I welcome the delegation from the Senate of Canada. I hope its members have an enjoyable and fruitful visit to Ireland and learn something about our system. This is the Committee of Public Accounts. I understand the delegation comprises members of the Committee on National Finance, more the equivalent of our Committee on Finance and the Public Service than this committee. However, there is significant overlap and I hope we will be able to answer any queries from the delegation, which have already been forwarded to us.
As we are in public session, members of the press are entitled to be present and the meeting is being recorded for television. This is a normal Thursday meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts and the visit of the delegation is included in the agenda. Therefore, members of the delegation have come into a meeting in progress. In attendance is the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. John Purcell. He is a constitutional officer and because his office is enshrined in the Constitution he is independent in the exercise of his functions. He is appointed by the President on the nomination of the Parliament, Dáil Éireann, not on the nomination of the Government. This underlines the independence of his office. He is supported by a team of auditors and his remit is to audit the accounts of all Departments, all non-commercial State agencies and some, but not all, units of local government. Members of the secretariat, under the direction of Mr. Brian Hickey, are also present.
There are 12 members of the committee, six from the Government parties and six from the Opposition parties. Members present today include Deputy Michael Smith, a Government party member who has formerly held ministerial office for many years and extensive experience across various Departments. Deputy Curran is also a member of one of the Government parties and regarded as a valuable member of the committee. His colleagues believe he will be a future Minister. Deputy Deasy is a member of the Opposition representing Waterford and he too has a strong reputation in the House. I am the committee chairman. It has been established in law since the committee's foundation in 1924 that it be chaired by a member of the main Opposition party. This is part of the system of checks and balances.
The witnesses are welcome. This committee, similar to the committee in Canada, was based originally on the example in the House of Commons. As I said, it consists of 12 members. The Chair does not have a casting vote and the committee proceeds by consensus. It works closely with the Comptroller and Auditor General. I ask the holder of that office, Mr. John Purcell, to outline its functions and how it relates with the committee. After his presentation, we will proceed to the questions of the witnesses.