That is a good start. The point mentioned by Deputy Catherine Murphy relates to this correspondence as well. Some five weeks ago representatives from Bord na gCon were here and we asked for information, all of which we now have. On the same day, I spoke specifically about the Irish Coursing Club. It is intended that body will now register all new-born dogs. That information will then be transferred to the Irish Greyhound Board's database, if the dogs concerned are going to be involved in greyhound racing.
We inquired about the Irish Coursing Club. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine replied that it was nothing to do with it because it was a private organisation and did not get any funding from that Department. I am amazed to hear that we are handing over that function to a private organisation that probably has charitable status and which has zero accountability to the Department or to this House. We asked the Department for a note on whether a traceability system similar to that used for cattle or bovines was explored for greyhounds. We also asked for a detailed briefing on the Irish Coursing Club, its role in greyhound traceability, Bord na gCon's reliance on its system and the level of assurance provided to the Department regarding the process.
We asked the Accounting Officer of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for that information some five weeks ago. We have not received it and that is not acceptable. It is fortuitous that representatives of that Department will appear before this committee next week as part of our work programme. The answers to those questions will be the first item on the agenda, and it will be six weeks since we made the request. While it is fortuitous that the Accounting Office is here next week, had he not been scheduled to appear, he would be coming in specifically to give us an answer as to why we have not received that information after six weeks. I make this point to all Departments. If they do not provide the information requested within four weeks, their representatives will be back here in week five to explain to the public why questions were not answered.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is lucky. Its representatives happen to be here next week. I think my point is well made. I am tired, as the Chairman, wondering if we got replies to questions we asked five, eight and even ten weeks ago. We should not have to wait that long. Departments should be efficient. If it was a case of a parliamentary question, there would be an obligation on a Department to answer it promptly and a request from this committee should be treated with the same sense of urgency. We are obliging the Accounting Officers by giving them time to provide us with written responses. They should come to this committee prepared to answer most questions in the first place. The letter of invitation to all Accounting Officers states that they have to make someone available to appear before the committee. That is so information can be provided to the committee during the hearings. They normally run for a few hours. We have taken a lenient approach by deciding to allow answers in writing in due course. We are not, however, going to accept this delay of a month in future. I have said this before, but I think my point is well made now and we will follow through on it. We will note and publish the correspondence received. My other comments have been well noted regarding the situation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The next item is No. 2440B from Mr. Derek Moran, Secretary General of the Department of Finance, dated 8 October 2019. It provides an information note on the difference between the national debt and general Government debt. I am going to summarise this for the public. We got a very detailed answer from the Central Statistics Office and the Department of Finance reconciling one to the other.
The gross national debt consists of Irish Government bonds and borrowing from the EU and the IMF, short-term borrowing from ministerial funds and State savings products, excluding the post office savings account. That is the gross national debt, because those moneys are owed to all those people. The national debt is the net debt derived from the gross national debt by subtracting cash Exchequer balances in respect of any liquid assets on hand, as well as non-liquid assets such as the Housing Finance Agency guaranteed notes, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI, term loans and credit support account collateral funding. That is the net situation, consisting of the gross national debt minus cash and other resources that could reasonably be converted to cash. That is managed by the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA.
General Government debt is a measure of the total gross consolidated debt of the State. It is assessed by the CSO and takes into account the debt and liabilities of central and local government and Government funds such as the Social Insurance Fund. We have been provided with a detailed note on all this, but generally the gross national debt is how much we owe, the net debt is that figure, generally, minus the cash balances and perhaps assets held by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland that could be made liquid fairly easily. General Government debt is the measure of the total gross consolidated debt of the State, which includes other agencies such as local authorities. I am summarising it and it is not 100% accurate, but it is as accurate as people will appreciate. The full note is several pages long, giving a full reconciliation of the national debt to the general Government debt. It is great reading and I encourage people with an interest to read it. It is good to ask the question.