspondence.

There are three categories of correspondence. Category A deals with the opening statements and briefing material for today's meeting. Nos. 2162A and 2163A from the Department of Health, dated 14 May, are the briefing documents and opening statement for today's meeting. Is it agreed to note and publish them? Agreed.

No. 2164, from the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, dated 15 May, is the board's opening statement for today's meeting. Is it agreed to note and publish that? Agreed.

Category B comprises correspondence from Accounting Officers and Ministers and follow-up responses to PAC meetings and other items for publishing. No. 2131B from Mr. Donal McManus, CEO, Irish Council for Social Housing, dated 15 April, provides a breakdown requested by the committee of all tenancies - 29,803 housing units - offered by approved housing bodies, including a clarification of the length of tenancies, the number of tenants with tenancy-for-life status, and those with four-year, six-year and ten-year tenancies. This information may inform our considerations in producing our periodic report on housing. We noted and published this item at our last meeting and agreed to hold it over for further consideration this week. We will discuss it when discussing housing.

I asked for it to be held over, among other items. I have read it. There is a serious amount of detail, which I welcome.

That is good.

It certainly should be discussed in the context of our housing report.

Absolutely. We will ask the secretary to take on board the content of that latest correspondence when preparing a document for us to consider on the housing issue.

The next item, held over from the last occasion, is from Ms Rachel Downes, CEO, Caranua, dated 25 April 2019. It provides an update, requested by the committee, on the current financial position of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund, known as Caranua. We noted and published this at our previous meeting but we agreed to hold it over in case members have anything to ask.

I just want to go back over that again. I read it and asked for it to be held back. There is still money outstanding.

There is.

It is €6 million or so.

There is €6 million or something like that outstanding.

The whole process is to be completed in August of this year, is it?

Yes, that is correct.

Will Caranua be coming back before us?

We had not planned for that to happen between now and July.

That is all right.

We had not planned for it.

Will it come before us in due course?

It will.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The financial statements are audited annually so it is available to be called at any time.

It is unacceptable that the money is still outstanding.

Correct.

That is the first item. We followed up on this. There are other items regarding Caranua to which I would like to return at some stage and from which we could learn. They are not for today and I do not want to delay the meeting but I certainly want to come back to Caranua with regard to value for money, which is really a horrible term to use considering the purpose of Caranua. It is certainly not to do with the clients.

I support Deputy Connolly on that point.

The 2018 financial statements are with the Comptroller and Auditor General at the moment.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

They are done.

They are done. Does he have any idea of when they might be published?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The 2018 accounts are scheduled for release in June or July.

This issue will come up again in its annual financial statement for last year and we will have an opportunity to discuss it at that point.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The accounts for 2017 have been submitted and the committee could call Caranua before it in that regard.

We have discussed the 2017 accounts already. The 2018 accounts are under audit at the moment and will be dealt with later.

No. 2147B is from Mr. Liam Sloyan, chief executive officer of the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is dated 2 May 2019 and updates the committee regarding the review of the system of pricing under the nursing home support scheme. The National Treatment Purchase Fund advises that its review of the scheme was being finalised and was expected to be with the Minister at this stage. However, the secretariat informs me that it does not believe it is with the Minister yet. I propose we ask to be kept updated. We want to keep that matter very much on our radar because many people are interested in that particular topic. We note and publish that.

No. 2148B from Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, dated 3 May 2019, provides information requested by the committee with regard to a timescale in respect of the improvement of cost estimations and an information note on the assessment process to determine whether a project meets the value for money criteria and how this is integrated into the approval process for any major projects. We note and publish this. Much of this issue relates to the timescale in respect of improvements in cost estimation. It is expected that phase 1 will be completed very soon as part of the public spending code and it is expected that phase 2 will be completed towards the end of this year or the beginning of next year. We will hold that in our files for ongoing reference purposes.

I welcome that. Lessons are obviously being learned in respect of the national children's hospital and the broadband plan. As we discussed at our last meeting, there was a lot of commentary on the correspondence between Mr. Watt and the Secretary General of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. That is fine. He set out very real concerns regarding that project. In the letter he cited that part of his concerns represented a learning from the national children's hospital. Can we write to Mr. Watt asking if any similar correspondence was had, if any similar concerns were raised, or if any similar exchange of views occurred in respect of the national children's hospital? That is one element of this issue at which we have not looked. I know we had Mr. Watt before the committee. He was reluctant to get into the matter of the national children's hospital - he was here dealing with the broader issue of procurement in respect of all of the big projects - but we now know that he put in writing very serious concerns in respect of the national broadband plan. There may well also have been correspondence on this matter, although it may not have been as stark as that regarding the national broadband plan. I would like to see what engagement there was between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Health in respect of the national children's hospital. I imagine that there was some level of engagement. Is it possible for the committee to seek any such correspondence between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, specifically Mr. Watt, and the Secretary General of the Department of Health in order to see what was being said at that time?

Yes, I understand.

I support that suggestion but from the small amount of correspondence at which we did look, the emails, it seems to have been the other way around. Somebody in the Department of Health was attempting to contact the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the children's hospital but received no response.

That was before the budget.

It seems to have been the reverse, but that is subject to clarification.

If that is what the correspondence shows up, that is what it shows up.

We will ask that specific question again.

We had a list of topics for that particular day and the national broadband plan was included on it, although we almost could not discuss it. Mr. Watt was quite cross with us.

He said that answering the question as to whether the plan should proceed would be a career-ending move.

He was quite cross with the committee that the focus was almost entirely on the national children's hospital. There is merit, while there is a bit of distance, to reconsidering the whole issue of how capital projects are managed.

We will write to Mr. Robert Watt in that specific regard. The Secretary General of the Department of Health will be before the committee today and we will ask him the same question.

Even that is a learning in itself. Most people see the tension between the Departments as having been a healthy tension. It is good to see that as part of a process. If that was lacking in respect of the national children's hospital or, worse, if it was the case that the Department of Health was trying to make contact with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and not hearing back, it would show up a failure in itself. It is interesting. I do not believe we asked for that level of documentation. Because we now have the correspondence regarding the broadband plan, we should seek whatever correspondence was had in this regard.

Is that agreed? The committee agrees to that. It is definitely agreed. We note and publish that and will follow up on the request outlined by Deputy Cullinane. The next item of correspondence is No. 2151B from the Minister for Finance and for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, dated 9 May 2019. It is the minute from the Minister in respect of our periodic report No. 4, which was published in December. There were 29 conclusions and recommendations in our report. The Minister has provided a detailed response across 26 pages. I suggest we take time to study that response in detail because it is part of our work to examine the Minister's response to our recommendations. We need to take a little bit of time. I propose that we note and publish this but hold over discussion until our next meeting. Is that agreed? Agreed. There is quite a lot in it.

The next item of correspondence is No. 2152B from Mr. Ray Mitchell, assistant national director of Health Service Executive, dated 9 May 2019, providing information requested by the committee with regard to the national children's hospital and, particularly, the role of PwC as consultant at different stages of the project. We will discuss this in further detail when we meet with the hospital board, the HSE and the Department of Health. I propose that we note and publish this but, in the interests of balance, I want to read one paragraph of this letter into the public record because people will be aware that, as Chairman of the committee, I expressed concern regarding the fact that PwC had earlier involvement in the process and that the Department then brought it back to carry out the cost escalation report. In the interest of balance and fairness, I will put some of the response on the record rather than noting it and people not being aware of it. The response from the HSE----

Is this the letter from 10 May and the attachment to it?

It is the letter from 10 May, No. 2152B, and I am reading from the top of page 4. I am doing this in the interests of balance. My view was made clear the last day; this is the HSE's view. In the interests of balance I want to put both on the record. It says:

This review was conducted over a nine-week period and involved the deployment of a highly experienced international PwC team comprising capital project and infrastructure specialists, required detailed examination of over 2,000 NCH project documents, more than 40 in-depth interviews with 52 members of the NCH project team and the development of a comprehensive and detailed PwC report.

This review was of a fundamentally different nature and scale to the high-level advice provided by PwC and others to the HSE in November 2018. We do not see any conflict of interest arising from PwC’s involvement in the provision of high-level advice to the HSE in November and its role in carrying out the review of cost escalation in 2019. Indeed, we believe that the work conducted was highly complementary, given the technical nature of the skills and experience required.

I am just putting that on the record. It would be unfair to the people who I may have criticised the last day. I am not saying whether I agree or disagree, but I made my view clear and it is only fair that I put their response on the public record, in the interest of balance. We will discuss it with those people later today.

We will, but I still think it merits a response in terms of the correspondence that came in separate from this meeting, so I would like to make a number of observations on it. The first is that this was never about individuals. I am not aware of what comments the Chairman made but any concerns that were raised, from recollection, were more about the process and conflicts of interest. The letter itself says that the Department does not see any conflict of interest arising from PwC's involvement in the service of the so-called high-level advice it gave. It then says there is no conflict between that and its role in carrying out a review into cost escalation. Underneath that, when it expands on what PwC was doing, it states that it was giving advice on the guaranteed maximum price report, or, to use its own words, "high-level advice". There seems to be a lack of understanding, at best, as to what constitutes a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can arise if there is a perception of a conflict of interest, so if we are going to do an independent report it has to be completely at arm's length. I would imagine there should be no involvement in the project itself. PwC does work for the HSE and the Department of Health, but given that it had a high-level role at some point in the process, that should have precluded it from independently examining the process. That is a clear conflict as far as I am concerned. I will take this up with the Department, but I do not think the Department can write to the committee with any seriousness and say that it does not see any conflict of interest. Anybody who understands conflicts of interest would see that it is a glaringly obvious one, and should not have been allowed to happen. We have been saying time and again that there are a small number of these companies doing the rounds, getting all these jobs, giving advice on the one hand and then doing so-called independent reviews on the other, and it is not good for accountability, or for getting answers to the questions people want answered. While I have to say the PwC report was a good one and very much reflected what as in the Mazar's report in that it was not hugely different, I still think it is a conflict of interest. I do not accept the response from the Accounting Officer, but we will take that up with him.

We will take it up during the course of that meeting.

I have no difficulty with what the Chairman said at the last meeting because I joined him, as many did at that meeting, in agreeing with it. At the end of the day, we cannot have the contestants judging the beauty pageant. There is effective admission here that the same few personnel were involved. However, what worries me even more is that the Secretary General does not see a conflict of interest, so God knows what is going on in other capital projects throughout the country if that is the case. PwC is a stand-up company with a global reputation that does excellent work, as does KPMG and so on. There are only a limited number of companies between the two canals in Dublin but we seem to have a peculiar dedication to solely using them. PwC was involved with high-level input. What is high-level input? The fact that it gave high-level input means it cannot review it. It is called an independent review, but that was not independent. Maybe everybody did the best possible job they could, but it is compromised, and its credibility is affected. One of the best Secretaries General, to my mind, in terms of his candid answers here from time to time, is compromising his good name by saying that he does not see a conflict of interest in this, in effect.

The other thing I would say is that there is much a lot of woolly language and high-level expertise from health construction people, but who are they?

We will ask. The Director General of the HSE will be here shortly and we will pose those questions then.

I have many of the same points, but I think it is important to reiterate them. I asked whether the same personnel were involved, and we know now that some of them were. Are we seriously being asked to accept that people were going to be asked, essentially, to disagree with themselves? That is what this is, and it is nonsense. Deputy MacSharry made the point that the thought process in engaging companies should be of serious concern, and in any report we issue, we should be making that point as firmly as possible to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the advice it gives other Departments in these kinds of conflicts. It is almost like we are being made eejits of with this kind of response. That is the way I feel about it. The same personnel involved in giving high-level advice are then asked to critique themselves. To me, that just screams of a conflict of interest.

I think the Chairman might have been a bit premature in trying to balance the record because I do not know what record needed to be balanced.

I made a lot of-----

That is okay for the Chairman himself, but as a member of this committee, I read this and I find it very worrying, and that is something that is going to have to be teased out today. I do not know what words I used but I certainly stand over whatever I said. This document shows that PwC was engaged in November 2018 in relation to this. It has been employed by contract since January 2019 in relation to general work but it was given this specific piece of work in November 2018. The document states that in November PwC was appointed as one of a number of organisations and that there is no separate, documented advice from any of the external parties involved. I happened to hear the Chairman's interview today and I think he said that PwC was only involved for a few days, but that is subject to clarification. It was paid €21,477, plus VAT, for a couple of days' work, and that is again subject to clarification. That external advice, of which there is no documentation, along with the other external advice, was used to justify the step of going forward. As there was no way of going back, they had to go forward, so they called in all of the expert advice to go forward with no documented evidence. Fast-forward to January, and we commission PwC again to do an even more extensive review. Significantly, the Chairman and I both commented at the time on the conclusion. It was asked to give recommendations and findings but its conclusion was that there was no choice but to go ahead. It was only copper-fastening what apparently - because one has to be very careful now, apparently - was already decided in November 2018, or that is how it looks to anyone listening, and to us trying to struggle through all this documentation.

Interestingly, it is not mentioned on the list of reports so we will be going back to that as well. We asked for the list of reports and struggled to get it.

The reports from other consultants.

The other consultants, included Mazar's, Deloitte, and Linesight. There is also an internal report from November, but there is no price given for that one. We know now that one of the external advisers was PwC at a cost of over €20,000. We struggled to get all this information, so-----

We will discuss it when the HSE is here.

We will absolutely discuss it.

An additional point I forgot to mention was that if there is a conflict of interest, it can be managed if it is declared. There was no declaration here. I read the PwC report and it does not say anywhere that it provided high-level advice at an earlier stage in this project. It was not said. We had discussions at both this committee and the Joint Committee on Health and questions were asked about whether there was a conflict of interest. It was only later on, when the report was published, that we got the letter from Mr. Mitchell that stated there was a relationship between the company and the HSE. We found it out by accident, really. My point is that conflicts of interest arise, and they can be managed, but this was not managed or declared at any point before or during the process. It was only afterwards by accident, and by the good work of this committee, that we found out that there was a relationship there. I think it is a slam dunk in terms of it being a clear conflict of interest and the fact that it was not even managed by the company, the Department, or the HSE, is even worse.

It is problematic that this letter justifies it and states that there was no conflict of interest. If the Comptroller and Auditor General was doing a look-back on this he would look for correspondence from all sides. He can speak for himself but I imagine he would not accept this. I cannot see how it can be accepted that the Department does not see any conflict of interest. It is staggering.

That is the Department's position. I read it out but I am not asking people to agree or disagree. I wanted to put it on the record.

It goes on the record without being read out, but it was read out in order to balance things.

As Chairman, I was trying to be impartial and to show that there was a counter point of view. I have put it on the record and people can judge it accordingly. I am not drawing conclusions.

The next item is No. 2155, from the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, dated 9 May, providing an update to the committee regarding the submission by public bodies of draft financial statements for audit by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The first job of the Committee of Public Accounts is to review the financial statements of the approximately 300 public bodies audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. We can only do that if they submit financial statements. The primary requirement of a board in any organisation is to produce financial statements within a reasonable time period. If they are not able to do that, I would question what else might not be working properly in the system. When we took over a couple of years ago, the percentage of financial statements which had been submitted within a three-year period year stood at about 40%. We have been following this issue relentlessly and we had the education and training boards, ETBs, before us when only one of 17 had submitted its accounts on time. We have issued several reports and the committee took the unprecedented step of authorising me to write to the chair and secretary of every organisation reminding them of their obligations. Over the past couple of years we have seen a vast improvement, with it going up to 70% and then over 80%. I am happy to report that, up to the end of April, over 92% of the roughly 300 organisations audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General had submitted their draft accounts for audit. There remain 24 which have not done so. With the consent of the committee, I will write to the chairperson and chief executive of each of the 24 organisations tomorrow, reminding them of their obligation to get their accounts in straight away. We are making outstanding progress in getting the financial statements because I realised a few years ago that the statements we were getting were four years old. That was a waste of everybody's time and it showed a lack of governance in the organisations in question.

I will read out the names of the organisations which had not submitted their accounts by the end of April. A number are directly from the Department of Finance. The sundry moneys deposit account has a turnover of €149 million. The hepatitis C special account has a turnover of €26 million, and the hepatitis C reparation account has a turnover of €4 million. The local loans fund normally has a turnover of €280,000 and the Credit Union Restructuring Board, now in wind-down, has also not submitted accounts. The environment fund, which is directly from the Department, has a turnover of €44 million each year but has not submitted accounts and the fisheries harbour accounts in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has a turnover of €6 million but has not submitted accounts.

In the education sector, the following colleges have not submitted accounts: University College Cork; Dublin City University; Dublin Institute of Technology, although that body is in a wind-down situation; the State Examinations Commission; Letterkenny Institute of Technology; St. Angela's College in Sligo; St. Patrick's College of Education, which is a residual account following amalgamation; and the Church of Ireland College of Education, also a residual account and in wind-down mode. Some of the universities will make the fair point that they have external auditors and have to go through that process before it comes to the Comptroller and Auditor General. They will say they have a double audit and I acknowledge that but the accounts are several months late.

The accounts in the HSE fund are: the private patients accounts of €72 million; the National Treatment Purchase Fund; the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council; the hepatitis C insurance scheme; and two accounts with minor activity, namely, the long-stay repayment scheme special account and the long-stay repayment scheme donation account. Finally, there are three State bodies which had not submitted accounts by the end of April, namely, the Legal Aid Board, Irish Water Safety and the Discovery Programme - Centre for Archaeology and Innovation. We will write to the Accounting Officer in the Department of Finance and the relevant Government Departments and directly to the chairmen and chief executives of the organisations in question. I thank the Comptroller and Auditor General for keeping on top of this. If nothing else, we will make sure there is corporate governance at board and Accounting Officer level in all these organisations. We are nearly there.

No. 2156 is from the Minister of State at the Department on Education and Skills with responsibility for training, skills, innovation and research and development, Deputy John Halligan, dated 18 April advising the committee of the recent launch of Ireland's national intellectual property protocol 2019 - a framework for a successful research, commercialisation and accompanying research guide. I welcome the development, which will have a bearing on the commercialisation of all forms of intellectual property and I am pleased that there is a requirement for State research funding organisations and a State innovation funding agency to apply the policy and framework in the national intellectual property protocol, consistent across all programmes of funding. The committee will continue to monitor this topic closely, especially in relation to the third level institutions. We will note and publish this.

The next item is No. 2157 from John McKeown, Secretary General, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, dated 9 May, providing information requested on foot of an inquiry regarding the use of precedential test cases by the Social Welfare Appeals Office to determine issues in respect of employment, self employment or bogus self employment. We will note and publish this and forward the response to the correspondents who raised the issue. No. 2158 is also from John McKeown, Secretary General, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, dated 10 May, providing further information regarding the JobPath programme in response to our queries. The Department is currently reviewing its contract of public employment services with a view to continuing to provide resource services to those who need support. We will note and publish this.

The next item is correspondence is from private individuals and other correspondence. No. 2153 was received from an individual dated 5 May relating to the national broadband plan. The correspondent raised value for money issues that may feed in to our consideration of broadband matters. We note this. No. 2154 is from an individual, dated 6 May, relating to negative environmental impacts of broadband roll-out, which we will also note. No. 2154 is from Deputy Cullinane and relates to the committee's consideration of the broadband issues. We are awaiting documentation on broadband matters and I propose to note the item for the moment and return to it when we get the information we have requested. The next item on the agenda is statements of accounts received since the last meeting.

I did not read out correspondence No. 2159 from the Tax Appeals Commission. We had asked for a two-monthly update on its ten largest cases, which amounted to approximately €700 million in March. Some had been settled and there were different issues so we wrote back for an update. The update will require clarification and we will write to the commission immediately. It does not give exact estimates as to do so might prejudice the outcome of a hearing but it gives various bands. It states that, as of 16 May, three cases are before the commission where the corporation tax to be determined is in excess of €100 million each.

It goes on to state that in three further cases the amount to be determined is estimated at between €50 million and €100 million and in three other corporation tax cases the amount to be determined is between €30 million and €50 million. There is one case in respect of an environmental levy where the amount in question is between €30 million and €50 million. Interestingly, the schedule identifies an overall total of €2.571 billion. I do not know what that figure means. Is it the quantum of cases with the Tax Appeals Commission? On the last occasion we dealt with the commission, that figure was approximately €1.7 billion. If there has been a dramatic increase in the quantum of cases in value terms before the Tax Appeals Commission, we need that clarified. I am not sure what is the figure at the bottom of its chart. It does not state what the figure represents. I am guessing. If I am wrong, I need that clarified. In addition, the commission should explain why the volume of cases on its desk has gone from what we understood to be €1.7 billion to €2.5 billion in a very short time. I acknowledge that it must deal with the appeals, but it must have some observation on that increase. We will write to the commission on that issue because it is a matter we have been following due to the quantum and volume of cases before the Tax Appeals Commission. It appeared before the committee and there were many issues.

There are also two court cases. One is a judicial review and the other relates to the environmental levy. It would be no harm to have an idea what the cases are about.

The Supreme Court imposed a stay on progressing one of the appeals. Is the Deputy's point that the case was before the courts and is a matter of public knowledge?

That is item No. 10. Which is the other one?

Looking at the amount involved with the environmental levy, it is obviously about a point of principle rather than the individual. The entire levy could be compromised by a decision in that case.

No. 8 refers to corporation tax and involves an estimated figure of more than €100 million. It states that the High Court has imposed a stay on progressing this appeal pending the outcome of judicial review proceedings which have yet to be heard in the High Court. No. 10 relates to an environment levy and the estimated quantum of the case is between €30 million and €50 million. As the Deputy stated, the Supreme Court has imposed a stay on progressing the appeal pending its judgment in proceedings which have yet to be heard. The case has not been decided. We should be able to get further information. If the cases are before the courts, they are a matter of public record. We will ask for that information to be sent to the committee. We understand that if a court tells the Tax Appeals Commission not to decide a case until the court proceedings have concluded, the commission must comply. It is not its fault that there are many cases on its desk.

The next item on the agenda is accounts received since our last meeting. The Ombudsman for Children received a clear audit opinion for 2017. Institute of Technology Tralee received a clear audit opinion, but it incurred a deficit each year for the past five years, an accumulated revenue deficit of €4.4 million. The Comptroller and Auditor General highlights that in regard to its continued existence. Obviously, it needs support to clear its deficit. Fís Éireann, formerly known as the Irish Film Board, received a clear audit opinion. The Revenue account received a clear audit opinion. There is a minor detail involving €77 billion. Is that the Central Fund?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

No, it is the Revenue account. The figure is made up of taxes and other charges collected. PRSI and so on go through this account. It is the Revenue account 2018.

It is separate from the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

No. The Revenue Commissioners Vote involves their administration costs. The Revenue account relates to the taxes that come in.

Who produces the report?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The Revenue Commissioners.

That is fine. We will deal with them in due course.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes. This is the first of the 2018 accounts to come through.

That is very good. The Revenue is-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is ahead of the game.

-----one of the first organisations to have its accounts audited. If it can do so with a throughput of €77.3 billion, some of the smaller organisations should be able to do likewise. The final account received is for the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board, which received a clear audit opinion. We note that.

The next item on the agenda is the work programme.

On this issue, we sought information on several matters relating to the national broadband plan, such as the entity, how it changed and who were the people behind it. Did we receive that information?

Can we get it? I specifically sought it because the final bidder changed over time. The committee should be able to track each time it changed in order to ascertain who were or are the people behind it.

We could also ascertain who is likely to be behind it when a contract is signed.

We sought that information and I have been looking out for it, but did not see it arriving. The committee has a work programme. The issue of when we will do the report will probably not appear on that programme. Another committee is doing some work on this area and the work we did may be helpful to it because we largely focused on the metropolitan area networks, MANs, contracts and the early sale without tendering of the concessionary-----

The extension.

Exactly. The extension and the sale without tendering the sale. We heard from other parties that they would have tendered. The fact that Granahan McCourt was the company behind Enet is useful work which should not have to be duplicated by the other committee. That makes it important that we finalise our work in this area. I acknowledge that there is likely to be one further hearing, but we should not let the process continue for a considerable period.

The other committee wishes to carry out certain examinations. There will be no duplication. Two committees will not do the same job. We have done a large volume of work. The Deputy's point is that we need to complete our work, which will be beneficial to other committees as they will not have to go back over ground already dealt with by this committee. We will discuss it further at our next meeting in two weeks.

On the work programme, we will not sit next Thursday, as members are aware. I propose that we postpone our engagement with the Courts Service until June. It was scheduled to appear next Thursday, but the Dáil will not sit on that day and it is unlikely that members will be in Leinster House. We have identified 27 June to meet the Courts Service. The intention is to have two sessions on that day, the first with the Courts Service and the second with the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. I do not wish to drop the meeting with the Courts Service. We might be able to hold a morning session and an afternoon session. We will organise timing accordingly.

On the meeting with the Department of Finance, chapters 2 and 3 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General are listed for discussion with the Department on 30 May. The chapters were already discussed during the committee's engagement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and, as such, I wish to formally take them off the agenda for the meeting with the Department of Finance. We do not want any unnecessary duplication.

On any other business, a long time ago, we asked for a report into the companies in Cork Institute of Technology. This matter has been going on for years, but we keep getting pushed back. Some months ago, we wrote again asking for the information and were told in response that the report is being compiled. This has been going on since the previous Committee of Public Accounts. We delved into the issue and found out about the companies. The report should have been completed. We wrote to the institute and asked it where we go from here because, obviously, we are being stonewalled. Where is the report? We need to contact the HEA and CIT and put a deadline on its delivery.

We will be meeting in two weeks. The report should be presented to the committee within ten days or at our next meeting we will set a date for representatives of Cork IT to appear before the committee and explain why the report has not been completed.

Will the Chair write to Cork Institute of Technology and inform it of that?

We will write to the chief executive and the chairman of the board.

That is fine.

We must have the answer before we meet in two weeks' time. If not, we will set a date to bring them here.

That is perfect. Thank you.

I corresponded with the clerk on the matter yesterday. Some weeks ago when we had representatives of the EPA here, I asked for a report on the monitoring of drug residues in drinking water and also the cost benefits of its radon programme, but I have not received anything yet. I accept that there was the Easter break, but it seems like a very long time to wait for answers which I imagine should have been fairly simple to provide, especially on the monitoring of water quality, which is topical.

We had a good meeting with the EPA some weeks ago. Two weeks is more than long enough for a Secretary General to provide a response. We will follow up the matter directly.

If we have not received a response on this day two weeks, it will be well over one month and we will set a date for representatives of the EPA to come and tell us why it has not responded. I am taking that approach to get people to act properly.

Sitting suspended at 9.52 a.m. and resumed at 9.57 a.m.