Written Answers. - Waterways Ireland.

Gerry Reynolds

Question:

117 Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands the amount of funding which is provided from her Department's Vote for Waterways Ireland; the nature of the relationship between her Department and this body; if her Department has any policy input into the activities of Waterways Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17593/01]

Gerry Reynolds

Question:

118 Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands if she has satisfied herself with the level of accountability for public funds appropriated by Waterways Ireland; if she has further satisfied herself that reporting arrangements between this body and her Department are working satisfactorily; the way in which she can ensure onward accountability to Dáil Éireann in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17594/01]

Gerry Reynolds

Question:

119 Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands if Waterways Ireland comes within the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997; if not, if she has had discussions with the Department of Finance with a view to bringing this body within the framework of the Act; the other mechanisms available to ensure accountability of the day-to-day activities of this body; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17595/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 to 119, inclusive, together.

Waterways Ireland was set up as one of the six implementation bodies under the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999. Its co-sponsoring Departments are the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands in the South and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure or DCAL in the North.

In the Revised Estimates for the Public Service, 2001, Waterways Ireland received £22.174 million. Waterways Ireland is obliged to present its annual report and accounts to the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly by the end of June. The body is also accountable to the offices of the Comptroller and Auditor General, both North and South. The body is required to bring all major proposals to the waterways sectoral North-South Ministerial Council. The next such meeting is due to take place on 27 June.

On a day-to-day basis the North-South co-operation division of my Department liaises with Waterways Ireland and DCAL. Currently Waterways Ireland submits all of its claims to my Department and they are paid from the Vote. Such payment requests are subject to the same checks as any other payments made by my Department. This position will change in 2002 when Waterways Ireland has its full staffing complement. I am satisfied that the procedures in place are adequate.

The implementation bodies, including Waterways Ireland, are not subject to freedom of information legislation in the South. However, the British-Irish Agreement provided that an FOI code of practice would be prepared for approval by the North-South Ministerial Council. The Department of Finance has submitted a draft set of principles for such a code to the northern side and is awaiting a response.
Departmental papers in the South relating to the body are subject to the FOI Act and applications for information may be made in the usual manner.