Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Questions (105)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

179 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the cost of legal representation will be covered for those giving evidence to investigations being carried on by her Department into a company (details supplied) in view of the fact that the lack of clarity on this matter is causing great distress to witnesses of modest means who have been called to give evidence. [3712/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The investigation in question is being conducted by an authorised officer appointed by me under section 19 of the Companies Act 1990, which provides that the Minister or an authorised officer appointed by the Minister may require the production of books or documents of a company or other body corporate carrying on business in the State, if the Minister is of the opinion that there are circumstances suggesting, inter alia, that it is necessary to determine if an inspector should be appointed to the company or that its affairs are being conducted with intent to defraud or the body was formed for fraudulent or unlawful purposes. This power includes a power to require production of documents from individuals and to require individuals to provide explanations to the authorised officer and to give all assistance to the authorised officer as the individual is reasonably able to give in connection with the investigation. In this respect it is an offence for an individual not to comply with a request by the authorised officer.

Witnesses called by the authorised officer are complying with their statutory obligation to assist the investigation. The question of whether or not they wish to be accompanied by their legal representative is entirely a matter for the individuals concerned.

There is no specific legal provision covering payment by the Minister of costs under a section 19 inquiry. The question of whether or not costs would be reimbursed on anex gratia basis in any particular case could only be considered when the investigation had been completed and the report of the authorised officer had been received in the Department, and after careful consideration of the applicant's involvement in the matters under investigation, including a consideration of any views of the authorised officer, and the nature and quantum of the costs for which reimbursement was sought.