I move Clause 1, as follows:—"From and after the passing of this Act, it shall be lawful for Dáil Eireann, by resolution carried by a majority of the members present and voting, from time to time, to appoint a Comptroller-General of the Receipt and Issue of the Exchequer of Saorstát Eireann and Auditor-General of Public Accounts who shall be styled and known as the Comptroller and Auditor-General (Ard-Sgrúdóir) and who shall act on behalf of Saorstát Eireann."
APPOINTMENT OF COMPTROLLER AND AUDITOR-GENERAL BILL. - (COMMITTEE STAGE.)
May I point out to the Minister the awkwardness of the phrase "from time to time" in line 29. The intention is, that the appointment may be made "from time to time." I would suggest with all respect that the phrase is unnecessary, because it is sufficient, I suggest, to take power to appoint a Comptroller-General and then when the office falls vacant the appointment of a successor will be made under the same power.
Does the President think that "from time to time" adds to the clarity?
It makes it much more elaborate. The phrase could be put in between the words "Dáil Eireann" and "by resolution" on line 2, Clause 1.
I move Clause 2, Sub-section 1.
I move Clause 2, Sub-section 2.
With regard to Sub-section 2 it seems to have been adopted from some other Act, or to have been drafted originally in contemplation of the possibility of this officer having a salary with increments. "Subject to the provision of this section there shall be paid to any person who shall have executed the office of Comptroller and Auditor-General on his ceasing to hold office a pension equal to one-half the salary of his office to which he shall have been entitled immediately before he ceased to hold such office." These words are either surplusage or they had reference to the contemplation of the possibility of an increasing salary. As the salary as fixed without increases is £1,500 per annum there is no necessity for that elaborate phrase. Furthermore, it is not declared in this Sub-section upon what Fund the pension in question is to be charged, and I think that ought to be repeated. Then again it is sufficiently obvious to everyone that the person appointed to this very important office will be someone of notable ability and of distinguished experience in matters akin to the work of this office, and yet the office is to be pensionable only at the expiration of 15 years of service. I would respectfully suggest that that is not calculated to secure the services of any but a very self-sacrificing patriot. You will observe later, in Sub-section 4, reference to the possibility of the Comptroller-General in question having become entitled to a Civil Service pension is made. He is allowed to elect between the pension provided in the Sub-section now under discussion and the pension which may accrue to him by virtue of his entire years of service of a Civil Servant, inclusive of the period as Comptroller-General. Now, I would submit to the Minister that this clause might be recast, because it does not seem to do justice to a man of the type that undoubtedly the Minister has in view for this very important office.
If you were to give pensions to officials having a lesser period of service than 15 years you would have a number drawing pensions at the same time. We do not want to put any old man into this job. There is surely no man but could give 15 years' service unless he is permanently disqualified by ill-health or something else. I oppose the suggestion of Deputy Magennis.
The time might well come when it might be necessary to some extent to increase the office of the person who would hold this particular position. It is a big position. If that were the case I take it that it might be possible that this person would get annual increments of increase and it is for the purpose of not having to alter that that we have worded it in this way. I think that as regards pension it is quite possible that he might not be a Civil Servant. If he be not a Civil Servant we are laying down what appears to be a fair compensation at the end of a term of office, of a certain number of years. The pension under the Civil Service scale is different from that, different to this extent, I believe, that a person is entitled to something like a year's salary in bulk for 30 years' service and a proportion, I think it is one-thirtieth, for each year of service. If a person had 45 years' service he would be entitled to a one and a half years' salary. It might be within the choice of the person appointed if he were a Civil Servant, to elect to get what he would be entitled to under the Civil Service. That Clause as it stands I understand and I am advised, would meet any possible alteration that would take place in the terms of office of this person without having to alter the Act. It is clear, although there might be a thing in it that might offend the tender susceptibilities of the æsthetic.
I am very much relieved to learn that the Ministry had contemplated the possibility of a salary with increments. Deputy Gorey has yet to learn that an important public position cannot be filled by a young and inexperienced man who is glad of any sort of a salary that people of his type are willing to offer. All the experience of other developed countries is that it pays best in the long run to give very high salaries to great public officials. I privately protested against the small salaries allotted already to Ministers. I think it utterly unfair, and here is an office quite as important for the national well-being as any Ministry——
In fact, as regards some Ministries, I agree more important, and it is really, without exaggeration, a miserable salary to offer, and it is only right that we should be satisfied now that later on, when the circumstances are more favourable, it will be a salary with increments. Under ordinary circumstances one who is in the Civil Service becomes eligible for pension after 10 years. I had that in view when I considered 15 years was rather too strait. I did not object on æsthetic grounds, I may tell the Minister, to this; it is not a question of literary style; it is a question of public policy, of promoting the public advantage. Of course it would be irregular to refer at present to Section 4 in this and so I shall hold over what I have to say on that.
I move Clause 2, Sub-section 3.
Now, there is an æsthetic objection that may be raised to Sub-section 3:—"No such pension as is mentioned in the preceding sub-section shall be paid to the Comptroller and Auditor-General." Obviously not. It would be impossible to pay a pension to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. He is in receipt of his salary. In the preceding clause, the phrase, rather round-about, for the sake of exactitude was used that:—"Any person who shall have executed the office of Comptroller and Auditor-General on his ceasing to hold such office." I presume that is what is intended here. No such pension as is mentioned in the preceding sub-section shall be paid to any person who shall have executed the office of Comptroller and Auditor-General on his ceasing to hold such office unless he be sixty years of age at the least or be afflicted with some other infirmity.
It will be observed, I think, that this particular sub-section refers to the preceding and, any infirmity that there is in the expression is, I think, to some extent due to the peculiarities of University education. If lawyers or people like that who come out of Universities, are not properly finished when they come to us we have to take whatever they give us. I believe that is in the English Act, and the people who compiled this Act came from a remarkably good University, Oxford, I think. They compiled these Acts, and they have done pretty well, I believe, so far, and I am not prepared to take any risks in regard to that. I am advised it is all right, and I am taking the chance.
It is notorious that the draftsmanship of the British Acts of Parliament is remarkably bad. There is no profession in England so flourishing as the profession of barristers in consequence. Surely we are not going to follow, as we did yesterday, in the ruts of British tradition. If we are going to be clear, let us be clear. We have been clear in Sub-section 2. Obviously if this pension is to be paid to the ex-Comptroller and Auditor-General, the simple prefix "ex" would have satisfied the requirements here, and it would have satisfied it in the other only for the pedantic love of legal phraseology.
I am informed that those who have put up these Acts of Parliament are native speakers of the language in which these Acts are compiled.
And therefore incapable of using it properly.
No amendment has been moved to Sub-section 3.
It is impossible because I have not had time. I am merely making suggestions for a later stage.
I move Sub-section 4, of Clause 2. This is the point that is mentioned by Deputy Professor Magennis. I think there are two Acts dealing with Pensions in the Civil Service. The one I mentioned first is the latest one, in which a person is entitled to accept, I think, one-thirtieth of each year's salary for each year of service, and what he gets, I think, is one-half of whatever salary he has been drawing before. The previous arrangement was, I think, one-sixtieth of his salary. It is to give a person a choice, if he so desired, which I think would be fair, if the person had served a number of years in this office, and had a considerable number of years' service in any other office in the Civil Service.
I am quite in favour of Sub-section 4. It is most desirable especially as the previous sub-section with regard to pensions was for the time being unsatisfactory. There is just one thing as regards the language, it runs dangerously near being a bull as it stands. No doubt this is due to its being framed by native speakers. Part of the section reads:—"In lieu of the pension which would be payable to him under this section the amount of superannuation allowance to which he would have been entitled by law apart from this Act." Of course "apart from this Act" he would not be the Comptroller-General, and if he were not the Comptroller-General he would not be eligible for a pension as such. But what is intended is "which would be payable to him under this section, the amount of superannuation allowance to which he would have been entitled by law in respect of the full period during which he may have"—not shall—"served in the permanent Civil Service." I think it will be found that on reading the section that that covers the whole case. The assumption is that the appointee is already in the Civil Service and as such is acquiring pension rights. Now he is given here the power of election either to take the pension allotted to him in the previous sub-section referable to his office as Comptroller-General, or to take the Civil Service pension accruing to him as a Civil Servant, counting for that period all the years of service in other offices, plus the years of service as Comptroller-General. So that the words "apart from this Act" are quite unnecessary, and as they stand they only make one stop to consider and they have a humoristic quality when one considers that.
I think the meaning of the Clause is quite clear.
Undoubtedly the meaning is quite clear. The meaning of very many difficult passages is quite clear to those who take the trouble of studying them. But it is a curious thing if in the beginning of our Parliamentary life we are to indulge in ambiguities and badly drafted statements and defend them on the grounds that they will do well enough. Surely we ought to have the quality of the new broom if it were nothing else.
Deputy Magennis makes one statement. He says "apart from this Act" is unnecessary and he labours that point considerably. I make another statement and I say that the words "apart from this Act" make it clear, and I leave it at that.
I move Clause 3, Sub-section (1), which reads:—"The Comptroller and Auditor-General shall retire from office upon his attaining the age of seventy years, and shall not be removed from his office before he shall have attained that age except by the Oireachtas upon resolution passed by the Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann respectively, and then only for misbehaviour or incapacity to be expressly stated in such resolutions."
With regard to this, I would suggest that there is some further addition necessary. The section reads "The Comptroller and Auditor-General shall retire from office upon his attaining the age of 70 years, and shall not be removed from his office before he shall have attained that age, except by the Oireachtas upon resolution passed by Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann respectively, and then only for misbehaviour or incapacity to be expressly stated in such resolutions." That seems to convey that the allegation of misbehaviour or an indictment of incapacity merely requires to be expressly stated, and such express statement will have the efficacy of proof. No doubt Ministers will tell us that one must not entertain such a thought as that an allegation of incapacity or misbehaviour could be made without sufficient ground. But I am not willing, speaking for myself, to make such an act of faith now in the beginning. It seems to me that some provision must be made for the defence of the Comptroller and Auditor-General; that it should not be sufficient to charge him with misbehaviour and incapacity and leave the matter there and make that suffice for the passing of a resolution.
There is just one very small verbal suggestion that I would like to make, and it is that we should repeat in this latter part of the Clause, Article 63 of the Constitution, and say in line 16 "resolutions" instead of "resolution."
I think that is a misprint.
Surely "resolution" ought to be singular and not plural. It ought not to be open, for instance, for the Dáil to pass a resolution dismissing a Comptroller and Auditor-General for one form of incapacity, and for the Seanad to disagree with that, and to put in some other form of incapacity and pass a separate resolution. It ought to be one common resolution, agreed to by both Houses on the same ground; therefore, it ought to be on a resolution passed by the Dáil and Seanad respectively, and then only for the misbehaviour, incapacity and unfitness expressed in such a resolution.
I think the Deputy is perfectly right in that sense, but we omitted to make that correction in the Constitution, and there should be some similarity between the Act and the Constitution.
The Constitution was meant to deal with several officers, but this Act is meant to deal with one particular officer.
The Constitution was meant to deal with this one officer only; it is a special office, and that is why we are passing a Bill.
I take it that both resolutions would be the same. We cannot alter the Constitution.
I take it, as a matter of fact, that when we speak of the resolution, it is not the particular form of words, but the will of either House put into a form of words.
Would it meet my difficulty, which I think is shared by other people, if the word "identical" were put in before the word "resolutions?" It would then make it quite clear that it would not be open to the two Houses to act on different grounds of incapacity or unfitness. It seems to me it would be a very unfair result.
May I ask what protection is to be given this officer when he is so charged?
If he were of good behaviour and capable we would be very much disinclined to bring forward a resolution of that sort. Generally speaking this country has a great many public boards and a great many local authorities and controlling institutions, and the cases in which officials have been brought before these bodies and dismissed unjustly are very few and very rare. If that be the case with smaller bodies drawn from small areas, I think it is exceedingly unlikely any official, particularly an official occupying such a position as this, would be dealt with unjustly by bodies that are under the public eye to such an extent as the Dáil or the Seanad. The best guarantee that any officer who holds this position will have regarding his tenure of office will be his capacity for doing his work and his good behaviour. There need be no doubt whatsoever that any man in the employment of the Oireachtas will get fair treatment in the future, and that is not without making due allowances for the infirmities of human nature that are, I suppose, prevalent in all such bodies.
I take the view that otherwise an official could defy both the Dáil and the Seanad. If such provisions were not made the Oireachtas would not be effective at all.
I think there is very little doubt that if a charge of that kind were brought forward here and there were any reasonable doubt in the minds of Deputies as to whether the charge was well founded, it would be open to anybody to move, and certainly the Dáil would have no hesitation in passing, a resolution that an enquiry be referred to a Committee of this Dáil or possibly a Judicial Committee, but at any rate a Committee appointed for the purpose of enquiring and investigating and making a report before any action was taken. That is the real protection that any alleged defaulter would have. No Government would rely on a mere party vote to dismiss an officer of high standing because he was unpopular with themselves on the ground of incapacity, and no Dáil likely to be elected here would stand by it.
I beg to move Clause 3, Sub-section 2, as follows:—"The Comptroller and Auditor-General shall not, while holding his office, be capable of holding any other office or position of emolument, or of being elected to or of being a member of either House of the Oireachtas."
I beg to move Clause 4, as follows.—"The Minister of Finance shall from time to time appoint the officers, clerks, and other persons in the Department of the Comptroller and Auditor-General and regulate the numbers, salaries and conditions of employment of the respective grades or classes into which such officers, clerks, and other persons shall be divided."
I take it that "regulating the conditions of employment" must be interpreted as regulating the general conditions of employment, because in a later section the Comptroller and Auditor-General very properly is empowered to make regulations and prescribe forms for the guidance of departments and persons in making up and rendering their accounts to him for examination. I would suggest that it should read: “The Minister of Finance shall from time to time appoint the officers, clerks and other persons in the Department of the Comptroller and Auditor-General and shall regulate the numbers, salaries and general conditions of employment.”
Although the Minister of Finance appears there and in many other places as being a person with extraordinary authority, he has really got as little power as any member of the Dáil with regard to those matters. There are certain prescribed forms, regulations and methods of dealing with this and every other department, and it is really a matter of form having him to appoint these officers and so on. He never goes outside the ordinary regulations; he investigates occasionally reasons why certain proposals are brought forward, but almost invariably those are recommendations which have been made in the ordinary way and those recommendations are almost invariably subscribed by the Minister of Finance. I do not think it would be any improvement to make that particular paragraph more general than it is. There are, as members know, regulations. It would be, I think, a mistake to call those general conditions They are the conditions and it is not wise to make any alteration in a matter of this sort.
I move Clause 5, as follows:—"Anything which is by the law for the time being in force directed to be done by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, other than the certifying and reporting on accounts for Dáil Eireann, may be done by a principal officer of the Department authorised for that purpose by the Comptroller and Auditor-General."
I suggest that in the last line of Clause 5 we introduce two words:—"Anything which is by the law for the time being in force directed to be done by the Comptroller and Auditor-General other than the certifying and the reporting on accounts to Dáil Eireann may be done by a principal officer of the Department authorised"— now I add in "in writing"—"for that purpose by the Comptroller and Auditor-General." No doubt, according to the traditions of public offices in which intercourse between one department and another is carried on in writing by memorandum the authorisation would be in writing. I think it is very desirable to state it now as a special requirement lest the slipshod methods that are recommended from the Ministerial Benches this afternoon should find their way into the public Departments under their control.
That is a suggestion, not an amendment.
Yes, they are all suggestions.
I beg to move Clause 6, as follows:—"The Comptroller and Auditor-General shall have full power to make from time to time orders and rules for the conduct of the internal business of his Department and to promote, suspend, or remove any of the officers, clerks, and other persons employed therein, and also, subject to the approval of the Minister of Finance, to make regulations and prescribe forms for the guidance of Departments and persons in making up and rendering their accounts to him for examination."
I think the Dáil will agree that in Clause 6 the word "remove" is very objectionable. This was written by a native speaker of English, but in Ireland the word "remove" has a sinister suggestion—"The Comptroller and Auditor-General shall have full powers to make from time to time orders and rules for the conduct of the internal business of his Department, and to promote, suspend or remove any of the officers." The removal may signify merely a transfer to another Department, a thing which occasionally happens. When "A" dislikes a certain official, finding him incompetent, let us say, he has him transferred to another Department, usually with promotion, so it seems to me that the word "dismiss" is what is required. We should empower him to promote, suspend or dismiss.
Just following upon that I want to suggest that the phrase, "subject to the approval of the Minister of Finance," could, with advantage, be amended. I think the position that the Comptroller and Auditor-General will be placed in, as a specially appointed officer of the Dáil to look after the finances, and even to act as a check on Ministerial Departments, places that officer in a position of equal status, say, with the Minister of Finance; that is, in relation to the Dáil, and the words "subject to the approval" rather suggest subordination to the Minister of Finance. I do not think that is intended. I would suggest the word "concurrence." It is quite obvious there will have to be some collaboration between the two bodies, but it ought to be the collaboration of equals; "subject to approval" rather suggests subordination, and, if you like, subjection.
It is rather a difficult position, I think, to describe properly. It is not the intention. I take it, to have the Comptroller and Auditor-General a Czar, who would be subject to no authority, subject to no restriction and subject to no control of any sort whatsoever. That is not the intention. He is to have full control regarding his own particular office, but as regards the methods of control, and so on, I think he must subscribe the same as any other officer of the State to the ordinary forms. If the Minister of Finance outsteps his duty he has got 152 members here who can indict him, but if you do not make some sort of regulations with regard to this office you are not in a position to bring the Comptroller and Auditor-General here, and tell him his staff is 50 per cent. too high or anything of that sort. It is for that purpose that this particular clause is worded in this way. I do not think that there is any interference with his status or his integrity, or anything of that sort, by putting it in this way, that while admitting the independence of this officer like every other officer of the State he must be subject to the body which derives its authority from the people.
Every other officer of the State is appointed in a different way from this officer. We have laid down in the Constitution that this officer shall be placed in an extraordinary position in the State, not an ordinary officer of the State at all, but that he shall be appointed, and that he shall not be removable except for stated reasons and that his subordination is only to the Oireachtas, and not to any Department of the State other than the Oireachtas. We are making a special Act according to the Constitution for the creation of such an office, and that undoubtedly places him in a different position from any other officer subject to a Departmental Head—namely, the Minister of Finance. I think that position is quite clear by the very fact that we are dealing with this Bill. Approval in this sense, although I am not going to overstress it, does indicate subordination to a Departmental Minister, and I think the intention of the Constitution, the intention of the Bill, and the practice in England from which this form is being taken, is that he shall be independent of Departments, and that his responsibility is directly to the Dáil.
I take it that Deputy Johnson's object is almost æsthetic. He does not propose any change in the substance of the clause, but merely thinks that the word "approval" connotes perhaps more than is necessary for the purpose of the clause.
That is all I mean.
I quite agree with regard to the independence of the individual, but it must be understood that this Dáil will not exercise any jurisdiction or control over this particular individual. As a matter of fact, as long as he discharges the duties of the office he is absolutely independent of the Dáil.
This is, properly speaking, the only check, if it be a check at all, and it does not appear to me to be much of a check, upon this particular office and the persons who will constitute it; in fact, it is the only safeguard, if I might say so, that there is from the Treasury side upon the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I do not anticipate that there will be that great necessity for vigilance either on the part of the Ministry of Finance or the Oireachtas on this individual, or of this individual on the Oireachtas. But I would not consider it wise to make that change in view of the fact that that sort of thing may grow into other Departments of the State and that very shortly it will be "concurrence" rather than "approval," and that they may become semi-independent bodies. Everybody certainly should be subject to the Oireachtas, and in this case the only liaison with the Oireachtas in connection with this office is through the Ministry of Finance. It is really a question of terminology, but I do not think it would be wise to alter it.
I would like to raise a point in connection with this a little different from what has been mentioned up to the present, because it seems to me that we are proposing to give a single person a right which it is very questionable that a single person ought to have. We are also proposing something in this Section that is likely to conflict with something in Section 4. In Section 4 we have given the Minister of Finance the power to appoint the officers in the Department under the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Here we give, or propose to give, the Comptroller and Auditor-General the right to promote, or if you keep the word "suspend" or "remove." It seems to me that this may possibly lead to a conflict between the two, rather than harmonious working between the two. I would suggest that there should be some form of words put in in that connection to indicate the concurrence of the Minister for Finance so as to avoid giving a single individual the right, and practically all power over the livelihood of a single person for whom he may possibly have some personal dislike. I think the concurrence at least, or possibly approval, of the Minister of Finance ought to be necessary before removal from office of any officer. This would not conflict with the right of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but merely with his administrative functions over the officials under him.
If one might try an analogy perhaps Deputy Fitzgibbon could assist and say whether the Ministerial Department is expected to be capable of interfering with the Legal Officer, the Judges and the Judges' immediate subordinates. Because as I understand the position of the Auditor-General it is constitutionally identical with that of the higher Judges. If we are going to extend the power of the Minister for Finance to interfere with the Judges and their immediate officials then we may consistently do the same with this particular Department, but I understand that the Auditor-General's position is one of peculiar power over and independence of every other Department of the State, and that he is, as a matter of fact, an effective check upon unlawful expenditure. Well, now if you can conceive a Ministerial Department using their power to do wrong things financially and they have power to influence subordinate officers of the Auditor-General's Department you can see how much more easy it would be for such a Departmental Minister to do evil things as conceivably he may be inclined to do, and unless you give the Auditor-General that position of independence and authority over his own Department some of his independence and authority will have been sapped. Hence I think it should be an independent Department and he should be a man capable of exercising all the authority he requires.
I support the view put forward by Deputy Johnson. He has stated more in detail what I had in view in introducing the word "general" in the last section. A few moments ago when I stated this was an office of very great importance, comparable in importance to the office of Minister there was general assent. Surely it is possible to contrive a form of words which shall meet all the requirements of the President and at the same time shall not subordinate unduly the holder of so high an Office of State. I cannot agree with Deputy Thrift in suggesting that the promotion and suspension of the subordinate officers should require even the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, because anyone who has had experience of administration in office work is well aware that it is the immediate superior in whose hands must lie the question of promotion. If that power is taken away not merely do you invite indiscipline but you prevent the creation of the spirit of cohesion and loyalty to the Chief in the Office. It is quite sufficient control that already the Minister has been provided with in the earlier section by which he appoints. This check upon jobbery in the first instance is a check also to a large extent upon extravagance, because the Minister for Finance is a Minister responsible to the Dáil for the Budget and we have already so far as we passed the preceding Clause, empowered the Minister for Finance to determine the salaries attached to those subordinate officers. If we go further, as Deputy Thrift suggests, I think we shall spoil altogether the efficiency of the Auditor-General's Office. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the phrase applied here to which Deputy Johnson takes objection, "Subject to the approval of Minister for Finance," unduly subordinates the Auditor-General. No doubt there will be what the President so confidently looks forward to, loyal cooperation of all the servants of the State, and no doubt all succeeding Parliaments shall conform to the ideal that he is so satisfied that they will conform to, doing nothing that is wrong, and never attempting to do anything that is wrong. At the same time we have to consider what type of man will be willing to accept this Office in the future, the salary such as it is, the gravity and responsibility of the Office such as they are, and if he is to be at all times acting under the supervision, check, and control of another officer, who differs from him in status only in this that that other is a member of the Dáil. It seems to me that between this stage and the stage of final report it ought to be possible to devise a formula that would meet all the requirements of the situation.
I am afraid I did not make myself clear. The Deputy seems to have missed the point which I wish to make. Section 4 gives the Minister for Finance the right to appoint. This section gives the Comptroller and Auditor-General the right to regulate the business and remove the officials of his department. To my mind these two tend to lead to a deadlock. The Minister for Finance appoints a person whereas the Comptroller and Auditor-General can remove him and the Minister for Finance can re-appoint him.
I beg to move sub-section 1 of Clause 7.
I beg to move sub-section 2 of Clause 7.
I beg to move as an amendment to add at the end of Sub-section (2) the words, "or required by resolution of the Dáil." The intention is to make it unnecessary that any direction to the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall have to be made by law, that is to say, that we need not go through the process of an Act of Parliament before we can require the Comptroller and Auditor-General to report upon any matter to us. If that had to be done, it would necessitate agreement on the subject with the Seanad which is not directly concerned in financial matters, but if we empower the Comptroller and Auditor-General by this Act to report on certain matters, then he will be obliged to do so even without the concurrence of the Seanad. I move——
I do not exactly understand what this amendment means. This Auditor-General reports at different periods and times which have been prescribed by law. What exactly would be the purpose of the resolution? Does it mean that instead of having a yearly audit, there should be a half-yearly or a three-monthly or a monthly audit or even at shorter periods? Article 62 of the Constitution says: "It shall be the duty of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to audit all accounts and moneys administered by, or under the authority of the Oireachtas, and he shall report to Dáil Eireann at stated periods to be determined by law." That is exactly what we have in the Bill, and I do not quite understand what the idea of the resolution is.
I think I can answer what is in the President's mind. The report of the Auditor-General will be referred, in the ordinary course, I presume, to the Committee on Public Accounts and sometimes more directly and immediately to the Dáil. The Dáil will have to consider the report of the Accounts Committee or will have to consider the report as a Committee itself and they may find there is something in the report not sufficiently clear, and it may become desirable that the Auditor-General should furnish a supplementary report for the information of the Dáil. He has already finished his yearly audit and he has reported "as prescribed by law" and it would be open to him, if not otherwise provided, to say "I have made my report and I will not make a supplemental one." The amendment of Deputy Johnson would empower the Dáil if it considered the annual report not sufficient in any particular to ask for, and to insist upon getting, a further report from the Auditor-General on some matter arising out of his accounts. It does seem to me desirable that the Dáil should have such power. If the Ministry say there is some overwhelming objection to it I would not press the point, but at the moment it seems to me desirable that we should have the power to call for a supplementary report upon any matter in the report "prescribed by law." There would be no duty upon the Auditor-General to supply such report unless some form of resolution such as this is made effective.
Sub-section (1) of this Clause indicates the normal duties of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It seemed fit to the Ministry to put in a sub-section which would indicate that in their mind there may be other and additional duties required within a certain time—that he may have to deal with special matters and special inquiries. As it stands any such additional duties can only be imposed upon the Comptroller and Auditor-General by a process of enactment. That means that a Bill would have to be put through its several stages in this Dáil and in the Seanad, and my amendment is that that should be simplified and all that procedure of enactment made unnecessary by providing that a resolution of the Dáil should be sufficient to require him to report to the Dáil upon certain matters. That is all that is intended and I think it should be obvious it is desirable we should have that right to call upon this officer to report on financial matters of a special nature without having to go through all the process of passing a special Act.
I do not know whether Deputy Fitzgibbon is familiar with the Exchequer and Audit Departments Acts, 1866 and 1921.
No, I confess I did not look into the matter at all. The amendment proposed commended itself to my mind without any special knowledge.
The only objection I have to the amendment is this, that by a number of resolutions you may make it difficult for any officer of this kind to carry out his duties. There may be a string of resolutions asking for reports monthly, or more often, which would engage him and occupy his time instead of allowing him to devote himself to the work of his department. Suppose for a moment the Dáil was not on the very best terms with this officer, his life could be made intolerable. I have no great objection to the resolution otherwise, but I really think the object is covered by the Acts mentioned in the next sub-section.
Is this a Money Bill?
I am afraid I would like to have some notice of that question.
If the President will accept this amendment, and if after consideration he finds it undesirable he can persuade the majority of the Seanad to turn it down.
I would like to ask whether the Comptroller and Auditor-General could remain in office in spite of the will of the Dáil. It is provided that "the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall retire when he has attained the age of 70 years, but he shall not be removed from office before that age except by the Oireachtas upon resolution passed by Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann, respectively, and then only for misbehaviour or incapacity to be expressly stated in such resolutions." Does that mean he would be otherwise permanently in office?
Yes, so long as he behaves himself.
So that he could remain in office in spite of this Dáil.
I take it that Deputy Johnson agrees that if we now accept these words and afterwards find there is something wrong or undesirable in them we are at liberty to find a means of removing him?
Question: "That the word `or required by resolution of the Dáil' be added at the end of Sub-section 2," put and agreed to.
I beg to move Sub-section 3, Clause 7.
I hope that the President will not consider this suggestion as a University æsthetic suggestion. This is line 57: "conferred or imposed on him by any Act of Parliament of the late United Kingdom having the force of law in Saorstát Eireann and adapted to the circumstances of Saorstát Eireann by or under the Adaptation of Enactments Act, etc." That is unquestionably bad English, and it could be made excellent English by changing "and" in the line I refer to into "as." Whereupon it reads "conferred or imposed on him by any Act of the Parliament of the late United Kingdom having the force of law in Saorstát Eireann as adapted to the circumstances, etc." The second "and" thus links up the Exchequer and Audit Act with the reference to any Act of the Parliament of the late United Kingdom.
The Deputy always manages to get me out of my depth and I do not know what to say upon a matter of this sort. I think it is wise to put it in the way it is because it does not read well, and most Acts of Parliament read very badly.
It is perfectly true that Acts of Parliament read very badly and very much to the increase of the emoluments of the Bar. I have not brought him out of his depth. We are in fact in the shallows. If the President reads the passage he will find that there are two "ands," the effect of which seems to make the reference to the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act to be part of our Adaptation Act operation. The thing is made not alone unambiguous but more effective by reading that it is conferred or imposed on him by any "British Statute"—the phrase used in the Adaptation Act, instead of the more roundabout phrase. The only legislation bearing upon this with legality is the Statutes as adopted by us in the Adaptation Act. The last Clause here is intended to emphasise the subjection of this Officer to the requirements of one particular statute. That statute is not adopted by us, but taken over absolutely by us, so I am not asking the President to alter this as regards substance, as it is purely an alteration in form which makes for better English and easier reading.
I have been wondering whether it would meet the point raised by Deputy Magennis to insert after the word "late" on line 56 the word "unlamented" British Government.
I am afraid if Ministers descend to frivolities of this sort "late" will be read with "much lamented Irish Government."
For the purpose of regularity—we are often told that we must not be irregular—I think that the suggestion of Deputy Magennis is a wise one—to substitute the words "British Statute" for the words "Acts of Parliament of the late United Kingdom." We have already done that in similar circumstances. I think if that is read into this clause—the substitution of the word "as" for "and" which he suggests— it will make the meaning very much clearer and sensible.
I hope the Minister will not accept that. In the Adaptation Act, for the purpose of that Act, the expression "British Statute" was used as a short definition of an Act of Parliament of the late United Kingdom having the force of law in Saorstát Eireann, and that definition only applies to that Statute. If you bring in the words "British Statute" you will get great confusion, unless you put in a definition and say that the words "British Statute" mean an Act of the late United Kingdom. Deputy Johnson is right in saying that the words "British Statute" were used in the Adaptation Act, but it had been defined in that Act.
Sub-section (3), Clause 7, as in the draft was agreed to.
I now move Clause 8:—"This Act may be cited as the appointment of Comptroller and Auditor-General Act, 1923."
If you are to have a short title, make it a short title, and leave out "appointment of.""Comptroller and Auditor-General Act," is quite sufficient, as you have already described them in three places.
I agree to that.
I now move the first part of the preamble:—"Whereas, is is provided by Article 62 of the Constitution of Saorstát Eireann that Dáil Eireann shall appoint a Comptroller and Auditor-General to act on behalf of Saorstát Eireann and that such Comptroller and Auditor-General shall control all disbursements and shall audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas and shall report to Dáil Eireann at stated periods to be determined by law."
That requires the addition of the words that were temporarily adopted by the amendment of Deputy Johnson—"at stated periods as required by law?"
I think not. It is cited in the Constitution.
Yes, that is right.
I now move the second part of the preamble:—"And Whereas it is provided by Article 63 of the Constitution aforesaid that the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall not be removed except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity on resolutions passed by Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann and that subject to that provision the terms and conditions of the tenure of office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall be fixed by law and that he shall not be a member of the Oireachtas, and shall not hold any other office or position of emolument."
I just wish to draw attention again to the word "misbehaviour," which is not the same as in the Constitution.
Yes, very well.
I now move the title:—"An Act to provide for the Office of Comptroller and Auditor-General and for other matters connected therewith."