We are joined by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, who is a permanent witness. He is joined by Ms Maureen Mulligan, deputy director of audit.
No apologies have been received. We are holding the minutes over until the next meeting and there are no matters arising from the minutes.
The next item on the agenda is correspondence. The first category is A, briefing documents and opening statements for today's meeting. We will note and publish Nos. 2536 and 2537 from the Courts Service regarding briefing documents and opening statements.
The next category is B, correspondence from Accounting Officers and-or Ministers and follow-up to PAC meetings and other items for publishing. The first two items, Nos. 2476 and 2538, are from Professor Phillip Nolan, President, Maynooth University, dated 17 October and 8 November 2019. The first item includes a request for further information in regard to an anonymous query we had written to the university about. We received an anonymous query and we indicated the last day we would send that to the university for comment. After the meeting, we looked at it again and we summarised the contents because it was felt that if we gave the anonymous correspondence directly to the university, the correspondent might be identifiable within the university, and we felt that might not be appropriate. We gave the university a summary of the key points and it is coming back to us for more information. We will give it as much as we can but I want to hold back on giving it the original documentation because the person might be identifiable within the college. The university says that, based on what it has received so far, it cannot trace the particular issues. In any event, we will provide any additional information we can.
The second item is a response to our queries following correspondence which raised a number of concerns. The following information is provided by the university: the university’s current risk register, as well as any internal or external reviews or audits of this conducted in the past three years, and this is quite an extensive document from the professor; the final accounts in regard to Innovation Value Services Limited, which we have discussed and which is the organisation that went into liquidation; details of occasional staff in receipt of payments for one year, two years, three years, four years and more than four years; and an information note on the research and knowledge transfer plans for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Professor Nolan states that the services referenced were procured in accordance with and satisfy all legal requirements and guidelines as set down in the university's procurement policy. The monetary value of the engagements referenced are under the threshold for a national tendering process system and, accordingly, contracts were awarded on the basis of quotations sought from suppliers of the relevant services. We will note and publish this.
The reason we are asking this of every organisation is that we are looking at the issue of non-compliance with public procurement guidelines. It is a matter of form. We will be issuing this to every organisation which has submitted 2018 accounts. In the meantime, there are a number of Votes - perhaps five or six - that are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General where non-procurement issues are listed. We will not get to some of those until well into next year. With the secretariat and the Comptroller and Auditor General, we will look at the annual report and identify those five, six, seven or other number of Votes and, next week or as soon as possible, we will agree a letter to each of those Accounting Officers. We want to complete everything that has been published. Those accounts have already been laid in the Oireachtas and published. Even though we do not get to interview the witnesses at this stage, in advance of that we want to get information in regard to non-compliance with public procurement. We will want to include that topic in a report next year so we will do advance work on it.
There is a lot of information on what are called in the document "occasional hourly payments". There is comprehensive information on the number of staff and on the number of registered students who have been in the system for occasional payments for over four years, which is 126, as well as the range of payments. We asked for the amounts paid to the 158 staff in the six months up to 30 March 2019 where those staff had been engaged over more than four years. One staff member was paid over €20,000 in that six-month period when we are talking about "occasional hourly payments". It seems to be a pattern, which was the purpose of Deputy Catherine Murphy's query. As to how widespread it is, the university has given us the information in regard to people being employed on what it calls "occasional hourly payments". They are not temporary or part-time; they just come and go, and it is a case of, "We will call you when it suits. Here is the hourly rate.". However, for some people, that arrangement seems to be continuing for a period of time. We will note and publish that. I am sure Deputy Murphy will want to comment.