Business of Committee

The minutes of the meetings of 4, 5, 11 and 12 November 2020 have been circulated. Are they agreed? Agreed. As previously agreed, the minutes will be published. I propose we go into private session to deal with some housekeeping matters before resuming in public session to deal with correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The committee went into private session at 4.33 p.m. and resumed in public session at 5.24 p.m.
Mr. Seamus McCarthy(An tArd Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.

We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. McCarthy, the permanent witness to the committee. Members are reminded of the provisions within Standing Order 218 that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policies. Members are also reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

The next business is the financial statements and accounts received. Nine sets of financial statements and accounts were laid before the Dáil between 2 and 13 November 2020. The Comptroller and Auditor General issued a clear audit opinion in all cases. However, attention is drawn to a material level of irregular expenditure in respect of the Social Insurance Fund 2019. The account was laid before the Houses before we engaged with the Department of Social Protection last week but because we consider the statements and accounts fortnightly, we are just considering it now. I will ask the Comptroller and Auditor General to elaborate on the irregular expenditure in the Social Insurance Fund 2019.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is an issue we discussed last week. I was drawing attention to a level of irregular payment in a number of significant schemes funded by the Social Insurance Fund. These include the State pension, contributory, and illness benefit in particular. The point is that the fraud and error surveys that the Department has undertaken indicate that there is a level of excess payment, whether it is due to error or to fraud, but that it does exist and I was simply drawing the committee's attention to that in the audit certificate. I am obliged to do that by law.

Do members have questions on that? No. Is it agreed that we note the accounts and statements? Agreed.

The next business is correspondence. The first category of correspondence on which members have flagged issues for attention is correspondence from Accounting Officers or Ministers and follow-up to previous meetings of the committee. No. 179 was held over from the previous meeting and is from Ms Mary Lawlor, senior communications and public affairs manager of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, and it is dated 28 October 2020. She is providing information requested by the committee on Project Nantes, arising from a meeting on 8 October 2020. I propose to note and publish the correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The next correspondence is Nos. 189 and 195. We will take these together as they both relate to Caranua. The first is from Rachel Downes, chief executive of Caranua, dated 4 November 2020 and it provides further information requested by the committee arising from consideration of previous correspondence with Caranua. We requested answers to a number of specific questions. I expressed an interest in the matter, as did Deputies Carthy and Catherine Murphy. Does Deputy Carthy wish to comment?

No, you can go first, Chairman.

I am happy enough for Deputy Carthy or Deputy Murphy to speak first on it. We raised issues at the meeting when Caranua was in attendance and some clarification was provided to us. Members can address those. There are 26 applications outstanding by survivors on their initial or repeat applications and a final 50 where the completion of the applications process is awaited. The estimated wind-down cost is €300,000. My concern is that the legislation to wind down Caranua could come before the House quickly. The sum of €110 million was provided by the religious congregations for the survivors of the Magdalen laundries and the other institutions. We do not want Caranua to be wound down while cases have still to be resolved. That is the concern. Whoever wishes to contribute can do so.

There are a number of concerns. This is a particularly vulnerable group. We knew from the outset that there would be a limited amount and it was not going to be added to by the State. That is confirmed in the letter.

It was my understanding that the Department of Education would take on board any residual issues that were not addressed by the time Caranua was wound up. It looks to me like there is a surplus of €111.38 million.

Will the Comptroller and Auditor General confirm that, because I would have expected that all of the money would have been spent? With regard to my second issue, we have to be concerned about where people will receive services. Caranua was providing them with some support. It is not a matter for this committee but it may be an issue we can refer to another committee, probably the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science because Caranua falls under its remit. I also wanted to raise a third issue with regard to the date for winding down. There is a hard date set which must be complied with. What happens at that point? I am mainly asking about the numbers, however.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

With regard to the figure of €111 million, the contributions promised totalled €110 million. The extra €1.3 million comprises interest that was earned while the money was in bank accounts. The total amount available for Caranua to disburse was €111 million.

On the cessation of its business, if there are any cases in which an award has been made but the payment has not been executed for whatever reason - perhaps there were invoices to be produced - the Department will process that payment. The Department will not, however, be in a position to make any additional awards from any residual amount. If there is a residual amount after all commitments made by the board have been honoured, I understand that it is, by law, due to be paid to the children's hospital. That is my understanding of the matter. It was expected that Caranua would have ceased to operate earlier in the year, but between Covid and other matters, it has continued to operate and the Department has not yet taken over. I understand it is likely to cease operations towards the end of the year, but the Department could confirm that.

There are a total of 76 cases outstanding. Some 300 survivors received additional supports, the final 50 of whom are currently in the process of completing their applications. On top of that are the 26 survivors who are on an initial or repeat application. There are, therefore, potentially 76 cases outstanding while there is only €300,000 left in the kitty.

The correspondence is fairly comprehensive but I do not think the issue of payments which have been inordinately delayed is adequately addressed. I have two questions. Caranua is to come before this committee, is it not?

Is there any fear that the winding-down Bill would be enacted before that?

It certainly could end up happening.

Perhaps the Chair could offer guidance as to how to respond to that. I have a question for the Comptroller and Auditor General. When these matters are transferred to the Department of Education, is there any fear that accountability measures will be lost in translation? In other words, if issues arise subsequently in respect of due diligence or best practice, will the Department be able to wash its hands of the matter and say they relate to a body that no longer exists, which would mean that there would be no accountability?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Accountability should transfer to the Department. In other words, it will be responsible for providing explanations for what happened. With regard to the people who were involved in making decisions, they may no longer be available to the committee. The Department will have effectively assumed responsibility for providing answers to questions.

I do not mean to cast aspersions, but it appears to be a recipe for disaster. Questions arise. One can almost write the script for Department of Education officials coming before this committee in two or three years' time. We know what they will say. It will be so easy for them to say that something related to a previous body and that the Department was not involved. We are talking about large sums of money and very vulnerable people. The money was assigned to ensure it got to those people. I do not know how to deal with that issue or what the implications of it might be.

To be helpful, there is further correspondence on this issue, No. 195, from Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General of the Department of Education. In this correspondence, it is set out clearly that legislation is required. The Department has sent the draft general scheme of the residential institutions statutory fund (dissolution) Bill 2020 to Government. This provides for that dissolution. The fear is that, if the legislation goes ahead, business may be left unfinished. There are questions or unfinished business in this regard.

My question is similar to Deputy Carthy's on the transfer of information and any subsequent questions this committee or another body may have after the winding-up of Caranua. I have a few points to raise. One is about the date on which Caranua is to appear before the committee. With regard to our earlier conversation about the national children's hospital, there is a date earlier in December we might utilise. I note that, in its correspondence, Caranua says that all survivors' applications will be completed by 11 December. Depending on when the legislation the Comptroller and Auditor General has mentioned, which is required to wind up Caranua, is to be enacted, we may need to get the organisation in as quickly as possible.

The Comptroller and Auditor General may be able to answer a question for me. There is an estimated operational wind-down cost of €300,000 as of the end of October. Is there anything to suggest that cost would increase given that it is now to wind down at the end of the year? Is he familiar with that matter?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I am not in a position to answer that question. It is a 2020 issue. We will be looking at it in arrears.

That is fair enough. I suggest that we use that date in early December, if it is available, to bring in Caranua.

I know we cannot get into policy and that kind of stuff here. I am just throwing this out as a thought. We know that Caranua is winding up and we have concerns. Notwithstanding that it is coming before the committee, we can take it that what is in this letter will be its position when it answers questions in December. Although it would be up to the committee to decide, perhaps the clerk can advise whether the committee would be within its rights to write to the Department expressing our concern at this stage, in advance of the legislation, that there will be consequences as a result of the deadline and the cliff edge ahead. If the committee is agreeable, perhaps we could express our view that a review of the winding-down process is needed as regards outstanding victims. The questions I raised involved two cases which have not been alluded to in this response. That is just a suggestion.

I thank the Deputy for the suggestion. He mentioned the word "casualties". These people have waited-----

I said "victims". I hope the Chairman will excuse my language. I did not mean any disrespect.

I know the Deputy used the word with the best of intentions. They have, however, suffered enough. We must do our best as public representatives to ensure that the remaining applicants are dealt with. Nobody on this committee would disagree with that. The Deputy's suggestion that we make some kind of an intervention with the Department in that regard is worthwhile. The other suggestion, that we consider the 3 December slot for the meeting, is also worthwhile.

I will tread the same line as Deputy MacSharry and try to avoid straying into policy. We now have a letter from Caranua. I refer specifically to section 3(d). This letter to the Oireachtas highlights that the provision of ongoing services for survivors of institutional abuse is a matter for Government. It then outlines a number of steps. If, after the winding-up of the fund, there are any funds left, they should be used to progress that issue. There are many survivors who had a very difficult relationship with Caranua, but I imagine many also felt that it was the only port of call they had in respect of a range of issues.

It is important that we look at the remaining fund and the wind-up process and that we are cognisant of the transfer of some responsibility to the Government. I stress that point because we launched the diaspora strategy today and there are people abroad who may not see the difference between one committee or another and the Government and they will want a smooth handover. There is an onus on us to ensure we do not allow it to fall between the cracks, although we have our own remit.

I have a few suggestions and I think they are good ones. One is that we endeavour to bring Caranua in on 3 December to try to deal with these issues. We will ask the clerk to arrange that and to get back to us as quickly as possible. The second suggestion is that we also write to the Secretary General of the Department of Education on the Bill to point out our concerns and to say that there needs to be an orderly wind-down, even if the process has to be delayed a bit. The main point is the concern for these 76 outstanding applicants which have yet to be resolved. Deputy MacSharry mentioned two others that need to be sorted as well, one way or the other. We will ask that that be done. Is that agreed?

There is one other element, which was alluded to, relating to section 3(d). Some things are identified as being required, like medical cards, easily accessible counselling services, advocacy supports, trauma-informed care and support for survivors. The second letter from the Department is saying that these are a matter for the Government. It would be appropriate to send our concerns to the Minister rather than the Secretary General because the continuation of these services has been identified as critically important and we are afraid that they will fall through the cracks.

We will list those services, including medical cards and advocacy, as well as the other issue.

This is an issue across a number of Departments and perhaps we should copy in the Department of the Taoiseach as well. I am very conscious that there is a clear ask in section 3(d) and we should not allow it fall here at our desk.

Okay. We will send that to the Minister, the Secretary General and the Department of an Taoiseach. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The next item of correspondence is No. 190B, from Mr. Ray Mitchell, assistant national director of the HSE, dated 5 November 2020. It provides a briefing note requested by the committee regarding services provided by a service operator. It is not proposed to publish this item as it relates to a private matter raised with the committee. It is proposed to forward the correspondence to the individual who raised the matter. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 199B is from Mr. Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Ceann Comhairle, dated 10 November 2020. We are getting many letters from the Ceann Comhairle this year. It relates to the arrangements regarding the conduct of committee business during level 5 restrictions. It is proposed to note and publish it. Is that agreed?

We must note again the very severe restrictions on this committee that prevent us from carrying out our work and objectives in a full way and in a manner that serves the public interest. The committee is confined to two-hour meetings twice a week on two separate days. That includes dealing with all the private matters, as committees are required to do. There have also been attempts via Standing Orders to curtail the questions this committee can put to witnesses. That has the potential to undermine the very historic and honorary role this committee has previously played in securing public accountability on behalf of the Irish people. It would be remiss if we did not record that. We discussed some of the ways we might be able to address some of these very clear deficiencies during our private session but people have a right to know that this committee is working under very restrictive conditions at the moment. That must be addressed.

I agree with the Deputy about the committee's proceedings but we have to do it safely as well.

We have good co-operation from the secretariat, the staff in the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Comptroller and Auditor General's office and the liaison person, which has been a great assistance.

The next batch of correspondence is that from and related to private individuals, and any other correspondence. No. 157C is from Mr. Brian Lynch, dated 12 October 2020, and was held over from an earlier meeting. It concerns the student transport scheme. It is proposed to note that. Is that agreed?

There was a lot in it and I do not know if anyone had an opportunity to go through it in any detail. I know the secretariat is extremely busy but did anyone consider it? Did the legal team consider it? A lot of work has gone into it and the author believes there is a serious issue that needs to be visited. He has probably contacted all of us in different capacities through the years. I hate to just note it without doing anything else. Are we asking an awful thing? Could it go to the legal team for it to summarise the issues it feels are pertinent and may warrant investigation? Clearly, a huge amount of work went into it and not many of us would have the time individually to go through it in that sort of detail.

There may well be some merit in us looking at the whole student transport system, even historically, and this could fit in that context. It is the kind of thing we could put on a list and work towards at some point when we have exhausted the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

There has been some litigation on this matter previously, relating to Bus Éireann having all responsibility for school transport and whether the appropriate public tendering is taking place. That was my recollection of this issue previously but I do not know if the correspondence deals with that.

A suggestion was made that we look at school transport overall, maybe at a session at some time in the new year. If members want, we can ask for the issue to be pencilled in on our long work programme. Would members be happy with that? It would give us a chance to consider the issues that have been raised around this matter in the meantime. There are some good things about the school transport system as well. In general, it works. There are problems every year but it is a huge undertaking and in fairness many of the people working in it do a lot of good work as well.

If we put school transport on our work programme, what happens to the correspondence? Do we note it and it gets published? What do we do in that instance?

That requires further consideration.

Can we hold it off until the next meeting?

I was going to propose that because people want to have another look at this. For now, we will note the correspondence, members can consider it and we will ask for a legal opinion on it from the parliamentary legal adviser. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The next item of correspondence is No. 186, from an individual and dated 25 October 2020, alleging that bonds pertaining to a development were surrendered by a local authority and the alleged consequences of that action.

It is proposed to request the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to provide an information note regarding the practice of bond surrender by local authorities. Deputy Catherine Murphy has flagged this matter and it is an issue that other members have come across. The different types of bonds can become an issue, and it is one I have come across when bonds were not really bonds. Does Deputy Murphy wish to comment?

It is not for this committee because we do not have a remit, but certainly a piece that jumped out for me was that public funds were being used to complete works where it may well have been the responsibility of the local authority to use the bond for that. It is for the local government auditor, and perhaps the Comptroller and Auditor General would give us some guidance on that. To be honest, I am sure the local government auditor has looked at the bonds in perpetuity as these were only issued by Anglo Irish Bank and all other bonds were for seven years. However, it is not an issue for this committee because we do not have a remit in regard to local government. Is it the local government auditor who would look at this?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It would be an issue for them and I am aware they have done some work in regard to it. The Secretary General, who is appearing next week, might be able to give the committee some further information if the committee puts him on notice that there would be an inquiry about it.

We should ask him about that because some of those bonds were not worth the paper they were written on. The taxpayer had to pick up the tab and local authorities, out of their own budgets, had to finish off the estates. The bonds literally evaporated and had no great legal standing.

One problem I found was that the local authorities failed to act in a timely manner to get the estates up to standard. By the time they started work, the bond had expired. There is a responsibility on the part of the builder but also in regard to planning. It is a planning condition that the builder is complying with and the local authority, by not insisting on the work being done in a timely manner, is allowing planning regulations to be not complied with in full. It then ends up with the local authority and the taxpayer is picking up the tab because of that.

I had a lot of heartache with them myself.

It goes to a much wider issue in terms of procurement and the ability of public bodies, whether local authorities or otherwise, to assess the track record of companies when making decisions. I know of situations where the bond that had been secured was of a value much less than the value of the outstanding works, and the developers just walked away and said, “Keep the bond”, which resulted in a large bill for local authorities. Yet, the same developers at the same time would have planning applications in for a new development, and one part of the body could not take into account the fact this was clearly an entity that had failed to live up to its commitments. In terms of our work and how it relates to the Committee of Public Accounts, it is in regard to those issues of how we can make propositions that better allow one public body, or one section of a public body, to take into account a company's previous track record with regard to these issues.

I ask that the clerk would flag that up as part of the invite for next week. We will put the Department on notice that we want to talk to it about bonds, why they are not as secure as they need to be, and why there have been so many problems with them.

We want to know the guidance the Department has given. Where a developer had been less than compliant in terms of completing the estate and where there were issues with the bonds expiring, given most of them were issued for seven years, some of the local authorities had been smart enough to look for cash bonds as opposed to insurance bonds. As I said, the only ones that were ever available in perpetuity were Anglo bonds.

It probably strays into the policy area in regard to what guidance the Department gave, but at the end of the day, the funds that local authorities have available cannot be used for things that are properly the responsibility of a developer who has not completed the estate.

I concur with Deputy Colm Burke in regard to the timeline to complete estates in a satisfactory manner and the level of oversight. However, the local authorities probably have not had the resources to do that in recent years. It is a local government matter rather than a matter for the Committee of Public Accounts.

It is a local government matter but the bill for unfinished estates ended up in Departments and the Department with responsibility for housing and the environment has had to supply substantial funds in recent years to deal with that. It is an issue we will ask the Department to deal with when it is before the committee. It is to be hoped we can try to make some headway with it on that day.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

A circular letter has been issued by the Department, Circular PL 11/2013. It might be useful for that to be provided to the committee in advance of the meeting. That explains how it should work and the Secretary General might then be able to explain how it does work.

That is useful, thank you. No. 187 is correspondence copied from Marlet Property, dated 17 August 2020, regarding the sale of a long leasehold interest in a property in Tara Street, Dublin 2. It is proposed to note this as there is no specific request to the committee to deal with it. Is that agreed? Deputy Murphy might have a concern on this.

This is not my first time seeing this. I asked some parliamentary questions when it arose the first time and I am happy to give the committee the reply from CIÉ, which might add to some of the information.

We will circulate that. No. 192 from Deputy Catherine Murphy, dated 5 November 2020, is in regard to correspondence from the Minister for Justice concerning the number of drivers detected driving while disqualified. It is proposed to proceed as requested by Deputy Murphy, including forwarding the correspondence to the Joint Committee on Justice for any action it deems appropriate. Is that agreed? Agreed?

No. 198 is from Mr. Brendan O'Sullivan, general secretary of the Building and Allied Trades Union, BATU, dated 6 November 2020, representing workers who have been made redundant. This item has been raised. The union alleges that the company that employed the workers has maintained that it was finding it difficult to operate because it needed NAMA’s authority to do its day-to-day work. As the letter is to NAMA and there is no specific request to the committee, it is proposed to note this item. Deputy Carthy had flagged this.

It is important that, for our own consideration, we would request of NAMA its response to the charge that has been made. We know NAMA has been entrusted with a huge level of portfolios and loans that can be either a force for good or bad in terms of how they are utilised and the circumstances involved. A trade union has made very serious assertions that the actions of NAMA have resulted in the loss of its members’ jobs. It would be appropriate that this committee would receive the response that NAMA has issued in the first instance.

The correspondence states that they cannot buy a bag of cement or shovel without the authority of NAMA. I am sure that is overstating it a bit but they are trying to make a point in the correspondence.

I am sure there are companies involved that will quite happily pass the buck to NAMA and say it is the cause. It is not to say one way or another that this is the fault of NAMA or the company. However, it would be appropriate for NAMA to share with us its initial response and we can then make a determination as to whether there is a role for this committee to examine it further.

I agree with Deputy Carthy. We have correspondence before us which reports on a statement made by somebody who is not party to the correspondence. That is probably not a satisfactory place for the committee to be. It is appropriate, now that it is before us and is being discussed, that we should try to see the facts on it. I agree with Deputy Carthy.

Will Deputy Carthy outline his proposal?

I propose that we write to NAMA asking it for its response to BATU in this regard.

Is that agreed? Agreed. That concludes our consideration of correspondence.

No. 5 on the agenda is the work programme of upcoming engagements, which is displayed on members' screens. We will meet with the Revenue Commissioners tomorrow and engage with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage over two days, 25 and 26 November.

I propose that on the first day we take Vote 34 – Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Local Government Fund 2019, and chapter 2 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report on the Accounts of the Public Services 2019, which concerns central Government funding of local authorities and local property tax. On the second day we will take chapter 11, measuring performance for Exchequer spending on social housing; chapter 12, progress under the land aggregation scheme; and chapter 13, the pyrite remediation scheme, which was noted by some of the members. Is it agreed that we deal with that over two days? Agreed.

There has been a slight change to the next item. We had proposed to bring in the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board on 3 December but due to events today we feel that we want to get more out of this meeting and therefore are proposing to defer that to a date early in January. The suggestion is that we bring in Caranua, if it is possible to do so, on that date.

The following week I propose that we again engage over two days, this time with the Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service. It doubles the time we have to examine accounts. If members are happy with this approach of having a double session, I propose that we use it more often in the future. It links in with our conversation earlier that people feel they want to get into the questioning of witnesses in more depth. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

For that session, there is a chapter to be taken on the catering and ancillary services in the Irish Prison Service as well as the Vote.

The Comptroller and Auditor General is happy enough to have that done.

We then have one public engagement left before the end of the year, which is on 17 December. Given the amount of ground to cover with the HSE it might be best to hold that over until January and to do it over two days. If members decide to move the meeting with the HSE on 17 December to a double session, we need to decide on our priority.

On that point, can we go back to the proposals for 9 December? Noting what the Comptroller and Auditor General has just said about Vote 21 and chapter 7 being taken together, presumably, Vote 24 would be taken on the Wednesday and we would deal with the other element of that on the Thursday. Can the Chairman clarify for me if the Department of Justice will be in attendance for both days, as well as the Irish Prison Service? I am conscious that there will be a cross-over in terms of some questions. We do not want to have to say at that meeting that a particular question was for yesterday's session and that today's session is only questions for the Irish Prison Service. We need to be careful of that with the new format we are proposing. As long as both agencies will be present-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The Accounting Officer is the same for both Votes. It is the Secretary General of the Department who is the Accounting Officer for the Prison Service. Obviously, she would have the director of the Prison Service with her.

Yes, but there may be other examples where we may need to be conscious of that format.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes.

In this case, with the Accounting Officer-----

That is fine. It works.

We could have the Department of Justice on one day and then the Irish Prison Service, Vote 21, on the second day, with the catering and ancillary services, to keep them compartmentalised.

That might be a more coherent approach because we are breaking it up over-----

That is what we were proposing. I should have said that. We would have the Department of Justice, the Prison Service and then chapter 7 of the Report on the Accounts of the Public Services 2019 on catering and ancillary services in prisons. We would have the Secretary General in the Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service. Are members satisfied with that?

It may be the case that they have a limited number of people they can bring along. It could be broken up dealing with the Department of Justice on one day and the issue of catering in prisons on the second day. Then, they may well bring along different people the second day. While it may be the Secretary General, it may be different people who are there in support.

Can we ask the clerk to the committee to take note of that and work that out as part of the invitation? Invitations are sent out but there is always tick-tacking with the secretariat. The clerk and his staff will move quickly on that to try to separate those out as much as possible. That is the Irish Prison Service. The proposal is that we try to use that double session approach where we have a substantial piece of work to do with guests.

The outstanding issue is the remaining engagement on 17 December. We were talking about having the HSE come in before the committee. Do members want to proceed with that, which would be a single session, or do they want to move it to a later date?

Could we break it up? We could still have them in but could simply look at the agency staff or even the section 38 organisations costings, which is a big issue in its own right. I have no problem with them coming in for one of the sessions in December and having another one in January, as long as we properly compartmentalise them.

Do other members have views on that?

On the section 38 issue, a huge budget went out to those organisations and I think it would be one to look at.

There are two proposals, one on the agency staff and the other, which is quite separate. There are the section 38 and the section 39 organisations.

The section 38 and section 39 organisations are where the big money is.

Is the committee happy to go with that piece of work with the HSE for 17 December? I will ask the clerk to try to arrange that for 17 December with the HSE. There will be further dates. I would imagine we will want to invite in witnesses from the HSE to discuss a number of issues. We had them here previously and it was very useful but with the pandemic and everything else, there is a big spend going into it next year so we need to be on the ball in that regard. We will arrange that.

Do members wish to raise any other issues in the public session? As they are happy enough, we will proceed with the work programme as agreed, subject to the secretariat being able to arrange those engagements.

Our next meeting will be tomorrow, when we will meet the Revenue Commissioners regarding Vote 9 - Office of the Revenue Commissioners, and the Revenue Account 2019. We have completed our business. The meeting is adjourned until 11.30 a.m. tomorrow.

The committee adjourned at 6.08 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Thursday, 19 November 2020.