Bord na gCon Financial Statement 2017

Mr. Gerard Dollard(Chief Executive Officer, Bord na gCon) and Dr. Kevin Smyth (Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) called and examined.

This morning we are meeting Bord na gCon about its financial statement for 2017. We are joined by the following from Bord na gCon: Mr. Gerard Dollard, chief executive officer; Mr. Philip Peake, deputy chief executive; Mr. John Tuohey, interim chief financial officer; and Mr. Joe Lewins, director of tote. From the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine we have: Dr. Kevin Smyth, assistant secretary; and Ms Rebecca Chapman, principal officer.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

She is not here as she is sick.

Ms Chapman is not here. I remind members and witnesses, and everybody in the Public Gallery to turn off their mobile phones. That means putting them onto airplane mode. Putting them on silent will still interfere with the recording system.

I wish to advise the witnesses that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity, by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the provisions of Standing Order 186 that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policies. While we expect witnesses to answer questions asked by the committee clearly and with candour, witnesses can and should expect to be treated fairly and with respect and consideration at all times, in accordance with the witness protocol. I ask Mr. McCarthy, Comptroller and Auditor General, to make his opening statement.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Thank you, Chairman. As members are aware, Bord na gCon, which was established under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, has responsibility for the control, regulation and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland. It operates racing activities through its subsidiary company network and licences greyhound racing at other privately owned tracks. It also operates catering and beverage services at its tracks. I have included a graphic in the opening comments to illustrate the group structure as at the end of 2017.

The financial statements of Bord na gCon are prepared on a group basis, with separate financial statements for each of the subsidiaries. In 2017, the board recognised a surplus of €417,000 from the group's overall activities. The comparable figure for 2016 was a surplus of €2.35 million. This was before recognition of a €4 million exceptional gain in 2016 arising from a restructuring of Bord na gCon's pension scheme.

Turnover from racing activities for 2017 was €22.7 million, down almost 20% from the €28.3 million recorded in 2016. The decrease reflected significant falls in track attendance receipts, in catering sales, and in tote betting. Racing expenses also fell year on year by around 13%. The net result was a loss on racing activities of €545,000. This was before payment of prizes and incentives totalling just over €8 million, about the same level as in 2016.

Non-racing income was up by around €1 million to €17.8 million in 2017. This included funding paid from the horse and greyhound fund of €16 million, which was up €1.2 million year on year. Other funding comprised contributions to prize money of €1.75 million from dog owners and sponsors, and around €81,000 generated from media and other income.

The financial statements for 2017 show the board was carrying borrowings of almost €22 million at the end of the year, with related bank charges over the assets of a number of the subsidiary companies. As members are aware, the board entered into an agreement with the Department of Education and Skills during 2017 to sell its facilities at Harold's Cross at a contracted sale price of €23 million. The sale concluded in May 2018 and a substantial part of the sale proceeds were used to repay the board's bank loans. I issued a clear audit opinion on the 2017 financial statements.

Bord na gCon's financial statements for 2018 were certified by me on 4 September 2019. Audit certification of those financial statements took longer than planned because of the need to ensure that the results of the board's annual asset impairment review were accounted for appropriately. Since the 2018 financial statements have not yet been presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further in that regard.

I thank the Comptroller and Auditor General and will remark on the last matter. Technically, we are dealing with the 2017 accounts, which are quite a bit out of date at this stage and given the major transactions happened in 2018. The Comptroller and Auditor General has confirmed that the accounts have been audited and certified. They have recently been presented to the Minister's office but they require approval by Government before they can be published and laid. The witnesses have an advantage on us. They have their audited accounts for 2018 but we have not seen them. However, I do want to acknowledge that significant information about 2018 has been supplied and made available to us, either by the Department or Bord na gCon - we have received it anyway - to make sure that our discussion here today is more up to date than just purely historical. I want to acknowledge the extra information that we have received in advance of this meeting, which we appreciate.

I invite Mr. Dollard to make his opening statement.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am thankful to have the opportunity to appear before the Chairman and other members on behalf of Bord nag Con, the Irish Greyhound Board. I am the chief executive of the board. I am accompanied by Mr. Philip Peake, deputy chief executive and director for events and hospitality services and HR; Mr. John Tuohey, interim chief financial officer; and Mr. Joe Lewins, director of tote, wagering and IT.

As set out in the invitation to attend, the accounts for examination before the committee are the financial statements for Bord na gCon for 2017. However, for completeness of information, since the invitation was issued to attend the committee, the audit of the 2018 financial statements has been completed and they will be published shortly, following the placing of the accounts before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I will make a brief reference to the 2018 accounts before I conclude. The year 2017 was a challenging one for the greyhound industry due to a 22-week disruption at our main flagship stadium, Shelbourne Park, during which 123 race meetings were lost. The operating profit before interest, depreciation and taxation, EBITDA, for the year was €1.67 million, as compared to €3.2 million for 2016.

The disruption to racing impacted on performance across a number of areas, including the tote, food and beverages and attendance income. Overall attendances for all stadiums reduced by 122,000 in the year. A full racing schedule at Shelbourne Park recommenced on 27 June 2017, with recovery for the remainder of the year at a fragmented level. Total food and beverage sales at stadiums operated by our events and hospitality services division were €5.6 million in 2017. This generated a gross profit of €3.7 million. Tote turnover for the year was €15.9 million, with €2.08 million being received in international co-mingling income. The sale of media rights for race meetings generated €800,000 in the year. Total prize money for the year, notwithstanding the reduction in the number of race meetings, was €8 million. The board implemented a 25% increase in prize money race grants, with effect from 1 October 2017.

Progress was also made in reducing the deficit on the defined benefit pension scheme, with a total €1.5 million deduction or reduction in liability being achieved in the year. The sale of Harold’s Cross stadium which was concluded in May 2018 has enabled the board to discharge its long-term debt and provide funding for necessary investment in stadiums and infrastructure. Surplus funds of €5.8 million have been earmarked for a range of areas in the Harold’s Cross business plan for sale proceeds. Works undertaken to date include track improvements and drainage works at Shelbourne Park; the rolling out of replacement hare drive and timing systems to all tracks; a new central racing management system; the upgrading of CCTV infrastructure at stadiums; fire safety improvement works at selected tracks; the upgrading of veterinary facilities at a number of stadiums; and a grants scheme for private tracks for welfare and health and safety improvements.

A report on the financial and economic significance of the greyhound industry by Jim Power Economics was completed in November 2017. Thie report which was an update on a similar report prepared in 2011 estimated that 12,371 people derived economic benefit from the industry and that the overall industry had a national economic impact, estimated at €302 million. The report also highlights the considerable economic activity and employment in rural Ireland, while at the same time the industry enjoys a strong urban support base.

Much work was undertaken in the latter part of 2017 on the development of a strategic plan for the period 2018 to 2022. The plan sets out a number of key pillars, including ensuring the highest standards of integrity and regulation in the sport and maintaining animal welfare at the centre of the industry. The matters of regulation and animal welfare have been under discussion by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine and further discussion with that committee is anticipated in the coming weeks.

One of the objectives of the strategic plan for Bord na gCon is to undertake an assessment of the overall industry footprint. Indecon Economic Consultants has been appointed to undertake this work and its report is expected in the final quarter of 2019. The greyhound industry and Bord na gCon continue to operate within a very challenging environment. Our focus will be on continuing to implement our strategic plan towards achieving a rejuvenated greyhound industry and a sport that will continue to be celebrated as a unique part of Irish culture and heritage.

The Greyhound Racing Act 2019 was signed into law on 29 May last and provides Bord na gCon and the greyhound industry with an opportunity to look to the future on the foundations of a strengthened and robust modern legislative framework. We look forward to the commencement of the legislation in due course.

I mentioned that the financial statements for 2018 had been finalised. I draw attention to a re-valuation process and impairment analysis which form part of the 2018 financial statements. This has resulted in a reduction in the figure for fixed assets from €51.5 million to €29.4 million. This process was undertaken in accordance with Bord na gCon’s accounting policies and has no impact on cash flow or the operational side of the business.

Again, I am thankful to have the opportunity to come before the committee. We will endeavour to respond to all questions asked. However, if there is additional information required arising from the meeting, we will be pleased to provide it as promptly as we can.

I thank Mr. Dollard. The lead speaker is Deputy Farrell who has 20 minutes. The second speaker shall be Deputy Cassells who will have 15 minutes. The other speakers will have ten minutes each. They have indicated their wish to contribute in the following sequence: Deputy Kelly, Deputy Cullinane, Deputy Connolly, Deputy Catherine Murphy, Deputy Munster and Deputy Burke.

I welcome the members of Bord na gCon and thank them for appearing. I also thank them for waiting when we deferred their appearance until approximately 11 a.m. Owing to the recess, we had a lot of correspondence to deal with.

As I only have 20 minutes, I would appreciate brief responses. I will try to ask brief questions in so far as I can. I will start with the corporate structure. I understand there are nine separate corporate entities within the group.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There are more. There are ten or 11 when all of our limited companies are taken into account.

I thank Mr. Dollard. Does the board hold valid and current tax clearance certificates for all of those organisations?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

I note that in the accounts filed, animal welfare costs account for €364,000, or approximately 2.3% of the board’s expenditure. Given the information in possession of the committee and general public on animal welfare, does Mr. Dollard accept that a figure of 2.3% of overall revenue is deficient, given the board’s statutory responsibility with regard to animal welfare regulatory controls, doping assessments, etc? Will Mr. Dollard outline the current plans, for 2019 and later, to increase that percentage to ensure compliance with the law?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Animal welfare is a priority action for the board. It is one of the key pillars of our strategic plan. The figure to which the Deputy referred, €364,000, is described in the accounts as contributions to greyhound welfare and the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust, IRGT. It does not in any way capture our expenditure on greyhound welfare. In addition to that figure, we spend €280,000 on veterinary services at our tracks. We spend a further €70,000 in supporting veterinary services at private stadiums.

The Deputy mentioned doping. The regulatory framework and the laboratory are not included in that figure.

What is the total figure?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Overall, between regulation and welfare, we spent just over €2 million. One can argue about taking the laboratory or certain elements of regulation out of that figure, but when one looks at it in total, one notes that we are spending at least €1.5 million on greyhound welfare.

Are there inspectors going around in addition to the chief veterinarian?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Last year we carried out 491 welfare inspections.

Were they announced or unannounced?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Many of them would have been on foot of complaints. Most of them would have been unannounced. This year we have trained our control stewards who are taking on inspection roles from early September. Therefore, there is a team of people active in the area of grehound welfare.

Mr. Dollard mentioned inspections on foot of complaints. How many complaints were received year on year from 2016?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

As an example, I will refer to the confidential telephone line we set up early in July. In the first few months we received 68 complaints, of which 30 were welfare related, while some would have been duplicate complaints. Twenty-one welfare cases arise and they are being worked through. Some of the other issues come to us indirectly from our own investigations and assessments.

How many fines have been issued or proceedings taken on foot of the 68 complaints received and the 21 welfare cases?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Generally, in relation to proceedings, it comes down to who has statutory responsibility. In many cases, it falls to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine because it has responsibility for seizing animal remedies and such issues.

We are working with the Department with regard to authorising our officers. Two have been authorised and we would like to see more being authorised. The total proceedings last year amounted to four prosecutions, but that does not take into account prosecutions-----

I am sorry, I did not catch that.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Last year proceedings amounted to four prosecutions, but that does not take into account proceedings taken by the Department to which we were a party, or by An Garda Síochána, which also takes proceedings in the area of welfare.

Will Mr. Dollard provide the committee with figures for 2017 and 2016? He can come back with that information if he wishes.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I will come back to the Deputy with that. The Deputy is seeking information on prosecutions, is that correct?

Yes. If Mr. Dollard could provide that during this session it would be appreciated. One would assume Bord na gCon routinely inspects kennels and breeders. How many inspections could a breeder or kennel expect in any given year?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Of the 491 inspections carried out last year, approximately 420 related to kennels. I cannot tell the Deputy whether there were multiple inspections of the same kennel or whether each inspection involved an individual kennel, but I can certainly get that information.

That is fair enough.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do not have the head of regulation or the veterinary director with me because many of these welfare issues and regulations were being dealt with through the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I can come back with the information but I apologise for their absence.

That is okay. This issue relates to the expenditure of public moneys so they should be here, but I accept Mr. Dollard's rationale for why they are not. What is the optimal number of greyhounds to breed annually? I have read various charges that in excess of 1,000% more than are required are bred. Given the number of pups or animals that are put down each year because they are not quick enough, I suspect that the figure of 1,000% is a little bit high. Perhaps Mr. Dollard will give us a figure. What is the optimal number?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That figure of 1,000% comes from a report which made the media earlier this year. Anyone reading the report correctly would see that it says that, if we were breeding greyhounds for racing only, we would be breeding 1,000% too many. Greyhounds are, however, also being bred for export to the UK, to which we export 6,500 greyhounds a year; for coursing and for other purposes. The figure of 1,000% is therefore misleading. With regard to greyhound racing, our dog pools fluctuate. The current dog pool for greyhound racing comprises approximately 3,600 animals, which are used to fulfil our schedules.

As someone who knows very little about greyhound racing, how many pups need to be bred to get a successful racing dog? What is the success rate?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

To be honest, I do not believe there is one.

Is it pot luck?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We operate a grading scale for racing dogs which ranges from AA0 to A10. Our grading scale caters for the super-dog, the middle-range dog, and the slower dog.

I believe the report put the number of animals that are put down annually at just under 6,000. We are producing 13,000, are exporting 6,000 and we are putting down 6,000. Approximately 1,000 dogs can be considered to have been bred successfully. Is that an accurate assessment?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do not think that is an accurate assessment. The figure of 6,000 dogs comes from the report to which we have referred. This report assumes that if 6,000 dogs are unaccounted for, those 6,000 dogs have been put down. We disagree with that report.

Will Mr. Dollard enlighten me? I am reading a report that says that 6,000 dogs are being put down and Mr. Dollard has just told the committee that 6,000 are being exported. The remaining figure is, therefore, 1,000. Will Mr. Dollard enlighten me?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The key issue in all of this is the lack of a traceability system. All of the information on which we are operating comprises estimates and guesstimates. Until we have a traceability system we will not have empirical evidence or data to show exactly what is happening. The assessment carried out, and different assessments that have been carried out by various parties in respect of dogs that are unaccounted for, are based on an unsound database.

As chief executive of Bord na gCon, what is Mr. Dollard's assessment?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do not have an assessment. Until I have an accurate database, I will not put my hand up and say what, on the basis of valid data, the figure is. Without that, I would just be picking figures.

Does Mr. Dollard accept the figure of 13,000 greyhound puppies being born?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is valid. One has to register with the Irish stud book or the Irish Coursing Club, so we have that figure. We do not know the number of greyhounds exported or the number that die because the notification processes are poor. We also do not know how many greyhounds are retired. In the absence of reliable data, many such greyhounds are featuring in the figure for unaccounted dogs.

How quickly does Mr. Dollard expect to have an accurate system for recording those various categories?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The board has been pushing for such a system for a number of years. It is now included in the Greyhound Racing Act 2019. We have had discussions with the Irish Coursing Club and the Greyhound Board of Great Britain. We have also taken some advice from Greyhound Racing Victoria. We expect the project of establishing a traceability system for racing greyhounds to go out to tender by the end of October. We foresee that system as being online and what one would expect from a modern system, that is, that it will feature up-to-date, real-time data.

Will that be funded internally?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

As Bord na gCon was before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine before the recess, it will have addressed the issues highlighted in the RTÉ "Prime Time" programme. One of the key questions from the perspective of the Committee of Public Accounts is value for money. One key criterion for any State agency or semi-State body is its viability. From my reading of Bord na gCon's financial accounts, Mr. Dollard would accept that the viability of this industry is in question. Perhaps he would accept the perception. I am sure he would also accept that attendances and turnover are dwindling. This was, of course, not helped by the closure of Shelbourne Park. If that trend were to continue, there would be questions to be asked about the number of stadia in the State, as Mr. Dollard himself has alluded to. Mr. Dollard has indicated that he does not want to comment on a report that was commissioned and which is due to be published this month. I do not believe it is available as of yet. It seeks to establish a strategy to deal with the issue of viability or the perception that the industry is not viable. Does Mr. Dollard accept there will be an issue with viability if the operations of Bord na gCon are not radically restructured? Does he believe the funding of upwards of €16 million given to Bord na gCon annually will need to increase in order to sustain the industry? Does he expect the board to be able to level the playing field financially in the coming years?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is fair to say that the financial sustainability of the current structure and model is challenged. There is no doubt about that. The accounts of recent years make that case plainly. That is the whole purpose of the Indecon economic assessment. That was set out in our strategic plan. We have asked Indecon to look at the industry's footprint, the population catchments of stadia, the dog pools, the conditions, and the standard. Indecon has engaged a team of architects to work on that. We have also asked it to engage in consultation with the industry and it has done a significant amount in that regard. From the perspective of financial sustainability, the existing model is problematic. I expect that Indecon will have some recommendations in that regard. I cannot tell the Deputy what those recommendations will be, but that is what Indecon has been tasked with doing.

Has Mr. Dollard spoken to Indecon as part of preparing the report? Has it interviewed or questioned him?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have received updates on the status of the report. We know that it has carried out the extensive consultation process we asked it to. It has architects visiting all of the stadia.

We have not got any reports from it at this point. While the report probably will not be finalised in September, I expect that we will see it in October. It has done some international analysis too but I have not received any report at this point.

To clarify, Bord na gCon owns eight stadia and is a 51% shareholder in one. Is that correct?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Bord na gCon controls and manages nine stadia. We are a 51% shareholder in Mullingar. We have no legal interest in Newbridge. We own or lease the others.

Aside from Shelbourne Park in Dublin, are there any stadia around the country that are holding their own? Are there specific locations holding their own?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Looking at our own stadia, Shelbourne Park and Cork wash their face. All other stadia lose money. That situation is improving in stadia such as Mullingar, Tralee and others where Sports Information Services, SIS, meetings are contributing to making them more viable. The bottom line is that Shelbourne Park and Cork are the two stadia that are profitable.

With regard to the public relations side of the exposé on television, has Bord na gCon recorded a reduction in attendances?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The first six months of this year were very positive with regard to performance. Shelbourne alone had an increase in attendance of more than 7,000. We were well ahead of our budgets. We saw a significant reduction in attendance in July and August. We withdrew our marketing campaign for a short period in that time. We have recommenced marketing since September with a focus on our Christmas programme. We expect to make some headway in restoring the ground lost in July and August, when attendances were down by approximately 20%.

I am aware of at least three sponsors who withdrew from their sponsorship of Mr. Dollard's organisation. Has Bord na gCon replaced them?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Three sponsors have withdrawn and they have publicly stated that the level of funding lost was relatively small. We have had new sponsors. A good example would be an initiative in Cork, where there was a crowdfunding arrangement that raised €85,000 to, in effect, sponsor the Laurels competition, which is the main competition in Cork. There have been pluses and minuses.

Some €85,000 from crowdfunding is significant. Has Bord na gCon replaced 100% of the funding which it lost through the withdrawal of those sponsors?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The withdrawal of the three sponsors which I think the Deputy is referring to comes to less than €10,000.

So the answer is "Yes" and it is sevenfold from the crowdfunding alone, although I do not know the figures for the other sponsors.

Looking at staffing, in the accounts that we are assessing, the staffing level went down by 17 but the salary level went up. Could Mr. Dollard explain that? Were people made redundant?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Our payroll costs went down in 2017 and again in 2018. Page 42 of the accounts from 2016 states that short-term employee benefits were €9.1 million, €8.4 million in 2017 and €8.392 in 2018.

I am sorry; my mistake. I have used the board salaries and expenses figure instead of total staff. Mr. Dollard mentioned that the profit of Shelbourne Park was reduced by approximately 50% due to its closure for 22 weeks, from €3.2 million to €1.6 million. He also highlighted the fact that attendances are down, although there was a very good start to the year. What is Mr. Dollard's assessment, now that Shelbourne Park has reopened albeit with dwindling numbers in attendance? When we are sitting here again in 18 months' time to look at the 2019 accounts, I want to know that we will not be talking about a catastrophic financial year with further requests for State funding being made to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. That goes to my earlier question about viability and my unanswered question about whether Bord na gCon will require further funding from the Exchequer.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

After the closure of Shelbourne Park, as I said in my opening statement, recovery was fragmented. It was slow during 2018. It has picked up significantly in the first six months of 2019. I am not sure what the future holds but from a business development point of view, we will push and promote as hard as we can to get those numbers back up. I am sure Shelbourne Park will be packed on Saturday night for the Derby final. There is an interest in greyhound racing as a night-time activity or a going-out experience. Our funding from the State in 2019 was €16.8 million. We are all conscious of the wider budgetary implications and the likelihood that there will not be an increase in that funding. We do not know if there will be a decrease in that funding but, certainly, the demands that will be placed on the Irish Greyhound Board in its change and reform agenda and rolling out traceability will come down to budget choices. Like any budget choices, it will have to be made based on the resources available. We have an ambitious plan.

In light of the exposé on television, Mr. Dollard mentioned a figure of €1.6 million or €1.5 million for animal welfare costs. Is he proposing to increase that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Absolutely.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

In our budget for 2019, the figure the Deputy referred to earlier of €364,000 will be at more than €600,000. I can go through a range of initiatives for the benefit of the committee if it so wishes. The welfare and rehoming side of the operation will see significant cost increases.

I ask Mr. Dollard if in the coming days he could provide the committee, through the secretariat, with detail of the number of inspections carried out year by year since 2012. How many staff have been allocated to the inspection of facilities? What is the approximate amount spent by Mr. Dollard's organisation per annum on such animal welfare inspections? I would appreciate that very much.

There was a significant and quite extraordinary reduction in Bord na gCon's fixed assets from €51.5 million to €29.4 million in the accounts. Will Mr. Dollard please explain that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

This is quite a technical accounting issue. As the Comptroller and Auditor General said in his opening comments, we are obliged to do an annual impairment analysis. The Deputy referred earlier to a number of our subsidiary companies. We are currently rationalising our subsidiary company structure, eliminating subsidiaries and bringing them all in under one company. To do that, we were required to get updated valuations of individual stadia. For the impairment analysis, we had to compare the carrying value of the asset with the higher of the market value or the value in use. In short, where the market value had dropped significantly, that is what went into the accounts. Where the market value increased, as in Shelbourne Park and in Cork, where there was an increase of €7.7 million, we were not allowed to take that into the accounts. What is presented is the least favourable scenario but under our accounting policies and standards, that is the process we had to go through. As I said earlier, it does not affect cashflow or operations but those are the values of the assets that have to be stated even though they understate Shelbourne Park and Cork.

Will Mr. McCarthy comment on that to provide further clarity to the committee because it is quite technical in nature?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is technical and I do not disagree with anything that has already been said but I do not want to get into the 2018 financial statements and the accounting issues that arise.

I understand. I thank Mr. McCarthy. May I ask a question?

A final question.

I appreciate the Chair's forbearance. Has Bord na gCon retained the services of a PR firm in the past or at present?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

At present we have a PR firm on board on a short-term basis, given the issues that arose during the year. The members will note from our 2018 accounts, and I think it is in the summary note, that our spend on consultants has reduced very significantly.

I have not seen the 2018 accounts.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We circulated a briefing note to the committee and I think it was included in that.

The briefing notes were sent to members.

I know we did get them.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We recruited our own communications officer who handles internal and external PR and for that reason we did not need to engage a PR consultant in 2018. There is a need currently on a short-term basis for PR support.

I thank Mr. Dollard.

Deputy Shane Cassells has 15 minutes.

I welcome Mr. Dollard and his team. As Mr. Dollard stated we are here to discuss the financial accounts and the financial position of Bord na gCon, in particular the viability of the financial future of Bord na gCon.

In the board members' report, the section on principal commercial activity sets out the main funding for Bord na gCon and how it is sourced from five different categories: admission fees; bar and restaurant sales; the tote; levy on the bookies; and Exchequer funding. I find it strange that €16.8 million from the Exchequer is mentioned last, given that it dwarfs most of the other sources of funding. Bord na gCon gets Exchequer funding of €16.8 million, which breaks down to €323,000 per week, or €46,000 a day. The funding has increased by €2 million since 2016, or an additional €39,000 a week. I know that the funding of the dogs sticks in the craw of many people, given the poor unfortunates in my constituency who have been told there is no money for home help for their loved ones, or who have been told by the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath that there is no money for the respite centre in Athboy. This set of accounts for the Irish Greyhound Board records an increase of €2 million for greyhounds and the funding from the State is only referenced last in the annual report.

Let us look at the income and expenditure because it is quite evident that without the Exchequer funding of €16.8 million, greyhound racing operations would not be viable. To answer Deputy Farrell's question, they would be goosed. It begs the larger question of such massive State subvention in the first place.

I will now concentrate on the income of IGB. I was a sports journalist for 15 years. For most sporting organisations, the people coming through the turnstiles are the segment that generate the largest part of the income and they are a good barometer of public sentiment for the organisation. Let us look at the attendance figures, the ordinary Irish people coming through the 17 tracks in various parts of the country. In 2016, some 636,914 people came through the turnstiles; in 2017, and I acknowledge there were difficulties that year, the figure dropped to 514,500 people; and last year, 2018, it dropped to 506,000, even though the number of race meetings actually held increased from the number held in 2017. The number of people coming through the turnstiles has dropped by 130,000 in the past three years. That is a substantial drop in attendance.

Mr. Dollard is the new chief executive and he is trying to reform the organisation. I am sure he will admit that the drop in attendance is quite substantial. Average attendance at the track would be 319 people per meeting in 2018. There would be more people at a cricket match in Malahide and the Irish Cricket Union does not get the colour of €16.8 million. Contrast those 319 people with the 321 people in my constituency waiting on home help in County Meath. It is galling. The industry has some neck to be in receipt of €16.8 million in State support with such low public support. If the industry continues to haemorrhage public support, which is evident from the drop of 130,000 people attending the tracks in three years, does there need to be a reappraisal?

I have three questions. First, does there need to be a reappraisal of the level of Government support, because quite simply the Exchequer cannot be expected to prop up a failing industry if income is falling on one side? Second, has Bord na gCon approached the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with a request for increased State support, either by way of correspondence, formal or informal meetings with the Minister of State, Deputy Andrew Doyle? Given the trends in income that we have seen will there be requests for further support as well? Third, Mr. Dollard alluded to the fact that Shelbourne Park was performing strongly in the first half of the year before the RTÉ expose but how have the other tracks performed in that same six months period? In terms of the 20% drop on average, across attendance numbers, was the spike higher in some tracks than others?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I thank the Deputy for his questions. Chairman, I will take the issues in the order in which they were raised.

First, it is not just greyhound racing, it is a greyhound industry. I have mentioned the Jim Power economic report, The Economic and Financial Significance of the Irish Greyhound Industry November 2017. It is a significant industry and adds significant value to the economy. Some 12,371 people derive economic benefit. There is a constituency out there for whom this is their job and their life, it is what they depend on. On the other side, income comes to the State through the betting levy, the tax and PRSI of those people who are involved in the industry. There are two sides to the argument.

The Deputy asked whether the Government should reappraise its support. I think that is a policy question for Government. The greyhound racing industry is a legitimate industry and people are entitled to be part of it. They are entitled to enjoy it. On the question of whether there has been a request for increasing State support, Bord na gCon has made no request for increasing State support although as I referred to earlier, we are on a significant change and reform agenda and investment will be required. I would think that any reduction in the current support would cause difficulty in terms of the overall programme for care and welfare in particular.

On the question of whether further support will be required down the line, that brings us back to the Indecon study. The Indecon study will I hope offer a blueprint as to what is a financially sustainable industry footprint into the future. When that report is available, all parties, including the board and Government, will have to consider its recommendations.

On the question of the attendance at other stadia, let us look at the 2018 data. The Bord na gCon stadia showed an increase in attendance, but the major loss in attendance was in the private stadia. I mentioned Shelbourne Park, which had a significant increase in attendance; Curraheen Park had a small increase; Mullingar Greyhound Stadium showed an increase; and, Youghal Greyhound Stadium had a minor increase.

I never questioned the legitimacy of the industry. I am fully aware of how the horse and greyhound racing fund is operated but not every tax raised in this country, be it motor taxation, goes directly back into the sector from which it was pulled.

Will Mr. Dollard take me through the viability of the individual tracks, because the last time Bord na gCon appeared before the committee, the major talking point was the sale of Harold's Cross stadium, which amazingly was sold to the Department of Education and Skills for €23 million, the exact amount of the debt of Bord na gCon? Given that such a sale is not something that can happen every year, the business model is crucial so that such a position is not revisited. We have just discussed the issue of the drop in attendance figures. Notwithstanding the small increase in attendance at the start of this year, there has been a drop in attendance of 130,000 people in three years, which cannot be overlooked.

The accounts show there have been substantial losses at nine tracks.

Leaving Shelbourne Park aside, there are substantial losses. Let us forget about the private tracks. First, are the tracks in Bord na gCon's ownership still viable? Second, I refer to the other tracks that it supports financially. In fairness, Mr. Dollard told The Irish Times and other media organisations in July that the question of whether 17 tracks in Ireland were too many for the sport had to be looked at. First, are the ones in Bord na gCon's ownership still viable? Second, is the support for the other tracks still a viable proposition? Third, when Mr. Dollard was before the committee last year or whenever it was, there was a debt in excess of €20 million that had been cleared through the sale of Harold's Cross stadium. If we get to a point where that decline in both attendances and commercial revenues continues, how soon before accumulated debt will be a gaping reality for Bord na gCon once again?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

On the business model, the model is changing. I fully accept the drop in attendances but, as an example, we run two early-morning meetings now as part of our new business model. We will never have an attendance of the public at those meetings; it is quite unlikely. They are of financial value to the organisation and to the industry but they are not reflected in attendances. There are some changes in the business model and attendances are not the sole benchmark of the business measurement.

On whether all the tracks we have are viable, if we take the tracks from the point of view of the track performance, the tote and Events & Hospitality Services, EHS, only Cork and Shelbourne Park are viable. All the others are lossmakers. If we add in the income we get from Sports Information Services, SIS, Cork, Shelbourne Park, Tralee and Yougal are viable and Mullingar is making its way into viability. If one takes prize money, which we pay, then no track is viable. That is the short summary.

I go back to the opening point about taking all Bord na gCon's sources of income and the commercial revenue streams, which for many sporting organisations are starting to supersede attendances in one respect. I refer to Mr. Dollard's position in trying to make the sport a viable proposition again and to put it on a sound financial footing, as well as to the loss of commercial revenue streams following the exposé. Mr. Dollard said that for the three companies in question, namely, Barry's Tea, FBD Insurance and Connolly's RED MILLS, the figure was only €10,000. Is that correct?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I was not including RED MILLS. RED MILLS has indicated in a public statement that it is not sponsoring greyhound racing but it is putting its money into the care and welfare fund.

Barry's Tea and FBD Insurance combined was a loss of €10,000.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The three that have been in the media are Barry's Tea, FBD Insurance and Treacy's, in Wexford.

In terms of boosting commercial revenues, €10,000 is not a lot of money. There are junior GAA teams with shirt sponsorship of that magnitude. It is a difficult period for Bord na gCon to attract commercial sponsorship and Mr. Dollard has admitted he is having difficult conversations with sponsors. Where is the future in terms of attracting major sponsor titles to Bord na gCon at this time?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Obviously, it is a challenge. Sponsors will need to be convinced that the care and welfare issues are being addressed. Since August, we have agreed with our sponsors that 50% of all sponsorship will go directly into the care and welfare fund. Sponsors have been very happy in respect of that. We can positively engage with sponsors and convince them that the industry is serious about care and welfare.

On commercial revenue streams, we can go through this in more detail. While our on-track tote performance might be declining, there is significant improvement in our international tote performance and in the sale of media rights to Sports Information Services, SIS.

That is huge but going back to how the public take the sport to its heart, Mr. Dollard mentioned that Bord na gCon's public relations outfit will be starting work in terms of the Christmas market, which is already well under way. How has that been hit in the context of, say, major companies that would book venues like Shelbourne Park for Christmas events and being associated with the industry again? How is that shaping up?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is a bit early to say. We launched our Christmas programme in the first week of September, which was the earliest we have launched it. The next month to six weeks will give an indication of the response to that programme. It is a little early to say what the impact might be.

I will conclude on this question. On the performance of the nine tracks, Mr. Dollard said if they are looked at in the whole, the viability is highly questionable. If Mr. Dollard is looking at the projections for one, two, three, four or five years down the line and if the losses that are being incurred are not arrested, what kind of financial position will Bord na gCon be in five years from now? Given the decline in attendances, in commercial revenue streams and the financial non-viability of a large portion of the tracks, where will the accumulated deficit be? Bord na gCon has taken the money from the sale of Harold's Cross to clear the debt. It has used some of it to improve the stadia across the country but if the losses are not arrested, how quickly will the accumulated deficit come back on the books?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Trying to look into the future, I expect Indecon will give recommendations as to the immediate future and what might need to be done. While we can measure many things on financial viability, we should not forget the social, cultural and heritage aspects of greyhound racing-----

I certainly would not-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There is a value attached to-----

-----do that for any sporting organisation but, unfortunately, what we are discussing here today is the subvention of €16.8 million from the Exchequer. That is a viable question to be asked in terms of whether Bord na gCon equates €16.8 million as the requisite sum for the sporting and cultural survival of the greyhound industry. It is a fair question to ask. There cannot be a continuing bailout when in the past two years, we have had to prop up Bord na gCon with an extra €2 million to make sure it survives. There is a major onus on Mr. Dollard as CEO and on the board to make sure the industry starts to wash its face beyond what is happening at the moment.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is a very valid question. Indecon will give an assessment of the stadia footprint. We have been managing our costs. I mentioned a reduction in payroll earlier. We will continue to manage our costs. We have to have a continuous eye on viability and must cut our cloth to suit our measure.

The next speaker is Deputy Kelly. They are ten-minute slots.

We are at a critical juncture for the industry. As somebody who supports greyhound owners, trainers and those who act in a responsible way, I believe we are at a crossroads for the industry and the future of the industry is at stake. For those who participate in it and those who do everything appropriately and properly and look after the welfare of dogs, I would like this industry to be sustainable.

I have eight questions, which I will line up so the witnesses can prepare to answer them. My first questions are to the Department. My second question relates to the Preferred Results report. My third question relates to organisational issues. My fourth question relates to the sale of Harold's Cross and the consequences of that. My fifth question relates to catering. My sixth will be in respect of turnover versus running cost. My seventh question relates to Indecon and my eighth is on financial matters, and particularly gate receipts.

My first question is to the Department. Does the Department have full confidence in the running of this organisation? The officials might want to take a note of the questions as I would like them to be specific when replying. Second, how often does the Department meet with the board and the chief executive of Bord na gCon? Did they meet this week to prepare for this meeting? Third, when did anybody in the Department, current or past, get a copy of the Preferred Results report? Those are the first three questions.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

To start with the second part of the question, we met the full board of Bord na gCon on Monday of this week.

The Minister of State, Deputy Andrew Doyle, was there, as was I. The Secretary General attended for a short period. We discussed a wide range of issues with the board, including Preferred Results, budgetary matters and greyhound welfare.

Was the forthcoming meeting with the Committee of Public Accounts discussed?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Yes, it was mentioned. In terms of governance, liaison meetings take place twice yearly with Bord na gCon. There have been regular meetings with it recently at board level. There have been five meetings since 20 May. The Minister of State attended two of the meetings, as did the Secretary General. I attended four of them.

What about confidence?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

With regard to the manner in which I have dealt with the board in the past two years, in terms of the reform agenda, as the Deputy correctly pointed out, it is at a critical juncture. Indecon is a vital part of what is going to happen in the future. We have confidence in the board in terms of greyhound welfare being a priority.

When did Dr. Smyth find out about the Preferred Results report?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

It would have been at the end of May.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

That is correct. It was sent to the Department, but I did not see it until 5 June as I was away on leave.

No problem. Nobody in the Department, past or present, had ever heard of this report.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

That is correct.

Was Dr. Smyth surprised that people did not know about it?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Bord na gCon had commissioned a number of reports and did not accept this one. It rejected it in late December 2017.

It cost the taxpayer €130,000. Does Dr. Smyth not think that, regardless of whether it was accepted or rejected, it should at least have been communicated to the Department?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

It would have been useful if it had been communicated to the Department, but I respect the right of the board to reject the report.

I do not want to put words in Dr. Smyth's mouth, but he believes it should have been communicated to the Department.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Given what was in it, as I said, it would have been useful if the Department had been aware of the report.

Does Dr. Smyth want to qualify the term "useful"?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

The problem is there have been a number of reports in recent years, three of which have pointed to the direction for Bord na gCon. There was an original Indecon report, the Morris report on doping and the Oireachtas report which dealt with the future of Bord na gCon. All of the reports pointed in a particular direction.

Were they all sent to the Department?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

They were.

This one was not.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

It was not. The direction of travel pointed to in all of the reports was the need for a full and comprehensive traceability system. That was the main point.

I understand there were 14 or 15 meetings held between the Department and the board of Bord na gCon between the time it received the report and Dr. Smyth found out about it and that it never once mentioned it. Dr. Smyth has said it should have told him about it. Given the relationship between any Department and any State body which reports to that Department, that is deeply worrying. That is not a question but a statement. It is absolutely shocking. If the fact that the Department was not told about the report does not set off alarm bells in it, there are larger issues within it. Would the Department consider carrying out an audit of receipts to the Irish Greyhound Board from all stadiums and the process by which it is done?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

On what basis does the Deputy want to know?

I am asking Dr. Smyth if he has ever considered it.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

I would need to know the basis on which we would-----

I am asking if Dr. Smyth has ever considered it. I am not asking for a basis-----

Dr. Kevin Smyth

No.

I will move on to Mr. Dollard. There have been many organisational changes, as stated in the annual report. The CEO is the same, but the CFO has changed due to natural turnover. The director of tote and IT is also the same. I understand Mr. Peake has had two promotions and is now deputy chief executive, on which I offer him my congratulations. Is the director of racing governance and compliance still in place?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The position is still there. Obviously, I cannot go into employee issues.

I am not asking Mr. Dollard to do so. I am asking whether the same person is still working there day to day.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No, the person is not in the organisation for the moment.

For how long?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We operate a variety of leave arrangements. The person in question is officially on leave.

I do not want to know the details, but for how long has the person been on leave?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Since February 2017.

The person who was in the position of director of racing governance and compliance has been on leave for two and a half years.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The role is not currently occupied.

That is all I wanted to know.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The function is being fulfilled.

Other roles include those of veterinary directors. Is the director of sales and marketing still in place?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No, we do not currently have such a director.

The post is vacant.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I have taken responsibility for sales and marketing.

One post has changed and two are vacant. I refer to the Preferred Results report which was dismissed by the board. Will Mr. Dollard supply the committee as soon as possible with the 30 pages of the report which have not yet been provided? Some 30 pages of the report are missing and have not been made available.

I refer to the commissioning of the report. Was any member of the executive team or the board on any other board with anybody who was an owner of Preferred Results Limited when the contract was commissioned, agreed to or signed off on? If Mr. Dollard is not aware of anything, that is fine. He has great faith in Preferred Results Limited because he gave it a ringing endorsement. I have no issue with the company, yet the report was dismissed out of hand.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The 30 pages of the report to which Deputy Kelly referred concern the organisational analysis which Preferred Results was commissioned to carry out. They contain a lot of personal information such as the names of employees, their roles and potential changes to roles. It has not been discussed with employees or staff interests. For that reason, we would see it as a confidential report and do not propose to circulate it, as it stands.

On the commissioning of the report-----

The report could be supplied with sensitive information redacted. I presume the 30 pages of the report to which I have referred have been supplied to the Department and that the information does not need to be redacted for it. Have the 30 pages been provided for the Department?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The full report has been provided for the Department. The redacted information approach would probably work, but the report would be heavily redacted because it contains a lot of personal information.

On the commissioning of the report, I am not aware of links to any other party. It was commissioned before my time. It went through a full tender process on the e-tenders platform and was assessed in accordance with all of tenders brought before the board.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

On the question about Preferred Results and my faith in the company, I fully stand over the letter I mentioned. I have no issue with Preferred Results, but its report was based on less than solid evidence because the evidence base did not exist.

On Mr. Dollard's comments to my esteemed colleague, I think we have all been watching a bit too much proceedings in the UK Parliament. The sale of Harold's Cross stadium in the future-----

I am in the ha'penny place compared to the Deputy.

The Deputy asked a number of questions. I did not intend to raise this issue, but Mr. Dollard said he was not planning an increase in the Irish greyhound racing fund.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do not think I said I was planning an increase.

Mr. Dollard was not asking for one.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have not asked for one.

Okay, fair enough. I accept that is accurate.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Our strategic plan is built on an increase in the horse and greyhound fund over the coming years.

I would like to ask the chief executive about that exact point. I knew that. In 2020, it is €18 million. In 2021, it is €19 million. In 2022, it is €20 million. I am putting it out there - I do not even want the chief executive of the organisation to respond - that the Irish Greyhound Board is not asking for a budgetary increase, but as part of its strategic plan it is planning to get such an increase. That is a conflict.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am-----

Sorry, I will ask the questions.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I would welcome an opportunity to answer them.

I have not yet asked a question, so there is no point. For me, it is very strange that the board is not asking for an increase, but it is budgeting for one as part of its strategic plan. There is no question there. I just want to leave that there.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I ask the Chair to allow me to respond.

No, sorry-----

I will give Mr. Dollard a chance to respond in due course.

He will have an opportunity to come back. I have not actually asked a question. I would like to refer to the sale of Harold's Cross racetrack. There were attendances of 1.3 million at the racetrack in 2006. It had revenues of €50 million in that year. The sale of the racetrack was meant to be the saviour of the industry. I will not take up much more time. Mr. Pat Creed said at the time that the sale of the racetrack was "a game-changer". We were told it would create "a sustainable future". In fairness, the chairman, Mr. Meaney, said similar things. He said there were "no plans" to sell off any tracks as a consequence, etc. Now we know about Longford and Lifford, etc. We have had poor marketing and high stadium running costs. We are haemorrhaging money. On that basis, how can the Irish Greyhound Board put forward a sustainable future for this industry? The sale of Harold's Cross racetrack was meant to recalibrate this industry under the stewardship of the Irish Greyhound Board. According to all of our analysis here, that is not happening. I ask Mr. Dollard not to come back to me with references to the Indecon report. We were told that the Indecon report is going to be a blueprint for the future. The Indecon report, as commissioned, is not a blueprint for the future. By the way, I would like to know how much it has cost. The Indecon report relates to the future of stadiums. If the report recommends the closure of stadiums, that will be an indictment of the board, given that the sale of Harold's Cross racetrack was supposed to be the saviour of the industry. Where is the sustainability of this industry under Mr. Dollard's stewardship since the sale of Harold's Cross racetrack, based on what was predicted, on the figures that have been put forward and on where we are now?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I would like to respond to a number of points. As I said earlier, we have not requested an increase in the horse and greyhound fund. We are all conscious of the national budgetary parameters for 2020. That does not in any way change our strategic plan and the foundations on which it was built. Obviously, we have to operate on the basis of the funding that is available. We certainly would not rule out an increase in future years if economic circumstances at national level are benign.

The Deputy referred to the private racetracks at Lifford and Longford. The relevant authorities at both racetracks decided to cease operations. This was neither requested nor required by the Irish Greyhound Board. I understand it is intended that operations will resume in Longford early next week. They will continue to be fully supported by the Irish Greyhound Board.

Deputy Kelly also mentioned the sustainable future of the industry. The previous Deputy referred to an interview I gave to The Irish Times. I think there has to be a rationalised industry. I expect that the footprint will have to change. We await what Indecon will have to say in that regard. Our commercial model is changing with the advent of early-morning meetings and the growth of international Tote wagering. Our commercial model will have to change as well.

Okay. The rationalisation-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am sorry, but there was a final question to which I would like to respond. The Indecon report went through a tender process. The tenderer's sum is €142,500 plus VAT.

I thank Mr. Dollard for that. He has used the word "rationalisation". It seems that the Indecon report has a predetermined outcome. That is the first thing. I repeat that the commissioning of this report, in terms of references to state aid, is not a blueprint for the future. The blueprint for the future is the responsibility of Mr. Dollard and the board. I find it incredible that not one member of the board was available or willing to come to this meeting.

I will move on to the next set of questions on the matter of turnover versus running costs. Most of the actual running costs of the organisation relate to hiring people and all of that. It was 15.6% in 2005, but it was 44.75% in 2017. I reckon it probably reached 50% by 2018. How in the name of God is that sustainable?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I will respond to the Deputy's comments. He is correct when he says that Indecon has been asked to look at the industry footprint. This means it is focused on stadiums.

I have read the terms of reference.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Let us not try to make it something it is not.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am not suggesting it is. Hopefully Indecon will come back with recommendations on what the footprint should be. The Deputy referred to board members. I received an invitation to attend a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts. As the statutory Accounting Officer, I was happy to accept that invitation. I am not aware that the board members have received any invitation. I know that the chairman has attended other committee meetings. I have no doubt that he would be happy to attend if the committee required him to attend.

The chairperson was not specifically invited.

In general, a board member always turns up.

Sometimes.

A lot of the time.

Anyway, it does not matter.

Fine. We will come back to that.

I am sure they did not want to be asked.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do not have the figures for the running costs in front of me.

I have them. I will give them to Mr. Dollard.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is clear that an organisation which is continuing to maintain 16 stadiums as a set of infrastructure at a time of decreasing attendances and income will see a higher percentage of its running costs accounted for by-----

A figure like 44.75% is not sustainable.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is why I think a rationalisation is required.

Mr. Dollard keeps using the word "rationalisation". It will strike anyone who is watching these proceedings - trust me when I say that many people are watching - that there is a predetermined outcome to all of this.

I will move on to my last couple of questions. Perhaps Mr. Peake will respond to a question I have about catering. I do not want to mispronounce his name. In 2015, it was decided to take over the catering activity, which was making a profit when it was outsourced. It was brought inhouse. Mr. Peake might tell me the name of the subsidiary, which has been making considerable-----

Mr. Philip Peake

Abargrove Limited.

Okay. It lost €478,000 in 2017 and €332,000 in 2016. The way it is going is obvious. What is going on here? What is going on as regards the scale of losses? If Mr. Peake had his time again, would he have made that decision?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

As the Accounting Officer-----

With all due respect, I have asked Mr. Peake.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

-----maybe I could respond first.

I have asked Mr. Peake. Mr. Dollard can come in after him.

Other members of the committee are indicating.

I have one more question after this one.

Mr. Philip Peake

I thank the Deputy for the question. The figures quoted by the Deputy relate to Abargrove Limited, which is responsible for two parts of the operation - the track operations in Newbridge and the food and beverage operations. During the period in question, a loss of €81,000 was made in respect of the track operations in Newbridge. It can be seen from the subsidiary accounts that the catering operations lost €397,000. It is worth noting that profit from catering operations for 2017 was €413,000. An intercompany transaction in the form of concession fees of €810,000 was also paid. The actual profit from catering operations for the 2017 period was €413,000. Subsequently, that figure increased to €545,000 in 2018.

Mr. Peake is basically saying that when the other transfer is taken out, it is making a substantial profit.

Mr. Philip Peake

Correct.

How does that compare with the performance of the catering operation under the old model?

Mr. Philip Peake

The operation as it was-----

If Mr. Peake were to correlate the old model with the new model, with the transfer taken into account, how would the figures look?

Mr. Philip Peake

It is very hard to compare them.

I ask Mr. Peake to conduct an analysis of the figures for the years from 2013 to 2018, based on the correlation we have just spoken about, and to send it to the committee. I would find it very interesting.

Mr. Philip Peake

No problem.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Could I make a comment on that? As Mr. Peake has outlined, the intercompany transfers distort the accounts in many ways. The food operation of Abargrove Limited is delivering profits. I would say it is one of the elements of our business that consistently gets high ratings for the standard it provides.

The Irish Greyhound Board might want to make that more transparent.

My final question relates to gate receipts. Perhaps Mr. Lewis or Mr. Dollard would like to answer this. There are no full electronic readings of the gate receipts at the stadiums.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No-----

That is just an observation. It is not a question. At each racetrack, the figures are entered manually at the point of sale. I presume it goes on up the system to be collated.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Is that 100% secure?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No.

It is not 100% secure.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No.

Are there issues?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes. I am happy to answer that question if the Deputy wants to put the full question.

This is important, yes.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I suppose, like a lot of systems in the Irish Greyhound Board, because of the lack of finance and funding there has been very little investment. We do have attendance data coming from a number of different sources be it the restaurant, be it admissions, be it the trainers and the owners. There is a lot of manual intervention and that obviously gives rise to human error at times.

Is it always human error?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We would like to significantly improve our systems. We did have the finance department look at the whole attendance regime. We have a standard operating procedure. Our internal auditors, Mazars, also had a look at attendance and there is a report here in connection with that.

I have visited many of the venues. Is the chief executive officer stating here that the situation needs to improve? Is he saying that the process at the point of sale - how all of that information is collated, put in through the system and put up - is open to error because a lot of it is manual?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

What I am saying is that our systems are far from perfect. Having said that, I have no reason-----

How can one stand over the statistics as regards who enters the tracks if Mr. Dollard is saying this here today?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

What I am saying is that our systems are far from perfect. One may have misclassification of groups. A tour group may be counted as a benefit night or something like that. There is nothing, given all the analysis that we have done, to suggest that the attendance figures are significantly inaccurate or being misrepresented.

Were there issues in Kerry or anything like that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That was a separate issue. It was an issue in relation to recording attendances. It was, let us just say, an income issue that was spotted by our management and was dealt with. It has also been reported to the Garda.

What does "an income issue" mean?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

What it means is that attendances were not reflective of what was there. It was identified by management and it has been dealt with.

Did that not set off alarm bells that the board's systems are open to-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

On foot of that the finance department, as I mentioned, did a full audit of all of the attendance processes. Our internal auditors who are externally sourced also did a report.

In terms of the past couple of years, what if we write to Bord na gCon and ask for certain tracks? Anybody who ever enters a track obviously gets his or her racebook. Is that right?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Surely the board knows the number of racebooks printed versus the amount of people who enter each track and the figures must match. I accept they would be out by one or two here and there. If we were to give Mr. Dollard a little exercise by picking a few racetracks over a period, would he provide us with the information on the amount of booklets being produced versus the amount of patrons entering?

Based on the information that we have discussed here today, I must repeat the following question: would Dr. Smyth consider an audit of this whole process within the IGB, based on the evidence that he has heard with his own ears today?

Mr. Dollard, I must clarify one remark, which will only take a moment. It concerns Abargrove, which is involved. He mentioned something a few minutes ago, when he used the phrase "distorts the accounts". To what was he referring? I do not like, at a Committee of Public Accounts meeting, somebody saying the accounts have been distorted and to leave that comment hanging. Consequently, he should please clarify.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Maybe "distortion" is the wrong word.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The company shows a loss but it is because of intercompany transfers. The activity does actually show a profit.

Okay. Are the consolidated accounts distorted?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No. There is a listing at the end of the annual report, which shows all of the individual companies and profits and losses.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The intercompany transactions would be limited.

So they cancel each other out.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Yes. It is not distorted.

The only reason I raised it is that when I hear the phrase "accounts being distorted" at a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts I cannot leave the matter hanging.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

No. It is fine.

Thank you. I call Deputy Cullinane.

I welcome Mr. Dollard and his team. Would it be correct for me to say that Mr. Dollard and his team are the executive of Bord na gCon?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Part of the executive. One has the head of regulation and the veterinary director as well.

Yes, as part of the executive.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

We also have a board, a chair and board members-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

-----who were not specifically invited. Is Mr. Dollard here as the Accounting Officer?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is correct.

And his team. We have had a number of attendances by the organisation over the course of the last two years. Most of the attendances have been shambolic but today's meeting is a refreshing change. Mr. Dollard has brought a level of competency that I did not see in previous attendances, which is a good start. However, the organisation, some of which is funded by taxpayers, faces fundamental problems. We have a responsibility to make sure that we ask the tough questions on where the industry is and how taxpayers' money funds the industry.

How long has Mr. Dollard been chief executive officer?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Since 11 September 2017.

Mr. Peake is the deputy chief executive and director of events and hospitality. How long has he been in his position?

Mr. Philip Peake

I have been with the Irish Greyhound Board since January 2008.

How long has Mr. Peake been in his current position?

Mr. Philip Peake

As director of events and hospitality services, since January 2015.

Mr. Tuohey is the interim chief financial officer.

Mr. John Tuohey

That is right, yes. I joined the organisation in June of this year.

Mr. Lewins is the director of tote. How long has he been in his post?

Mr. Joe Lewins

Since November 2013.

So the organisation has changed a lot at both executive and board levels. What struck me while watching the proceedings at the Committee of Public Accounts, other sectoral committee and, indeed, the "RTÉ Investigates" programme, is that there is an awful lot of division within the industry. Some of that manifested itself in very strange ways here, where we had previous members of the board in the audience. The hearings showed that there were very clear divisions within the industry and, to me, that was part of the problem. We have to examine the figures. When the Comptroller and Auditor General gave his opening statement, turnover was down across almost all of the income streams. Is it correct that track attendance is down?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

From the accounts, track receipts are down.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Has revenue earned from advertising as a source of income decreased?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I did not specifically refer to whether that-----

Maybe Mr. Dollard may have. I know there have been difficulties with sponsorship as well following the "RTÉ Investigates" programme.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Is sponsorship and advertising down?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Sponsorship would be down, yes.

Has the amount of tote receipts come down?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No. Taking it in the round, there is a significant improvement on tote-related operations.

In overall terms, is it fair to say that it is an industry, in revenue terms at least, that is in decline? And if that is the case, why?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Shall I respond?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

On the comment on division within the industry, certainly we would like to see a united industry. We certainly would like to see a single representative organisation for the whole industry because the challenges require that. We did offer remediation to resolve some of those issues but all parties did not subscribe to it.

On the revenue streams, there is no doubt but there are challenges. While the on-track tote revenue is reducing, the income from the sale of media rights and the international market is improving. We need to look at the model we have and see what we can afford. I hate going back to Indecon consistently but it will require a look at our footprint and seeing what footprint is appropriate.

I accept that but I asked about the opening statement, where mention was made of a disruption to racing that might have had an impact. Is it not the case there is a deeper issue for the industry in terms of where the industry is and how people use it and interact with it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Is it fair to state there are very significant challenges in this regard?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The trend has been downwards. Our demographic is ageing and we need to look at new markets. We have appointed a sponsorship and syndication executive. We are pushing to our business development team. We need to find new areas and get people involved in the industry itself.

Previous Deputies have raised questions regarding the Preferred Results report. Please remind me who commissioned the report and for what purpose.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was commissioned by the Irish Greyhound Board. It was intended as an organisational review report. The specification asked to look at the process flow in business and the fitness for purpose analysis. The idea was to look at the organisation and, a bit like the Deputy's earlier point, at what is the most appropriate organisation model for the future.

What competency would that organisation have in doing reports of that scale?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It went out on the eTenders platform. There was a significant level of interest initially but only two people submitted tenders. As part of the tender process, tenderers would have had to show their experience and competence. Through the evaluation process, they were recommended as being the preferred tenderer, so I take it that they did meet the requirements.

Does Mr. Dollard agree with the contents and the conclusion of the report?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

A lot of the analysis, as I said earlier, particularly on the dog pool, has an unsound base because the figures are just not there. Some of the other conclusions are based on the fact that we would have control over exports, through which we would introduce export levies, which we do not have. There are a number of issues in the report over which we do not have control but the board's view-----

Mr. Dollard said that the board does not have control over the numbers of greyhounds because of the lack of any traceability.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We do not have adequate records relating to what is happening.

Has Mr. Dollard made recommendations that adequate records and better traceability be introduced?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, absolutely, and that was a fundamental request to the board.

Is there a role for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine here? Who has a role in traceability? Under whose purview would that be? I know that would require a policy change but who, specifically, would have to make that change?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The policy change was made in the Greyhound Racing Act of 2019, which provides for racing traceability. Our obligation and responsibility will be to have a traceability system for the racing greyhound, and that is what we are working towards.

The responsibility lies with Bord na gCon.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, for the racing greyhound.

In terms of records, whose responsibility is that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It will be ours under the aforementioned Act.

Is that a change emanating from that Act?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, exactly.

When can we expect to see that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The Act has been enacted and I expect that the Minister will make the relevant commencement orders in the next month or two.

Is Bord na gCon working on that anyway?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, we are working on it in parallel.

The board did not necessarily need an Act to have good record keeping. Good records are important for the industry anyway. One could disagree with any report. The board could say that it did not agree with the preferred results report or any report, but if there is no system of record keeping, then one way or the other one can always dispute a figure. It is not healthy that there is no proper record keeping. Why was that not in place before now?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I fully accept the point the Deputy is making, but to put it in place, a statutory basis is needed. A regulation and the enforcement mechanisms are needed to make sure people actually comply with traceability requirements.

Bord na gCon has that now.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

At the moment, the Irish Coursing Club, ICC, looks after the Irish stud book, but the level of compliance in terms of notifications is not what is required.

At least there is work in progress. One of the things-----

Mr. Dollard mentioned the ICC. Will he explain, for the benefit of our audience, the role of the ICC vis-à-vis the role Bord na gCon.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Under the 1958 Act, the ICC is the keeper of the Irish stud book. It maintains the records of greyhounds whelped, matings, stud dogs and so forth. Bord na gCon only becomes aware of a greyhound when it is presented for racing as part of greyhound racing. We want to introduce a system so that when someone decides that he or she wants a dog to be a racing greyhound, we can track that greyhound from that point until the end of its life.

Is it fair to say that the preferred results report also found the Irish greyhound industry was not focused on the sport of greyhound racing but on breeding? That was one of the findings and a thread that ran through the report.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

This is a policy issue. The preferred results report said that we should be very focused on greyhound racing as a product and not on the breeding industry. However, many within the industry would see breeding as an integral part of the overall industry. There are some policy decisions that need to be made in terms of where the key focus should lie.

Is it the case that the industry itself is producing ten times more greyhounds than are required to sustain the sport of racing?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No, and again that comes back to the lack of credible data. Various figures have been thrown out for unaccounted for greyhounds, but until we have a traceability system, we do not know whether some of those animals are retired on a farm or are actually deceased.

I watched the "Prime Time Investigates" programme which looked at many issues related to breeding. We provide taxpayers' money to support greyhound racing as a sport, but what I am hearing from Mr. Dollard is that we cannot really agree on the accuracy of numbers because of a lack of traceability and adequate records. Our job is to hold Mr. Dollard to account for the money given to the greyhound industry by the taxpayer. How much does the industry get from the taxpayer each year?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was €16.8 million this year.

It was €16.8 million.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Through the ICC and the stud book there are accurate details of breeding figures. The issue is what happens over the lifetime of the greyhound. That is where the process falls down.

We are spending more than €16 million per year on the industry. One of the things that emerged in the "Prime Time Investigates" programme was the possibility that the State was subsidising below-cost selling of greyhounds outside of the country.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, and that has come out of the preferred results report.

I know it has come out but does Mr. Dollard disagree with any of the facts put into the public domain through the "Prime Time Investigates" programme? The programme reported that there was a higher concentration on breeding than on the sport of greyhound racing. It pointed out that taxpayers' money is being used to subsidise this industry and suggested that there is the potential for that money to be used to subsidise below-cost selling of greyhounds. There were also issues around animal welfare and so on. People were looking at this and asking where is the accountability. When I try to get answers to questions I am told that we do not really have proper accountability because the proper systems are not in place. Would Mr. Dollard agree with "Prime Time Investigates"? The answer is either "Yes" or "No" because this is not something that is subjective. We were either subsidising below-cost selling of greyhounds overseas or we were not. Would Mr. Dollard agree with the analysis of the RTÉ programme?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I have two comments to make. First, we would disagree with a lot of aspects of the programme-----

Specifically with what?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, so I would prefer not to go into detail on the issues with which we disagree. On the exports, the point the report makes is that it costs more to rear a greyhound than the price it will get on the open market, but the price on the open market changes. It goes up and down. Some greyhounds could sell for €30,000 or €40,000 while others might only sell for €1,000 or less. There is a point in what is being said but-----

Let us park the disagreement the board has with the programme itself. Mr. Dollard has said that the board has made a complaint, and that is fine. As CEO, what assurances can he now give to the public that the changes needed to ensure that the industry operates on a more sustainable basis, that animal welfare issues are addressed, and that there will be much more concentration on the sport itself and not on breeding will be made? Can he assure the public that the board cannot just restore the reputation of the industry but also deal with the challenges that I referred to at the beginning in terms of operating on a more sustainable footing? What assurances can he give to the public that those changes are happening?

I accept that there is an increased level of competency on the board and I do see some changes which are for the better. I am not an expert in this area but I have gone to racing tracks. There is one in Waterford, which is in my constituency. A lot of people I know are working or are active in the sport and I value that because they value it. However, when it comes to taxpayers' money, we have to make sure that we are getting bang for our buck and that the changes that are necessary are being brought about. I ask Mr. Dollard to respond quickly if he can. What would he say to the public who watched the aforementioned television programme or who have been following the proceedings of this committee? Some of our previous meetings with Bord na gCon were very shambolic and when we left this room we could not say that the industry was in safe hands and that the right decisions were being made. How can Mr. Dollard persuade me that the necessary changes are happening?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Bord na gCon has been on a very significant change and reform programme for a number of years. A lot of that reform was not reflected in the "Prime Time Investigates" programme. To give confidence and assurance to the public, the Greyhound Racing Act of 2019 is a game changer. It is an update of the 1958 Act and gives us the tools and regulatory powers to do what we need to do. We have announced a significant number of initiatives in the area of care and welfare, including the setting up of a care fund, a more significant focus on rehoming, and increasing the rehoming numbers.

We are committed to traceability and again that process is going in parallel to the commencement of the legislation. I would also reference Indecon, which is about the viability of the industry. There are a number of key points there that are significant strategic changes for the Irish Greyhound Board and the industry itself.

I would not be consistent if I did not comment on the absence of gender representation. It was overwhelming yesterday on the justice committee and it is overwhelming again today. It is no reflection on the witnesses but it is important to highlight it because it seems we are going backwards. Can I clarify something? I thank the witnesses for the information and I think they got clear accounts as well with no issue. Well done on that. I refer to the directors of Bord na gCon. In the reports - it is my confusion - there is a board of directors as well as references to members, directors and the executive. Could Mr. Dollard clarify that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There is a board of directors and there is a maximum of seven board members currently. That will change under 2019 Act to nine board members. At the moment we have six board members in place out of seven.

They are called board members, not directors.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Board members.

I am not being pedantic. It is coming from the accounts. I am looking at "Bord na gCon board and executive biographies". We talk about board members and directors. That is what is leading to my confusion. What have we got?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I would say we have board members because Bord na gCon is not a limited company.

It is a semi-State body.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

On that semi-State body, we have a maximum of seven board members and at the moment we have six. Mr. Dollard probably explained in my absence why one person is not there.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The board has been going through some change. We have had three new members appointed in 2019.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Wayne McCarthy was appointed on 26 March and he comes under the industry knowledge category. Aileen Lennon was appointed on 20 May, also under the industry knowledge category. Gary Brown was appointed on 26 March under the marketing skillset category. We are awaiting through the Department and the Public Appointments Service an appointment of somebody with financial expertise.

Who is the welfare person?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Colm Gaynor, who is a very qualified veterinary practitioner along with other capabilities.

That was a recent appointment, was it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No, he has been on the board since May 2014. He was appointed directly by the Minister.

Did I see when I was reading this that Bord na gCon appointed a new veterinary expert in 2017, or am I confused?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We appointed a veterinary director as a staff member.

Very good. Why is there one vacant?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is just the churn on the board. We are waiting for a vacancy to be filled for somebody with financial expertise.

How long is the vacancy there?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The vacancy probably has been there three months at this point, I would say.

When is it expected to fill it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is out of my hands.

Whose hands is it in?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is the Public Appointments Service that looks after that, and the Department.

Okay. That is that confusion cleared up. For the 2017 reports of the members and directors or executive, that has changed slightly, has it not?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is significantly changed, yes.

Significant change for the better, with more expertise. Is that the significant change?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There is significant change.

Okay. Comments were made about "shambolic". We do not usually use such words and I do not but I have to say that to date, that was the presentation to us. In over three years they were among the worst. They were here on two occasions. It was like Roman times, really, the way we had the room packed and they were laughing and joking and did not believe anything that was being said at a top table. We had comments about who owns the greyhounds any "my wife owns the greyhounds" and it had to be clarified that the wife did not own the greyhounds. That was the level that came before us. That is where I am coming from now when I look at this as a non-expert. Is Mr. Peake executive or director?

Mr. Philip Peake

Executive.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Everybody here is on the executive. There is no-----

Mr. Peake is down as a director at some stage I think, is he? No, he is down as head of events and hospitality services. Everyone here today is "executive". On the last occasion we had members of the board as well.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Exactly. People are referred to as a director of tote and so on.

I understand the difference but I just wanted to clarify. Are the minutes of those board meetings published?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The board minutes are not actually published but under freedom of information at times people request them.

That is okay. They are not published.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

They are not published.

Somebody would have to seek them under freedom of information. Mr. Dollard then serves the board, is that right? He would be at every meeting.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is correct.

Lovely. Has it ever come up in the interests of openness and accountability that the board meetings would be published?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Through the Chair, Bord na gCon is a commercial semi-State body and I think obviously given the fact that we do have a commercial remit, some elements of the board meetings would not be appropriate for publication. When we receive requests under freedom of information, we have no difficulty in providing the minutes but they will be redacted in respect of commercial issues.

I hear what Mr. Dollard is telling me. I will think about that. On the RTÉ programme, I only watched it last night because I could not bear to watch it. It goes back to June, does it not?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Following that programme, what happened? Did the board meet? Was the RTÉ programme down on an agenda? Was it discussed? What was Mr. Dollard's own reaction to it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The board met by special meeting within two days of the programme, I think. At that meeting, they agreed a range of measures on a short-term basis in respect of additional supports for fostering.

What does that mean?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That additional money would be put into the foster care programme so if people were in a position to take greyhounds that needed a home, the IGB would provide financial support. They also agreed the confidential phone line which was set up immediately. They agreed the increase in rehoming support, particularly to incentivise Irish rehomings, and a range of other measures. Subsequently, at the agriculture committee, there was a further range of measures outlined about the care fund and the setting up of special arrangements.

Has that item remained on the agenda of the board since? I refer to welfare.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Absolutely.

How frequently does the board meet?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It meets once a month.

It has been on the agenda every month.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Absolutely. Even as late as last Thursday, the board agreed some further measures in respect of the welfare area.

That is very good. Let me go back. As a result of the programme, there was a meeting within two days and a range of measures were taken. Was there already a fostering programme in place?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There was.

The board put-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We expanded it.

Okay. What else was done?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

As I said, the confidential phone line was set up and there was additional funding towards the rehoming initiative, particularly rehoming of Irish greyhounds.

The rehoming initiative has always been there but more money was put into it. Were there any new initiatives?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The proposal to establish greyhound care centres, which is currently out on eTenders. The tenders will come in on 27 September. We have put in place the injuries at tracks recovery scheme. If a greyhound is injured while racing, there is now funding to support the owner in looking after that greyhound rather than possibly on economic grounds making a decision to euthanise the greyhound.

They are new initiatives.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

I will come back to the question of why we needed an RTÉ programme to lead to these initiatives. First I want to establish what they were. What are the care centres that are gone out to tender?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The idea is that as racing greyhounds come to the end of their racing life, we would like that they would all have what is referred to as a forever home. To prepare them for their forever home, these care centres would be a halfway house where the greyhound would be socialised with other animals.

For the first time, there is going to be a forever home rather than the homes they were getting up to now.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

In fairness, the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust, an entity established by the board, was involved in 1,021 rehomings last year, which is the highest ever achieved. We expect that figure to increase significantly in 2019.

When was that entity set up?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Well over ten years ago.

Okay. The board is going to tender for this care centre. What money has been allocated for that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have set up a care fund. Since August, 50% of all sponsorship goes into that care fund.

That is 50% of all sponsorship.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Also, 10% of admissions from 1 September goes into that care fund.

I would prefer not to try to guess. I did not see it spelled out anywhere, but perhaps I missed it. However, I do not think it is.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was in the documentation provided for the committee.

I have that documentation.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

In the media we put out various-----

Perhaps it might be sent to us in a note through the Chairman. I ask Mr. Dollard to go back. Some 50% of sponsorship revenue will now go to care centres.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes. A care fund has been set up and the money will be used solely for the care and welfare of racing greyhounds. The funding will include 50% of all sponsorship revenue, 10% of admission fees from 1 September, 10% of restaurant package revenue from 1 September and 5% of tote profits from 1 November.

What does Mr. Dollard envisage will be the total amount in the fund?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Again, there is a chicken and egg element, but if we were to base the figure on attendance figures for 2019, there could be up to €1 million in the fund in a 12-month period. As I accept that attendances are falling, we may not meet that target, but based on budgeted figures-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Exactly.

On what is it based and is the fund sufficient? Does the IGB need double or treble the amount, or does it need less? On what is the fund based to provide for proper greyhound welfare?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The first point I will make is that primary responsibility for ensuring proper greyhound welfare ultimately rests with the owner of a greyhound.

I am talking about the IGB's responsibility. As it is setting up a care fund, I am asking Mr. Dollard the question specifically. The Chairman will stop me very soon. I do not have time for this, nor does Mr. Dollard. He, the executive and the board are setting up a fund. Clearly, he thinks it is necessary. What is necessary? On what is the funding based?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is based on a very significant increase in allocations for the care and welfare of greyhounds.

That does not answer my question as to whether it will satisfy the IGB. Will it be enabled to carry out whatever duties it thinks it has in respect of greyhound welfare, as opposed to the owners?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The fund will have to be reviewed annually at budget time, given the number of racing greyhounds, the level of demand, costs and requirements.

I understand I cannot receive all of the answers today. Of course, the fund has to be reviewed annually at budget time, but, more importantly, it will have to be reviewed according to whether the welfare of dogs has been protected. That is what I am trying to ask Mr. Dollard. What are the criteria in that regard? Perhaps he might come back to me on that matter. If the budget is bad, does it mean that we will just let dogs suffer? Does Mr. Dollard understand what I am saying?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is where I come back to the point that primary responsibility to ensure the welfare of greyhounds rests with the owner. Our role is to put in place supports, facilities and arrangements to support owners in discharging that responsibility.

Mr. Dollard gave a figure of about €2 million, as opposed to the figure of €360,000, which he said was divided in two parts.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I think it is described as consisting of contributions in respect of greyhound welfare and to the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust.

Will Mr. Dollard split the figure for me?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There is a salaries element. Approximately €100,000 goes to the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust. I would say there is €90,000-odd for various welfare initiatives.

Again, I would like to see a breakdown in writing. Mr. Dollard has given a figure which seems to be very tiny. It is €363,000, but whatever it is, he says it is not the total figure.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Exactly.

If one includes-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It does not in any way represent the spend on greyhound welfare.

I have a concern when Mr. Dollard answers in that way. He did not refer to the analysis of IGB's business model made by Preferred Results Limited which was marked "commercially sensitive" that was commissioned by the board. He did not refer to it in his opening statement. IGB has difficulties with it. I think it has difficulties with the findings. That is what I picked up.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

From the Deputies' questions and my responses, I think we have outlined our position.

I usually attend meetings of the committee religiously, but I ran out today because I had a question to ask in the Dáil. As a result, I missed some of the answers. What is noteworthy is that in his opening statement Mr. Dollard did not mention this analysis. Why was that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

My opening statement was focused on the subject matter of the committee meeting - the financial accounts for 2017.

This issue is clearly within our financial remit.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I have no issue with that.

Why then was the analysis not mentioned? It is a very serious document, a very serious report, with very serious conclusions, but it was not referred to in Mr. Dollard's opening statement. Was it discussed at board level?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Again, it was referred to. It was presented to the board at its December 2017 meeting and discussed.

What was done in September? It took until December. The board meets monthly, but it was not given the analysis until December 2017.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The board received a briefing on it in September 2017.

Did board members read it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I presume they did.

The analysis states:

One of the most critical findings of the analysis is that the IGB is not actually a racing-centric organisation and that the primary focus of the organisation is actually on Breeding. That focus causes some 15,000 pups to be bred for racing each year, for a Dog Pool with approximately 3,600 dogs.

Is Mr. Dollard's answer that that is not accurate?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I think the report is stating there are 15,000 dogs bred for a racing dog pool of 3,400, but it does not take account of the fact that another 6,500 dogs approximately have been exported to the United Kingdom, or the fact that probably another 2,000 are involved in coursing activity. It is not, therefore, a fair statement to make.

Did the board go back to the company to state it was not happy with the report?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Again, in fairness, Preferred Results Limited was operating with the best data available, which were pretty poor because of the lack of a traceability system.

Operating with the best data available at the time, has the board accepted the report?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No because largely the report consists of estimates and guesstimates because there is no strong evidence base available.

I do not mean this personally, but that does not reassure me about there being a new approach for a semi-State body that receives €16.7 million. Its funding has increased every year, has it not?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Not every year. It has gone up in 2019.

Did it go up in 2018?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No.

As everything else goes down, public money goes up. I am all for public services and public bodies. I am no expert, but I have looked at the report and it outlines serious concerns. It tells the IGB that "Both from a welfare and from a financial perspective, the industry must now move to put racing at the centre of what it does". I might have my own views on whether that is appropriate, but I am simply reading what the report states. It states the industry "must ensure that breeding is undertaken to support the industry and not as an alternative to it". I ask Mr. Dollard to listen to what is stated in those lines. I have a serious difficulty with greyhound racing and I am looking at what the report is telling the IGB. Surely this issue warrants discussion at board level, rather than just a reaction that it is not based on the facts. Please tell me that the board discussed the report, analysed it and stated, "This is what we will do".

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The board certainly did discuss the report and considered it carefully. Most of the issues raised in it formed part of the discussion on the Greyhound Racing Bill which went through the Oireachtas at the time. There were significant discussions on exports and unaccounted for dogs, hence the inclusion of the provision on traceability. A lot of the issues raised were the subject of discussion.

It is not fair to do this, but I can pick anything out from the report. It reads, "Dog Pool Size is out of control". It also states that, leaving emotion out of it, too many dogs are being bred. As a result, they end up being culled because too many are being bred, or they are exported. It is there in black and white. It reads, "Leaving aside emotions with respect to the culling of dogs [this is from a business point of view], from a 'Lean' perspective it is simply very wasteful to invest in so many pups and to get so little out of them in return". I will be in trouble for repeating the language, "getting little out of pups", but even on a financial level, it is there in black and white.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Let me respond to use of the line, "Dog Pool Size is out of control". When the report was presented to the board in September 2017, we were actually having difficulties in filling racecards at stadia. In some places the report is based on 2009 and 2015 data. What was set out in the report did not reflect the actual experience on the ground and in the industry at the time when there was an acute shortage of racing dogs.

When the witnesses watched the RTÉ programme, other than making a complaint to the Broadcast Authority of Ireland, as they were perfectly entitled to do, what was their reaction to what they had seen in the context of animal welfare and what the industry had allowed to happen? What were their feelings about it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have stated publicly our position on it. We welcome any breach of welfare regulations being brought to attention. Some of what was shown on the programme was absolutely horrendous and totally unacceptable. We will deal with any breach we can deal with. Some of the breaches identified fall outside the remit of the Irish Greyhound Board, but some of what was shown was appalling.

Appalling. I thank Mr. Dollard for his very straight and honest answer. As was the case for many other issues, including some relating to Tusla and the health board, it was the "RTÉ Investigates" programme that pushed change. It is difficult to understand that.

On welfare, does Bord na gCon make contributions to animal welfare organisations that work independently of it? If so, I ask that the committee be given a list of them. Are members of those organisations on the board of the trust?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

On the latter issue, the Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine asked us for such a list and we sent it to that committee. We will forward it to the Committee of Public Accounts.

It was sent to the agriculture committee.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was. We will send it to this committee.

Are any members of those organisations on the board of the trust? Is there a welfare trust?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust.

Who is on the board of the trust?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There are eight trustees, including representatives of the Irish Greyhound Board, greyhound owners and breeders.

Is there a representative of the animal welfare organisations on that trust?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The Irish Greyhound Board is part of the International Greyhound Welfare Forum, which will meet on 2 October. All the welfare organisations are represented on that forum.

I wish to be provided with a list of the members of that board. Mr. Dollard's answer was that no animal welfare organisations are represented on the trust.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No animal welfare organisation is formally represented on it.

Could such a representative be added to the trust?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

As part of the setting up of the care fund, we will restructure the trust because we see it as having responsibility for overseeing the care fund.

Where is the trust based?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is an entity of the Irish Greyhound Board and holds its meetings at the headquarters of the IGB.

Where are the dogs that it is keeping in trust located?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It operates through the foster care and other schemes. If a person wishes to rehome a dog, he or she can contact the trust and the trust will work to-----

The dogs are dispersed.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

The board's financial statements for 2018 are detailed on the last page of the statement provided. I will not ask the Comptroller and Auditor General to comment on them. Mr. Dollard stated that there was a reduction in the figure for fixed assets from €51.5 million to €29.4 million. From what did that result?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We went through this earlier. It is a highly technical accounting area. In short, we are rationalising our subsidiary companies. As part of that process, we had to get valuations on individual stadia. As part of our accounting policies, we operate a depreciated cost model, rather than a market value model. When one works it through in terms of our accounts, we had to take in the market value of stadia where there was a reduction and, where there was an increase in market value, such as in the case of Shelbourne Park and the stadium in Cork - there was an increase of €7.7 million - our accounting policies did not allow us to take that into account.

Did the Irish Greyhound Board change the model for-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No. Under our accounting policies, we had to stay with our accepted model and that is-----

There was a change within the accepted model.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The valuations of the properties went down and we had to take that into account in our impairment analysis. The Comptroller and Auditor General confirmed earlier that he does not disagree with the approach that was taken.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I stated that I did not disagree with what Mr. Dollard had said.

That is not the same thing.

The stadia were also valued in the previous year. The Irish Greyhound Board then valued them under the same model and they were reduced under a depreciation model.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes. We can go into the detail of the accounting. In the previous year, the stadia were valued on the basis of the entire stadia network being the cash-generating unit. We took them all as a basket of overall values. By going to the valuation of individual stadia-----

Was there an assessment of overall value or overall cost?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Overall cost.

There is a difference between cost and value. Which was it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Cost. Going to an individual stadium basis changed how the valuations were done.

The IGB had previously overstated the value.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The book value overstated their market value or value in use.

Would that have been the case for Harold's Cross, for example? Would it have been valued differently under this new model?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

From memory, the book value in our accounts for Harold's Cross was €6.3 million. Obviously, its market value was €23 million.

Well, that is what the Department of Education and Skills paid for it. Did it go on the open market?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No. As was previously explored by the committee, it was a deal between two State bodies and there is a circular governing how that process------

The Irish Greyhound Board valued it at €6.3 million under the-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Its book value was €6.3 million.

Under the model now being used, would it have been worth less or more?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I cannot say: it was not part of the impairment analysis in 2018 as it had been disposed of.

How many of the stadia in the impaired analysis report were worth more than previously estimated?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Two: Shelbourne Park and Curraheen Park.

Where is Curraheen Park located?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

In Cork.

Was there much of a difference in the valuations?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Shelbourne Park was valued at €6.7 million more than the valuation in the accounts, while the stadium in Cork was valued at slightly less than €1 million more than it is in the accounts.

That suggests that the IGB is carrying a lot of liabilities in terms of stadia around the country.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do not think it has any bearing in regard to liabilities.

They will not be adding to the board's value. Are the other stadia making a loss? Mr. Dollard referred to a difficulty in terms of running costs, were the IGB not paying the prize fund. I will leave it at that because it is a different valuation and a different------

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The impairment issue and the running costs are completely separate issues.

This has come up twice. It is covered in the 2018 accounts, which have been audited but not published, so one can take it that when they are laid before the Oireachtas in the near future, the committee will seek a detailed note, stadium by stadium. We are a little premature because the 2018 accounts have not been published, but we will come to this issue when we receive them.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

There is also an impairment note in each of the subsidiary financial statements. A briefing note would probably be useful for the committee.

We will follow the protocol and wait until the accounts are laid before the Oireachtas, which will be done shortly.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The impacts are different for each of the stadia.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy. Will the committee receive the accounts for the individual stadia?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It will.

Will they all be submitted at the same time?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

They should be.

That will be done shortly.

Does the IGB have a draft of the Indecon report due to be published in September?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No.

What is the likely date of its publication? It was due to be published in September but, obviously, there has been slippage.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I hope it will be published by mid-October.

Will the possible sale of other tracks be considered separately? Mr. Dollard stated that the IGB is analysing the footprint. What is the thinking of the IGB in that regard in terms of viability?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The board has no proposals or plans to sell any track or stadium, but when the Indecon report is delivered it will be a matter for all parties to consider its recommendations. I am not privy to what those recommendations might be.

Mr. Dollard mentioned the income of €16.8 million that the Irish Greyhound Board receives. The income in 2010 was €11.9 million. It reduced in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, at which stage the income was €10.8 million. It then increased to €13.6 million in 2015, €14.8 million in 2016, €16 million in 2017, the same in 2018, and then a further increase in 2019.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is correct.

The income has been increasing. The betting tax does not apply solely to horse racing and greyhound racing - people bet on rugby, Gaelic games, politics and many other matters. Only a small proportion of gambling is on greyhound racing. Mr. Dollard referred to its cultural value.

I suggest that there is an equal if not greater cultural value in some of the other entities such as the GAA, rugby and soccer and any range of sports entities. Sports Ireland receives €60 million a year to distribute among all of the sporting organisations. There is money paid under sports capital grants as well. The subsidy to Bord na gCon is extraordinarily large in proportion to its total income which from both turnover from racing - if operating costs and tote etc. is left out - and other incomes from prize money, sponsors - which is reducing - media and other income, was €24.5 million in 2017, and €16 million in addition to that comes from the betting tax.

That kind of money would pay the total cost of free school books for every primary school child in the country. That is an extraordinary amount of money going to one entity when one looks at what is going to sports organisations in its totality. Does Bord na gCon think it can honestly make the point that it is of such a cultural importance in this context?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I thank the Deputy and will make a number of comments.

I take the points made on the betting tax as to the increase from 1% to 2% in 2019. I am unsure what revenue accrues to greyhounds and to our tote operation and to the fact that what we have nine meetings now being carried on the SIS platform. Greyhound racing is now much more open to betting activity than it would have been heretofore. There is an income from that but I cannot say what size it is.

On the wider issue, I am not making the argument on the basis of the cultural value of the industry but on the basis of the economic, social and cultural value of the industry. I referred to the Power report earlier of November 2017 on the economic and financial significance of the industry which report gave an economic impact estimate of €302 million. The receipts from PAYE and PRSI alone from people involved in the industry were estimated at €32 million. I take the point that is being made but there is another side to it as well.

I believe a financial analysis could be done on all of the sporting organisations and it, in many cases, would be multiples of what Mr. Dollard has mentioned there. We will leave that point there.

Greyhounds are not treated as dogs but as livestock, which puts them out of the ambit of the ISPCA which confers an extra responsibility.

I was not aware that the Irish Coursing Club had control of the studbook. Which dogs do Bord na gCon have responsibility for rehoming? Is it those that have raced and registered with the board or is it all the greyhounds that are born? How is that adjudicated upon?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

As the Irish Greyhound Board - soon to be renamed Greyhound Racing Ireland - our remit and responsibility is for racing greyhounds.

How many dogs would Mr. Dollard estimate that covers?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

As stated earlier, our dog pools are currently probably around €3,800, so there are 3800 racing greyhounds in the system currently.

Does Mr Dollard dispute the figure in the report for the number of dogs are born?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There is an issue with the number of dogs that are born but as one moves along the chain, the system does not track dogs that are retired. For example, one can have a dog that has retired on an owner's property and does not show up as a racing or coursing greyhound, or as having been exported or deceased.

What would the racing life of a dog be?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The average racing life would be three to four years but I am aware of dogs that can run as late as six years. We have introduced veteran and senior races to cater for that category.

Essentially, there is a proportion of the number of dogs that are born each year that go into greyhound racing. There is a turnover. A large number of greyhounds are born if one does this estimate over three or four years, a small number of which race, approximately 3,500. There is no obligation for the board to have any welfare responsibility for the other greyhounds.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

On a statutory basis, there is no such responsibility.

Will there be after traceability is introduced?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Our traceability system will be focused on the racing greyhound, and that is what has been provided for under Greyhound Racing Act 2019.

Would Mr. Dollard discourage or agree that there is an excessive breeding of dogs? They make very good pets but they are not the go-to dog for pets.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

If one looks at the breeding figures, the market manages breeding. Breeding has dropped by over 2,000 dogs in the past three years. If there is not an outlet for races or for some other purpose, the number of dogs being bred will reduce.

The majority of greyhounds that are bred will not come under the contributions to greyhound welfare and the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust. Neither do they fall under the auspices of the ISPCA because they are not classified as dogs.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I repeat that the primary responsibility falls on the owner of any animal.

As we are the Committee of Public Accounts and animal welfare should not be within our remit. However, when one starts looking at the impact of animal welfare on this sport, it is about the viability or non-viability of the sport when a question of animal welfare arises, which is why the issue is arising at this committee.

On the payment of €115,996 made to the former CEO, who terminated the contract in that instance?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Through the Chair, that was dealt with at a previous Committee of Public Accounts meeting. The board at the time made a decision to advertise the position, which they were entitled to do. On foot of that, discussions took place. By mutual agreement the contract was terminated.

The subsequent interim CEO received what was described as fees as opposed to a salary. Why was that the case?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

This was an interim appointment so it would appear that this was done on the basis of employing a consultant rather than an employee, because it was not a long-term appointment.

PAYE and PRSI was not involved as this was the appointee's own responsibility. That was the total fee involved.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The appointment was probably subject to withholding tax, which I would need to check. He was paid as a consultant.

Has the amount remained the same or has it increased?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Which amount is the Deputy referring to?

The salary of the CEO.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The salary of the CEO has remained the same for seven to eight years and is set by the Department and not by the board.

Mr Dollard mentioned earlier that the board was running morning meetings. The big income - which would be the same with horse-racing as well - comes from television and TV rights more than from gate receipts. It would not matter on what track these meetings are being run, the feed is for television consumption. Is that the case?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is for the betting market. In the accounts before the committee we were receiving €800,000 from SIS. We expect that in 2019 that that figure will be close to €2 million.

The board then is targeting that area as an income.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Absolutely. It is an important diversification of our income stream.

On compliance and penalties under the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011, what are the fines that apply there and who applies the fines? Where is the regulation on that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We certainly apply the fines in relation to transfer of ownership. The fine is €250. Other fines, I would say, are set by the court. On the basis of whatever the offence might be, the court will decide what fine is appropriate.

Would Mr. Dollard say the €250 fine is sufficient to be a deterrent in some cases? By the looks of it, there have been a small number of cases. Would those fines appear, for example, in Bord na gCon's financial statement?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

They are commented on in the general commentary. Obviously, we would like for fine levels to be higher. I would say the figure is set by regulation. I would need to check that but I would say it is a statutory figure.

Would that encourage Bord na gCon to go after this? If there is significant investment in legal outlay and administrative time, is that prohibitive in terms of governance and regulation?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The Deputy's point is valid. It is prohibitive in terms of the value of the fine.

There were a very small number of fines. Will Mr. Dollard give the committee an idea of them? In 2017, there were three, totalling €1,250, issued for offences. There are four this year. Typically, what would be the number? They must be serious if Bord na gCon goes after them.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

A number of the fines - I would say the majority - relate to failure to notify transfer of ownership. The more serious cases would be dealt with by direct prosecution by ourselves, by the Garda or by the special investigations unit in the Department. The reason for the reduction in fines is that we operate under statute and unless we can prove that the change of ownership took place within 12 months of the time we prosecute, it is statute barred and we cannot proceed. As we build our traceability system, and even with our confidential phone line, the information available to us will vastly improve.

Mr. Dollard told us about the number of people who made contact on that confidential phone line. Has Bord na gCon dedicated staff to deal with this particular aspect? What has changed in the level of work that goes into that? Is it the only way Bord na gCon finds out, for example, about where there are welfare issues?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The confidential line is checked daily and anything that is reported on it is followed up immediately. That is just one element of our welfare enforcement. We have a team of control stewards, stipendiary stewards, a welfare officer, and a veterinary director. We also have a group involved in the special investigations unit of the Department and other parties where there is an exchange of intelligence and information. A lot of activity takes place on foot of that.

Members and witnesses have been here for two and a half hours. Four Members have indicated. I do not like going beyond three hours in any one sitting. It is not fair to anyone. We will take a short break.

In fairness, the break is for the witnesses.

I said that.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We are happy to continue if the Chairman wishes to continue.

On that basis, we will proceed. There is probably the guts of an hour left. Anyone who needs to slip out for a moment may do so. The next speaker is Deputy Munster. I welcome the Deputy as a new member. Members have indicated in the following sequence: Deputies Munster, Burke, O'Connell and Aylward.

Bord na gCon's accounts have shown a steady decline in the past seven or eight years. Its turnover has fallen and the State subvention is rising to fill the gap. There is a drop in attendance. Some sponsorship has been withdrawn from Bord na gCon. Greyhound racing is on the decline internationally. I believe there are only eight other countries where it is legal. It clearly would not be viable without the State subvention. Given the steady decline and all that I have said, would Mr. Dollard agree it would be difficult to justify it as a viable industry in receipt of so much State funding?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have discussed this in the various contributions. No doubt it is a challenged industry. By any assessment, it is a challenged industry. We have diversified some of our income streams. I mentioned some of them previously. Is it a viable industry? Clearly, it is with a Government subvention. It is not commercially viable. There is a policy decision relating to it being important to Ireland Inc., particularly its importance in rural areas and the economic, social, cultural and heritage significance of the industry itself. Clearly, viability is an issue. I would not dispute that point.

Given the exposé in the RTÉ "Prime Time Investigates" report, people would question an industry that allows such cruelty to animals. I am not suggesting Bord na gCon allowed it but whether Bord na gCon was aware it was taking place. If the board was not aware it was taking place, that raises even more questions. Certainly, people saw that Bord na gCon took no action to prevent it or stop it. Given all that, people would question whether such an industry should continue to receive State funding. Does Mr. Dollard accept that?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Certainly we do not allow cruelty to animals. I note the Deputy clarified that. We would be clear that if there are welfare features, they should be brought to our attention. If they are in our remit, we will follow them up. If they are not, we will refer them on to the party that is responsible for them. We have taken a number of prosecutions relating to welfare - some fairly serious issues which do not get the media coverage. There is a lot of activity happening in that area. It is probably a societal issue in terms of general cruelty to animals, and I am not sure that everything should be placed at the door of the greyhound.

There was a comment by a vet on the RTÉ "Prime Time Investigates" programme that drugging dogs is rampant and sophisticated. According to the documentary, other drugs are given to dogs to cover up the drugs they are given to run faster. While this was not reflected in the data in Bord na gCon's annual report, would Mr. Dollard give an outline of the methodology that is used to test the dogs and how they are chosen? Is the test sophisticated enough to catch the drugs that are used to hide the other drugs? Maybe Mr. Dollard or the Department could answer that.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I will take that one. We referenced the programme earlier. We would have issues with what was said on the programme. We would not agree with the veterinary comments. Last year, we did 5,288 tests. Twenty-four of those were negative. The board made a €400,000 investment in the equipment being use. It can trace parts per trillion so it can trace the most minute amounts of any substance.

There is a range of testing done. In race testing, before or after a race, the dogs are selected randomly. For the derby, which is taking place this weekend, all dogs would have been tested at the semi-final stage. They would also be tested at the final stage.

They will be tested in the kennels this week before the derby. Much of our other testing is out-of-competition testing. Our testing is predominantly based on urine samples, but our veterinary director is considering introducing blood sampling as a further robust measure.

The testing is sophisticated enough to catch drugs.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Absolutely. With improvements in equipment, we can find parts per trillion, which are minute amounts of substances.

In response to questions on the "Prime Time" programme, Mr. Dollard referenced a report and stated that Bord na gCon had rehomed 1,000 dogs but that there was no accounting for the other 5,000 or 6,000. He stated that that was because Bord na gCon did not have an accurate database. He also mentioned that legislation on traceability and so on was to be commenced and that animal welfare was a priority action for the board. However, there was clearly a practice down the years - we do not know to what extent - against which no action was taken. Did Bord na gCon press the Government or the Department to introduce the legislation? Why is the board's action only coming after the "Prime Time" exposé? I presume that the board knew what had been happening. To what extent was it aware? Surely it was concerned about being unable to account for the dogs and wanted the matter delved into. Why is action only happening now after the problem has been put into the public domain? That is an issue for most people, particularly in light of the large sums of public funding that Bord na gCon gets.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

A great deal has happened in the welfare area down the years, but that story has not got out there. Microchipping for racing greyhounds was introduced in 2016. New regulations were introduced regarding drug testing and adverse analytical findings, which have been published since 2015. I mentioned the investment in the laboratory. There was the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011. We have been involved in a large number of significant court cases. We have excluded people from the industry because of welfare issues. Much has been happening. In terms of rehoming, the numbers are increasing. Last year saw the highest number recorded to date.

Having said all of that, and given the scale of the issue, much more undoubtedly needs to be done. What the board announced in June and at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and what we are implementing, will see significant further strides being made in that regard. However, much has been happening in terms of welfare, which has been a commitment of the board.

I accept that the board was probably not aware of the full extent of what was happening, but it certainly knew that there were issues of traceability, given how Mr. Dollard stated that the board could not account for the numbers because there was not an accurate database. In the interests of animal welfare, did the board not feel that there was an onus on it to highlight this matter and bring it into the public domain like the "Prime Time" programme did?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

All of these issues were highlighted in the discussions on the Greyhound Racing Act. Those discussions started in late 2014. Traceability formed part of those discussions, as did exports, which are outside our remit, and welfare. We had been pressing for legislative change, which we have had since last May.

Bord na gCon has never taken the step of flagging publicly the concerns and issues highlighted in the documentary.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have done it publicly, but perhaps it was not picked up by the media as an important issue. Obviously, we inform-----

I do not know whether any committee members were aware of that, so Mr. Dollard might forward to us information on where Bord na gCon had flagged the issues in the public domain.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

What will the board do to curb overbreeding?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That forms part of our strategic plan. We are doing two things. First, we are trying to get a focus on quality breeding. Through education and information, we are trying to get people who are interested in the greyhound industry to look at lines before they start breeding so that they can know whether there is a good prospect of a racing greyhound. Second, we have held advanced discussions with a third level institution about launching a certificate in greyhound studies, which would be a two-year programme. We hope that people would avail of it to professionalise the approach to the industry and give them the necessary tools to engage in quality breeding programmes.

Breeding is likely a national policy issue, in that it is not all about the greyhound. The question of breeding applies to all dogs and needs to be considered on that basis.

I will ask the departmental officials the same question about plans and measures to curb overbreeding. Has anything come to the fore?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

I thank the Deputy for her question. The most important element, which was also mentioned in the preferred results report, is that Bord na gCon itself says that its figures could be disputed because of the lack of a traceability system. This is at the core of everything. It has taken more than 4.5 years to get the new Act through and it was only signed by the President at the end of May, but we now have the powers and ability to put in place a good traceability system. Traceability is key to solving the question of how many greyhounds there are. The Act is well advanced in terms of a commencement order. As Bord na gCon told the committee previously, it is putting its traceability system out to tender at the end of October.

My final question is for Dr. Smyth. When I asked about Bord na gCon flagging the concerns and details highlighted in the "Prime Time" programme, Mr. Dollard stated that it had put that information into the public domain. Was the Department aware of what methods the board had used to do so?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

The Department was always aware of what was Bord na gCon was doing in respect of welfare, for example, fostering, rehoming and the like. The difficulty is that welfare work has not resonated with the public. Following the RTÉ programme, there has undoubtedly been a much greater emphasis on welfare, which is welcome, but it would be unfair to say that little or nothing had been done. A great deal had been done. The message simply did not resonate or get across.

The sheer scale of what was shown in the programme was quite shocking. We have been told that it is difficult to provide figures, given the lack of traceability, but that could also mean that the number is even higher. Many people are concerned by how it took the programme to highlight the problem and that neither the Department nor the board had done enough to introduce measures to prevent it. That is the most worrying part for most people, which is why I asked whether the Department had been aware of the steps that the board stated it had taken and put into the public domain. It is also why I asked for that information to be furnished to us. Was the Department made aware? I am not referring to standard inspections, the four prosecutions and whatever. Rather, I am referring to what appears to be wide-scale animal welfare abuses.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Without a traceability system, we do not know the extent of the number of missing dogs. I agree with the Deputy 100% about the shocking nature of the RTÉ programme. We now have the necessary tools to put in place a traceability system, which will be key to this issue.

It is not that nothing was being done in terms of welfare.

The simple fact of the matter is that the focus has to be totally on welfare. That is the key to the actions of the board.

I am conscious time is not on our side so I will finish.

I welcome Mr. Dollard and his team and acknowledge the improvements that have been made since members of the board were first with us in 2017 and the initial briefing we had with the Department at a meeting here. The professionalism shown has improved greatly, which has to be acknowledged on balance. In terms of the numbers, something I brought up previously is that we are trying to drive the industry forward in terms of sales and marketing, and increase numbers coming through the gates. Mr. Dollard is taking that role in sales and marketing, which is vacant. Are there any plans to get someone into that role?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Currently there are no plans. We obviously have to be conscious of costs. I am very happy that the sales and marketing function is being well serviced and run. I have taken direct responsibility for it. I have a head of marketing who leads the marketing function. I now have a board member with a very specific marketing skillset. There is a lot of work being done in terms of a rebranding of the organisation because of our renaming to Greyhound Racing Ireland. On the sales side, there is obviously a direct link between encouraging attendance at stadia and the work that the director of events and hospitality services is doing in respect of encouraging people into our restaurants. We have taken on a business development team. We have a dedicated business development executive for Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Galway and Shelbourne. I might be missing one or two but they are out there chasing business and Mr. Peake is taking a lead role in that. While it would be nice to have a separate director of marketing, I am satisfied that the function is being well pushed.

I would think that is critical. There is somebody new on the board who has marketing experience. Mr. Dollard outlined the team he has. That is going to be critical in terms of attracting sponsorship and attracting new people into dog racing. It also has to be acknowledged that we have the primary legislation there now for which the witnesses were calling. That predated the enactment of that and the discussion we had in the Oireachtas predated the RTÉ programme. Credit should be given to the industry in terms of the work it is doing to promote animal welfare. We have to look at these things on balance. That is one thing that can be lost when we focus on one programme. There are great efforts being made by the industry.

On capital investment, I want to ask briefly about increasing capacity at Mullingar and the capital works that are due. Is there any detail on how that is progressing? Has it gone to tender yet?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The capital works referred to are new escape stairs from the upper floor restaurant, on which we are currently restricted in capacity. I accept the process has taken a while. It seems to be difficult to get professional parties to deal with what they see as small jobs in the current economic climate. We have obtained planning permission and have received the disability access certificate. There has been a bit of back and forth with the fire chief in respect of the fire safety certificate and I think it is due by 25 September. We will then go out to tender for it and we will bring the tender recommendation back to the board for decision.

Is that far away until it gets to the board in terms of timelines?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Realistically, all things going well, if there was somebody on site early in the new year we would be doing well.

Right. Longford is in private ownership and we all know the issues surrounding that. Has that the support of Bord na gCon to go back racing in terms of regulation and so on?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We made no decision on Longford. The directors of the company for valid reasons made the decision themselves. If Longford resumes racing, as is anticipated, we will support it fully as we have up to this point.

Have the witnesses received notice that it is going to resume?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

From contacts I have received and from social media posts, I think 23 September is the date they are suggesting to be open having done the fire safety works.

I wish the industry well. It is a huge week for it with its derby on Saturday, the pinnacle of the racing calendar. I hope it is well supported.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I thank the Deputy.

I have not been here for the witnesses before so I am not able to do the compare and contrast that others have. This vast improvement is not immediately apparent to me but I take the previous comments at face value. With regard to the doping issue, there is a lot of testing on site, at kennels and all of that. In terms of international best practice, reference was made to a machine that is parts per trillion and it was €400,000 or something. Is that up to scratch with other countries? Is Bord na gCon able to test for erythropoietin, EPO, residues in terms of residual non-steroidals in the system of dogs? Is it testing for that as well as uppers and downers, as would be the normal things given to dogs by people who are that way inclined? Is a comprehensive doping system in place or is it just in the moment blood residues? Are long-term, non-steroidal use and EPO use in dogs being looked at?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am not technically competent to answer some of the Deputy's questions. Our sampling is urine sampling; we do not do blood currently.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am satisfied we have the technical competence with a director of the lab and our veterinary director, and that we are testing what we need to test.

I missed that it was urine testing. In terms of international best practice, is that what other tracks are doing across the world? For human athletes, blood is normally tested. There has been a metabolic process by the time it gets to the urine so it is not as clear cut. Can Mr. Dollard tell me if his checking system is on a par with international best practice?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Very much so. Our lab is accredited to the Irish National Accreditation Board, INAB.

We had them yesterday. I would not be so confident about the accreditation, but anyway.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We also recently entered into an agreement with Greyhound Racing Victoria for data sharing in respect of doping.

Is there any data yet to share?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is coming. It is in process.

That will be interesting to see.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The third element is a scientific sub-committee that has international expertise on it, people with degrees in pharmacology and a few other things.

Veterinary practice?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

They give advice on the doping regime and we comply with it.

I am not saying the animal welfare problem is not Mr. Dollard's issue, but his issue is racing. When it comes to the population health of the dogs, in the organisation's budget is there any allocation towards vaccinations? My understanding is that coursing licences have been halted due to an outbreak of a specific virus. Has Bord na gCon any remit in terms of animal health? I am not talking about their lives as such in the kennel but their health and well-being. I know the stewards vaccinate the pups when they are a few days old and then they have to be isolated for ten to 12 weeks before they go into the main population. Is it part of Bord na gCon's job to carry out disease control at the track site?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We do not have a remit in respect of disease control. Through the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust, for any greyhound being presented for rehoming, there is funding to support the various vaccines and inoculations that would be required.

Is there a financial amount in the board's budget for vaccination?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No, not other than through the retired greyhound trust. It gives some funding towards that process.

Someone may have asked about this, but on the 6,500 dogs being exported to the UK, I assume there is a Brexit plan for those dogs. What are we going to do with them if there is a hard Brexit and there is no sharing of animal welfare information?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is a very topical issue. We are part of the consultative committee which the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has put in place. We have attended all the meetings. It is a concern, not just on the exports but also on dogs going between Ireland and the UK for various competitions like the derby on Saturday night. Like a lot of things in Brexit, we are assured that things should be okay but we would still have a concern.

I have two tracks in my constituency - Shelbourne Park and Harold's Cross - and was brought up very near the Mullingar track. On traceability, it is set out that dogs need to be microchipped and tattooed when they are small. Then nothing happens, is that right? The dog dies, retires or just exits the field and that data was never part of the initial microchipping plan.

Is that what Mr. Dollard is saying to me? They are registered at birth, but we do not know what happens to them thereafter. Is that really what the issue is?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is not as loose as that. Perhaps I might mention the cattle movement monitoring system as a mirror of it. Under that system, one can know at any point in time where certain cattle are.

Yes. One can log on and check the age of a calf, for example.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes. We would like to have a similar system for greyhounds. A greyhound might be microchipped, but we do not have a system which shows us that it is in Limerick or elsewhere.

What is the point of the microchip?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is an identifier of the dog.

Is it useful when the dog is lost?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Like any dog that is microchipped-----

I am not being smart when I ask what the point of the microchip is. If it cannot be used to track the dog, what is the point of it? Can it be used if someone finds a lost dog? Can it be used by the track?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It identifies a dog when it is found. Traceability involves knowing where they are before they are found.

It seems to be pointless to put a chip into something without following it. I do not understand why there was no tracking as part of the system. When did the system start? Whose fault is this? Who set it up? When did microchipping start?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It started in 2015 under a national microchipping regulation.

It was introduced under the legislation.

Domestic dogs have to be microchipped.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Nobody knows when a dog dies, is disposed of or leaves the jurisdiction. Obviously, there is no comparative figure. The board has no figure for the number of dogs that are actually in existence at any moment in time.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Exactly. We use the UK figure which is based on the number of dogs registered with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain. There are some dogs exported to Great Britain that are never registered with that board. All of the data sources need to be tied up. That is what the traceability system will do.

If a large animal dies on a farm, it has to be brought to the knackery. Is there a procedure in place in this sector? What normally happens if a couple of dogs from a newborn litter die? What is the normal procedure? Is there a knackery for dogs? Where are they brought?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I think greyhounds can be taken by a certain category of knackery. The officials from the Department will be aware of the exact details.

Can Mr. Smyth confirm whether that is the case?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

That is correct. Knackeries which have category 1 licences can take in material. Category 1 material goes into a skip before rendering and incineration.

It includes spinal cords and other material in respect of which BSE concerns arise.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Correct.

Is anyone keeping figures that indicate how many dog are landing in for disposal? Does the Department have a raw figure? How many dogs are being presented for controlled or regular disposal? Does the Department keep a figure?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

No. This brings us to the heart of the traceability matter. We really need a whole-of-life-----

No, hold on one second. If I have a dog farm or a kennel with loads of dogs and half of them were to die because of a rabid or another virus, who would pay the fee when they were presented at a knackery for disposal? As the owner of the dogs, would I give €20 to the lad at the gate? Who pays the disposal fee? Is it paid by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

The disposal fee is paid by the owner.

Does Dr. Smyth have any idea of how much it is?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

No, I am afraid not.

I am just thinking. If it is expensive, there is hassle involved and the number of dogs being disposed of is not being tracked by the Department or some other authority, it is understandable we have no idea how many dogs are being disposed of in a dignified manner. We have no idea if people are throwing them into bogholes or bringing them in. Is that the case?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

That is the problem with a lack of traceability.

In terms of the Department's remit, is that not very serious from the point of view of disease control? We had a serious issue at the weekend when the knackeries were closed. I know that it has now been resolved, but there could have been a serious disease hazard coming down the tracks. Has it occurred to the Department to think about taking an approach to dogs similar to that taken to cattle? Is it not concerning?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

The Deputy is absolutely right in what she says about what is happening. It is less than optimal. Our hope is that with the new traceability system, we will be able to track each dog through each-----

It is not really a hope but a necessity. We track cattle with microchips.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Correct.

There is no reason we cannot do so with dogs.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Our aim is to have a system that is as good as the cattle tracking system.

Can it not just be copied?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

That is what I believe Bord na gCon is hoping to bring in shortly.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have visited the place in Cork that runs the cattle movement monitoring system as part of the preparations for going out to tender.

I return to turnover and running costs, with specific reference to the catering operation which was making money by the looks of things. We can forget the transfer. It was making money. Why was it decided to home in on that particular element of the business? It was profitable. Clearly, people were employed in it and providing good quality food. Why was that part of the business targeted when money was being lost in so many other places? Why was it a priority to give that element of the business to a private operator?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was with a private operator. It is now run in-house.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We brought it in.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It has been set up as a separate company in order that it can be managed.

It has been set up as a separate company within the Irish Greyhound Board.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Exactly.

The board has had to employ permanent staff under normal regulations. How is it looking in terms of costs?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

When we took it over, we acquired a certain number of staff in line with transfer of undertakings requirements. I think the staff side of the business has operated very well. As I said, it is one aspect of our operations that has consistently received very high satisfaction ratings.

Mr. Dollard has said there was an unsound evidence base for the deferred outcomes report. Surely that would have been evident from the terms of reference drawn up in advance of the compilation of the report, at a cost of €130,000. The evidence base would have been there regardless. How did the board let it go ahead after it had looked at the terms of reference, given that it had already decided that the evidence base was not strong enough?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

That is a very good point which we did not cover earlier. Preferred Results Limited was not asked to make a dog pool analysis. It indicates in its report that it made its own decision to make such an analysis. It was never an ask and never tendered for. It was asked to make an organisational restructuring analysis which it delivered. It decided unilaterally to undertake the dog pool analysis.

It must have thought it was necessary. No company would take-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Again, we-----

Was €130,000 the price before the additional work was added or was it is the all-in price?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was the all-in price at tender stage. We did not pay anything extra. The company's view was that if it was to make a proper analysis of the industry, it needed to undertake a dog pool analysis. It was not part of the specification.

It is interesting that a company would decide to go beyond its remit for the same price tag. The decision probably cost it more money and time. One would have to consider that the company must have needed to take such a decision. Its reasons must have been valid.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

As I said, I have absolutely no issue with Preferred Results Limited, its competence or approach. However, neither the company nor the Irish Greyhound Board has the information to reach some of the conclusions reached.

Does anyone have that information?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Not at this point in time.

How do we get it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Traceability.

Okay. I think that is it now. I thank the witnesses for their time.

I welcome Mr. Dollard and his board. I apologise for not being here earlier. I was speaking in the Dáil. I will probably cover some ground that has been covered. I have to put in my two and sixpence worth. I want to ask a few questions.

I will start by asking about animal welfare. We are all aware of the fallout from the "RTÉ Investigates" programme. Everyone was horrified by what he or she saw. It was not good enough. I am a farmer and a dog lover and was shocked by what I saw. I did not think I would be, but I was. We do not need to say any more than that. We saw a dog being thrown into hot water. I know that it was not here. It was horrible to see dogs being shot in knackeries for a tenner. All of that was uncovered. There is a lot of skullduggery in the business. I have to say it out straight that there is an onus on the board to bring this behaviour to an end. If it is not checked, it will lose out further. It is widely known that the board has already lost sponsorship as a result of the programme. As an observer, I suggest the €16.8 million in taxpayers' money that it receives every year will come into question if something is not done. The witnesses are well aware of this. What is the board doing to catch up on, or counteract, the fallout?

I would like to refer to some figures I have seen. Last year,the Irish Greyhound Board allocated just €130,000 for animal welfare. In addition, 3% of winners' prize money was set aside for this purpose. That means that a total of €364,000 was used for this purpose. In the United Kingdom £3 million from a fund of £8 million goes towards animal welfare. The Irish Greyhound Board benefits from a fund of €16.8 million of taxpayers' money. According to the figures I have seen, just €364,000 was allocated for animal welfare last year.

It does not look good for the board when we compare like with like. Is that the reason we are in this position? The general view is that if the Irish Greyhound Board does not pull up its socks and get the game right, it will be in trouble. I ask Mr. Dollard to respond to that comment first.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We covered some of this ground earlier.

I know. I am sorry about that.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I appreciate the Deputy was not here. On the television programme, anybody who watched it would have been horrified. The people who would have been most horrified would be the members of the greyhound industry and the caring and passionate people who love their greyhounds and were horrified by what they saw. Some of what was shown is outside the remit of the Irish Greyhound Board, such as knackeries, exports and so on. I do not think the board, or anybody here, can be held responsible for the approach to welfare in other international jurisdictions.

In terms of what we are doing and the spend on welfare, which we covered earlier, the €364,000 is just one element of our welfare programme. It specifically relates to contributions to welfare and the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust. It does not cover our spend of nearly €400,000 on veterinary services at tracks. It does not cover our control stewards or stipendiary stewards who are part of our inspection team. I believe I said earlier that our real spend on welfare is of the order of €1.5 million to €2 million. One can debate whether the laboratory should be included in that but-----

That information should be publicised to counteract the problem I highlighted. The board should get it out there to let it be known.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We have been trying to get it out there but the point was made earlier that it does not seem to resonate with the public. The shock-horror element is maintained but the rational information to go with it is not.

In terms of what we are doing, the board met immediately after the programme. A range of measures was outlined at the agriculture committee. A further range of measures has been taken. Traceability, which has been discussed, is key. We have set up a care fund and 10% of all admissions and restaurant packages will go into the fund, as will 50% of sponsorships. We have a confidential phone line and more money for fostering. We have more money for retired greyhounds, particularly in Ireland. Internationally, we are working with Greyhound Pets of America to progress rehoming. I will not take up the committee's time but a wide range of measures is being taken, many of which were already in the pipeline. The Greyhound Racing Act 2019 has been in place since May. That gives us a whole new toolkit to address what we need to address.

I received information from stakeholders that the board of Clonmel greyhound track came up with a proposal whereby each greyhound owner would adopt four retired greyhounds or greyhounds that are no longer wanted. With Bord na gCon's backing, I believe the breeders would keep those greyhounds. They take up to 100 bitches every year and put them into retirement. They contacted owners connected to 16 other tracks and all of them are au fait with the proposal and willing to give it a go. However, from what I am hearing, the board does not back the proposal. It is not following up on it and does not consider it as a start in addressing the issue of animal welfare. Will Mr. Dollard comment on that? This is a proposal from the stakeholders in the greyhound industry who are willing to do something to counteract what happened and try to secure sponsorship. They are looking after the welfare of the animals but the board seems to be dragging its feet. That is what I am being told. I am not making accusations but I have been told that the board is sitting on this proposal.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

To clarify that, I am aware of the Clonmel proposal. As with other proposals, an application can be made under the fostering and rehoming schemes and the funding which is available in that respect. The Clonmel proposal probably fits more into the care centres model, which we are looking at. We are going to a procurement process in relation to care centres. Given our public remit and the necessity to comply with procurement for public funds, we cannot pick one project over another. I would hope the Clonmel proposal has been submitted under the care centres model.

Is Mr. Dollard saying the board would support the proposal if it got off the ground?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am saying that if the proposal comes in under the various schemes, it will be assessed and if it meets the criteria necessary, the board will support it.

That would be one way of going forward.

I will move on as it is late. Some of the track closures have been mentioned since I arrived. We all know how many tracks Bord na gCon operates and that there are private tracks in Kilkenny and elsewhere. The board is waiting on the Indecon report before deciding on the future of Ireland's 16 tracks but two tracks - Lifford and Longford - have been closed already. I am told that the Lifford track was built with an investment of €12 million and it is for sale for €1.3 million. I understand stakeholders are anxious that the greyhound board purchase the track because it is the only greyhound track in the north west and it takes at least two hours to travel to the nearest tracks in Mullingar and Dundalk. Will Mr. Dollard comment on the possibility of the board purchasing the Lifford track? It was built with an investment of €12 million and has been put up for sale for €1.3 million. It will be lost to the north west. Would there be a role for the board to make sure that track is maintained? I will ask about the other one in Longford following Mr. Dollard's response.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I will deal with the two tracks. The board will not be making any decisions in respect of any track until Indecon reports and its recommendations are considered.

Could the Lifford track be sold at that stage?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I have met those involved in Lifford and they will also await the Indecon report. They strongly hope that the Lifford track will feature in the Indecon report. However, the board will not be making decisions until the Indecon report is received.

The Lifford and Longford tracks voluntarily made a decision to cease racing operations. It was not a request of the Irish Greyhound Board. We did not require them to do it. I understand Longford is reopening on 23 September and if and when it reopens, it will receive all the supports it received prior to its closure.

Would the board like to see the Lifford and Longford tracks maintained?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

What I am saying is that with 16 tracks there needs to be some element of rationalisation. Indecon will guide the board in respect of what that rationalisation should be. I cannot say at this point which tracks, if any, might be affected.

That brings me to my next question, which is on sponsorship and prize money. When I asked this question the last time Bord na gCon was before the committee, it gave a commitment. Due to the debt hanging over the board, prize money had dropped to €1.5 million. My figures could be wrong but prize money definitely decreased. Having been brought up around greyhounds, I know that the name of the game is the prize money. What keeps people in racing is the few bob they can make from wins. The last time Bord na gCon was before the committee, it spoke of getting prize money back up to at least €3 million in the short term. Prize money of €10 million was available ten years ago when times were good. What is the position now? We all know that prize money is what keeps the industry alive and ensures the ordinary punter who races bitches gets a few bob back. It is very important that the prize money available is increased because it would be one way to keep the 16 tracks open and viable and ensure the future of the greyhound industry.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

When the Deputy gets the 2018 accounts he will see it in the briefing note that prize money was €9 million in 2018 and €8 million in 2017. The board did commit to increasing prize money by 25% from October 2017, and that has been done.

What is it now?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

In 2018, it was €9 million and I would expect the outturn for 2019 will probably be around the same or maybe a little higher.

Will that help to get the industry back on its feet again?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It comes down to making choices. In terms of priorities, the board's priority at this point has to be in the welfare area. The board will make decisions for its 2020 budget as to the allocations that are made in respect of welfare, prize money and all other areas.

According to information I received recently, the costs of the Irish Greyhound Board accounted for 16% of overall turnover ten years ago and now account for 44% of turnover. That is an increase of approximately 300%. What is the reason for it? Interest in the industry is declining and there is less racing taking place, yet the board's costs have increased from 16% to 44%. No one wants jobs to be lost but I have been told there is a lot of overstaffing. With no disrespect to the employees, they work from Monday to Friday and are not there when the races are on. Is there a need for such staff? Does the entire industry need an overhaul when we see the costs of the board account for nearly 50% of the overall costs? It is a personal question but one that needs to be asked.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The Deputy's colleague raised that specific issue earlier and referred to the same percentages to which he referred. I will make a few comments on that. If the Deputy looks at our accounts, he will see that our payroll costs have decreased every year since 2015. They are €1 million less now than they were in 2015. The percentage will always go up if one is maintaining the same infrastructure and the same number of stadia but one's income is going down and attendances are reducing.

It comes back to the issue as to whether we can financially sustain the extent of the stadia network that we have, which is something that Indecon is looking at.

On the point about employees, it is a labour-intensive industry. One needs stewards, judges, racing staff etc. We have been controlling costs and reducing payroll costs and we hope to continue doing that.

The reason I ask this is because this is about survival and the future. Sometimes things are cut, which we all had to do in years gone by during the recession. I am told there are 70 staff in Limerick alone. I do not know if that is a factual figure-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

In fairness in Limerick there is Limerick Greyhound Stadium and the national headquarters of the Irish Greyhound Board, which includes the laboratory, regulation and welfare. Overall, there are about 60 staff members there but this figure is not for the greyhound track.

That is just a clarification. I do not like talking about staff and employees because it is not my remit but these questions were put to me and I must ask them of the witnesses here who are accountable.

I understand €500,000 was lost last year on catering. When the board had its own catering services in place it was making a good profit. The board then changed to private contract catering, which has now been subsidised by €500,000. Is that the case?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The straight answer - the bottom line - is that catering is, has been and continues to be profitable. The way the accounts are presented, because of inter-company transfers, probably does not reflect the true position. I will not say it distorts but catering is profitable.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

There probably is also a misunderstanding. In the past, catering was a concession, and was contracted out. In the last number of years it has been run in-house.

Yes, I put it back to front, That is what I meant. Since it became in-house, it has been losing money, whereas when it was contracted out a profit was being made for the board every year. Is that the case?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is profitable.

The money that was mentioned to me is a false-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

What the Deputy is seeing in the accounts is an accounting issue concerning inter-company transfers. The catering operation makes money.

It is said there is money in food.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

And in drink

Of course, the Irish are well known for it.

Hare coursing is part of the greyhound industry. The Minister is not issuing any licences at present because of a danger of disease in hares. Individuals who, like everyone, are looking after their own interests here are saying there is no disease in hares. It is claimed it is in rabbits but not in hares. What is the view of the Irish Greyhound Board and has it an input on this? Coursing is part of Irish life and is part of the greyhound industry. We have it in our own areas and counties and we would like to see it properly run, controlled and maintained. Is it part of the board's remit? Has the board any comment on the disease? Is the Minister correct in withholding these licences? If she does not give the licences, is that the end of coursing in Ireland as we know it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is not part of our remit and has nothing to do with the Irish Greyhound Board. Consequently, I will make no comment on it.

It is part of the industry, is it not?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is part of the greyhound industry but it is not part of the remit of the Irish Greyhound Board.

Consequently, Mr. Dollard has no comment to make on that.

I thank Deputy Aylward.

I will make a number of short points. To follow the immediate point just made, under EU regulations, who has the legal responsibility for animal welfare in Ireland, which I am linking here to hare coursing?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Wild animals come under the remit of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS. My understanding is that there is a virulent disease affecting rabbits which can be transmittable to hares. On 10 September, the Department of the Minister, Deputy Madigan, found that eight animals were infected.

Were they hares?

Were they hares?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

No, they were rabbits. There is a temporary suspension in place until 1 November.

Would Dr. Smyth's Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine have been involved in that, or was it strictly the NPWS?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

While we would help out from a scientific point of view, the lead Department is that of the Minister, Deputy Madigan.

That is because it concerns wildlife.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

That is correct.

There was probably a time when this responsibility was under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

I could not say.

It is not at the moment, in any event.

Moving on now, tell me the process behind the Preferred Results Limited report, which was presented on 29 September 2017. Mr. Dollard says that it was rejected by the board, which was the real reason it did not go to the Department. It was because the board was not going to stand over it. Am I understanding this correctly?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There was never a conscious decision made not to send it to the Department. The view was taken, not consciously, that many of the issues raised in the report, like exports, a greyhound regulator, and welfare were all part of discussions on the Greyhound Racing Bill, which was ongoing at that point. The board felt that the analysis on the figures did not reflect the situation at the time, where there was a shortage of racing dogs. On that basis, the report was not seen as being of value, in the context of sending it further, because it did not have the required evidence base.

Was this a significant board discussion?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

What happened, we have made this public, was that the board had a workshop to formulate a strategic plan-----

I am remaining with the Preferred Results Limited report.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I understand that but just to say that there was workshop in formulating a strategic plan in mid-September and as part of that, at very short notice, Preferred Results Limited made a presentation to it.

That was at that workshop.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, at that workshop.

Who was at that workshop?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Subsequently, the board considered the formal report at its December meeting.

When was the Preferred Results report commissioned?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The tender process was in February 2017.

Surely the board must have given approval for this document to be drawn up if it was going to cost €130,000. It knew it was in the pipeline. Mr. Dollard is now telling me it was never actually discussed at the board per se. It was discussed at some workshop, somewhere.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Preferred Results was commissioned through the tender process, which was in February 2017. It was sent away to do its work. It came back to that workshop, where all the board were present, to make an initial presentation of its findings. Following that workshop, it went away and finalised its report, which was formally sent to the Irish Greyhound Board on 29 September 2017.

Did the board discuss that report?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was discussed it at its December 2017 meeting.

Have we seen the minutes of that discussion or was there much recorded?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

From memory, the minutes indicate that the report was thought-provoking but had some impractical short and medium-term measures or some wording to that effect.

Can Mr. Dollard get an extract of these minutes, please, and send them on to the committee? We are seeing this with more and more agencies. Mr Dollard is telling me that much work was done on the strategic plan in September and the autumn of that year. When did the board decide to prepare that strategic plan?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I started in September 2017 but the strategic plan was in process at that point, so it was probably from June to July of 2017.

Who were the consultants who were helping to progress that plan, as I expect it was not done in-house by the board itself?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Most of it was done in-house. There was a very small consultancy input, it was not significant.

Who were they?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Tandem Consulting had a small role in respect of it. Professor Dermot Duff, from one of the universities, also had a very small involvement in it. Most of the work, however, was done in-house.

Those parties would have been paid for their work.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, they were.

What I am trying to get at here is that at the same time as the board had commissioned Preferred Results to do a report, which cost money, it also was paying other people to draw up a strategic plan. Mr. Dollard can see where I am going with this, as I just do not understand how the two are linked. Why were two independent consultancy processes ongoing at the same time?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

If I could just clarify-----

Mr. Dollard gets my question.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The strategic plan was obviously for the wider industry and the organisation.

That is fine.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The strategic plan was not formally launched until March 2018.

To quote from Mr. Dollard's opening remarks this morning, he stated substantial work was carried out in the latter part of 2017.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Absolutely.

It was ongoing simultaneously.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, and elements of the Preferred Results report were taken into the strategic plan.

Even though the board dismissed the report as not being based on sound figures.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It did not dismiss the report; it did not adopt the report but it did indicate there were some thought-provoking items in it. No one is suggesting the Preferred Results report was valueless. What is being said is the data, particularly on dog pool analysis, did not have an evidence base. If one reads the report one will see many references to assumptions, estimates and guesstimates and, in fairness to the consultants, that is all they could do.

Did that report meet the requirements of the terms of reference?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It did because the report was meant to be an organisational review and not a dog pool analysis. We never requested a dog pool analysis.

Leaving aside the dog pool analysis, if Bord na gCon is happy with the rest of the report why did it not go to the Department?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It has gone-----

A year and a half later.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is about internal organisational restructuring and I am not sure it is something the Department would have an interest in.

Mr. Smyth said earlier it would have been useful if the Department had it. They were his words. The annual amount from the fund is discussed in the Estimates and such a report would be relevant. All I will say is the Committee of Public Accounts believes it was relevant and had a useful purpose. I take it Bord na gCon paid the full amount for the report-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

-----even though it was not happy with it. I query this. Was a presentation made to the board, apart from the workshop?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

No, not that I am aware of.

Right. Mr. Dollard can see I do not like it and what it is I am suggesting about the idea of two reports being done at the same time. Was the Department involved in drawing up the strategic plan? Was the Department involved in any of the workshops?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Through the code of corporate governance we were obliged-----

I am speaking about the strategic plan that was being worked on in 2017.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We are obliged to send the draft of the strategic plan to the Department under the code of corporate governance and it has 12 weeks to revert on it.

At any stage was anyone from the Department involved in any discussion before the draft was produced? The answer is "No". The first the Department knew was when it got the first draft. I find it confusing that these seemed to have been going on at the same time.

For the record, will Mr. Dollard show me where the costs associated with the Preferred Results report and the strategic plan are shown in the accounts? I am sure they are somewhere on page 28 of the 2017 accounts. Looking at the accounts, I have no idea where the €130,000 plus the extra costs are. Under what heading are they?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The top part of page 21 gives a breakdown of consultancy fees. There is a figure of €153,558 for strategy and organisational restructure. Within this is Preferred Results and the other consultants involved.

The others received €23,000 if Preferred Results received €130,000.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I am not sure. There could be other things in there. I will get details of the breakdown if the Chairman wishes.

That works itself is under consultancy costs. Where is that on page 28?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I imagine it included in legal and professional fees, which has a figure of €654,000.

Will Mr. Dollard give us a breakdown of the rest of the €654,000? We like to know where things land in the accounts. When did Bord na gCon decide to do the Indecon report? This is the third report within a very short period of time.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The Indecon report is with regard to one of the objectives in the strategic plan. The industry footprint needed to be assessed.

When was the tender process and when were the terms of reference drawn up?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It was probably last December. It went out to tender and Indecon was appointed in early 2019. I can check the dates.

That report is due shortly.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes.

Is there a fixed price for it?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes. I believe they gave it earlier. It is €142,500 plus VAT.

That is for the Indecon report.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

There was an earlier Indecon report.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes, in 2014. It was on the greyhound industry.

There is €130,000 for the Preferred Results report, possibly €23,000 for the strategic plan and €142,500 for Indecon. We are up to €300,000 for reports from 2017 to the beginning of 2019. That is great stuff. It is a lot of money. There are three reports involving external consultants on what Bord na gCon does next. Is this management by consultants? Does Bord na gCon get a consultant's report every time it wants to do something? There are four reports, if we include Tandem Consulting and Professor Dermot Duff. Within a short period of time, four different consultants were involved in telling Bord na gCon how to improve its business. Who will have the job of implementing the Indecon report? Will Bord na gCon need external advice on how to implement it? That is normally what happens. Mr. Dollard understands my concern.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do indeed. The only comment I will make is that in 2018 accounts, and the Chairman has the briefing note, consultant fees in total were €97,000. We have been significantly reducing our consultant fees. I accept that on specific items the board felt they were of significant importance and should be done by independent consultants, such as Indecon.

On the figures for 2018, which include the 2017 figures, on page 7 of the briefing note for 2018 there is travel and subsistence for employees amounting to €519,000 and international travel amounting to €533,000. It was approximately the same the previous year. How many staff members were involved in that €533,000?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I do not know the number. I would say the bulk, or significant part, of the travel was by stewards and welfare personnel. We are a national organisation-----

They are employees.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Yes. If a national organisation receives a welfare report someone has to travel out and travel back.

Without me looking at the accounts, does Bord na gCon own motor vehicles? Do people drive Bord na gCon cars or their own?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Through historic arrangements a number of employees have cars provided as part of their terms and conditions.

That is fine. I need a breakdown of this. I was surprised that in excess of €500,000 in travel expenses was paid to employees. I know some staff work on the courses and there are approximately 125 staff. I am sure a large portion of them are office-based and would not be involved in travel to any significant extent. I know Mr. Tuohey is new and perhaps could not possibly know yet but is it made up of 20, 30 or 50 people? There is more than €500,000.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We can get the Chairman the breakdown. If we are running 16 tracks and people must travel, the travel costs will be significant.

I will give Mr. Dollard the breakdown I am looking for. How many staff received less than €5,000? How many staff received between €5,000 and €10,000? How many staff received between €10,000 and €20,000? Mr. Dollard gets the idea.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Bands.

If somebody received €1,000 or €2,000 that is fine. It is a small amount of travel. I am trying to find how many staff are in each band. I am concerned there might be some very high figures. I have no idea. I hope the information will tell us. I am not making any comment but €500,000 looks high. I understand there is travel every weekend to the 1,500 race meetings being held and I give Bord na gCon credit for this.

My next point will be addressed to Mr. Smyth of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Somebody graciously gave us a copy of the legislation on animal welfare that was enacted this year. I asked a question about the Irish Coursing Club. Who runs that organisation? I know it is not under Bord na gCon which is why I am asking the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine representative. Who runs it, because it operates the stud book for dogs?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

My understanding is that it is a private club which does not rely on State funding. Most of its financing comes from the stud book and registration fees.

How is it financed?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

It is financed through its own resources. It does not receive State funding. It relies on the stud book-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Registration fees.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

-----and registration fees.

Registration fees. So it is a not-for-profit organisation.

Is the stud book not managed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

No, the Irish Coursing Club runs the stud book.

Somebody mentioned cattle earlier. Who operates the system for registering cattle?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

The Department runs the animal identification and movement, AIM, system.

In light of the legislation passed in recent months, will the Department run the stud book in future or will this voluntary club, which is not answerable to anybody in this Parliament, continue to do so? A report was commissioned and now I am told that nobody can get to the bottom of it. After all of the legislation being passed, are we going to give responsibility for maintaining the stud book to some private group that is not answerable to anybody?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

The traceability system will be run by Bord na gCon. It will run it centrally.

This is precisely my point. It seems that two bodies will be involved in registering dogs. I get the impression that the Irish Coursing Club will register them when they are born and, at some stage during their career, they will be registered again with Bord na gCon if they show up at a greyhound track. There are 4,000, 5,000, or 6,000 dogs involved in racing and there are 12,000 or 13,000 out there so many will not show up at a track. Why would the Department set up a system involving double registration, once by the Irish Coursing Club and once by Bord na gCon? At what age does a greyhound show up for racing? There is no racetrack in Laois so I am not an expert on this.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

They start racing at 12 to 14 months.

So they will registered by Bord na gCon at 12 or 14 months.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The idea is that-----

Why is there double registration of the same dog? Why are we duplicating work? Why did we pass legislation to allow for duplicate registration? I am asking for the money.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

Mr. Dollard might start with regard to the system.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

There is no double registration. The Irish Coursing Club will take dogs to a certain point and, once somebody decides to race them at a greyhound track, they will move into our system. If the dogs remain as coursing greyhounds, they will stay in the ICC's system. We track racing greyhounds from the time they come into our system until the end of their life.

Why would we set up two tracking systems for dogs? As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, this sounds like a great deal of duplication. Can somebody explain why the Irish taxpayer would want to pay for a tracking system, through the grant given to the Irish Greyhound Board, when the Irish Coursing Club is doing the same thing privately at no cost to the taxpayer?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

The ICC does not have a tracking system. That is one of the issues. There is no traceability or tracking system at present.

Why is the Department not taking on this role? Does it consider this issue so unimportant that it does not even want to take it on? It runs the AIM system for cattle, but it is setting up a system for dogs about which it does not want to know. The ICC could disappear into the ground next year. We have no hold on it.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

We are hoping that the new traceability system will be more comprehensive in that we will have co-ordination between Bord na gCon, the Irish Coursing Club and the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, GBGB. It will, therefore, cover racing dogs, coursing dogs and exports all at the same time. The dogs will be chipped at 12 weeks.

The witnesses can see the weak link in all of this. We are relying on a voluntary organisation which receives no funding from the Department and which is not answerable to it or to the Oireachtas. It gets no public money. We will have the system and will just have to hope this club does its business. We are building our whole system on that foundation. Does Dr. Smyth understand my concern?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

I do.

Can somebody send me a note as to why-----

Could the dog not be registered on the same system from birth until death, the same as other animals?

One registration, like cattle.

Could the Department not look at a system like that used for cattle, bovines?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

There is a welfare requirement. A dog must be 12 weeks old before it can be chipped. They are not supposed to be chipped before that age. I absolutely agree with the Chairman, however. The purpose of the system is to cover all life events from when a dog is born until it is exported, moves to a retirement home or dies. The whole idea of the system is to cover those events.

Why can the system not be under the control of the Department? It should be. There is no point coming back in three years and saying that the Irish Coursing Club disbanded in a row and that nobody can do anything because the whereabouts of the records are not known. The club is not under the remit of the Department, is it?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

It is not.

The Department is handing this whole process over to an entity over which nobody in this Parliament has any control. This issue is important. Did we learn anything from that programme? I am being hard on the witnesses. I am approaching this based on how I see it and I may be getting it all wrong but, listening to the logic, I cannot understand why an organisation under the remit of the Department cannot take over the chipping of the dog at 12 weeks and then tick a box if it races or a different box if it goes somewhere else? Why does the Department have to get such information transferred from this club? I want a detailed briefing on the Irish Coursing Club from the Department and an explanation as to how the Committee of Public Accounts can be satisfied with and stand over the process from when dogs are chipped at 12 weeks, as the Irish Greyhound Board will rely on this system.

It is a matter of traceability.

It is a voluntary club. That is daft. Am I missing something? Will somebody tell me I have got it all wrong?

Mr. Gerard Dollard

It is a voluntary club but-----

What role does this club have in the system that allows it to get itself stitched into legislation? It is mentioned in section after section; I have the legislation in front of me. We are giving it power but we have no control over it.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

To return to the history, the Irish Coursing Club existed before Bord na gCon was created in legislation in 1958. As a result of its previous existence, it took on the statutory role of keeper of the Irish stud book. It has that role under legislation.

Mr. Dollard has spent the last three hours telling us that it did not do the job properly and that the Preferred Results report could not rely on its figures.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

I did not say that.

Mr. Dollard has spent three hours telling us that the system in place is not fit for purpose-----

Mr. Gerard Dollard

Absolutely.

-----and that it could not be relied upon. He is now saying that the rationale for letting the club continue operating the system is that it has always done so. If it was not doing a good job, it should not be in the equation.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

In law, it has a statutory role as keeper of the Irish stud book.

I said "if" it was not doing a good job. Mr. Dollard seems to believe that it cannot provide any remotely reliable evidence for the industry. He said they were assumptions made by the company, Preferred Results limited. There is nothing that could be relied upon.

Mr. Gerard Dollard

We are saying the existing systems are not fit for purpose and that the Irish Greyhound Board, which has responsibility for racing greyhounds, wants a traceability system for racing greyhounds. We are not saying that the Irish----

I believe the Department should run such a system itself rather than rely on a voluntary club. There is no accountability.

There are thousands of dogs out there that are not registered at all.

Will Dr. Smyth send us a detailed note on why this system is proposed, who will operate it and how the Oireachtas can be satisfied that this new process is the right way to go? He has said the Department is at the final stages of drafting statutory instruments and that it will probably be moving on soon. He has to convince us and satisfy us that this is a verifiable, safe process for the State to be involved in. That is all I have to say. He will send us a note. I remain to be convinced. I need a detailed note.

Dr. Kevin Smyth

We will send the Chairman a note and give him full details of the-----

Does Dr. Smyth understand my concern?

Dr. Kevin Smyth

I understand it fully.

I am a layman in this area so I can understand if I am not getting it right. We will wait and see.

I thank the witnesses from Bord na gCon and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for their attendance and the information provided today. I thank also the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff.

Is it agreed that the clerk to the committee will seek any follow up information and carry out any agreed actions arising from the meeting? Agreed.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Chairman, Deputy Kelly asked whether the Irish National Accreditation Board, INAB, was a public body and was subject to audit. It is actually a committee of the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, and so the expenses associated with that board go through the Health and Safety Authority.

I thank Mr. McCarthy for clarifying that matter.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

I have supplied the information to the Deputy.

That is even better again. It is on the record. The meeting is adjourned until Thursday, 26 September 2019 when we will meet the Data Protection Commissioner on the commission's financial statements for 2018.

The witnesses withdrew.
The committee adjourned at 3 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 26 September 2019.