I welcome everyone to the meeting. Deputy McAuliffe sent his apologies and Deputy Catherine Murphy sent her apologies in regard to this afternoon's session. In order to limit the risk of spreading Covid-19, the Service encourages all members, visitors and witnesses to continue to wear a face mask when moving around the Leinster House campus and when in close proximity to other people. I ask members and witnesses to respect social distancing. Covid-19 has not gone away just yet.
Members attending remotely must continue to do so within the precincts of Leinster House. This is due to the constitutional requirement that in order to participate in public meetings, members must be physically present within the confines of the place where the Parliament has chosen to sit. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, is a permanent witness to the committee and is accompanied by Mr. Andrew Harkness, director of audit at the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
This morning we will engage with officials from the HSE and examine expenditure on mental health services in the context of the HSE's 2020 financial statements, with a particular focus on child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS. The HSE has been advised that the committee may also wish to examine the following matters: expenditure in terms of the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton in County Cork; and HSE recruitment targets, budgeting delivery and departmental oversight.
Attending remotely from within the precincts of Leinster House are the following HSE officials: Mr. Paul Reid, CEO; Ms Anne O'Connor, chief operations officer; Mr. Stephen Mulvaney, chief financial officer; Mr. Jim Curran, national director of capital and estates; Ms Yvonne O'Neill, national director of community operations; and Dr. Amanda Burke, child and adolescent consultant psychiatrist and executive clinical director for Galway Roscommon mental health services. Also attending remotely from within the precincts of Leinster House are the following officials from the Department of Health: Ms Louise McGirr, assistant secretary; Ms Margaret Campbell, principal officer; and Mr. Seamus Hempenstall, principal officer. They are all very welcome.
When we begin to engage, I will ask those attending remotely to mute their microphones when not contributing in order that we do not pick up any background noise. As usual, I remind all those in attendance to ensure that their mobile phones are either in silent mode or switched off.
I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses in respect of reference witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. As they are within the precincts of Leinster House, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentation they make to the committee. This means that they have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they may say at the meeting. However, they are expected not to abuse this privilege and it is my duty as Cathaoirleach to ensure that it is not abused. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in respect of an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue and it is imperative that they comply with such directions.
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 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.
I call on the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, to make his opening statement.