Okay. We will begin by recapping what happened last week when we had six or seven items to deal with. The issues raised by members are at various stages of being addressed. We had hoped to have the legal adviser to the Oireachtas present today, but she is required at an ongoing case in the High Court. She intends to be here next week. We also contacted the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance. While the Ministers were anxious to attend today, the Cabinet is meeting this morning and they will now attend next week's meeting. Because of the bank holiday weekend, they cannot attend this morning. We intend to have a couple of meetings next week and perhaps we might discuss that issue at the end of the meeting.
I want to summarise the key issues raised by members last week and if they want to add to or amend anything, they should feel free to do so. The issues raised were as follows: No. 1, how can the committee engage in the budgetary process and what information will be made available to it and what window of opportunity will be available to consider the issues involved? No. 2 is how can the committee influence budgetary decision-making and how will the sectoral committees work with the budgetary oversight committee? No. 3 is what can we learn from other jurisdictions to assist the framework being put in place by this committee? No. 4 is that we need to address, if possible, the issue of proposals from Opposition parties and groups that involve a charge on the Exchequer and consider how they can be costed. No. 5 is that we need to consider how we can bring transparency to policy proofing, whether it be equality, poverty or the impact on regions and regional development. No. 6 is that we need to consider what resources will be available to assist the Oireachtas and, in particular, how the new parliamentary budget office will assist this committee in its deliberations.
We will examine items Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, in more detail today. Since our last meeting the Government has submitted its reform package which has been designed to empower the Dáil to influence and critique budget allocations and priorities. Before we discuss these two issues with the two Ministers and their officials, it is important that we consider and view them against the submission documentation prepared by the secretariat, in particular paper No. 2, which was submitted prior to the first meeting of the committee last week. The points I made in my short submission to the committee relate to obtaining key information for the committee in a timely manner, including the advice notes given to Ministers by Secretaries General and the Government by the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. This is also an attempt to address the concerns expressed by Deputy Eamon Ryan last week that we have a meaningful input into the preparation of the upcoming budget.
Two issues arise today where I see the committee having a larger role. The first is the assessment of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council of the Government's spring economic statement which deals with the potential fiscal space. Second, it has been reported that in the Revised Estimates being considered by the Cabinet today a number of Votes will provide for revised expenditure ceilings. They are to do with Garda overtime, Department of Health overruns and hospital overcrowding. The new budgetary oversight committee needs to be central to dealing with and on top of these issues. I appreciate that the delays in the formation of the Government and the absence of sectoral committees make this year an outlier. However, the issues highlighted need better oversight.
We have written to the Ceann Comhairle following last week's long discussion about the setting up of the parliamentary budget office and also, following Deputy Eamon Ryan's suggestion, on the issue of the sectoral committees which, once established, should immediately commence discussion of matters to do with budget preparation in their sectors.
Today we will work on two key elements - engagement points and the role of the committee. The clerk's note provides an outline of proposals to be dealt with in our next two meetings.
Before we deal with specific issues today, have members any comments to make arising from last week's meeting or in respect of our draft work programme? Are there other groups and organisations that we need to hear from or to whom we should write to seek submissions in the short term?