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Monday 22 January 2018

Fine Gael joins calls to beef up watchdog in docklands probe

Colm Kelpie and Fionnan Sheahan

The Government was urged last night to beef up the powers of the public spending watchdogs to probe the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).

Fine Gael wants the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) and the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to be empowered to compel witnesses to give information on the activities of the troubled state agency.

After the publication last week of two damning reports into the DDDA, the C&AG John Buckley will investigate the agency.

His findings will then be passed to the PAC for further scrutiny.

Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Phil Hogan said the C&AG's powers had to be strengthened and his party colleague, PAC chairman Bernard Allen, called for his committee to be given additional powers.

In two reports released by Environment Minister John Gormley last week, the Department of the Environment was accused of light-touch monitoring of the embattled state body, while DDDA bosses were accused of over-riding internal financial control.

Mr Gormley said he was anxious at all times to ensure openness and transparency with the C&AG and the PAC investigation.

Charade

He said he would have no difficulty with granting additional powers to the C&AG.

However, he said it was up to the Finance Minister to make any such changes.

Mr Allen said an investigation risks becoming a charade unless the committee is granted the authority to compel witnesses to give evidence and documents to be provided.

"Unless the PAC gets additional powers, any such investigation of the DDDA could be an ineffective charade.

"This is not a party political position: it is in all our interests to sit down and work out the issues involved so that the PAC can do an effective job," he said.

Mr Allen said that during PAC's investigation into FAS, its powers were being eroded by the Data Protection Act as documents were heavily redacted when produced.

The Fine Gael TD also said many key people have retired from the DDDA and could refuse to attend the committee. He said he is seeking a meeting with the Environment Minister to discuss the terms of reference of the committee's probe.

Irish Independent

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