This group of amendments deals with enhanced accountability, reporting and consultation arrangements. It was always the case that, under the Bill, the Joint Committee on Transport could call the chairperson and chief executive officer to account for their stewardship of the authority. The Minister for Transport retains direct political responsibility and ultimate accountability for the DTA and has final sign-off in respect of its two main outputs, namely, the transport strategy and the implementation plan. In addition, all moneys voted to the DTA will go through the Vote of the Department of Transport. The Secretary General remains the Accounting Officer for all voted transport expenditure and will report to the Committee of Public Accounts in respect of those funds.
As already stated, the Bill has been amended to provide that the Joint Committee on Transport shall be consulted on the DTA's draft transport strategy. This matter was the subject of discussion in the Seanad on a previous Stage. The joint committee will be entitled to call representatives of the DTA to come before it to discuss the draft strategy and shall submit its views to the Minister prior to the strategy being approved by him or her.
Several amendments have been made to strengthen the consultation among the DTA and various interested parties, including regional and local authorities, the Garda Síochána, other transport authorities and the public, in the greater Dublin area. This matter was also previously discussed at length in the Seanad. The DTA must consult all of these parties when the transport strategy is being developed and again before it is submitted to the Minister for Transport. Members of the public will also be entitled to make written submissions.
Before the draft transport strategy is approved, the regional authority, the joint committee and interested parties will have a four-week period in which to make known their views to the Minister. The recommendations of the advisory council, and the DTA's reasons as to why it has rejected any of these, must be published.
A further amendment to the Bill requires that the DTA must report every two years in respect of the continuing need for any subsidiaries it may establish. The Bill has also been amended to make it explicit that on each occasion on which consultation occurs, the authority or the Minister must consider the views expressed by the consultees.
This group of amendments introduces a number of changes. Many of those changes were discussed in the Seanad but we were not in a position at the time to accept the amendments relating to them. However, the concerns expressed were subsequently taken on board in the Dáil.