Agricultural Credit Bill, 1969: Committee Stage.

Sections 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 5.
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill".

May I mention this question which was raised regarding the 90 days? This is in order to bring the Corporation into line with modern practice. Most of the latter-day State companies which have been established do not have this particular period prescribed for them and I think this is not unreasonable. The Agricultural Credit Corporation have expanded their activities enourmously, not just in the total amount they are lending but in the number of loans they are making. I consider it would be a little restrictive to expect them to have their books ready, audited and submitted within three months.

From my experience as an accountant, I do not think many commercial concerns adhere to that sort of period. I can assure the Seanad that so far as we, the Department of Finance, are concerned we will not permit the Corporation to be dilatory in any way in submitting their accounts and report. On the other hand we do not think we should be unduly restrictive on them, because excessive restriction might interfere with their day-to-day operations and their amended programme.

While I can appreciate that the three months period may be unduly restrictive, I certainly am not content to leave it at, "as soon as may be". We have had experience during the years of State bodies failing to produce audit accounts, and we have also had cases where bodies have produced accounts year after year without including any provision for interest rates in the accounts. The Minister, in his professional capacity as an accountant, a profession to which he may be returning at some point, possibly in the not too distant future, should not be in a position to allow accounts not to be submitted indefinitely. It is the normal policy for State bodies to produce their accounts within four months at the end of July, although there are some exceptions. I should be quite prepared to agree to the insertion of four months or five months, but I do not think it should be left completely open.

I also feel that the Minister should put a specific period into this. Otherwise it would become very confused. He has made the case that 90 days is too short, having regard to the increased volume of work being undertaken by the Corporation, but I think it would be very foolish not to have a specific limit.

Would the House be prepared to accept my undertaking that the Department of Finance would ensure that it would not be more than six months or four months?

This is a long question. I am sorry this has been raised. I had thought the Committee Stage was the place where a proposal of this kind would be considered. I will put down an amendment.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.