McGuinness dismisses concerns over PAC’s work

Chairman insists committee has never strayed beyond its remit

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness has dismissed concerns raised by the Government chief whip about the conduct of the PAC’s work.

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness has dismissed concerns raised by the Government chief whip about the conduct of the PAC’s work.

 

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness has dismissed concerns raised by the Government chief whip about the conduct of the PAC’s work.

Amid uncertainty over the outlook for the committee’s ongoing examination of the penalty points controversy, Mr McGuinness insisted today that the PAC has never strayed beyond its legal remit and is acting fully within its brief.

The chief whip, Paul Kehoe, has written to a separate Dáil committee which oversees the work of the Lower House questioning whether some of the work undertaken by the PAC had duplicated the work of other committees.

“He’s writing to himself - without checking the facts,” said Mr McGuinness of Mr Kehoe’s letter to the the Committee on Procedures and Privileges, on which the Government has an in-built majority.

The prime focus of Mr Kehoe’s letter was a PAC hearing this month on Irish Water, only one day after the company appeared before the environment committee.

Although the chief whip expressed concern about the duplication of committees’ work, Mr McGuinness said Irish Water itself had sought to appear before the PAC. “The request came from Irish Water,” said Mr McGuinness, Fianna Fáil TD for Kilkenny.

He also said the fact that the PAC also heard that day from the secretary general of the Department of the Environment and from the regulator who will set water charges meant the PAC hearing had more substance that the hearing of the environment committee.

The chief whip’s intervention also comes as the PAC awaits to hear from a serving Garda whether he will appear before it on Thursday to discuss the penalty points question.

The Garda commissioner Martin Callinan has taken legal advice from the Attorney General on the prospect of such a hearing going ahead and there is speculation in political circles that he may go the courts to block such a hearing.

Some PAC members have reservations about its examination of the penalty points question, citing legal advice to the committee itself that it has gone beyond its mandate.

Certain members believe the PAC may also create difficulty for the Garda whistleblower if it hears evidence from him in public or in private, setting a bad precedent for other potential whistleblowers.

However, Mr McGuinness the work was fully within the PAC’s legal remit as it centred on a question examined earlier by the Comptroller and Auditor General. If the serving Garda says he will come before the PAC, Mr McGuinness said the only question to be decided then would be whether the committee sits in private or public session.