Sunday 18 August 2019

Cost of legal guardians for children to be probed by the PAC

Minister Katherine Zappone plans overhaul of guardianship system. Photo: Tom Burke
Minister Katherine Zappone plans overhaul of guardianship system. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The cost of legal representatives for children in family law cases and the sale of the government jet will be among the issues to be probed by the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the coming weeks.

TDs will also look into staff costs in the prison service.

While the committee has been focused on examining Project Eagle, the sale of Nama's Northern loan book, in recent months, it is moving onto other matters this week with a meeting on the Guardian ad Litem service.

PAC chairman Seán Fleming said the system of court-appointed guardians comes at a "substantial cost to the State".

The committee meeting comes after the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) published a chapter on the Guardian ad Litem service in its 2015 report.

The C&AG found that fees for the guardians - that represent children's interests in court cases - are higher than hourly rates in other jurisdictions.

The overall cost of the service was €9.1m in 2015, the C&AG found.

It's been reported that Children Minister Katherine Zappone plans to overhaul the system.

Officials from her department are due to appear before the PAC on Thursday.

Mr Fleming said the PAC will also look into the sale of the government jet at a meeting in the coming weeks.

A report by the C&AG found that Gulfstream IV jet - which used to ferry ministers to meetings abroad - was sold for €350,000 less than it was worth.

The aircraft was sold in 2015 for €418,000 with the government taking the decision to sell due to escalating repair costs, the report said.

Mr Fleming said TDs will examine if the best option for disposing of the jet was taken or whether other alternatives could have bee used.

The PAC will also probe annualised hours in the Irish Prison Service.

The system replacing overtime was introduced in 2005 but the C&AG found that savings have fallen short of what was expected.

The C&AG published a report on the matter last summer.

Irish Independent

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