The Committee of Public Accounts recently published its periodic report covering the period September 2017 to October 2017. Following Tusla's appearance before it on 19 October 2017 in respect of the examination of its 2016 financial statement, the committee made a number of recommendations. These covered the following areas: ensuring that service level agreements are in place for 100% of grant-funded agencies; ensuring that current weaknesses relating to procurement are addressed; ensuring that timelines are established for the implementation of an action plan with An Garda Síochána to improve inter-agency co-operation in the area of child protection; and ensuring that Tusla supports An Garda Síochána in implementing recommendations in a timely manner.
When I issued the performance statement, which is a statutory communication from the Minister to Tusla, in November 2017, I brought specific attention to similar concerns. I also requested early progress on the research being commissioned and managed by Tusla regarding actions taken following the invoking of section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991 by An Garda Síochána.
Officials from my Department requested a written update from Tusla on 1 February 2018 with regard to the specific recommendations contained in the committee’s periodic report. Tusla provides grant-aided funding to 986 separate organisations. These include national organisations in receipt of over €7 million annually, as well as organisations in receipt of less than €1,000 per annum. Tusla has confirmed that it has put in place processes to achieve better compliance on the part of grant-aided organisations. It has, however, also identified that it will take some time to achieve 100% compliance in this area.
Tusla is making progress in improving its procurement arrangements. This will assist with proper planning and evaluation of Tusla’s requirements and will facilitate timely and appropriate procurement exercises to be carried out, ensuring good governance and value for money. In addition, a procurement training programme is being implemented for key personnel. I will deal with the audit by Dr. Shannon, special rapporteur on child protection, in later questions but I am pleased to confirm we have had substantial engagement with key stakeholders on his key recommendations.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The special rapporteur on child protection, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, made a number of recommendations and I am working with the special rapporteur and Tusla to ensure that they be fully implemented.
I will be dealing with the audit by Dr. Shannon in detail in later questions. I am pleased to confirm, however, that I have had substantial engagement with the key stakeholders on Dr. Shannon’s recommendations. This has included visits to locations recommended by the special rapporteur and others in order to develop a model so that children who are sexually abused receive more child-friendly services.
The Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, also accompanied our delegation, which comprised personnel from my Department, the Department of Justice and Equality, Tusla and An Garda Síochána, on these visits.
I will continue to work to progress the various recommendations in Dr. Shannon’s report.