5 Dec 2018, 11.27

The Public Accounts Committee has today published its Fourth Periodic Report (attached) which focuses on meetings held from the 10th of May to the 12th of July 2018.

Read the full report here

 

The Committee held 14 meetings examining issues emerging from financial statements audited, and matters reported on, by the C&AG.

The Committee held meetings with the Higher Education Authority; University College Cork; Cork Institute of Technology; An Garda Síochána; the National Treatment Purchase Fund; the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Tax Appeals Commission; the Revenue Commissioners; the National Treasury Management Agency; the State Claims Agency; and the Health Service Executive. The late submission of financial statements and accounts by public bodies was also considered.


Among the report’s conclusions and recommendations are:

LATE SUBMISSION OF ACCOUNTS TO THE C&AG
Aside from government departments and offices, there is inconsistency in relation to the obligations regarding when public bodies must present their financial accounts to the C&AG for audit. The Committee recommends that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform reviews what legislative or other changes would be needed to ensure consistency across all public bodies. The Committee also recommends that the target for the presentation of annual accounts for audit should be no greater than three months after the end of the period of account.

THE HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK, AND CORK INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
The lack of a statutory requirement for third level institutions to have financial expertise on the governing bodies that sign off on their accounts is a matter of concern to the Committee. The Committee recommends that the Department of Education and Skills reviews the matter, and that the Higher Education Authority takes steps to ensure that the boards of the bodies under its remit have the range of competencies necessary to carry out their functions effectively.

There is a lack of transparency in relation to companies which have an association with the Higher Education Institutes. The Committee recommends that all Higher Education Institutes:

a) list in the their annual report all companies in which they have a shareholding or to which they provide significant grant assistance;
b) provide the C&AG with a copy of the companies’ accounts, and access to all relevant documentation at the time of audit or on request. 
The Committee recommends that the C&AG informs the Committee in the event that cooperation from Higher Education Institutes in relation to associated companies is not forthcoming.

GARDA INTERNAL AUDIT REPORT – ICT DIRECTORATE PAYMENTS PROCESS
On more than one occasion An Garda Síochána (AGS) presented conflicting evidence to the Committee concerning the payment processes in place in AGS. The Committee is concerned at the level of unresolved conflicts between the organisation’s internal audit service and its senior management. The Committee recommends that the Commissioner takes the necessary steps to ensure that the governance structures and systems in place within AGS are understood by all and supported at the highest levels.

NATIONAL TREATMENT PURCHASE FUND
The National Treatment Purchase Fund’s review of its pricing mechanism for long-term residential care in private and voluntary nursing homes is ongoing. In order to safeguard the provision of high quality services in private and voluntary nursing homes, increase the transparency of the current pricing mechanism, and continue to ensure value for money for the taxpayer, the Committee recommends that the review should be concluded and published no later than the end of March 2019. The Committee also recommends that the review address the particular financial difficulties faced by voluntary nursing homes. 
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
With the advent of online Irish passport renewals, Passport Express is no longer the fastest way to renew an Irish passport. The Committee recommends that the Department publicises the fact that online passport renewal application is the fastest method for renewing Irish passports, particularly in Post Offices, and Garda stations, where the Passport Express forms are available. 

REVENUE COMMISSIONERS
The Committee noted that the amount of total tax outstanding at end March 2017 was €2.29 billion (end March 2018: €2.2 billion) and of this €1.1 billion (end March 2018: €958 million) was available for collection. It further noted that of the €1.1 billion available for collection at end March 2017, €328 million was subject to enforcement proceedings and €116 million was subject to phased payments arrangements, leaving €656 million which was not covered by either process. Over 40% of collectable debt in 2017 was over one year old. The Committee recommends that Revenue reviews its approach to the collection of outstanding taxes with a view to identifying initiatives such as increasing the number of taxpayers in phased payments arrangements in order to accelerate the receipt of collectable taxes.

NATIONAL TREASURY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
While the financial exposure to the State may not be significant, the collapse of Carrillion comes at a great social cost in the terms of delays to the delivery of major State infrastructural projects. The Committee recommends that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the National Development Finance Agency carries out a review of the impact of significant events, such as the collapse of Carillion on Public Private Partnership’s, in order to document what lessons can be learned. 

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