Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 04 July 2012

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

2:02 pm The meeting opened in public session.

1.  Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Minutes of the meeting on 20 June 2012

Agreed: The minutes of the last meeting were agreed. 

2:05 pm Mr Anderson entered the meeting.

3. Matters Arising

Northern Ireland Housing Executive Accounts

The Committee agreed to consider this item in closed session.

Correspondence re Jobs and Benefits Office

The Committee noted correspondence from a member of the public highlighting concerns relating to the quality of training being provided to jobseeker’s and issues relating to entitlement to jobseekers allowance.

Agreed:   The Committee agreed given that the matter is outside its remit, to acknowledge the correspondence and to highlight the general point on the quality of training sessions to the Committee for Employment and Learning.

Correspondence re Belfast Metropolitan College

The Committee noted further whistle-blower correspondence relating to an issue previously considered by the Committee.

The C&AG briefed the Committee on the current status of his investigation.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to note the correspondence and await further updates from the C&AG.

Correspondence re Belfast Metropolitan College

The Committee noted whistle-blower correspondence sent to the Northern Ireland Audit Office highlighting concerns relating to Health and Safety issues and recruitment competitions at Belfast Metropolitan College.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to acknowledge the correspondence and review any subsequent issues highlighted by C&AG when the findings of the Department of Employment and Learning and the Health and Safety Executive investigations have been completed.

Correspondence from the Comptroller and Auditor General

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General, Northern Ireland Audit Office updating his findings on a matter previously referred by the Committee relating to the destruction of a Rath in Waringstown.

The C&AG undertook to provide some additional information for reference relating to the destruction of files.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the C&AG’s letter to the member of the public who first brought this matter to its attention.

2:21 pm Mr Dallat entered the meeting.

Correspondence from the Audit Committee

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Danny Kinahan, Chairperson of the Audit Committee detailing its position regarding the accountability mechanisms for the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

PAC Debate

The Committee noted a copy of the Hansard following its take note debate on 26 June 2012.

Agreed:  In view of the position articulated by the Minister in relation to non-provision of clarification of the MORs on NI Water (performance and procurement governance); adult literacy and numeracy; and quality of care in homes for older people, the Committee agreed that during the summer recess the Clerk should prepare a background paper on the rationale for this, the relevant guidance and comparative parliamentary practices, and options with which to proceed, engaging with peers in other parliamentary bodies and where necessary informally with DFP.

5. MOR Updates

Correspondence from the Department for Employment and Learning

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Alan Shannon, Accounting Officer, Department for Employment and Learning providing, as requested by the Committee an update on the Department’s progress on its implementation of the recommendations following the Committee’s previous report on ‘Improving Adult Literacy and Numeracy’.

The Committee noted that this correspondence used the form of words circulated by TOA drawing attention to the Minister’s comments referred to above to enjoin Accounting Officers to give an MOR update but not to respond to MOR clarification queries in the Committee’s letter.

2:50 pm Mr McQuillan entered the meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to consider the detail of the response at a future meeting.

2:55 pm Mr Easton left the meeting.

Correspondence from the Department Health, Social Services and Public Safety

The Committee noted correspondence from Dr Andrew McCormick, Accounting Officer, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety providing, as requested by the Committee an update on the Department’s progress on its implementation of the recommendations following the Committee’s previous report on ‘Improving the Quality of Care in Homes for Older People’.

The Committee noted that this correspondence used the form of words circulated by TOA drawing attention to the Minister’s comments referred to above to enjoin Accounting Officers to give an MOR update but not to respond to MOR clarification queries in the Committee’s letter.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to consider the detail of the response at a future meeting.

4. MOR on the Use of External Consultants

The Committee considered the Memorandum of Reply to the Committee’s report on ‘The Use of External Consultants’.

Members put a number of questions to Mr Richard Pengelly, Acting Treasury Officer of Accounts, Department of Finance and Personnel.

3:04 pm The meeting went into closed session.

3. Matters Arising

Northern Ireland Housing Executive Accounts

The Committee was briefed by Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General, Northern Ireland Audit Office on his recent report on the accounts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

3:21 pm Mr McLaughlin left the meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to incorporate the qualification of accounts into its evidence session in September 2012 and further agreed to forward a copy of the report to the Committee for Social Development for its information.

5. Draft Forward Work Programme

The Committee considered a draft forward work programme for September to December 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to reschedule its evidence session on ‘Statement of Rate Levy and Collection 2009 - 10 and 2010 – 11’ to 26 September and further agreed to update its webpage to reflect this.

3:49 pm Mr McLaughlin entered the meeting.

6. Consideration of Draft Committee Report on ‘Safeguarding Northern Ireland’s Listed Buildings’

The Committee considered its draft report on ‘Safeguarding Northern Ireland’s Listed Buildings’.

3:50 pm Mr McQuillan left the meeting.

Paragraphs 1 - 5 read and agreed.

Paragraph 6 read, amended and agreed.

3:55 pm Mr Copeland left the meeting.

Paragraphs 7 - 8 read and agreed.

Paragraph 9 read, amended and agreed.

Paragraphs 10 -22 read and agreed.

Paragraphs 23 – 24 read, amended and agreed.

Paragraph 25 read and agreed.

Sub header read, amended and agreed.

Paragraph 26 read and agreed.

Paragraphs 27 - 31 read and agreed.

4:12 pm Mr Byrne left the meeting.

Paragraph 32 read, amended and agreed.

Consideration of the Executive Summary

Paragraph 1 – 8 read and agreed.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the correspondence to be included within the report.

Agreed: The Committee ordered the report to be printed.

8. Any other business

Whistleblower Settlement

Mr Dallat raised the matter of a recent media article highlighting a recent financial settlement awarded to a whistle-blower from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service on a matter previously referred by the Committee.

Agreed:  the Committee agreed to consider the C&AG’s report on the accounts of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service once published.

Agreed: the Committee agreed to seek the departmental report into the whistleblower’s case when finalised.

Correspondence from the Committee for Standards and Privileges

The Chairperson informed the Committee that she had received a copy of the Committee for Standard and Privileges report on ‘The Unauthorised Disclosure of a Draft Report of the Public Accounts Committee’.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the secretariat should review the content of the report and provide an options paper for its consideration in September.

Summer Recess

The Committee agreed that the Chairperson or in his absence the Deputy Chairperson would deal with any Freedom of Information requests received during recess.

The Committee agreed that the Chairperson would convene a meeting if required over recess.

9. Date, time and place of next meeting 

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 5 September 2012 at 2:00 pm in Room 29, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4:28 pm.

Ms Michaela Boyle
Chairperson, Public Accounts Committee
5 September 2012

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