11 Jul 2018, 11.50
The Public Accounts Committee has published its third Periodic Report which focuses on meetings held between the 25th of January and the 3rd of May 2018.
The Committee held 11 public sessions during this time, following up on matters arising from previous meetings and examining issues emerging from financial statements audited, and matters reported on, by the C&AG.
The Committee held meetings with the Valuation Office; the National Shared Service Office; the Department of Rural and Community Development; the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government; the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; the Department of Finance; the Department of Justice and Equality; the Department of the Taoiseach; and RTÉ.
Among the report’s recommendations are:
The failure of government departments and agencies to comply with the government’s policy in relation to public procurement is a recurring theme. The Committee recommends that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform examines the imposition of appropriate sanctions for public bodies that do not adhere to public procurement policy. The issue of compliance with public procurement policy is a matter to which the Committee intends to return.
The National Property Revaluation Programme
The Committee is dissatisfied with the performance of the Valuation Office in relation to the national property revaluation programme, and recommends that the Office ensures the programme is completed by 2021.
Shared Services – Management of Salary Overpayments
The Committee recommends that the National Shared Service Office, which provides payroll and human resource shared services, focuses on addressing the incidence of overpayments, and delays in their calculation and recoupment. Particular attention should be given to streamlining notification procedures and minimising internal errors.
The Committee recommends that an independent evaluation of savings generated by the Office be commissioned at the end of 2018, to assess whether it is providing value for money to the taxpayer.
The Dormant Accounts Fund
The Committee recommends that the mechanisms employed by the dissolved Dormant Accounts Board and other government models that effectively disburse funds, are examined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in order to help address the failures of the current system.
Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government
The Committee recommends that the flows of funds from central government to local government are reviewed to simplify the process.
The Committee recommends that the Department ensures it meets its target to annually inspect 25% of private rented accommodation by 2021.
Galway Art House Cinema and Vote 33 – Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs
The Committee recommends that the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht conducts a post-project evaluation of the Galway Art House Cinema project to see what can be learned from the project, and to ensure public accountability. The report should be completed and published within the timeframe outlined to the Committee by the Secretary General.
Department of Finance
The Committee recommends that the Minister continues to pursue a legal basis for the adoption of alternative economic indicators in the State’s reporting at EU level. The Minister should endeavour to make progress on the issue sooner than the two to three year timeframe indicated by the Secretary General of the Department of Finance.
Department of Justice & Equality
€3.89 million of public funds was lost on the lease of a building on Wolfe Tone Street in Dublin by the Probation Service. It was never occupied and was of no benefit whatsoever to the taxpayer. The Committee recommends that the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, which provided legal services, ensures its oversight mechanisms are sufficient to prevent reoccurrence of this unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money.
Strategic Communications Unit and the Department of the Taoiseach
There is a legitimate need to rationalise and streamline government communication in order to avoid duplication, ensure a whole of government perspective, and safeguard public funds.
Had the Strategic Communications Unit retained final editorial control, or ‘sign off’, of the Project 2040 advertorials, much of the associated controversy might have been avoided. The Committee recommends that public bodies should always ensure that they retain the right to sign off on content paid for by the State, so that they can ensure that public funds are spent on content that is accurate and unbiased.
The Committee recommends that the current television licensing system be reviewed as a matter of urgency with a view to decreasing evasion rates.
Read the report here
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