That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to enable the Arts Council to ensure that funding is contingent on compliance with employment law and for that purpose to amend the Arts Act 2003; and to provide for related matters.
I wish to share time equally with Deputy Tóibín.
We need to create a safe culture and environment for those working in the arts sector. In November last, the then Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who had responsibility for the arts, Deputy Humphreys, announced a series of measures that the Minister and her Department believed would do just that. These consisted of a series of workshops on governance for board members and senior staff. I do not know what world the Fine Gael Ministers live in but those who exploit workers are not swayed by workshops and PowerPoint presentations. We need a coercive element to change a culture of exploitation and harassment. That is why we want to tie the allocation of funds to the arts sector to that sector's compliance with the law. I fail to see how anyone can object to a Bill that requires a sector to simply comply with the law.
This Bill will also make all arts funding over €100,000 subject to the oversight of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts. Last year, the Arts Council issued over €86 million in funds to arts bodies. Obviously, the Oireachtas needs to know exactly what that money is spent on.
We are not proposing that the Oireachtas would dictate what projects the Arts Council would fund - that is entirely a matter for the Arts Council - but we have a responsibility to ensure there is transparency and good governance and that the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts can scrutinise how public money is spent.
Finally, far too often now in the public sector, because of money being allocated through grants and because of outsourcing, there are significant amounts of money which are outside the purview of both the Comptroller and Auditor General's office and the Committee of Public Accounts. Moreover, Accounting Officers, as in Secretaries General, are not accountable for the spend of that money to those bodies to the extent that they should be. This Bill deals with one sector, which is the arts sector.
We are asking the Government to support the Bill.