McGuinness says nothing unusual about Kerins meeting

Chairman says Public Accounts Committee will robustly defend action taken by ex- Rehab chief

PAC chairman John McGuinness said it was ‘not uncommon for officials and the chairman to meet with witnesses and for the chairman to explain the context and the procedures’. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

PAC chairman John McGuinness said it was ‘not uncommon for officials and the chairman to meet with witnesses and for the chairman to explain the context and the procedures’. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 10:19

The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has reiterated his view that there was nothing unusual about his meeting with former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins ahead of her appearance before the committee last February.

Responding this morning to questions and criticisms expressed by other members of the public finances watchdog about the meeting, John McGuinness said such meetings were not out of the ordinary.

“It’s not uncommon for officials and the chairman to meet with witnesses and for the chairman to explain the context and the procedures,” said Mr McGuinness.

“May I say it’s a facility available to anybody who will appear before the committee,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Mr McGuinness said the committee and the wider Oireachtas would robustly defend the High Court action being taken by Ms Kerins against the PAC.

In her affidavit she has claimed that committee members were engaged in a “witch-hunt” against her during her seven-hour appearance last February and said she lost her job and suffered illness as a result of the experience.

The PAC chairman pointed out that the High Court application yesterday was an ex parte one by Ms Kerins and that the perspective of the committee on the matter had yet to be heard.

“The PAC is there to carry out a particular function. We are carrying out within our remit. We spoke about tax payers’ money. We are dealing with governance arising out of Section 38 and Section 39 and the agreement they had with HSE and other agencies. We are perfectly entitled to examine accounts.

“I believe that members treated fairly all of the witnesses that came before us and we will [NOW]gather together a report that will go to Oireachtas.”

Section 38 and 39 refer to agencies that carry out certain paid-for services on behalf of the State.

He maintained the Committee were united and said criticisms made by Fine Gael member John Deasy last week of certain members talking “bullsh**” related to another matter.

“We are being accused of certain things based on what we have done. I would find it remarkable if members would agree if what is being said in the affidavit [of Ms Kerins],” he said.

He added that it was a very serious issue which he took very seriously with respect to the democratic institutions of the State.

Before the summer recess, the PAC had been seeking to compel Ms Kerins and her predecessor Frank Flannery to discuss their pay and pensions at a further hearing but the body which sets Dáil rules refused permission to call them against their will.

It has also emerged that Mr Flannery, for years a ranking adviser to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, is considering legal action against the committee.