The whole principle of this Bill is contained in Section 2. As we believe it would be a disastrous thing for the Dáil to agree to, we want to remind the House of the principle which is involved in this Bill and the dangers inherent in it. If anyone, having heard our criticism of the Bill on the Second Reading Stage, took pains to read up the Constitution he would find that Article 62 is as follows:
"Dail Eireann shall appoint a Comptroller and Auditor-General to act on behalf of the Irish Free State/Saorstát Eireann. He shall control all disbursements and shall audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas and shall report to Dáil Eireann at stated periods to be determined by law."
Now, the Comptroller and Auditor-General in this case, if we pass this Bill, is not to be allowed to see the documents upon which the proper audit of the accounts of the Department of Defence depends. He is going to be prevented from seeing any records showing the services rendered by the individual pensioners, whether the service had, in fact, been given in a military way, or the duration of the service. If we come to the powers set out in the Bill to be given to the Department of Defence, there is no reason in the world why we should not in the future be asked to give similar powers to the Minister for Finance, to the President, to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health or to anybody else.
In this Bill we are definitely precluding the Comptroller and Auditor-General from seeing all the accounts which are necessary to enable him to make a proper audit. In the future, some other Minister may have the impudence to come along and ask the Dáil to agree to pass his Estimates and pass his accounts without the Comptroller and Auditor-General going into them. The principle of democratic Government would indicate that the Comptroller and Auditor-General has the right to see all accounts and audit them in a proper manner. The Comptroller and Auditor-General is not a creature of the Ministry, and he is not appointed by the Ministry. He is appointed by the Dáil to look after the Ministry. The Ministry do not furnish the funds which they handle. The funds are provided by the people, and the people have appointed representatives who, in their turn, have appointed the Comptroller and Auditor-General to look after the disbursement of public funds by the Ministry. And we, in this instance, give authority to the Pensions Board to pay out sums without being subject to the authority of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
Deputies who were present during the Second Reading Stage will remember that the Minister took very little trouble to reply to the allegations that were made, that the payment of these pensions was rather to provide future political services for Cumann na nGaedheal than to reward past military services. In proof of that, the members of the Fianna Fáil Party produced evidence, as far as they were allowed to produce evidence under the ruling of An Ceann Comhairle. However, without mentioning names—and they were precluded from mentioning names—they brought forward certain cases within their own knowledge showing that the persons who had been awarded pensions had not given the services required, or that they had not served during the prescribed period. Deputy G. Boland mentioned one case of a man whom he discovered on the list of pensioners, drawing a pension for services during the Black and Tan War, and he proved from his own knowledge that this man gave no services at all during the Black and Tan War. Deputies must remember also that it was almost impossible for the Finna Fáil Deputies to examine the cases adequately.
A couple of years ago we asked for a list of the pensioners. We pressed for that list, and all we got was a long list of names—just the names of the pensioners, the amounts received, but no further particulars whatsoever other than the county in which the man resided. It was impossible for anyone who wanted to find out how public funds were spent to locate the pensioners. There are thousands of people of the same name in any county given in the list of pensions. There were cases which Deputies located. Deputy Ward discovered some cases in his constituency where the pensioners did not receive their pensions until the period between the June and September elections, 1927. We all know the delicate situation that existed in Monaghan as far as the Cumann na nGaedheal Party were concerned, between the June and September elections in 1927. Ministers made no effort to prove that the giving of these pensions at that time had any relation to the position of the Minister for Finance (Mr. Blythe) in the County Monaghan. I would like if the Ministers would give some explanation to the Dáil as to why if these men were entitled to pensions in 1927 they did not receive them four years previously? I would like to know why it took them until 1927, when the Minister for Finance was in a tight corner in Monaghan, to discover that these men were entitled to pensions? It is a ridiculous thing to ask the Dáil to pass moneys which have been used by the Cumann na nGaedheal Party to secure their political power here in this country. I hope the Dáil will have sense enough not to sanction such a proposal.