Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Tuesday, 11 October 2011


1.1 Apologies were received from Pat Ramsey MLA.


2.1 There were no declarations of interests.



3.1 SARC members welcomed the Comptroller and Auditor General’s clean audit opinion for the NI Assembly’s Resource Account 2010-11 and noted that no report on the accounts was required.

3.2 Trevor Reaney and Stephen McCormick set the scene for SARC members in relation to the discussions and debate that had taken place between the NI Audit Office and the NI Assembly Secretariat on comments and recommendations contained within the Report to those charged with Governance, and the management responses thereto.  The additional meeting of SARC had been arranged to consider the final NIAO report.

3.3 Stephen McCormick then outlined the rationale to the NI Audit Office approach and took SARC members through the report in detail in relation to the various issues raised – Members’ costs and expenses; Procurement compliance; Ormiston House; budget pressures; Office Cost Expenditure; Free issues to Members; Speaker’s car; North South Parliamentary Forum Conference; Broadcasting contract; Print contract; Procurement card expenditure; and the Statement of Internal Control.

3.4 In relation to NIAO comments about the Assembly Secretariat’s annual Procurement Compliance Report, it was acknowledged that it was a matter for SARC members to decide as to whether the report should be tabled at SARC along with the draft Resource Accounts each June.  It was agreed that this would be an agenda item for consideration at the next SARC meeting in December 2011.


3.5  On NIAO comments to the effect that confidentiality clauses should not be used “unless in exceptional circumstances this proves to be unavoidable”, it was acknowledged that this involved a difficult judgement to be made.  It was agreed that the Accounting Officer should consider exploring the issues involved further with the Assembly Commission, SARC and the Comptroller and Auditor General.


3.6  In relation to discussions on how to handle any future anonymous allegations (including those of a financial nature), SARC members were of the view that a policy should be developed and agreed with the Assembly Commission.


3.7  Stephen McCormick thanked SARC members for holding an additional meeting to consider the matters raised in the Report to those charged with Governance.  SARC members noted that both the NIAO and the Secretariat had a good understanding of each other’s position on the small number of matters raised on which there were differing views.  These points would be given further consideration by the Secretariat and the Committee.

3.8 Colm McKenna and Trevor Reaney thanked Stephen McCormick for the support and help he had given in the establishing and functioning of SARC and wished him well in his new duties at the NIAO.

3.9 As agreed at the SARC meeting on 6 September 2011, the next scheduled meeting of SARC will take place on Friday 9 December 2011 at 9.30 am in Room 106, Parliament Buildings.


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