I welcome everyone to the meeting. No apologies have been received. Please note that in order to limit the risk of spreading Covid-19, the service encourages all members, visitors and witnesses to continue to wear face masks when moving around the campus or when in close proximity to others, be respectful of other people's physical space and adhere to public health advice.
Members of the committee attending remotely must continue to do so from within the precincts of the Parliament. This is due to the constitutional requirement that to participate in public meetings, members must be physically present within the confines of Leinster House. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, is a permanent witness to the committee. He is accompanied by Mr. John Crean, deputy director of audit, from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
This morning we are engaging with officials from the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive, HSE, in resuming examination of the following matters. Those are the 2020 appropriation accounts, Vote 38 - Health, and the HSE's financial statements for 2020. Both organisations have been advised in advance that the committee may also wish to examine the following matters that arise mainly from reports in the public domain. They are redeployment of HSE nursing home staff and value for money; the temporary assistance payment scheme for nursing homes; oversight and governance by the Department of HSE expenditure, including supplementary budgets; HSE recruitment targets, budgeting, delivery and departmental oversight; consultant salary scales; departmental oversight of Exchequer funding carried forward by the HSE; HSE treasury management; and requests for additional funding for mental health services and subsequent delivery.
We are joined in the committee room by the following officials from the Department of Health, Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General, Mr. John O'Grady, principal officer, and Mr. Kevin Colman, principal officer. From the HSE we are joined by Mr. Paul Reid, chief executive officer, Ms Anne O’Connor, chief operations officer, Mr. Stephen Mulvany, chief financial officer, and Mr. Liam Woods, national director of acute operations.
We are also joined remotely from within the precincts of Leinster House by the following officials from the Department, Ms Fiona Larthwell, principal officer, and Mr. Seamus Hempenstall, principal officer. From the HSE, we are also joined by Ms Mairéad Dolan, assistant chief financial officer, and Ms Anne Marie Hoey, national director, human resources. Finally, from the health Vote section at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, we are joined by Mr. Daniel O'Callaghan and Mr. Eoin Dormer.
As usual, I remind all those in attendance to ensure mobile phones are on silent mode or switched off. Before we start, I will explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses as regards reference witnesses may make to other persons in evidence. As they are within the precincts of Leinster House, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentation made to the committee. This means witnesses have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they say at the meeting. However, witnesses are expected not to abuse this privilege and it is my duty as Cathaoirleach to ensure this privilege is not abused. Therefore, if the statements are potentially defamatory of an identifiable person or entity, witnesses will be directed to discontinue the remarks. It is imperative they comply with any such direction.
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.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, delivered his opening statements on the HSE's financial statements and the Department's Appropriation Accounts last September and December respectively. These were circulated to the committee before this meeting. Unless the Comptroller and Auditor General wishes to address the accounts, we will move straight to Mr. Watt's opening statement.