Deputy MacSharry wishes to record his apologies, however, he may be able to join us.
I welcome everyone to our online meeting. Due to the current situation regarding Covid-19, only the clerk, support staff and I are in the committee room. Members of the committee are attending remotely from within the precincts of Leinster House. This is due to the constitutional requirement that, in order to participate in public meetings, Members must be physically present within the confines of the place where Parliament has chosen to sit, namely Leinster House or the Convention Centre Dublin. I will ask members to confirm their location before contributing to ensure we are adhering to this constitutional requirement.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, is a permanent witness to the committee and is attending remotely.
Before we begin our public engagement, we considered the minutes of our meetings of 11 and 16 February at our private meeting last week. Standing Order 107(3) requires that the minutes are agreed in public session. Are the minutes agreed? Agreed. As previously agreed, the minutes will be published on the committee’s web page.
Today we engage with officials from the Office of Government Procurement to examine the 2019 Appropriation Accounts for Vote 39 - Office of Government Procurement. We are joined remotely from within the precincts of Leinster House by Mr. David Moloney, acting Secretary General, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr. Paul Quinn, chief procurement officer, Office of Government Procurement, and Mr. David O’Brien, principal officer, Office of Government Procurement. I welcome them to the meeting and thank them and their staff for the briefing material they prepared for the committee.
I ask members and witnesses to mute themselves when not contributing to avoid background noise or feedback. I also ask that they use the button to raise their hand when they wish to contribute and then put it down. I also remind all those in attendance to ensure their mobile phones are on silent mode or switched off.
Before starting, I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege, and the practice of the Houses as regards reference you may make to other person in your evidence. As they are within the precincts of Leinster House, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentation they make to the committee. This means that they have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they say at the meeting. However, they are expected not to abuse this privilege and it is my duty as Chair to ensure that this privilege is not abused. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that witnesses comply with any such direction.
Witnesses should also be aware of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity, by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity.
Members are reminded of the provisions within Standing Order 218 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.
Members are also reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
To assist our broadcasting and debates services, I ask that Members direct their questions to a specific witness. If the question has not been directed to a specific witness, I would ask the witness to state their name the first time they contribute.
I now call on the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, for his opening statement.