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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 1 November, 2014

PAC “not serving public fully” and needs more powers

Simon Harris says that the terms governing who the PAC can examine are “too rigid”.

 Chief Executive of REHAB, Angela Kerins (right) arrives at Leinster House today with John McGuire, Director of Fundraising at Rehab Group
Chief Executive of REHAB, Angela Kerins (right) arrives at Leinster House today with John McGuire, Director of Fundraising at Rehab Group
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE OIREACHTAS’ PUBLIC Accounts Committee has been in the news a huge amount already in 2013, dealing with high-profile issues such as the salaries of Rehab employees.

Last month, it announced it would seek powers to compel former Rehab CEOs Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery to appear before it to answer questions.

Now a member of the PAC, Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has said that the restrictions on the Committee should be loosened and called for its terms of reference to be widened.

He said that this would allow for greater scrutiny of the spending of taxpayers’ money.

“The benefit of PAC has clearly been seen over the last three years with a variety of organisations being held to account for the spending of public moneys,” said Harris.

He maintains that the public interest “is not being served fully” by the restrictions imposed on the Committee.

Under its terms of reference, PAC can only examine organisations which fall under the remit of the Comptroller & Auditor General and which derive over 50 per cent of funding from the public purse. “These terms are too rigid,” said Harris.

He described the 50 per cent threshold as “arbitrarily chosen” and said it may result in PAC “examining organisations which spend a relatively small amount of public cash while unable to scrutinise outfits which spend a lot more”.

The Comptroller & Auditor General undertakes excellent work but tying PAC’s work to it means that the Committee is often not free to react quickly to issues of spending of taxpayers’ money that may arise in the public domain.

Harris believes that it would not be difficult for the Government to change the terms of reference.

Read: Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery to be forced before PAC after they ‘throw kitchen sink’ at committee>

Read: Extra powers sought as ex-CRC chief ‘puts two fingers up to the PAC’>

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