The Northern Ireland Assembly has been dissolved. The election will take place on Thursday 5 May 2016.

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 18 April 2012

Venue: Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

2:02 pm The meeting opened in public session.

1.  Apologies

Apologies are listed above.

2. Minutes of the meeting on 21 March 2012

Agreed: The minutes of the last meeting were agreed. 

3. Matters Arising

Correspondence from the Department of Finance and Personnel

The Committee noted correspondence from Ms Fiona Hamill, Treasury Officer of Accounts, Department of Finance and Personnel providing a reply to the Committee’s query re the circumstances of an Excess Vote arising in the Department for Social Development 2010-11.

2:08 pm Mr Girvan entered the meeting.

Correspondence received re Whistleblower Dispute Settlement

The Committee noted correspondence from Johnson Solicitors and Jones, Cassidy Jones relating to a settlement agreement to a matter previously considered by the Committee.

Agreed:  The C&AG undertook to establish the position on the original allegations made by the whistleblower and report back to the Committee.

PAC Report on ‘The Use of External Consultants by Northern Ireland Departments: Follow-up Report’

Mr Dallat thanked the Chairperson for representing the Committee in the media on the launch of the above report.  Mr Dallat expressed his concern over the comments made by the Minister for Finance and Personnel on scrutiny of the Northern Ireland Audit Office given the requirement for independence of such audit institutions from the audited entity, in this case Executive departments.

The Committee considered a transcript of the media coverage.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to express in writing to the Audit Committee its concern over the Minister’s comments.

4. Memorandum of Reply

The Committee noted an update from Mr David Orr, Accounting Officer, Department for Regional Development on one of the recommendations from the Committee’s 2009 report on road openings by utilities.

The Committee considered a brief from the Clerk to the Committee.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to write to the Department seeking an update on the MOR and further agreed to copy the correspondence to the Committee for Regional Development for its information.

5. Briefing on the NIAO Report on ‘The Transfer of Former Military Sites to the Northern Ireland Executive’ and ‘Report on ILEX Accounts 2010-11’

Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General; Mr Brandon McMaster, Director; and Mr Sean Beattie, Audit Manager; briefed the Committee on the report.

2:39 pm The meeting went into closed session after the C&AG’s initial remarks.

2:39 pm Mr Murphy left the meeting.

3:10 pm Mr Copeland left the meeting.

3:14 pm Mr Copeland entered the meeting.

3:15 pm Mr Dallat left the meeting.

3:26 pm Mr Girvan left the meeting.

3:40 pm Mr Dallat entered the meeting.

3:41 pm Mr Girvan entered the meeting.

The witnesses answered a number of questions put by members.

3:46 pm Mr Hussey left the meeting.

7. Draft Committee Report on Uptake of Benefits by Pensioners

The Committee considered its draft report.

Paragraphs 1 - 7 read and agreed.

Paragraph 8 read, amended and agreed.

Paragraphs 9 - 19 read and agreed.

Paragraph 20 read, amended and agreed.

Paragraphs 21 – 38 read and agreed.

Paragraph 39 read, amended and agreed.

Paragraph 40 – 42 read and agreed.

Consideration of the Executive Summary

Agreed: The Committee agreed to reflect the amendments to the body of the report in the Executive Summary.

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

Agreed: The Committee ordered the report to be printed.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that it would seek an MOR update on this report 12 months after the original response.

6. NICS Secondment Arrangements

The Committee noted two items of correspondence from Dr Malcolm McKibbin, Head of the Civil Service regarding secondment arrangements within the NICS.

4:11 pm Mr McMillen from Assembly Legal Services joined the meeting to advise the Committee as client in confidence. External advisers left the meeting.

Mr McMillen briefed the Committee on the legal advice sought.

4:16 pm Mr Byrne left the meeting.

4:19 pm Mr Byrne entered the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to invite the Head of the Civil Service to a future meeting.

4:22 pm Mr McMillen left the meeting.

8. Any other business

There was no other business.

9. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 at 2:00 pm in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 4:26 pm.

Mr Paul Maskey MP
Chairperson, Public Accounts Committee
25 April 2012

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