I move: "That the General Order entitled ‘The County Boards of Health Accounts Order, 1924,' which was laid on the Table of this House on the 20th day of March, 1924, shall be and is hereby annulled." Perhaps I should apologise to the House for being the first person who discovered anything on the Table that I considered worthy of its notice.
SEANAD RESUMES. - THE COUNTY BOARDS OF HEALTH ACCOUNTS ORDER.
How do you suggest we should celebrate that event?
By accepting my motion. I happened to find a document of some value, in more senses than one. This is a General Order entitled "The County Boards of Health Accounts Order, 1924," and its price is 15/-. There was value to the extent of £3 on the Table. I think some of it is in the hands of Senators, and I have been puzzled about this document. I think the value is high, or rather that the price is high. That is a better way to put it. I do not know whether they wanted to deter interested parties from purchasing it, or whether it is hoped that by placing a high value on it people will try to find out what it covers and what it contains. But I have really come to the conclusion that the reason for such a high value is that the value is commensurate with the work involved in compiling it, and those who have a technical knowledge of printing will appreciate the amount of labour involved in preparing all these forms. I think the cost involved would be reflected on all the public Boards which provided the forms and information laid down in this Order. My object in bringing forward this is part of my campaign to try to get the Government to reform the accounting system of the Free State. If you examine these forms you will see how extraordinarily complicated they are.
Those who have technical knowledge of accounting methods will, I think, agree how singularly unsuitable they are for the purpose of controlling public accounts, which is the only form of control that is of much value in the hands of lay members of these committees and public boards. I do not propose to go into detail on these forms. I do say, generally, from an accounting point of view, they belong to the stone age, and they are utterly unscientific. They overlap; they are exceedingly complicated and involved; they fail to give ready information as to costs, which is an essential point. A Board should have prompt information, monthly or weekly, as to how costs are moving, and generally they do not serve their purpose. I realise that it is quite impossible to alter them in a hurry. My object in bringing this forward was to ask the Minister for Local Government to institute an inquiry into all forms of accounts within his province. I do not suggest anything elaborate—three experts, one of whom is an official of the Local Government Department, one of whom is, I should suggest, an independent private accountant, and the other is some person who has had experience in the new form of public accounts which has recently received approval from a very authoritative Committee in the case of the War Office in England. As the Minister is not here I will not press the point further. I shall be satisfied with having raised it, and I will not ask the House to pass the motion, for I realise that it would not be effective or suitable under the circumstances.