Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 21 March 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 14 March 2012

Agreed: The minutes of the last meeting were agreed. 

3. Matters Arising

Correspondence from the Department for Regional Development

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr David Orr, Accounting Officer, Department for Regional Development providing an update on one of the recommendations from the Committee’s previous report on ‘Road Openings by Utilities’.

2:05 pm Mr Murphy entered the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer to a future meeting pending refresh briefing on its original report.

Correspondence from Mr John Dallat MLA

The Committee noted correspondence copied to it from Mr John Dallat to the Northern Ireland Audit Office highlighting concerns relating to recruitment policies to the PSNI.

2:07 pm Mr Hussey declared an interest stating that he is a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and its Audit Committee.

Agreed:  The C&AG undertook to incorporate the issues highlighted into his current investigation and to report back in due course.

Correspondence from the Department of Finance and Personnel

The Committee noted additional information from Ms Fiona Hamill, Treasury Officer of Accounts, Department of Finance and Personnel re the MOR on the Committee’s ‘Report on Reducing Water Pollution from Agricultural Sources: The Farm Nutrient Management Scheme’.

4. Memorandum of Reply

The Committee considered the Memorandum of Reply to the Committee’s report on ‘Creating Effective Partnerships between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector’.

The Chairperson welcomed the positive response from the Department to the Committee’s recommendations in the Memorandum of Reply.

Members put a number of questions to Ms Fiona Hamill, Treasury Officer of Accounts, Department of Finance and Personnel.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that Ms Hamill respond in writing to clarify the points raised by the Committee.

5. NICS Secondment Arrangements

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to defer its consideration of legal advice until it was in receipt of an outstanding response from the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

6. Draft Committee Report on ‘Bioscience Technology Institute’

Correspondence from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr David Sterling, Accounting Officer, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment detailing legal processes the Department is engaged in and providing a holding reply to the Committee’s further request for information.

2:21 pm The meeting went into closed session.

2:21 pm Mr McMillen from Assembly Legal Services joined the meeting to advise the Committee as client in confidence.  External advisors left the meeting.

The Committee were briefed by Mr McMillen on the legal advice sought in relation to its draft report.

2:24 pm Mr Girvan entered the meeting.

2:30 pm Mr Murphy left the meeting.

2:31 pm Mr Hussey left the meeting.

2:35 pm Mr Hussey entered the meeting.

This was followed by a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to give further consideration to its draft report, reflecting the advice received, at a future meeting.

2:46 pm Mr McMillen left the meeting.

7. Press Release – Report on ‘The Use of External Consultants by NI Departments’

The Committee considered a draft press release on its forthcoming report on ‘The Use of External Consultants by NI Departments’.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed the press release subject to one amendment.

8. Any other business

Contingent Liability

The Chairperson informed the Committee that he had been notified of a contingent liability by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

2:45 pm Mr Easton declared an interest stating that he is the Assembly Private Secretary for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

2:45 pm Mr Easton left the meeting.

The Chairperson advised that the channel for reporting the liability to the Assembly in this case is to the Chairpersons of the Public Accounts Committee and the relevant statutory committee. The Assembly will be notified by ministerial minute when the subject matter no longer requires to be restricted because of commercial confidentiality.

The Chairperson advised that he intended to acknowledge the notification from the Department and would reflect members concerns on the short response time afforded.

Easter Recess

Agreed:  The Committee agreed not to meet on 28 March 2012.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that during recess the Chairperson should action any freedom of Information requests that arise on its behalf.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the Chairperson should convene a meeting over recess if required.

10. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 2:00 pm in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 3:01 pm.

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

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