Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 11 January 2012

Venue: Room 29, Parliament Buildings

2:01 pm The meeting opened in public session.

1.  Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Minutes of the meeting on 14 December 2011

Agreed: The minutes of the last meeting were agreed. 

3. Matters Arising

Correspondence from the Northern Ireland Audit Office

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General which provided an update on alleged agriculture subsidy fraud within the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

2:12 pm Mr Copeland entered the meeting.

2:15 pm Mr Hussey declared an interest stating that he knew the whistleblower and had a prior involvement in this case during the period that his brother was an MLA.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to ascertain how its predecessor Committee had received and addressed the matter.

Correspondence from the University College Union

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Jim McKeown, Regional Official, University College Union which highlights irregularities against current guidance relating to the appointment of an interim director at the Belfast Metropolitan College.

Agreed:  The Committee agree to forward the information raised to the Comptroller and Auditor General to investigate the issues and report back to the Committee.

Correspondence from the Police Service of Northern Ireland

The Committee noted correspondence from Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, Police Service for Northern Ireland seeking to clarify whether any evidence or behaviour indicating criminal activity were identified during the course of its inquiry into ‘Managing Criminal Legal Aid’.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to respond to the Assistant Chief Constable confirming that no evidence or behaviour indicating criminal activity were identified.

Correspondence from a Member of the Public

The Committee noted correspondence from a member of the public highlighting concerns relating to prompt payment compliance within the Health and Social Care Trusts.

2:22 pm Mr Easton declared an interest stating that he is the Assembly Private Secretary for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the C&AG should assess prompt payment performance across the Public Sector and report this to the Committee for consideration in its future work programme.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to respond to the author of the letter.

Correspondence from Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

The Committee noted correspondence from Dr Andrew McCormick, Accounting Officer, DHSSPS requesting an extension to the deadline to the information sought by the Committee following its evidence session on 14 December 2011.

Correspondence from the University College Union

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Jim McKeown, Regional Official, University College Union highlighting concerns into the handling of an investigation within the South Eastern Regional College.

2:37 pm Mr Girvan entered the meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Accounting Officer of the Department underlining concerns on the process and focus of the investigation.

4. Briefing on the NIAO Report on ‘Bioscience Technology Institute Ltd’

Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General; Mr Robert Hutcheson, Director; and Mr Roger McCance, Senior Auditor; briefed the Committee on the report.

3:09 pm The meeting went into closed session after the C&AG’s initial remarks.

3:34 pm Mr Girvan left the meeting.

3:37 pm Mr Girvan entered the meeting.

3:42 pm Mr Copeland left the meeting.

3:43 pm Mr Hussey left the meeting.

3:50 pm Mr Copeland entered the meeting.

4:02 pm Mr Dallat left the meeting.

4:08 pm Mr Dallat entered the meeting.

The witnesses answered a number of questions put by members.

5. Fifth Composite Report on Issues Dealt with by Correspondence

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to defer consideration of this item to a future meeting.

6. MOR Correspondence

The Committee considered a draft response to the Treasury Officer of Accounts, Ms Fiona Hamill’s letter relating to MOR correspondence.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to send the letter as drafted to the Treasury Officer of Accounts.

7. Any other business

Press Release for the Committee’s report on ‘Creating Effective Partnerships between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector’

Agreed: The Committee agreed the draft press release.

8. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 2:00 pm in the Room 29, Parliament Buildings.

The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4:28 pm.

Mr Paul Maskey MP MLA
Chairperson, Public Accounts Committee
18 January 2012

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