I move amendment No. 82:
In page 21, before section 19, to insert the following new section:
19.—(1) An awarding authority may appoint a member of its staff or, with the consent of another awarding authority, a member of staff of that other awarding authority to be an inquiry officer for the purposes of this section.
(2) Every inquiry officer appointed under this section shall be furnished with a warrant of appointment and shall, when exercising any power conferred on him or her by this section, if requested by a person affected, produce to that person the warrant of appointment or a copy of it and a form of personal identification.
(3) An appointment under this section as an inquiry officer shall cease—
(a) if the awarding authority revokes the appointment,
(b) if the appointment is for a fixed period, on the expiry of that period, or
(c) if the person appointed ceases to be an officer of the awarding authority.
(4) An inquiry officer shall investigate and may, and if so directed by the awarding authority shall, make interim reports, and, on the conclusion of the inquiry shall make a final report to the awarding authority in relation to—
(a) an application for a grant, or
(b) any question arising on or in relation to a grant, which may be referred to him or her by the awarding authority.
(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in subsection (4) an inquiry officer may, at any time in the course of the investigation, without the necessity of making an interim report, inform the awarding authority of matters coming to his or her knowledge as a result of the inquiry tending to show that an offence has been committed.
(6) A student who receives or is to receive a payment in respect of a grant, or an applicant shall—
(a) produce to an inquiry officer all books, documents and other records concerning any question arising on or in relation to the grant or application for a grant that are in his or her possession, under his or her control or within his or her procurement,
(b) attend before an inquiry officer, and
(c) give to an inquiry officer all assistance in connection with the investigation which he or she is reasonably capable of giving, when required to do so by an inquiry officer.
(7) If an inquiry officer considers that a person (other than a student who receives or is to receive a payment in respect of a grant or an applicant) is or may be in possession of information concerning any question arising on or in relation to the grant or the application for the grant concerned the inquiry officer may require that person to—
(a) produce to him or her all books, documents and other records relating to the grant or application concerned that are in his or her possession, under his or her control or within his or her procurement,
(b) attend before him or her, and
(c) give to him or her all assistance in connection with the investigation which he or she is reasonably capable of giving.
(8) An inquiry officer may examine on oath an applicant, a student who receives or is to receive a grant, or a person referred to in subsection (7), in relation to an application for a grant and may administer an oath accordingly.
(9) A person who contravenes this section or who fails to comply with a requirement under this section is guilty of an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
(10) A statement or admission made by a person pursuant to a requirement under this section shall not be admissible in evidence in proceedings brought against that person for an offence (other than for an offence under this section).
(11) In proceedings brought against a person for an offence under this section consisting of a failure by him or her to produce a book, document or other record it shall be a defence for the person to prove that the book, document or other record was not in his or her possession, under his or her control or within his or her procurement when he or she was required to produce it and that at that time it was not reasonably practicable for him or her to comply with the requirement.
(12) Nothing in this section shall operate to require a person to produce to an inquiry officer books, documents or other records, or to provide any information, that he or she would be entitled to refuse to produce or provide on the grounds of legal professional privilege or authorise the taking of possession of any such books, documents or records.
(13) The expenses of and incidental to an investigation by an inquiry officer shall be paid by the awarding authority concerned.
(14) Where a person is—
(a) convicted on indictment of an offence in proceedings for an offence, or
(b) ordered to pay sums to an awarding authority in proceedings under section 21(3),
brought as a consequence of an investigation under this section the court in those proceedings may order the person to pay to the awarding authority such sum as it shall specify not exceeding any amount paid by the awarding authority under subsection (13) in respect of that investigation.”.
It is proposed to amend in its entirety section 19 which provides for the appointment of inquiry officers to carry out investigations under the Act. The amended section seeks to set out more clearly the duties of an inquiry officer, the obligations regarding production of documentation concerning a grant application and related matters. In particular, the amended version places substantially more emphasis on the provision of relevant documentation or records to an inquiry officer rather than immediate recourse to a hearing. This is considered to be a more practical approach and is likely to be more efficient. If the circumstances warrant, an inquiry officer may still call witnesses to a hearing.
Amendment No. 83 provides for a more standard approach to outlining the actions and omissions that may be deemed an offence in relation to applications for student grants.