Apologies have been received from Deputy Carroll MacNeill. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, is a permanent witness to the committee. I ask members and all in attendance to exercise personal responsibility to protect themselves and others from the risk of Covid-19. I strongly advise that one vacant seat be left between those attending the meeting physically, that hand sanitisers be used and that appropriate social distancing be maintained during and after the meeting. Masks should be worn, except when speaking. I ask people to co-operate with these measures.
Members participating remotely must continue to do so from within the precincts of Leinster House. This is due to the constitutional requirement that, to participate in public meetings, members must be physically present within the confines of the place where Parliament has chosen to sit.
This morning we engage with officials from the Department of Transport to examine the appropriation account for Vote 31, chapter 5 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's accounts re expenditure on night vision imaging technology and training for search and rescue and the Comptroller and Auditor General's special report 113 on procurement of vehicles by the Irish Coast Guard. The 2020 motor tax account is also on the agenda, and other areas of interest to the committee include expenditure on MetroLink, DART, BusConnects, and the all-Ireland strategic rail review. After lunch we will consider correspondence and other business of the committee.
We are joined remotely from outside the precincts of Leinster House by the following officials from the Department of Transport: Mr. Ken Spratt, Secretary General; Ms Deirdre O’Keeffe, assistant secretary; Mr. Fintan Towey, assistant secretary; Mr. Eugene Clonan, acting director, Irish Coast Guard; Mr. Garret Doocey, principal officer; and Mr. Dominic Mullaney, principal adviser. We are also joined remotely from outside the precincts of Leinster House by Ms Niamh Callaghan, principal officer, Transport Vote section, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Everyone is welcome. When we begin to engage, I ask members and witnesses to mute themselves when not contributing so we do not pick up background noise or feedback and, as usual, I remind all those attending to ensure that their mobile phones are on silent mode or switched off.
Before we start, I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege, and the practice of the Houses as regards references speakers may make to other persons in their evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the precincts of Leinster House is protected pursuant to both the Constitution and statute by absolute privilege. However, today's witnesses are giving evidence remotely from a place outside Leinster House's precincts and, as such, may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as those physically present. Witnesses have already been advised of this and may have thought it appropriate to take legal advice on the matter.
Members are reminded of the provisions in Standing Order 218 that the committee shall refrain from enquiring 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 reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person outside the House or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
To assist our broadcasting service and the Debates Office, I ask that members direct their questions to a specific witness. If the question has not been directed to a specific witness, I ask each witness to state his or her name the first time that he or she contributes.
I call the Comptroller and Auditor General to make his opening statement.