Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Ceisteanna (87)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

87. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to amend the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 in order that the investment funds for wards of court can be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General as recommended by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice in its wards of court report. [10277/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Constitution provides that there shall be a Comptroller and Auditor General to control on behalf of the State all disbursements and to audit all accounts of moneys administered by or under the authority of the Oireachtas and that the terms and conditions of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General shall be determined by law.

Under the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act, 1993, the Comptroller and Auditor General is empowered to perform the audit of accounts of moneys administered by or under the control of the Oireachtas. Section 5(1)(a) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 expressly excludes the C&AG from auditing a fund under the control of the courts. 

On foot of the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee advices were sought by the Department of Justice and Equality from the Office of the Attorney General as to whether there are any constitutional impediments that may arise in the context of any measure to give legislative effect to the Comptroller and Auditor General auditing moneys held in trust by the courts for wards of court.

The Attorney General’s Office has advised that the proposal is incompatible with the Constitution. What the Constitution contemplates is the Comptroller and Auditor General's oversight in respect of public funds alone. The legislative proposal at issue contemplates the Comptroller and Auditor General's oversight in respect of wardship funds, funds administered under the authority of the courts. The courts are independent in the exercise of their functions, and wardship funds are not public funds. There is thus no constitutional sanction for the legislative proposal.

On the basis of advice received from the Office of the Attorney General, I have no plans to amend the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act, 1993 to provide that the investment funds of wards of court can be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General.