Thursday, 20 June 2019

Questions (99)

Barry Cowen


99. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the procedures in place to regulate and monitor general expenses for employees in Departments, State companies and semi-State companies; the accountability structures that exist; the role the Comptroller and Auditor General has with general expenses for employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26046/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

All Government Departments and public bodies in receipt of public funding must comply, as appropriate, with the relevant requirements of Public Financial Procedures, the Public Spending Code, Government Procurement Rules and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform relevant Circulars.

The rules governing travel and subsistence, both domestic and foreign, in the civil and public service are set out in Circulars which are issued, from time to time, to Departments and Offices and to agencies under the aegis of each Department. Policy in respect of air travel is contained in the Foreign Travel Guidelines 2009. It is a matter for each accounting officer or accountable person in the case of non-vote expenditure to ensure the rules in respect of travel and subsistence are followed so as to ensure value for money.

With regard to State bodies, as set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, 2016 the Board has a key role in setting the ethical tone of a State body, not only by its own actions but also in overseeing senior management and staff. The board should ensure a culture of claiming expenses only as appropriate to business needs and in accordance with good practice in the public sector generally and introduce controls to prevent fraud including adequate controls to ensure compliance with prescribed procedures in relation to claiming of expenses for business travel.

The accounting officer or accountable person has a key role in the system of accountability for public moneys. It is, of course, a matter for each individual Department and public body concerned to ensure that there are appropriate oversight arrangements and governance structures in place to ensure that where any misspending takes place, there are internal controls and internal audit systems in place to ensure, in as far as possible, that these are detected and are addressed.

The core duties of the C&AG, in conducting a financial audit are to ensure the financial statements properly present the transactions and balances, and that transactions have been “regular”. The latter essentially means establishing that the State’s money was properly used or handled in accordance with lawful authority. In addition, his audits have regard to the standards of propriety set out in the relevant codes of practice. He reports publicly where he identifies material matters relating to the manner in which public business has been conducted, including material instances of excess spending, or spending without a clear business purpose.

The C&AG’s remit covers central Government Departments and Offices and non-commercial State bodies. He does not have a role in respect of commercial State bodies.