Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Venue: Room 144

1. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. All Members declared an interest in relation to Item 4 relating to OCE matters. Mrs Cochrane also declared that she had a family member who rents premises to an MLA.

2. MINUTES

The minutes of the 31 May 2011 were agreed without amendment. The Clerk/Director General drew Members attention to Item 11 of the minute of 31 May 2011 in relation to Business Efficiency Reviews and highlighted that there was now a pilot exercise to explore the use of electronic meeting packs for Committee meetings. The Commission endorsed this approach and agreed to take part in the pilot exercise.

The minutes of the 21 June 2011 were agreed without amendment.

3. SARC ANNUAL REPORT 2010/11

Mr A McQuillan, Chairman of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC) presented the SARC Annual Report for 2010/2011 which described the role of the Committee in supporting the corporate governance arrangements in the Assembly Secretariat.

Mr McQuillan reported that the overall level of assurance in 2010/2011 was ‘Satisfactory’ and that the Committee continues to enjoy excellent working relationships with the Commission, the Clerk/Director General, Directors, Internal Audit and the NI Audit Office.

Mr McQuillan highlighted that in the current year, SARC will focus on:

  • further improving the rapid implementation of audit recommendations;
  • adapting to changes emerging from the work of the Independent Financial Review Panel;
  • continuing to work with the SMG on key risk areas; and
  • supporting the Commission and SMG to meet the challenges of declining budgets and the desire to improve services to MLAs and the public.

Mr McQuillan also informed the Commission that the accounts had been signed off and would now issue to the Auditor General for his approval.

The Clerk/Director General highlighted that a review of the FAPP Scheme would be undertaken in the coming year.

Mr B McElduff joined the meeting.

The Commission in association with the Clerk/Director General expressed their appreciation to Mr McQuillan, Mr McKenna, Mr Pat Ramsey and Mr Moutray for their work and opinions given during the course of the year.

4. IMPLEMENTATION OF REVISED FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR MEMBERS HANDBOOK.

Mrs J Cochrane joined the meeting.

The Clerk Director General provided the Commission with a background relating to the implementation of the recommendations in the Commission Report on Financial Support and Pensions for MLAs which was agreed by the Assembly in December 2010.

The Commission considered the implementation of the revised Financial Support for Members Handbook and in particular a number of matters that had arisen in relation to process of obtaining independent valuations of constituency offices. Following discussion, Members considered a range of options to progress the matters and highlighted their commitment to seek resolution as soon as possible to ensure that all newly appointed Members have access to suitable constituency office properties at the earliest opportunity.

It was agreed that the Commission would convene a further meeting at an early opportunity to discuss the issues and seek a resolution.

Mr McElduff left the meeting to take part in the Adjournment Debate.

5. PRESENTATION ON ROOF PROJECT

Mr H Widdis left the meeting.

Mr D Lynn and Mr W Boyd joined the meeting.

The Speaker welcomed Mr Walter Boyd from Central Procurement Division and Mr D Lynn, Building Services Manager to the meeting to deliver a PowerPoint presentation in relation to the roof project. The Director of Facilities provided a brief overview to the topic, reminding Members that the Commission had in March 2011 given approval to proceed with the development of an outline scheme design for a long term solution to the ongoing roof problems at Parliament Buildings.

Mr McElduff re-joined the meeting.

Mr Cree left the meeting.

Mr Boyd then provided a presentation to the Commission highlighting the principal issues, location and types of problems associated with the roof area. Mr Boyd then presented proposals relating to the repair scheme, including sustainable design initiatives and possible accommodation design strategies.

The Commission sought clarification in relation to the level of disruption which would be caused if the works progressed and Mr Welch assured Members that a clearer understanding of impact on staff and services would be obtained with the development of a detailed design.

Following discussions in relation to the timescale and indicative costs, the Commission agreed to proceed with the appointment of a design team as detailed within the paper.

Mr D Lynn and Mr W Boyd left the meeting.

6. SUPPORT SERVICES CONTRACT

Mr S Mingout joined the meeting.

The Speaker welcomed Mr Mingout, Support Services Contract Manager to the meeting. Mr Welch provided the Commission with an overview of the issues relating to the rationale for the business case for the tendering of the support services contract used by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mr Mingout took Members through the detail of the business case, highlighting the key requirements of the contract. Members noted the complexity of the contract across support services and the cost elements associated in the indicative forecast.

The Clerk/Director General highlighted the amount of work which had gone into drawing the business case together along with the need and flexibility for the provision of support services at a time of budget pressures. Mr Welch also highlighted that there was discussions at the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee regarding the provision of external assurance on the procurement elements of the exercise.

Following further discussion, the Commission agreed the recommendations within the Business Case for the Support Services Contract tender.

Mr S Mingout left the meeting.

Mr R Stewart left the meeting.

7. FRONT RAMPED ACCESS

Mr Welch reminded Members that they had agreed to proceed in February 2011 with an initial application for planning approval for one front ramped access to the east side of the frontage of Parliament Buildings. Mr Welch informed the Commission that following consultation with representatives from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), they had indicated that they would not be content for the application to proceed on the basis of one ramp.

Following consideration in relation to the disruption and associated costs, the Commission agreed to proceed with an application for planning approval for ramped access to both sides of the front entrance to Parliament Buildings.

8. ASSEMBLY MEMBERS (IFRS) ACT

Mr P Gill joined the meeting.

The Speaker welcomed Mr Gill, Clerk to the Standards and Privileges Committee to the meeting. Mr Gill provided the Commission with the detail of the arrangements for appointing the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards.

Following consideration the Commission agreed the process for appointing the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards by fair and open competition. The Commission further agreed that responsibility for determining any criteria for the appointment of Commissioner should be delegated to the selection panel and that the Commissioner be paid an annual fee of £3800 plus a daily rate of £380.

Mr P Gill left the meeting.

Mr P Weir left the meeting.

9. DRAFT EQUALITY SCHEME

Mr J Gilsenan joined the meeting.

The Speaker welcomed Mr Gilsenan, the acting Equality Manager to the meeting. Mr Gilsenan provided information in relation to the development of the 2011 Northern Ireland Assembly Equality Scheme and associated actions required to achieve compliance with statutory obligations under current Equality Legislation.

Following consideration the Commission approved the draft revised equality scheme and accompanying audit of inequalities as suitable for consultation and submission to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

Mr J Gilsenan left the meeting.

10. ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Mr McQuillan left the meeting.

10.1 The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that he had received written acceptance from Mr Pat McCartan for the position of Chair of the Independent Financial Review Panel and was awaiting final written confirmation from Dr Etta Campbell for the position of Panel Member.

The Clerk/Director General also advised the Commission that following discussions with Mr A McQuillan, he had accepted the position of Panel Member and would be resigning from his post of Chair of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee. The Commission agreed that to facilitate the conclusion of an on-going programme of work and to ensure a smooth transition to the new post, Mr McQuillan should be advised of a suitable resignation date of mid-July. It was further agreed that Mr C McKenna should be appointed as the interim Chair of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee until a new Chair was appointed through open recruitment.

10.2 Mr Ramsey highlighted that he had recently experienced difficulties with accessing meeting accommodation for visitors with disabilities. It was agreed that Mr Welch would clarify with usher/security staff the reasons for the difficulties experienced.

11. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

The next Commission meeting will take place on Tuesday 27 September 2011 at 4.00pm in Room 106.

Meeting ended at 6.45pm

Tony Logue
Head of Commission and Corporate Support Unit

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