Government moves over PAC concerns

Committee was told it is in danger of acting outside its remit

Whistleblower John Wilson. Photograph: David Sleator

Whistleblower John Wilson. Photograph: David Sleator

 

The Government has written to the body that sets Dáil rules asking that it reinforces the responsibility of individual committees following criticism of how the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is carrying out its work.

The letter from Chief Whip Paul Kehoe to the Dáil Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) comes after the PAC was given legal advice that it is in danger of acting outside its remit.

The Irish Times has learned that Mr Kehoe raised the matter of committees straying into each other’s jurisdictions at a meeting of the CPP last week and notified members of his intention to send the letter.

It will be formally discussed at the next meeting of the CPP, which is due to take place in about a fortnight’s time.

The letter, which was lodged with the CPP late last week, is understood to have praised the work of the PAC while raising concerns with overlapping jurisdictions, the duplication of work by committees and the use of Oireachtas resources.

While there is some concern with the broad conduct of the PAC in recent weeks, the letter was largely spurred by its hearing on Irish Water.


‘Ambulance chasers’
The PAC heard from the new semi-State just a day after the Oireachtas environment committee held a lengthy meeting with company executives over spending on consultants. It led some TDs to describe the PAC as “ambulance chasers”.

“If this happened in the future, there would have to be some clarity on which committee takes precedence,” a source said. “We’d be better off thinking about it now rather than dealing with it later.”

However, while Mr Kehoe first raised the issue on behalf of the Government, he received support from Opposition members of the CPP. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte yesterday raised concern about the PAC, telling RTÉ radio it was sometimes duplicating the work of other committees.

In a separate development, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is to review a RTÉ radio documentary broadcast last weekend to determine if one of two Garda whistleblowers at the centre of the penalty points controversy should be investigated.

Former garda John Wilson made serious claims of breaches of discipline and criminality on air, incriminating himself in some of the events discussed.

Also, former GSOC member Conor Brady called for better protection for Garda whistleblowers, criticising a lack of “political will” to enforce supervisory structures.