Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 21 November 2012

Venue: Room 29 Parliament Buildings

2:00 pm The meeting opened in public session.

1.  Apologies

There were no apologies.

2:01 pm Mr Hussey declared an interest stating that he is chairman of the Audit Committee of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and that he will withdraw from participating in the Committee’s inquiry into PSNI use of agency staff.

2. Minutes of the meeting on 14 November 2012

Agreed: The minutes of the last meeting were agreed. 

3. Matters Arising

Correspondence from the Committee for the Environment

The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for the Environment requesting that the attached update from the Department relating to the MOT contract review was forwarded to the Audit Office for its consideration.

2:04 pm Mr Girvan, Mr McKay and Mr McQuillan entered the meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence.

Correspondence from the Committee for the Environment

The Committee noted correspondence from the Clerk to the Committee for the Environment requesting a copy of the response considered by the Committee from the Comptroller and Auditor General following his investigation into the allegations of fraud relating to the Rath and Grange site in Waringstown.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to forward the C&AG’s response as requested.

Correspondence from the Department for Social Development

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Will Haire, Accounting Officer, Department for Social Development indicating that the information sought by the Committee pertaining to its on-going inquiry on ‘NIHE: Management of Response Maintenance Contracts’ could not be provided by the specified date.

Mr Haire undertook to ensure that the information would be provided by the week commencing 26 November.

4. Memorandum of Reply

The Committee considered the memorandum of reply to the Committee’s previous report on the ‘Safeguarding Northern Ireland’s Listed Buildings’.

2:10 pm Mr Clarke entered the meeting.

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

Ms Hamill undertook to clarify some information contained in the MORs.

5. Northern Ireland Audit Office Draft Corporate Plan 2013-14 to 2015-16

Members considered the draft Northern Ireland Audit Office Corporate Plan 2013-14 to 2015-16 and budget correspondence to the Audit Office from DFP.

The Chairperson invited Mr Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General to brief the Committee.

2:56 pm Mr Copeland left the meeting.

Agreed: Following discussion the Committee agreed to write to the Audit Committee reflecting the Committee’s position on the Draft Corporate Plan and views on the correspondence.

3:20 pm Mr Hussey left the meeting.

6. Briefing on Northern Ireland Audit Office Reports on the Police Service of Northern Ireland: Use of Agency Staff

3:21 pm Mr McKay and Mr McQuillan declared an interest stating that they were former members of the Policing Board.

3:21 pm Mr Girvan declared an interest stating that that he has family members who are PSNI officers and/or were formerly RUC officers.

3:21 pm Ms Boyle declared an interest stating that she was a former chairperson of the Community Safety Partnership and a former member of the Strabane District Policing Partnership. 

3:21 pm Mr Anderson declared an interest stating that members of his extended family are PSNI and former RUC officers. 

Mr Kieran Donnelly Comptroller and Auditor General; Mr Neil Gray, Director; Mr Billy Fitzsimons, Audit Manager; and Joe Campbell, Audit Manager briefed the Committee on the report.

3:22 pm The meeting went into closed session after the C&AG’s initial remarks.

The witnesses answered a number of questions put by members.

Correspondence from the PSNI

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Matt Baggot, Chief Constable, PSNI seeking to establish the background of the Committee’s decision to request four witnesses to its evidence session on 28 November without any requirement for the Accounting Officer to attend.

Agreed:  The Committee considered a draft response to the Chief Constable and agreed to issue it.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that it should divert from its current practice of retaining tabled papers in order for members to consider the responses received to date.

Correspondence from the Department of Justice

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Nick Perry, Accounting Officer, Department of Justice confirming the attendance of the invited officials to its evidence session on 28 November.

Correspondence from a former RUC/PSNI Officer

The Committee noted correspondence from a former RUC/PSNI Officer alleging a series of abuse and discrimination during their career.

3:44 pm Mr McKay declared an interest stating that he has previously acted of behalf of the author in his capacity as a former member of the Policing Board.

3:45 pm Mr Girvan left the meeting.

3:46 pm Mr Girvan entered the meeting.

Agreed:  Following discussion, the Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Audit Office.  The C&AG undertook to report back his findings to the Committee.

Mr Clarke indicated that this was not his preferred approach.

Correspondence from NIPSA

The Committee noted correspondence from Mr Ryan McKinney, Deputy Secretary, NIPSA attaching a submission from NIPSA’s perspective on issues relating to the Committee’s inquiry on ‘PSNI: Use of Agency Staff’.

Correspondence from the Department of Justice

The Committee noted a number of items of correspondence from Mr Nick Perry, Accounting Officer, Department of Justice providing some of the information sought by it at its evidence session on 10 October.

The Committee noted that items were still outstanding and asked that these be made available in advance of the meeting of 28 November.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to meet at 12:30 pm for a pre-brief before its meeting next week.

7. Forward Work Programme

The Committee considered a draft forward work programme for January to July 2013.

4:18 pm Mr Dallat and Mr Girvan left the meeting.

4:19 pm Mr Anderson left the meeting.

4:20 pm Mr Girvan entered the meeting.

4:25 pm Mr McLaughlin left the meeting.

4:30 pm Mr McKay left the meeting.

4:36 pm Mr McKay entered the meeting.

4:50 pm Mr Rogers left the meeting.

4:52 pm Mr Rogers entered the meeting.

4:52 pm Mr McQuillan left the meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee decided and agreed the timing and order of the reports it will consider until June 2013.

8. Issues Arising from the Oral Evidence Session on ‘The Safety of Services provided by Health and Social Care Trusts’

The Committee considered an issues paper relating to the previous week’s evidence session. 

9. Any other business

FOI Request

The Chairperson updated the Committee on the progress of an FOI request received into NI Water papers and informed members that a copy of the response issued could be viewed in the Committee office.

10. Date, time and place of next meeting 

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 28 November 2012 at 12:30 pm at a venue to be confirmed and then from 2:00 pm in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 5:14 pm.

Ms Michaela Boyle MLA
Chairperson, Public Accounts Committee
28 November 2012

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